THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

05/18/2016
CELEBRATING IMPROVEMENT
With Larry Biddle

Excellence will not attack our schools, communities, states or nation. When we began the No. 1 program at Conway High School on January 20, 1984, we committed to an all out quest focused on Excellence for all stakeholders — not just the top few parents, students and “staffulty.” This community-wide noble goal propelled us to become the first high school in Horry County recognized by The U.S. Department of Education. They said, “We have never seen a school do what you all are doing!”

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We responded, “That’s your problem. We are doing it anyway. Too many of our kids are falling through the cracks every day.”

Today, Jostens Renaissance schools dot the globe! For over 25 years they have implemented 10 Essential Elements known as building blocks based on sound business principles. Since there are no perfect parents, students nor staffulty, we zero in on the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning. Simple: Help young students find their respective niche. We believe that our schools are the most important businesses for the future in every community.

Wendy Moran, now a Vice-president at People’s Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina, was a graduate of Conway High School and a member of our ’92 Crew. She graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a degree in Finance. As a member of the ’92 Crew she experienced the immense impact of Renaissance during four years as a Conway Tiger. Recently one of our classmates lost a tough battle with cancer. Her heartfelt Facebook post showcases the authentic power she experienced during her four years. Her sincere post during the untimely death of a classmate follows:

Perfection

Being Right

Fear

Anger & Frustration

Judgment

Taking

Doubt

Pressure

Destination

Consuming

Selfishness

“Apologies! Long one! I’m certain this week has brought reflection for all of us. Life is full and fast and busy. But the world stops for a brief moment when we hear about the loss of a member of our crew ... I’m reminded of how much a blessing it is to be part of the Crew of ‘92!

Most of us converged onto a high school campus in August 1988 from several middle schools, varied backgrounds and upbringings with others joining us along the way. We spent four years learning, growing, living and loving. We experienced triumph, challenge, excellence and heartbreak. And each experience was a brick in a foundation of pride and family that defines the Crew of ‘92.

“At the end of those four years we flew high with The Four Winds and now, 23 years later, we are spread out across the nation and globe.

Excellence

Willingness to be Wrong

Risk

Powerful

Accepting

Giving

Confidence

Flowing

Surrender

Trust

Journey

It’s now been 23 years! Most of us are 41. Four years represents a mere 10 percent of our lives now. It’s amazing to me that this sliver in time, this mere 10 percent and the people, experiences, and memories that accompany it, could be so impactful and enduring.

“I now have two high schoolers of my own — Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools — and I find myself pleading with them to soak up the moments and make the most of these four years — hoping that they’ll be somehow blessed with a rare and enduring family of classmates like mine.

“I’ve encountered many people in my 40 plus years. But they’re mostly a faint shadow. Conversely, I have vivid memories of seemingly mundane things and people that encompassed our four-year 10 percent! And, based on the Facebook responses of late, I’m not alone.

“Reading of Chip’s passing made me rummage for my yearbook and flip through the memories of our final year at CHS. These images I’ve posted are located at the front and back of our 1992 yearbooks —sandwiching our year of accomplishments.

“Today it takes on more meaning. Time waits for no man. We’re blessed with an allotment of time and talent, and we must discover God’s purpose for our life and live it out to build a lasting legacy.

“As the clocks strikes 11, it’s a reminder that time is running out. Time is a non-replenishing resource that must be used wisely and not squandered. We left CHS in 1992 with minds full of dreams and hearts to make a difference. I’m proud of our class legacy. The Crew has ‘spent time’ and impacted the world since then.

“May our hearts remain sensitive to each loss, open to serve others, courageous to keep chasing our dreams, anxious with a need to impact the world, and pure to reflect God’s love and grace along the way!”

“For 20 years, my research has shown that the view you adopt of yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”

That is the central message in Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” Dweck and her colleagues’ research have found a very simple belief about individuals that guides and permeates nearly every part of their lives. This belief limits potential or enables success. It frequently marks the difference between excellence and mediocrity and, among other things, influences self-awareness, self-esteem, creativity, the ability to face challenges, resilience to setbacks, levels of depression and the tendency to stereotype.

What is this powerful, yet simple belief?

THE FIXED AND GROWTH MINDSETS

Much of who you are on a day-to-day basis comes from your mindset. Your mindset is the view you have of your qualities and characteristics — where they come from and whether they can change. These following two mindsets represent the extreme ends on either side of a spectrum.

A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone — who you are is who you are — fixed traits, rather than something that can be developed.

A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. People differ greatly — in aptitude, talents, interests or temperaments — but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

How does this simple mindset change your behavior? Having a fixed mindset creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. Criticism is seen as an attack on your character and to be avoided. Having a growth mindset encourages learning and effort. If you truly believe you can improve at something you will be more driven to learn and practice. Criticism is seen as valuable feedback and openly embraced. The hallmark of the growth mindset is the passion for sticking with it, especially when things are not going well.

JostensRenaissance schools encourage a growth mindset by continuing to implement the 10 Essential Elements of growth and development for all. Authentic transformation requires:

  • Excellence for all Stakeholders
  • Culture and Climate
  • Edification of Parents, Students, Staffulty and Community
  • Sustainability: Character and Leadership Class, Business Partnerships and Coalitions and Alumni and 501(c) 3 Educational Foundations — principles that apply to every school — pre-K to colleges and universities.

Edutopia reminds us of the Characteristics of 21st Century Learners:

  • Broad, deep understanding of the world
  • Makes interdisciplinary connections
  • Thinks creatively and critically
  • Communicates and collaborates with others
  • Creates, evaluates and utilizes information
  • Career-ready and prepared for life

We are on our way. Results are evident!

Larry Biddle considered the founder of Jostens Renaissance. He has been a student of the impact of recognition on individual achievement for two decades. He served as vice-chairman of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, as well as a member of the Coastal Education Foundation at CCU.Reach him at [email protected]
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