I have to confess… I hate this number.
Our state has adopted the “180 days in session” model. I have taught in other states that required 166 days, a certain number of hours, and even 132 days for early childhood.
Let me tell you a quick story to illustrate my frustration with this particular benchmark:
I completed a portion of my student teaching at a now-defunct Lutheran high school. I taught there in the spring, during track and field season. Track was a sport that I absolutely loved in my high school days. Since I had planned on going into coaching and the school needed coaches, naturally, I stepped in. Although my current students and teaching colleagues wouldn’t know it by looking at me, at one point I was an athlete.
I coached the jumpers–which had been my event. I worked with long jumpers and triple jumpers first and foremost, but I also worked with the high jumpers, too. And so, when our school hosted a track meet, I was put in charge of running the JV Girls’ High Jump.
I do not know how all states across the country come up with their starting height for the high jump, but usually there is a standard height that is published at the beginning of the track season. This “opening height” is the one that jumpers must clear to move on (unless they pass… but that takes a bit more explaining.)
We started the meet and I started at the prescribed opening height. I don’t remember the exact number of jumpers that were competing, but I know it was such a small number that we ended up with only one “flight” of jumpers.
I called the first jumper up and she found her mark, started running toward the pit… and promptly stopped in her tracks. “It’s too high!” she said. I explained her options and told her that I would move on to the next jumper while she figured out what she wanted to do (that probably went against some sort of state rule, but, hey, it was 2001 and a JV track meet, so I don’t think there will be many challenges at this point.)
I called up the second jumper. She found her mark, started running toward the pit… and promptly stopped in HER tracks. She, too, claimed the bar was too high.
This continued… through all jumpers.
Yes, EVERY single jumper.
So, I lowered the bar and started over. And the same thing happened with each and every jumper. This, time, with tears! Now, at this point, I didn’t quite know what to do. I lowered the bar to the point that it was basically even with the mat itself. In other words, if they could simply jump onto the high jump mat, they would clear the bar.
did. the. SAME. THING. AGAIN!
By now, I was slightly (*ahem)* frustrated. I called all the girls over. I set down my clipboard and said to them, “Girls, I am a fat man, out of shape, and wearing my teaching clothes. But I want you to watch this.” I proceeded to scissor jump over the bar and land on the mat. I came back over to the girls.
“Girls, if I can do this, I KNOW you can do it!”
I started over. And wouldn’t you know… each girl cleared the opening height. In fact, as the event went on, two girls got to the 4’8″ mark (which is not all that bad for some varsity teams.) We made it to that height one half-inch at a time.
After I was done with the event, I went over to an opposing team’s coach. She was also student teaching but at a rival school. While we were talking, a girl came up to me, “Sir, sir! I just wanted you to know that you really inspired me!”
My classmate grinned at me as I turned red and mumbled a “thank you.” “What did you say to her?” she asked.
Now… what does that story have to do with 180 days?
As a teacher and administrator, I get frustrated by the “let’s barely clear the bar” mentality in education concerning class-time (or teacher-student time, depending on what you call it.)
Why do we want the “bare minimum” with our students? Why do we just want to barely clear the bar?
Wouldn’t it be great if we did not have to worry so much about calendars and minimum days? Wouldn’t it be great if we would go to school for 200 days?
Think of all the days that students would hear about Jesus! Think of the time they would spend engaged with classmates in learning!
Maybe someday. But until then, cherish those 180 days that you get. Use them to their fullest.