What’s Your “One Play?”

I recently had the honor of meeting with Michael Cooper, the new Superintendent of the North Cedar, Iowa School District. Open enrollment has created stout competition for students in the Northeastern part of Iowa, and Michael is steadfastly determined to transform North Cedar into a magnet district into which students will want to transfer.

After spending a day with Michael, his leadership team, and most importantly, the teachers of the district, I know they will succeed. Soon, students will be leaving nearby districts in droves to attend North Cedar.

Michael was reflecting on what he had learned in a half-year in the Superintendent’s role. He was frustrated that perhaps the district was trying to do too many things at once. One of his leaders said, “We need to become great at something, because we know we can’t be great at everything.” This is true of every school district, everywhere. If you try five initiatives at once, you are buying a ticket on an express train to mediocrity.

In this short video, Michael analogized the situation to his days of coaching football, and why he began each year focusing on “one play.”

What’s your “one play?” What will your school become great at?


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  • http://www.thindifference.com/ Jon M

    An important question to ask as an individual in every role in a school or any organization. This includes students. Students who understand the plays they call will make a big difference, one way or another, will make better and better plays to really develop a great life story.

    Love the message here, Angela. Thank you. Jon

  • Angela Maiers

    Great point Jon – this message applies to students as well!

  • http://twitter.com/jmclean77 Jesse McLean

    Oh man do I love this. With coaching basketball there is saying about doing three things well and focusing on those three things. If we could b great at say shooting the basketball, rebounding the basketball and playing half court defense, it wouldn’t matter that we weren’t great at running a fast break or pressing the other team.

    I have been saying that we need to have that type of thinking in our school, but I like what Michael says in the idea of making sure we do one thing well before we move on to the next. That is a great leadership mentality there and I look forward to hearing about how things go for their division in the years to come.

  • Carmen Clark

    As a student who is working towards becoming a teacher this post made me realize that I do not have to(can’t) be the greatest english teacher. That is someone else’s place; however, if I begin to focus on my “one play” (history) and put my all into being the best history teacher I can be. If I truly invest in training up my students to become learners in history and how to apply the concept of what they learn into their own life. That investment will spread throughout the school in every one of their subjects. My “one play” will impact my students whole education.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.squires.9 Mark Squires

    Thanks for this post: interesting about learning for individuals, and about organising and administrating / leading a whole school. However, we still need to be pretty good at all the things we aren’t great at (maybe that was said, for some reason sound level was very faint over here in NW England!) which is also as applicable to the individual learners, and the school. It’s finding the balance.

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