Take the Hard Road

“What comes easy won't last long and 
what lasts long won't come easy.”

As we begin a new calendar year, many people make resolutions and set goals designed to positively impact themselves and/or others. Making such resolutions is relatively easy; sticking to them is often difficult. Some will no doubt succeed in adhering to their resolutions while others, inevitably, will fail. The difference? In many cases, those who succeed will take the hard road rather than the easy road when faced with difficult choices.

For example, many self improvement plans center on exercise, diet, or finances. In each instance, success depends on choosing the hard road on a consistent basis. Waking up early to run five miles is taking the hard road. Sleeping in and skipping the run is the easy road. Cooking a meal with healthy food can be a hard road while ordering a pizza to be delivered is an easy road. When it comes to finances, spending $100 is an easy road; saving $100 is a hard road. Unfortunately, it seems as if we humans are generally wired to take the easy road; the default position seems to be the status quo or to create as little stress, work, or discomfit as possible. On the other hand, it takes discipline and intentionality to do what is hard. 

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Here is the good news, however, that we must keep in mind: Easy roads eventually become hard, while hard roads eventually become easy. That morning run, that daily meal, and the consistent saving of a few dollars? Eventually these acts become routines and these routines ultimately become habits. It no longer becomes a question of whether to run, save, or eat healthy; it has simply become what we do and who we are. It was hard, but over time, we simply became people who exercise, people who eat healthy foods, and people who are financially stable. It is no longer a choice of whether we do it; it simply becomes who we are. What was once a hard road has become an easy road because we are now more healthy or wealthy. Conversely, had we taken the easy road in the beginning, we would eventually be on the hard road, forced to deal with difficulties in terms of our health or finances.

In our personal lives, there are scads of examples proving the easy road/hard road concept. I suspect this phenomenon is equally applicable in our professional lives as educators. What are some hard roads we must take now in our classrooms and schools so that our lives (and those of our students) eventually become easier and we achieve our goals? There are likely endless examples, but one that comes to mind is addressing the underperformance of a student or staff member. Perhaps a student continuously misbehaves in our classroom. Perhaps a teacher in our school is not adhering to our cultural norms. In both instances, the easy road might be to overlook the underperformance or to address it, but only in a cursory way. Perhaps we talk to the student, but fail to contact the parent who has proven difficult to deal with in the past. Maybe we mention our concerns to the staff member, yet still provide a satisfactory formal evaluation. This easy path will eventually become hard as the underperformance will continue and likely worsen.
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The hard road in these scenarios involves making the time to learn why the behavior is occurring, having potentially difficult conversations with those involved, creating a plan to change the underperformance, and continuing to monitor the situation throughout the school year, providing feedback and possibly consequences along the way. Left unchecked, the undesired behaviors will not only continue, but will likely get worse. Taking the hard road is (obviously) hard--at first. In this example, it takes a great deal of time and requires us to engage in uncomfortable conversations. However, this commitment to taking the hard road at the outset pays dividends over time as the student’s behavior improves or the staff member’s commitment deepens. In the end, because we chose the hard road, our work became easier.

What are some other instances at our schools in which it behooves us to take the hard road now so we can enjoy the easy road further down the line and reach our ultimate destination as smoothly as possible? Do they involve grading, assessment, data, and pedagogy? Teacher evaluation, parent/community relationships, standardized testing, and implementing change? I would love to hear your thoughts. Knowing that hard roads become easy and easy roads become hard and choosing, therefore, to take the hard road is another way we Teach, Learn, and Lead with Passion!

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