Word-Of-the-Week #636: Excellence

October 13, 2016 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #636: Excellence 

Excellence – exceptionally good; superiority.

Do you believe that it’s possible to get a good education at a public school? Do you think that inner-city children get the same educational opportunities as those in the suburbs? Do you believe that teachers in the US are trusted and respected?

This week is the second half of Why Finland has the best schools written by William Doyle.

He continues, “In the United States, teachers are routinely degraded by politicians, and thousands of teacher slots are filled by temps with six or seven weeks of summer training. In Finland teachers are the most trusted and admired professionals next to doctors, in part because they are required to have master’s degrees in education with specialization in research and classroom practice.

“Our mission as adults is to protect our children from politicians,” one Finnish childhood education professor told me. “We also have an ethical and moral responsibility to tell businesspeople to stay out of our building.” In fact, any Finnish citizen is free to visit any school whenever they like, but her message was clear: Educators are the ultimate authorities on education, not bureaucrats, and not technology vendors.

Skeptics might claim that the Finnish model would never work in America’s inner-city schools, which instead need boot-camp drilling and discipline, Stakhanovite workloads, relentless standardized test prep and screen-delivered testing.

But what if the opposite is true?


What if high-poverty students are the children most urgently in need of the benefits that, for example, American parents of means obtain for their children in private schools, things that Finland delivers on a national public scale — highly qualified, highly respected and highly professionalized teachers who conduct personalized one-on-one instruction; manageable class sizes; a rich, developmentally correct curriculum; regular physical activity; little or no low-quality standardized tests and the toxic stress and wasted time and energy that accompanies them; daily assessments by teachers; and a classroom atmosphere of safety, collaboration, warmth and respect for children as cherished individuals?

Why should high-poverty students deserve anything less?

One day last November, when the first snow came to my part of Finland, I heard a commotion outside my university faculty office window, which is close to the teacher training school’s outdoor play area. I walked over to investigate.

The field was filled with children savoring the first taste of winter amid the pine trees. My son was out there somewhere, but the children were so buried in winter clothes and moving so fast that I couldn’t spot him. The noise of children laughing, shouting and singing as they tumbled in the fresh snow was close to deafening.

“Do you hear that?” asked the recess monitor, a special education teacher wearing a yellow safety smock.

“That,” she said proudly, “is the voice of happiness.”

This week is all about excellence. Do you think our society would benefit if everyone had the opportunity of an exceptionally good education? Can you imagine how many excellent teachers we would attract if they were treated with the same respect as a doctor? Can you imagine a world where children actually learn skills at school and have FUN doing it?

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WOW Word-Of-the-Week #360: Excellence

June 29, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Excellence – exceptionally good; superiority.

What does excellence look like to you? Do you remember the last time you experienced service excellence? What are your expectations when a business claims service excellence? Do you expect it to be an exceptionally good and superior experience?

We just returned from a three week road trip in the US and Canada. I have to tell you there’s a lot to be said for having paved roads and toilets when you’re traveling! One of the things that has been on our “Bucket List” is taking the Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver to Banff. They did a great job selling me on the GoldLeaf service which was almost twice as much as the RedLeaf service. I struggled with paying the extra cost and in the end justified it by repeating my travel mantra which is, “We are only going to do this once.”

Their website states, “Our custom-designed, two level, glass-domed GoldLeaf coach puts you right in the middle of the awe-inspiring scenery of the Canadian Rockies. Take in the dazzling vistas upstairs, and enjoy delightful meals downstairs. From the attentive service provided by your Onboard Attendants, to the gourmet meals prepared from regional cuisine by our award-winning, onboard chefs. GoldLeaf Service is quite simply, as good as it gets.”

Rocky Mountaineer

On June 20th I received this e-mail stating, “On Wednesday, June 15th, we were served with strike notice by the union. In order to provide our guests with exceptional and uninterrupted service, we had no choice but to give the union lockout notice, effective 12:01 am on June 22, 2011. Please be assured that if there is a labour disruption, it will be business as usual and the Rocky Mountaineer will be operating as scheduled. Guest service remains our number one priority and we have a comprehensive contingency plan in place to ensure that your experience onboard the Rocky Mountaineer exceeds expectations.”

We started that portion of our trip in Vancouver on the 22nd and boarded the train on the 24th. When we arrived at the train station we were met by picketers who blocked the parking lot and were chanting, “We love our jobs.” We boarded the train and took off knowing everything would be great since they said, “We have a comprehensive contingency plan in place to ensure that your experience onboard the Rocky Mountaineer exceeds expectations.”

We sat back in our very comfortable seats and proceeded to read their Mile Post newspaper. The headline read “World Class Service” and went on to say, “At Rocky Mountaineer, our team is committed  to providing service excellence to our guests. Each member is specially trained and committed to ensure you have a comfortable and enjoyable journey.  Each coach is assigned On-board Attendants who will do their utmost to exceed your expectations.” And the final paragraph states,” Now that you know more about us, sit back, relax and enjoy our hospitality – Rocky Mountaineer style!”

I probably don’t have to tell you how the trip went. From bad to worse! Our two attendants (for our entire train car) did the best they could provided they clearly had no training (or uniforms). Our gourmet meals tasted like something from a grocery store frozen food section. On the bright side the scenery was beautiful (at least they couldn’t screw that up). I intend to follow up and find out how they plan on exceeding my expectations and when I should expect to experience there service excellence.

Key Point: The more you charge the pickier your customers, guests, and members become and the higher their expectations!

This week focus on what excellence looks like in your operation. Would your  customers, guests, or members rate your business and your service as exceptionally good and superior to your competition?

Reader Responses

“It’s too bad we don’t see more excellence in customer service.  It seems we’re a dying breed…” – Rebecca

“Wow!  You had me sold on the trip till I read how it had not met your expectations, bummer!” – Susan

“I was taught at a young age to “autograph my work with excellence.” It is unsettling for all of us when we are told about the excellent service we are going to receive and then it is much worse. Obviously, our expectations are dashed and disappointment and frustration then set in. Don’t tell us, show us! I am a big believer in not telling someone how good the job will be, but showing them by example. Every day in our office I try to lead by example. People are much more impressed when you show them rather than tell them. And when we show people consistently what we can do, that is impressive. But continuing to tell them about our excellence and then not delivering on it hurts everyone over the long haul. I am not surprised at what you experienced, Susan. This should be a lesson to all of us. As my father has always reminded me during my lifetime, “You have to show me, because I’m from Missouri” (The Show-Me State). Thanks, Susan. Take care.” – “Warrior” Joe