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Thoughts from the Principal-February


   Second semester is off to a fast and furious start.  January’s schedule has been filled with basketball, an FFA field trip to the National Western Stock Show, Honor Band, a Y-W Electric guest presenter among other activities and events to keep our students engaged in their educational experience.  Our mid-year assessment data is in with largely promising results.  Performance and growth measures both landed somewhere between acceptable and ideal.  I appreciate the effort our students and staff alike bring to school each and every day.

   Growing up on my family’s ranch, my dad (who prides himself on efficiency) once told me that one of his few frustrations with the cattle industry was that “10 percent of the animals consume 90 percent of our time.”  It may take only an hour to check the water and health of a herd of 300, but then five additional hours dealing with the two head that got out into the neighbors pasture or need to be doctored.  With spring calving just around the corner, there are many local ranchers who are all too familiar with the necessity of around the clock checks, all to ensure the five percent that need assistance receive it.  It became obvious to me very early on during my time here that the average Idalia 3rd grader knows twice as much about farming than I do.  With that being said, I am sure local farmers become frustrated with similar time inefficiencies when machines do not work as well as anticipated, in which entire afternoons or even days can be spent getting machinery up and running correctly rather than perform the jobs they were designed to do. 

   Although agriculture and education are vastly different professions, individuals in both careers must attempt to be efficient with our most prized resource, time. Being an effective teacher is difficult. The challenges teachers face daily are as complex as they are unpredictable.  From my personal experience in the classroom, the thing that I struggled with most as a teacher was how to best teach each and every student in my class.  Of Idalia’s current 223 students, one clearly notices the diversity of our student body.  Each of our students’ personalities is as unique as their aptitudes and abilities.

   If a typical classroom of 20 students can be represented by a standard bell curve, there are 16 (80%) students in the middle who will show typical growth and success from a teacher’s general instruction and regular classroom activities.  There are two students (10%) who, for a variety of reasons, struggle to keep up with their peers and require additional support and resources in order to be successful.  And then there are two students (10%) that are advanced and significantly ahead of the rest of their classmates.  This is the group of students most commonly underserved.  After all, these students are rarely behavioral concerns and, rest assured, you can rely on them to score impressively on both local and state assessments, boosting your class’ averages.  Any logical teacher, with time efficiency in mind, would not be willing to sacrifice the quality of education for 80% of their students for the benefit of the 10% that already seem to know it all. 

   With that being said, every student should be afforded the opportunity for a quality education, one that challenges and pushes them to greater heights.  During January’s Professional Development Day, we had an outside specialist give a presentation to our staff over how to better serve “Gifted and Talented” students, without sacrificing or deterring from the education of the remainder of the students.  I hope the staff found the presentation as beneficial as I did.  The presenter said a common mistake for teachers to make is to find their advanced kids flying through an assignment or worksheet, while also getting everything right, as it was never challenging, in fact, it was downright boring for them in the first place.  With the rest of the class still not yet halfway done, the teacher desperately searches for something to keep the advanced student occupied.  In scramble mode, they give the student an almost identical worksheet, if for nothing else, to kill time.  Now, the advanced students is not only bored, but also confused and wondering if they are in trouble while being assigned twice as much work than their classmates.

   Instead of increasing the quantity, teachers should instead challenge advanced students to increase the quality of their work.   Using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a guide, teacher should aim to challenge advanced students with depth of questioning.  While the rest of the class may have a test question asking them to recall the date Pearl Harbor occurred, an advanced student may instead be asked to analyze the impact Pearl Harbor had on American foreign policy. The teacher, without creating a lot of extra work or grading for themselves, did not assign twice as much work to the advanced student, but instead challenged that advanced student, while providing an opportunity for them to prove their impressive mastery of the content.  No matter ability or intelligence level, every student at Idalia deserves the opportunity for a quality education.  Submitted by Myles Johnson, Idalia Principal



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