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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

School Advancement: On Why We Are Only Halfway There

If you are a student of logic, you might disagree with what I’m about to say. But I will say it anyway, just to get the conversation going.

If School Advancement is all about moving the institution forward, however far we travel we will never reach our goal.

To be more precise, we will always only be just past the halfway point.

The idea here is not new and is loosely based on an ancient Greek idea called Zeno’s Paradox.

To cut a long story short, Zeno’s Paradox says that two objects can never actually touch. Take two balls. The first is stationary and the second is moving slowly towards it. At some point, the second ball will have to pass the halfway point before reaching its goal. But as there are an infinite number of halfway points the two balls will never touch - because there will always be another halfway point to cross before reaching the stationary ball.

An image of many clock faces
Moments in time. Always just over halfway there.

Unless you are a mathematician, this is certainly enough to stimulate brain ache.

But maybe there is a truth here worth pondering, just a minute longer.

Those of us who work in schools tend to see the world as something like a thirteen-year journey divided into school years. So by about Grade 7, depending how you count it, you are roughly halfway there.

Those of us who work in schools also spend a lot of time diving each year into Semesters or Terms; then into Half Terms and maybe even into two-week cycles. Until, finally, we divide each day into blocks - units of time that can (wrongly) convince us and our students that learning itself is a series of 45- or 90-minute cycles.

Those of us who work in Advancement tend to do the same. We stretch out each year and break it down into manageable pieces and place milestones along the way.

But the truth is, there are an infinite number of halfway points in front of us and, however much we achieve this year, we will never reach our goal; we will never stop designing that website; we will never be done with refining the user experience of families; we will never sit back and file away our fundraising efforts under Complete.

Whether we are in our first year on the job, or looking back on a career.

We will always be just over halfway there.

And perhaps that’s ok.

And perhaps it’s better to look at it that way.


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