A while back, I wrote that best practice is still just practice.

Teaching is a practice. We practice teaching. We have an obligation to do our best, but that will ultimately change as we… practice. If we want to apply ‘best practice’ to teaching, then we need to look at ourselves as role model learners. We need to be relentless learners striving to be our best. We need to be self-reflective, we need to seek advice from our mentors and teachers, we need to engage in learning conversations, and we need to share our enthusiasm for both teaching and learning. We need to ‘practice teaching’ to the best of our ability.

Alec Couros said in the comments,

“Best practice” makes three big assumptions.

1) That best practices exist, that there are in fact ‘best’ practices.

2) That these practices can somehow be extracted, mostly oblivious to the style of the teacher, the student, the learning environment, the social environment, the cultural environment …

3) That these practices can somehow be transferred, used by other teachers, in other contexts.

These are huge assumptions, ones that de-emphasize “teacher as compassionate human” in favour of “teacher as technician”. There needs to be a balance.

Almost 4 years later, Darren Kuropatwa talked about my best practice post in his #While Walking video post: #WhileWalking 54: I’d rather be in beta

Darren says, “I think beta is the best we can do in education“. This really strikes a chord with me as I reflect on our Inquiry Hub school’s inaugural year.

I agree with Darren that while we can implement some key guiding principles, we shouldn’t necessarily be talking about best practice. More practice can always help us improve on the best way(s) that we currently know of. So, in effect, the current ‘best’ usually isn’t the future best practice. This leads us to being in perpetual beta, experimenting and doing things differently.

In recent posts on Looking Back, and Leadership and Capacity, I’ve shown my propensity to be reflective. I think that like Darren, I see myself as ‘always beta’, but a state of perpetual beta seems to be both essential (as a lead/model learner in a learning organization) and also exhausting (as someone tirelessly tring to make things better).

‘Doing Differently’ based on a reflective practice is key to future success… It is also a curse in that ‘good enough’ is never good enough, and our best can always be better. I’m not sure how to do this well (yet), but measuring and appreciating our successes (even the small ones) is a mental health issue that I think many of us need to work on. Life is too short to constantly feel like ‘things need to be better’ and not feeling inspired that we are doing the best that we can with the time and resources that we have… As are our students and colleagues.

In his post, Do Over: 5 Things I’ll Do Differently, Jeff Delp reflects on some key ideas to help guide him as he strives to focus on what really matters. He quotes Goethe:

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.

I think that being in perpetual beta requires a certain balance. While we are constantly trying to focus and improve upon things which matter most, we need to celebrate our accomplishments even when we reflect on how much better things could (potentially) be. Products eventually move out of beta and although there are tweaks and upgrades, the beta phase is over. Perpetual beta means ongoing iterations and trials, coupled with continual learning and improving. We just need to remember to appreciate how far we’ve come and not just focus on how far we still have to go!

6 comments on “Perpetual Beta

  1. Your post was very inspiring. I enjoyed reading it. I am a person that is always trying to be my best and this post has made me realize that being okay is just as good as being the best. There is always room for improvement. I need to be able to just be able to do something and understand that I can just make it better next time and that there is no reason to make a big deal out of something not being the best. Thank you so much for this post. I loved it. Thanks David Truss.

  2. Thanks for your comment Katy,
    I have to say that it is comforting to see new teachers with your attitude. You’ve chosen a noble and wonderfully rewarding profession. 🙂

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