Covey’s Habit 4 – Think Win/Win

An analogy was presented in this year’s Tennessee State Standards training with teachers making the following comparisons:

  • Teacher A – I teach students math so they may answer them correctly on the test.
  • Teacher B – I teach students math so they may understand and apply mathematical concepts.

During intense discussion, participants aspired to be Teacher B but saw Teacher A keeping their job. The conversation resolved itself in a discussion of Rigor, which was defined as follows:

Content taught with rigor is represented by the following concepts taught with equal intensity:

  • Conceptual Understanding
  • Contextual Application
  • Procedural Fluency

This approach to instruction is Thinking Win/Win. Teachers need to strike a balance between Teacher A and Teacher B in the classroom. Gaming the test yields higher test scores but does not lead to deeper understanding. Project based learning without practice of the discovered concepts could lead to deceptive assessment results and put a teacher’s job in jeopardy.

A classroom represents the ultimate in Thinking Win/Win but poses major conflicts with school boards looking for higher scores, administrators maintaining retention and graduation rates as evaluation measures and future employers looking for well-rounded students with a basic set of executive skills to function in the workplace.

Covey says:

A person or organization that approaches conflicts with a win-win attitude possesses three vital character traits:
Integrity: sticking with your true feelings, values, and commitments

Maturity: expressing your ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others

Abundance Mentality: believing there is plenty for everyone

Many people think in terms of either/or: either you’re nice or you’re tough. Win-win requires that you be both. It is a balancing act between courage and consideration. To go for win-win, you not only have to be empathic, but you also have to be confident. You not only have to be considerate and sensitive, you also have to be brave. To do that–to achieve that balance between courage and consideration–is the essence of real maturity and is fundamental to win-win. Covey’s Habit 4

Educators involved in the long term delivery of a very critical economic product (well-prepared students) should also experience the same kind of Win/Win thinking coming from their stakeholders.

It is not a matter of someone succeeding at someone else’s expense:

  • re-indexed student proficiency scores
  • school closures based on performance
  • students socially promoted to reduce retention rates
  • students transferred to “adult high school” to maintain graduation rates
  • standards and tuition elevated making them inaccessible to in-state students
  • reduced funding to schools because of tax-incentives offered to industry
  • complaints about an ill-prepared workforce without communicating about present and future skill profiles & offering internship programs

It requires a long-term balanced approach where students should be the beneficiary of Win/Win Thinking giving them a “personally owned”  trajectory.


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