Things I Know 23 of 365: Bars are better than pedestals

The time to make up your mind about people is never.

– Katherine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story

Someone mentioned to me the other day that I’d set the bar high.

I like that.

Alex is a former G8 student of mine who pole vaulted when he moved on to high school. I went to cheer him on once. Never having seen pole vaulting before, I was struck with the concept of it.

Kids were competing against two people – whoever cleared the highest measurement and their own highest vault.

The day I watched Alex compete, he didn’t place. The other athletes were of a different caliber. When he came over to talk to us following the event, though, Alex didn’t mention how he’d measured up to the others. Instead, he was frustrated with his own performance compared to what he knew he was capable of.

He’d vaulted his best for the day, but knew he could do better.

In Alex’s mind, his bar was higher.

A friend of mine had to call a student’s parents the other day. Not for the best of reasons. The student was terrified.

Her parents were pedestal people.

Their daughter could do no wrong. She was an A student. She was a star athlete. If she joined an organization, that group would be foolish not to have her as its president.

The phone call was to alert her parents that the student’s homework was off of late. As a result, her grade was slipping, and the teacher wanted to soften the blow.

The pedestal was shaking.

When bars are set, they give us something to shoot for – a reason to aim higher the next time. We know we’ve been there and want to go a little bit higher.

When we’re placed on pedestals, we’ve nothing to do but fear falling.

Bars are better.

Friday marks the start of SLA’s fourth iteration of EduCon. Watching the Interwebs, it is clear many are looking for a pedestal experience.


Education policy in the U.S. at the moment is built around pedestal experiences. We ask this year’s students to crawl up the the pedestal of last year’s students while we arbitrarily move it a bit higher. I never understood the purpose of King of the Mountain.

Set a bar instead.

Hell, set many bars.

For those returning to EduCon, consider your experience last year, what you took home, how it shifted your practice. Then, think what you can do this year to own the experience a little more, to ask a little more of yourself. Move the bar.

For those attending EduCon for the first time, decide what you want to learn, ask what assumptions you want to question, and how you want to inform your own practice. Then, do that. Set a bar.

EduCon is no more some sort of educational Mecca than my English class is a literary Jerusalem.

If you want to get the most from EduCon, approach it the same way I’ll be approaching teaching tomorrow – mindful of the best days and thoughtful of what I must do to be a little bit better than that.

10 thoughts on “Things I Know 23 of 365: Bars are better than pedestals

  1. Maybe it's more about being excited to see friends and sitting down to have good conversations than it is about viewing Educon as a mecca of sorts. Well, at least that's my perspective. I get this excited before every conference when I get to be around people who challenge my way of thinking, give me new things to think about, and perhaps reinforce some of my beliefs. That's all.

  2. Since we seem to be on the religious metaphors- What if EduCon is Shabbat or Eucharist instead of Mecca or Jerusalem? (I know I'm religion mixing there.) So it's not about the place, but the people, the food, the remembering, and looking forward.

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention Things I Know 23 of 365: Bars are better than pedestals at Autodizactic --

  4. Such a great reminder to build what we can from the collective wisdom of Educon. Instead of looking for answers, let's share our questions and our thinking. Great things happen with conversations and collaboration.

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