I just got off a flight where a bunch of new recruits in the Army were heading to boot camp.  I was standing behind one of them while we boarded and looked over her backpack – it was shiny and sparkly!  I looked down at her work boots and fatigues and they were brand spanking new.  When she boarded, she was pulled aside by the flight attendant, who gave her a seat up in First Class.  She was THRILLED!  A couple of her buddies were upgraded and they were totally thrilled – it was really cute to watch!

The SECOND – and I mean the second! – she sat down in the comfy seat, she fell asleep.  Like really asleep asleep – the kind where you can’t control your neck and your head keeps bobbing all around and you don’t even care!  At one point we had a little turbulence (I’m never happy about that!) and she looked sleepy at her friend and said, “I’m sooooooo tired.”  He laughed really loud and teasingly said, “Girl, we haven’t even GOTTEN there and you’re exhausted!!  You don’t stand a chance!”  She laughed and said, “You’re probably right.”  And promptly fell right to sleep again.

And that got me thinking…

This young lady just joined the Army – and before she even got there, she’s exhausted.  She’s young, in good physical shape I’m assuming and certainly motivated to do what she’s doing.  But she’s already tired.  She lacks stamina.  But soon she’ll be able to live off of less sleep and survive with a ton more of physical demands than she’s probably used to.  She’ll adapt.

Adapting to your environment and learning to incorporate more difficult tasks or very challenging schedules is what naturally happens the longer you do it.  That’s how stamina is built – steady pressure across time.

I was working with a group of folks recently and we were creating their plan of action for the Common Core – it was a three year plan that would definitely take stamina and skill to carry out.  But they were poised to do just that – even if they didn’t THINK they were!  No fewer than four people came up to me in the first two hours (we had barely jumped into analyzing the complexity of the standards at every grade level) and said something like this, “Now you know, our (Special Ed/Title/High poverty) kids just aren’t going to be able to do this, so what is our plan for them?”

Hmmm.  Really?

So my answer was, “The same plan as everyone else!”  (Needless to say, that response went over like a lead balloon…I’m sure you can imagine)

They were already looking for a reason or confirmation that somehow the increased expectations of the Common Core were ridiculous.  And that’s just plain not true!

I have a friend of mine that passed this information onto me – I just had to share it because it made so much sense!

You know, our struggling reader or economically disadvantaged students don’t stand much of a chance with our current testing system.  (I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here)  They didn’t stand a chance because so many of the questions on those tests were based upon background knowledge and prior experience.  And not all kids have either of those!  There are fully capable and brilliant guys and gals in our systems that JUST HAVEN’T BEEN EXPOSED to culture, travel, foods or people from outside of their five block radius.  Because of this fact, they will struggle on those tests.

But with the advent of the Common Core and its emphasis on text-dependent questioning and responses, they will stand a chance.  Here’s why: With text dependent questions that require text-dependent responses, kids will rely on THE TEXT to provide them information.  Yes, they’ll have to infer (which is no easy task) and yes they’ll have to learn to evaluate the text in ways that they haven’t before (which is certainly not an easy task), BUT they won’t have had to travel to Spain or France to answer the questions.  The root of the questions and their correct and complete answers is right there in the text.

The other way that struggling kids will stand a chance in relation to their higher performing counterparts is that EVERYONE is in struggle mode –simply because the complexity of the tasks that we’ll complete in Common-Core aligned work is increased ten-fold.  And there are very few students that are currently working at the level that the Common Core demands.

The playing field has been leveled.  And it’s about time.

I’m really excited about the idea of a level playing field.  It’s about time, isn’t it?