News Columns & Blogs

Sheryl Green: Two miles in 14 minutes

Sheryl Green
Sheryl Green

I read the letter and the information very carefully. At the bottom in bold letters it said, "Before you step foot on the practice field, you must run two miles in under 14 minutes."

I dropped the letter and my jaw. There was no way I could do that. Too high of a standard for me to meet.

Adrian dragged me into the hallway after about a week of Advanced Placement Literature and Composition. He held back tears and said, "Ms. Green, you gotta get me outta this class. I can't read too good, and I sure can't write too good. I'm going to fail and not graduate." He was right. He couldn't read "too good" or write "too good." Too high of a standard for him to meet.

First day of preseason as a freshman in college, my partner in the drill was an all-American senior. I was not prepared for the velocity of the ball she passed to me. I messed up the drill. She fussed. I wanted to go home. Too much intensity for me.

Mr. White, my principal, knocked on my classroom door and asked me to come speak to him in the hallway. He was beginning to receive phone calls from parents wanting their children out of my dual enrollment college English classes.

He said, "Just so you know. We have your back. Keep pushing these kids." Too much rigor for them.

Playing college soccer was an experience of a lifetime, one that changed my life. Throughout my childhood, I was blessed to play on some good, quality teams and learn from some amazing coaches. Nothing prepared me, however, for the intensity and demands of playing in college. When I received the summer workout schedule from my college coach, I was basking in my soccer-playing abilities that would pay for my college degree. I thought I was well-prepared from my previous experience and previous coaching. I was not.

Many students arrive in an Advanced Placement or dual enrollment college class in much the same way. They have been on the honor roll, have their report cards magnetized to the fridge, and are in the top of their graduating class. Then, they enter Room 212. They may think they are well-prepared from their previous experiences, previous teachers, but in the harshness of reality, they are not. It is not a matter of ability. It is a matter of rigor and intensity.

I knew if I trained hard enough, I could run two miles in under 14 minutes. I knew that if I pushed myself a little more intently, I could cleanly receive an all-American's blasted pass.

The same concept is true for Adrian, the college class students, and all students. Running two miles was unfamiliar to me. Practicing side by side with an all-American was unfamiliar to me. The standards for playing collegiately are certainly more intense and more rigorous than playing for a high school team. I was prepared well for the level at which I was being judged, the level at which I was being asked to perform. In college, however, the stakes are higher and the demands are higher.

A very similar situation is occurring throughout education, especially in Georgia. The training of our students has been geared toward the levels of Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and End of Course Tests, both multiple choice tests. Children have a 25-percent chance of bubbling in a correct response. It would be like practicing for a friendly soccer match between players and parents. The intensity isn't there. The demand isn't there. The expectations aren't there.

Now, however, our kids are playing in a college match with an abrupt shift in practice demands. It's like the letter I received from my college coach. A jaw-dropping list of demands I either had to conquer or be left on the sideline. In education, it's called the Georgia Milestones. No more bubble sheets. No more 25-percent chance of guessing correctly. Essays and short answers and higher levels of thinking are required. When I laced up my running shoes that summer before my freshman year, I was reluctant, nervous and doubtful. I wasn't sure if I could run two miles in under 14 minutes, but I wanted to try. I had to try.

Preparing wasn't easy. My muscles ached. My pride was hurt. I had to go through some growing pains to recalibrate the standards with my training and ability. The same goes for our students and the expectations of the Georgia Milestones. There must be a period of growing pains as both teacher and student adjust and recalibrate to the higher standards, the loftier expectations, and the more difficult assessments.

In the end, our resilient students and teachers will adjust. They always will.

Give it some time.

Sheryl Green is an independent contractor. Contact her at