Friday, January 14, 2011


On the way to challenging and breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for hits as a Yankee, Derek Jeter said, “If you play long enough, and you are consistent enough, good things are going to happen.” You know something? Jeter’s statement is not only true in the confines of an athletic career, it is true and appropriate in other areas as well. For me, one of those other areas is education. Nothing, and I mean nothing that happens successfully, just happens or occurs quickly. Success, or becoming good at something, takes time. Proponents for change in education, who demand to see an 80 or 90% improvement immediately simply because they said, “Let’s change the way we do this”, or because there are students who believe simply because they can do a thing successfully once, they can have continued success, do not understand the first part of Jeter’s statement.

The first part of Jeter’s statement shows us that things take time. All too often we see a finished product and that product is polished and shiny and looks like it was easy to make. Instead product, we really need to ask ourselves, “How did this product come to be what we see?” I’ll bet you any amount of money that if you are looking at anyone or anything you consider to be successful, you will discover that it took time, it required work and it required consistency.

Whenever you think of great teams and organizations, one of the most important pieces or components of that team or organization’s success is tradition- a way of being, a way of doing something, an expectation that is handed down from player to player or generation to generation. I’ve heard principals at new, small schools demanding that their schools have tradition. Tradition has to be developed

And it has to be developed over time. You cannot order it into existence. Aristotle said. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, it is a habit.” This means that excellence is borne out of consistency- that which “we repeatedly do.”

One of the most important traits of successful teams, businesses on Wall Street, schools, players, teachers, students or parents is consistency. In New York City, the Department of Education doesn’t quite get this idea. For example, instead of using the wealth of knowledge and experience readily available in teachers who have taught for twenty or thirty years, they pursue brand new teachers, who may have been in the system one or two years. Just think what would happen if Wall Street firms or teams changed completely every two or three years, or didn’t use the knowledge of their more senior staff. Imagine if Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola or Budweiser changed their formulas every two to three years. Do you think they would have had the success they have enjoyed for so many years?

Departments of education that change their systems or instructors every two or three years simply cannot be successful. Period. To succeed, they MUST develop or use symbols or ideas that make sense, that work consistently, that incorporate the responsibility for students to fulfill their duties as students and create expectations that can be handed down form one student to another, year after year after year, as opposed to using things that work once in awhile or that work only with one or two groups of people.

For all the money and the new philosophies and the theories and technology, departments of education are adding to their systems, there will be no change or success without time, effort and consistency. Whether you are talking about sports, business, education, medicine, research, parenting, teaching or learning, the very simple fact is that you just cannot have success without time, effort and consistency. Period.

- Bernard Keller


  1. More truths. Gehrig and Jeter represent class. So does Bernard.

  2. Well said. I would imagine that tinkering or changing the system so frequently can be disruptive and counterproductive for administrators.