The All Blacks are the most successful international rugby team ever, and they have sustained their success over a very long period of time. They have always been the team that others measure themselves against and they have just won the World Cup for the second time running. I’m sure that teachers and schools can learn a great deal from their approach.
The All Blacks are not the most flamboyant or entertaining side, the French team of the 1990s would probably earn that title. They lack the shear power of the South Africans. They do not have the invention of the Australians. What they do have is a winning formula that has been honed over many, many years. In the rugby world of 2015 Australia are probably the best outfit at the breakdown where many international matches are won and lost – but the All Blacks are not far behind. Argentina are probably the best scrummaging nation – but the All Blacks are not far behind. The trouble is that both Australia and Argentina have weaknesses elsewhere that other teams can exploit. If the All Blacks are not the leading team in a particular facet of the game then they are close to it. The All Black team has no real weaknesses that other teams can exploit.
The All Blacks are relentless. They make fewer mistakes than other sides. Their weakest players would probably walk into many other international sides. In short, there is nowhere to hide against the All Blacks. In teaching this translates into all teaching being no less than good. It means that there should be no lessons when learners have a chance to slack. They are constantly challenged to do their best. There is no place in lessons for those students who want an easy life and do not want to be challenged.
If you were to put together a tape of the greatest tries ever scored, I am fairly certain that the tape would be dominated by scores from France and Australia. The All Blacks do not set out to entertain; they set out to win. It is their relentless approach that leads to their winning formula. There are no weak links but equally there is little flamboyance. The lesson here is that the lack of poor lessons is far more important than pulling out the occasional outstanding lesson. It is the irresistible nature of their play that brings results and so it can be in the classroom. Equally, an entertaining lesson may not be an effective lesson – the aim is for the children to progress rather than enjoy your lessons.
The All Blacks are also known to kick more than other teams. They don’t mind letting the opposition play but they do pressure them and work very hard for each other in defence. I read this as teachers allowing space for the learners to learn. Teachers must be giving constant and effective feedback to all learners. Teachers need to cut down on the space that learners have the opportunity to slack.
The All Blacks are not perfect, and they would be the first to acknowledge this. They are very good across the board but they are always looking for ways to improve. They are unfailingly honest with themselves even when they are successful. They won the 2011 World Cup but looked vulnerable even in the final. In 2015 they did not look like losing a single match. Even though they were the best in 2011 they did not sit on their laurels but set out to become even better. This should be a lesson to all schools and to all teachers. No matter how good you are, there is always a way of getting better.
The All Blacks have a superb record and are often at their peak between world cups. They have a culture of excellence at all times. There is a message here for schools and teachers – why chase outstanding observations or OFSTED inspections? If you know that you are doing an excellent job all the time and are always looking to get better, then what’s the point?