As a long-time educator, whether Dr. Freda Deskin was teaching in common education or higher education or as a school leader, she has tried to live by example and insist that others make excellence a habit in all they do. It is easier to take the time to do a task right the first time than to pay the consequences of more time and effort later.
As a teacher, Freda Deskin stresses to students that she would only accept their best work. If there was not a heading, the work was sloppy or incomplete, she would quietly ask them if the work was their best. Dr. Freda Deskin would ask them to look closely at the paper in her hand. She would ask if they saw anything that was not excellent. If the heading or their name was missing or if there were stains on the paper, they would immediately take the paper back, exclaiming they would redo the paper.
Making excellence a habit takes time. This includes excellence in everything, including behavior. Reminding students regularly from the first day of the year and continuing throughout the year is a must. Before long, the papers get amazingly better once the idea of excellence is brought to a conscious level and reinforced.
“Giving positive reinforcement each time a paper of excellence was turned in motivated students to focus on excellence and to check and recheck their work since reviewing a task multiple times is important in achieving excellence as a habit,” said Freda Deskin.
There are many tasks and projects daily in a school classroom. Students prepare posters for presentations. Dr. Freda Deskin went over with her students how an excellent poster should look. Once they agreed, she created a rubric for them to refer to. Was there a title, was it centered and was there an equal border all around the text and graphics? Freda Deskin taught them how to perfectly center a title done by hand by counting all the letters for each title row and then determining the middle letter or space and then adding letters to the right and then going back and filling in the right side of the lettering.
Whether students were putting their name on a paper, presenting their best work or double-checking completed work, when it is frequently brought to a conscious level, what they turn in improves and carries over to other classes and other parts of their lives. Dr. Freda Deskin has had many former students thank her for teaching them this habit.
“The same is true in business and at home. When we are aware of what we are presenting, either internally or externally, checking our work for excellence and for accuracy is the same. supervisors and administrators who insist on excellence throughout their business or school will see a marked difference in everything, including the building and offices,” explained Dr. Deskin.
Teaching everyone from the maintenance staff, to the secretaries, to the professional staff that excellence is expected and that anything less changes outcomes. Buildings become better kept and tidier. Old signs are removed along with the remains of tape and hand-written signs. Lobbies become free of clutter and offices are clean and attractive. Customer service becomes better, but it does take frequent reminders and follow through until excellence becomes the norm in the organization.
“When excellence becomes a habit, people think about the content and structure of their emails and other communications before they send them out. Spreadsheets and documents have proper headings, subheadings and cell headings. All communication becomes more thoughtful, intentional and user-friendly,” added Dr. Freda Deskin.
Fewer mistakes are made on final products. Everyone learns that for excellence to become a habit, you must measure twice and cut once. With fewer mistakes, less time is taken to redo the work and less likely to require follow-up communication or meetings. When excellence becomes a habit, there is far greater efficiency.
Making excellence a habit is a shift in mindset and awareness. Once it is a habit, it doesn’t even take conscious thought to check and prepare or do a task correctly the first time. It becomes second nature. Dr. Freda Deskin often thinks of how the world would be so much different if we taught and learned the valuable lesson making excellence a habit from an early age.