photo of set designer work

From Mediocrity to Excellence

The Need for Quality Work in School

What is great quality? Why do we see so little of it around us in our world? In school, at home, at work, poor quality surrounds us. At times, the concept of excellence seems foreign. In order to produce quality work, we must first know quality work. Where are our examples in life? In this age of instant gratification, we want to “get it done” quickly and move on to the next thing. Why do something well when we can get by with “good enough”? This mentality is transferred to our kids in their work environment. School curriculum also encourages us to move hastily through a laundry list of objectives and content in a relatively short period of time. Nothing of depth that is worthwhile and meaningful is achieved with this way of thinking. Teaching with quality, learning about quality and living with quality can only come from being immersed in a culture of expectations that guide us toward excellence. The true reward comes from knowing what it feels like to work through a difficult task or assignment and present a quality product that is well received, appreciated and respected by others.

Our set designers inspired a lesson on quality work as they were discussing set elements for our opera and how best to create them. They made two cubes, one of poor quality and one of great quality. Our volunteers then asked, “Which cube would you like to represent the work we are doing?” Not one selected the scrunched up, poorly constructed, lopsided cube. They were clear about which they wanted to represent them.

Now, we transfer this understanding to our daily work in the classroom.

What IS quality work?

photo of set designer work



Quality Post- Perry



Quality post- Rayn



Quality Post-David B



Quality Post-K



Quality Post-Manuela



Quality Post-Nathan



Quality Post-Sana



Quality Post-Sonia



Quality Post-Starr

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Mary Ruth McGinn

About Mary Ruth McGinn

As a teacher with 32 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the learning experiences and opportunities of students and their families. Nineteen years ago she had an experience that changed her life and altered her professional path in a profound way. She attended training sessions at The Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York City, spent nine intense days living the process of creating an original opera and learned how to replicate the experience with her students. She then began creating opera with her students and using the process of creating the opera as a vehicle to teach curriculum and life skills. The authentic purpose for learning coupled with the arts provided the perfect stage on which to construct a love for life-long learning. The profundity of the work, the transformation of the students and a desire to “bring to light” new ideas in education, inspired Mary Ruth to share this way of thinking and learning. In 2006 she was granted a Fulbright Scholarship, sponsored and funded by Teatro Real and Fundación SaludArte in Madrid, and a sabbatical from Montgomery County, to travel to Spain to develop and implement a similar program there. She lived there two years training teachers and working side by side with teachers and students in their classrooms. The reception of the project was overwhelming. Mary Ruth returns to Madrid every summer to train a new team of educators and artists in the process. In the summer of 2018, she joined forces with The Kennedy Center to offer the opera training for teachers in the Washington Metro area. She currently teaches third grade at Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery Village, Maryland where she is implementing a classroom curriculum based on the principles of authentic learning. Read more of Mary Ruth's blog Learning for Real.


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