“Simply Misinterpreted…”

This winter was predicted to be cold, snowy, long, and miserable. It has held up fairly well to expectations…

First snow of the season came in mid-October, with us now being predicted to experience the onset of a blizzard in the next couple of hours. We just seem incapable of striking a sense of Spring. Earlier this month marked a significant “holiday” of sorts for Annelle’s family, Groundhog Day. Some years, Groundhog day beckons the beginning of Spring predicted by a shadow (or non-shadow) harbinger…then, most years it is dead wrong…or so we think.

When we first started dating, Annelle’s family invited me over to celebrate Groundhog Day. Annelle said they celebrated by eating groundhog. I thought this odd, but pretty unique. I’m open to trying any food at least once. When they brought it out it looked a little like meatloaf…after poking at it for awhile I finally took the dive and ate the first bite. Next thing I knew… I finished a plateful. As we were washing the dishes, I made the comment I had never eaten groundhog before and thought it was delicious…confused looks were exchanged. That’s when Annelle’s mom clarified…we ate “ground” hog…pork…sweetie. Hmmm….this would be only the first of several misinterpreted occasions surrounding a groundhog.

This year Phil, the groundhog, predicted an early Spring. It has been way, way off to say the least! It has been so off that I’ve mentioned to others that I think the groundhog is broken. When I visited with Annelle, she echoed a phrase that her dad always shares with her each Spring season. “Phil, is never wrong, simply misinterpreted.”

As I thought about this more, I ended up having to do a little bit of research. Here is what I found out:

  1. The prediction method is based less on Phil; our faithful, sorely misinterpreted groundhog, and more on the daily cloud cover found on Feb. 2nd.
  2. Most of the time Phil is yanked from his little burrow while he is still hibernating, (hence the meme worthy pictures of him) disregarding his hibernation patterns is a serious flaw in the predictive method.
  3. Animal activity is actually a fairly good indicator of seasonal weather patterns…think not just hibernators, but migratory birds and other wildlife.

After my research and reading, I have come to agree 100% with Annelle’s dad. By using irrelevant or totally inappropriate measures, of course we will think Phil’s wrong…we are not taking a holistic approach. We are not only misinterpreting the data/evidence we are compiling, but we are compiling the WRONG data/evidence!

Think for a moment about this to our current craze for educational data. Data is not in of itself bad…it becomes bad when it removes the person behind the data. When ripped a part from a holistic perspective, data can quickly become misinterpreted and lead down a dangerous road of enacting reforms based on data that might be inappropriate to the situation trying to be fixed.

Before we rush in changing for the temporary, are we working off of data and personal experiences that will lead to lasting, positive reform that benefits all students, educators, and communities? What data are we compiling? Is it the most relevant information to help us move the needle towards preparing adaptable, resourceful, and civically engaged young adults?

We can never be satisfied or lulled into thinking that we have found the golden metric…all circumstances, situations, and places of learning are different, because of the beauty in our differences as human beings. Creating positive change that lasts, requires we become attuned, connected, and engaged in our local community (students, parents, businesses, teachers, and community stakeholders).

As we chase towards the end of the school year, let’s remember to value not just the numbers that end of the year test scores provide (or whatever metric others use to judge our students or our own efforts), but value the experiences we and others have lived within context of our learning culture.

Finally, let’s all give Phil a break. He’s doing his best in relation to what we are judging his effort on! You rock Phil!

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