A View from 10K Feet


Sometimes it’s easier for an outsider to see a situation more clearly than an insider. The whole forest-for-the-trees thing. When we are too up close and personal, it’s all too easy to miss the simple solutions to complex questions. The longer we live and work among the trees, the more attached and invested we are in nurturing the growth of each one individually. It is ever so easy to lose sight of what is happening in the forest.

And vice versa. We know there are always two sides to every story or another viewpoint to balance our own. I have had the privilege to live in the forest and among the trees in EdWorld. I have a story for you. It is a true story.

Two Brothers

One I have in my math class. Both I have worked with in summer camps. Very sweet boys who are excellent students.

I need to have a frank conversation with their parents. Not about any problems with them, but about my concerns for their futures. They are not going to be ready to excel once they graduate from high school. This school district is not going to be able to keep up with their learning needs, and as it stands today, will actually hold them back.

For their ages, these brothers are likely two of the top ten most brilliant students in the entire district, and both are more than a handful of years away from receiving the traditional high school diploma. As a teacher, I have seen them in academic action and I predict they will each get a perfect ACT score. They will thrive at any of the most challenging universities available. They are both truly that gifted and talented.

Right now, they have the drive and mindset to pursue whatever career fields they choose. I worry that their coming years in this public education experience will dampen their enthusiasm for learning. Because they are going to be bored… to tears.

This school district will fail them. And I feel obligated to tell their parents.

We do not have qualified personnel who will be able to educate your child toward a high level of academic excellence.

We do not have a pathway for accelerated learning that will allow your child to move forward when he has mastered the content. Your child will be waiting for other students in his class to catch up, if they catch up at all.

We no longer have any digital learning options available because district leaders do not believe in online education; but it doesn’t matter because they don’t believe in acceleration anyway.

All of the resources your children need to reach their highest potential are available in the world, even to this small rural school district. I know this is true because I have seen them. But none are available here.

Your children will be held back by educators who can only see the trees, not the forest. They have been on the inside of EdWorld for way too long and become myopic. They are stuck in a traditional, compliancy-mindset that promotes mediocrity rather than rigor.

The prevailing mentality is focused on raising the district’s test scores so every student moves into the Proficient range which means all of our time/energy/resources are devoted to students who score below proficiency. Your sons are in the Exceeding Proficiency range. Their test scores do not impact the district’s bottom line, so they receive minimal time/energy/resources.

As a teacher, I give your child as much as I can to increase his competency in math and love for learning, but the administration’s demands on me to improve the lower students are huge and my ability is stretched too thin to do more. I am sorry for what I am not able to do.

A View from 10K Feet

Never Summer Mountains editLike I said, I feel a moral obligation to let these parents know what they’re up against for the future of their boys. This is a perfectly adequate educational setting for them, but not one that will help these boys achieve all that is possible.

As a parent, I always wanted to give my daughters the very best I could, especially in education. I think most parents want the same. I would want some teacher who could see the forest to tell me what it looks like from 10,000 feet.

More on making positive change in education at GettingSmart.com: The Future Demands Idea Economy Students.

Come and join the ChangeMakers at edOS on June 4 in DenverHERE.