The Endless Cycle of Hope

“Hope for a better plan and a better teacher and a better outcome is merely that – hope.  Hope means nothing until it meets action.”

Midway through my career, in another country than this, I found myself sitting at a team meeting.  The regular plethora of complaints about uniform and pick-up and drop-off were tabled yet again without resolution. My mind was drifting until we came to the ‘Students at Risk’ segment of the meeting. A boy named Ian was featured yet again, some four months into the school year.  He was having difficulty reading.

“Send him to tutoring,” was one suggestion.

“Mom needs to work with him,” was another.

“We have made an appointment in Boston for more testing,” replied the teacher in charge of such things. “Then we will make a plan for him.”

This is where I had to step in. “Doesn’t he already have a plan?” I asked.


“What happened to it?”

“It’s not working.”

“Has anyone sat down to read with Ian in the past four months?”

A series of blank looks turned my way, followed by “we have assessed him monthly. And we met with his mother twice.”

“Why isn’t anyone working with him each day?” I asked.

Some hostility was turned my way so I took the signal and shut my mouth.  I did, however, have ‘prep’ periods in my schedule.  So, with the blessing of his homeroom teacher, who was (with 20+ kids in the room) doing her very best, I started reading with Ian. Every. Single. Day.  And we started to see progress.  This had to come to a crashing halt when other parents and children noticed that Ian was getting 1:1 help… why couldn’t all the students have this?  There was an uprising beginning and I was the cause.  So I was told by my supervisor in no uncertain terms to cease and desist this ‘unfair help’… but the ‘damage’ had been done.  People had seen that no amount of testing, planning, re-testing, meeting, planning, and testing again was going to help Ian.  He needed someone to sit down and do the hard work with him.  That became his mother’s demand and that is what eventually happened – for Ian and a number of other children in the school.

Why do I tell this story?  I tell it because it is too true of too many schools.  Children struggle because one size doesn’t fit all.  And our collective (as educators) response seems to be to build fancy plans, assess, re-assess, and meet again. Entire departments exist for this very purpose. All of these hours would be better spent simply doing the hard work – working with the children who need us.

If your child is stuck in this cycle please consider coming to visit us at Headwaters Academy – your visit is free and we’ll give an honest assessment of whether we can help your child.  Hope for a better plan and a better teacher and a better outcome is merely that – hope.  Hope means nothing until it meets action.