Team Challenge #sol18

downloadTeam Challenge #sol18

July 3, 2018

Recently our district embarked upon a curriculum change for literacy.  Through lots of groundwork, planning, consulting, and collaboration we are moving slowly forward.  That forward movement reminded me of a team challenge in my younger days.

The leadership group that I was a part of at the time escapes me, however plans were made for the group to complete this leadership building training at a newly constructed outdoor team building obstacle course.

When we arrived we were divided into teams, men and women, all young and relatively sure of themselves.  There were many challenges,  high rope walking, log rolling, and others that escape me.  One challenge stands out.  There was a wall.  I am sure you’ve seen them in the recent mud challenges or on television physical challenge shows.  We had to scale up one side and down the other.  The object was to get your whole team across.

Initially,  the tallest and strongest scaled the wall,  leaving the shortest and weaker on the other side. While I know this wasn’t the case, in my memory, it’s just me left on the other side. Since that wasn’t a successful completion of the challenge, the team regrouped to strategized.  First,  they coached me.  This is how you do it.  Give it a try.  It isn’t hard. No luck.  My weak arms and short legs didn’t have the strategy.  Frustration followed.  For a moment, everyone stood still, looking at each other, looking at the ground, looking at the wall.  Then slowly, a breakthrough occurred.  If two went over and one stood on the other shoulders,  they would almost reach the top,  one scaled the front side and straddled the top, and two remained on the front side to get me over.  I was embarrassed and devastated to be the object of all this work and the center of attention.

But then serendipity…No one seemed to mind that I had held them back.  They talked, they planned.  They encouraged.  They strategized.  I was all concentration.  Self-talking my way using one person’s hand as a step and another’s shoulder.  Then the top, a momentary rest and a shaky look down before a shoulder, a hand step, and finally,  the ground.  THE GROUND.  Success.  Cheering.  General high-fiving.

I remember this all these years later not because I couldn’t, but because we could. That team is long gone, the members blurs to me today, but that feeling of everyone getting to the finish, the success,  that stays with me.

So as I think about our new curricular challenges,  I think that we could get some educators to the success quickly.  They are ready,  they are eager, and they are prepared. We could do that.  Then those others,  the ones for which this seems like a unsurmountable challenge, a challenge they don’t quite want to participate in,  will be all the harder,  perhaps impossible.  If we share the leadership, if we plan and strategize, we can get everyone over the wall, whatever that wall might be to them.  I know.  I know the success will be sweeter because I remember that wall so long ago.



I slice with my writing partners at each Tuesday.  Today’s slice inspired by the dedicated work of our district literacy team and the encouragement of Jennifer Serravallo to dig deep for stories.


6 thoughts on “Team Challenge #sol18

  1. My favorite line is this one – not because I couldn’t, but because we could. This is so important in so many ways. Thank you for the inspiration. You must be having a great summer if you are working with Jennifer Serravallo! Enjoy!

  2. I’m a third endorser of this line: “I remember this all these years later not because I couldn’t, but because we could.” Succinct & priceless. Thanks, as always, for an understated moment of wisdom.

  3. What a powerful story about teamwork! What is especially striking is the lasting impact of a struggle; being successful has the most impact when there is a struggle attached to it! Good luck with your literacy goals!

  4. What a great story to share with your team at the beginning of the year. It sets the feeling of community and support right at the start!

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