Over the summer, Kim’s son Matthew attended a two-week, military-style leadership camp at Norwich University in Vermont. Each day began with an hour and half of Physical Training (PT) which included a vast array of exercises like hill sprints, stretching, planking, sit-ups, pull-ups, and push-ups. Add to that other daily, grueling activities, such as marching for miles and miles up and down rigorous mountain terrain, carrying a 200-pound person for over a mile stretch down a mountain, rappelling off an 80-foot cliff, and swimming across a pool holding a ten-pound rifle above his head. Invariably, this was a physically intense two weeks and, as one might expect, he weighed less when he came home than when he left–four pounds less, to be precise.
Fast forward to this week, now two weeks since the conclusion of his camp experience. Curious about whether he had maintained his weight loss in the wake of returning home and feeling absolutely ravenous, Matthew stepped on the scale again only to discover that he is now nine pounds less than before-camp weight. Matthew’s first instinct was to celebrate his continued weight loss because as a society, that’s what we’re taught to do. But, he didn’t understand why the number was more favorable, given that he had been eating nonstop since his arrival home. He wanted to know, How is it possible for the number on the scale to go down when I’m eating more and exercising less?”
Matthew’s instinct mirrors what we often see going on in schools–when the numbers say what we want them to say, we celebrate. What we do less as educators is exhibit the curiosity Matthew showed when he expressed an interest in understanding numbers. Asking why we are getting the results we want is an important question.
Matthew’s continued weight loss is most likely attributable to a loss in muscle mass. Upon his return, his muscle mass was at its peak and because muscle is denser and heavier than fat, he weighed more. Now that he is home and barely exercising, he has lost some of that muscle mass.
Although Matthew has been working on slimming down, his current weight loss is actually a red flag. We know that Matthew is very healthy and that his time at camp helped him develop new understandings and habits for being in shape, but the numbers on the scale are misleading and unsustainable.
Matthew’s camp weight loss experience strikes us as analogous to what we often see happening in data-driven learning environments. His two weeks at camp remind us of the intense periods of test prep that happen just before high stakes assessments and, while this approach might tip the scale in the direction we want, we wonder if, without good “exercise and eating” habits, the results are misleading. Real reading results come in the form of joyful, thoughtful, curious, intentional readers. These types of readers grow in classrooms rich with wonderful children’s literature and a steady diet of balanced instruction. As this new school year begins, we hope that your students enjoy lots of read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading with lots and lots of engaging conversations about the beautiful books that you read together! Best wishes for a great new year!
If you want to dig into read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading with us, join us for the six-week, Who’s Doing the Work Online Class, beginning September 18.
Or (if you live in or near Texas) get free admission to the class by joining us at the Hurst Center in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area for a full day of Who’s Doing the Work professional learning.