"Talk about massive potential for growth!" - Bill Mlurray in Stripes.
Yes, in the education business, we talk a lot about the little acorns that we all hope will grow to be giant oaks. That's not always how it works. Sometimes that little acorn turns into something that we barely recognize. Sometimes they remain, always, a little acorn. The reason to keep coming back are those magnificent trees that cover the land.
If the land in which you live happens to be southern West Virginia, however, when school started in the Fall, one out of seven classrooms was without a
teacher. Leaders there couldn't recruit enough educators to that sparsely
populated rural area.In McDowell County,
a place perpetually ranked among the worst in the state by almost every
measure, twelve people a month die from drug overdoses here, while more
than one hundred people are on a waiting list to talk to rehab counselors via
Skype. Three-quarters of all students live in a home where parents can't
find work in this one-time coal hub that has slowed. The county leads
the state in teenage pregnancies.
Suddenly working in Oakland, California feels like a pretty good deal. Educators are working hard to transform those West Virginia schools, turning them into community centers where families can turn in this time of uncertainty. Arne Duncan, Obama's Secretary of Education is a big fan of this plan. It's an idea he championed when he was in charge of public schools in Chicago. That's the idea that we have struggled with here, as well. We have kids who are dropped off by single moms at seven in the morning and aren't picked up from our after school program until after five in the evening. It is an awesome responsibility. We continue to do everything we can during those ten hours to help those little acorns grow. The realities that have created the world outside our doors don't change quickly, but we keep hoping that we are making it easier for our sprouts to put down solid roots and spread their branches. Sometimes it takes a village. Sometimes it takes a forest.