A Step-By-Step Framework for Incremental Growth


I want you to watch the first 3:40 of this TED Talk by Benjamin Zander

Notice the Dramatic change in the piano player from 7 years old to 11 years. Huge difference. But from 8 to 10, there is seemingly no change. What’s happening is incremental change. Each year, the child improves dramatically, but it is not always evident, until BAM, it all seems to fall into place. Michael Hyatt writes about The Power of Incremental Change Over Time on his blog:

I am not opposed to massive action. I have used it myself to achieve certain results. But it causes most people give up before they ever start. They just don’t think they can make the investment…What these people don’t realize is that they could make small, daily investments that would soon lead to big results.

I like small daily investments that lead to big results. I like moderate periodical investments that lead to big results, as well. I use my summer and Christmas breaks to reflect, grow, dream, and plan.

I build lists of things that went exceptionally well, things that improved, and things that did not improve. I find it important to focus on the victories so that I can keep those habits in place. I then try to pinpoint a handful of areas where I know improvement is needed.

It is essential to continue learning. That learning doesn’t have to be just in district-funded PD sessions or conventions. The technology that is available now for online study (Coursera, Khan Academy, Duolingo, YouTube, etc.) is staggering. Another option is to consider graduate study. I know many universities offer intensive summer courses and completely online degree, both at the master’s and doctoral levels. The summer can be a fantastic time to explore these options and begin the coursework to advance your career.

Dream big. If time were not an issue, what would you do? I have spent the last few years traveling across the United States by myself and with friends during the summers. You haven’t truly lived unless you’ve spent two nonconsecutive nights in the Saint Louis Airport. Develop a hobby. Start a blog. Volunteer somewhere. Spend hours at the driving range. Finally get around to that garden or finish the basement. Go spend a few days touring with a drumcorps. Binge watch The Walking Dead. Whatever works for you, do it.

Along the lines of dreaming, I like to dream about what my classroom will be like in the upcoming year. In the years that I have known what school I would be at and what my class schedule look like, I have gone in-depth into planning, going as far as making a calendar of the entire year out for each class. In other years, I do less intensive planning, but nevertheless figure out ways I can further refine my skills and effectiveness as a teacher.

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While I am periodically doing these things throughout the year, I find what works best for me is to take time during the extended breaks to really dig into identifying two or three adjustments that I can make that will help me achieve my goals in the long run.

What other kinds of things are you doing to become a better teacher this summer?

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

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