Affirmation and Growth Through Most Likely to Succeed

Posted by Scott Allenby


Professional development is one of the most important things we do as educators. Whether it is a attending a conference, taking courses, or sharing reflections on a recent book we've recently read, we must consistently take time to think intentionally about our craft. This process affirms what we are doing, while at the same time challenges us to grow. Today was a professional development day for faculty at Proctor, and we had an opportunity to do just that: affirm and then grow. 

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When Frances O’Gorman ‘15's mother contacted Learning Skills Specialist and Fowler House dorm parent, Kayden Will, with the message, “This movie reminds me of Proctor”, obviously we had to check it out and chose to start our professional development day with a showing of Most Likely to Succeed. The edu-documentary is an incredibly thought provoking film that both affirms much of Proctor’s approach to education and while at the same time challenging us to continue to grow as a school. This article provides a great overview of the film.

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As the film unfolds, it explores challenges facing schools in the 21st century (America’s education system was designed in the 1893 and has evolved very little since) before providing an example of how schools might move forward with an in-depth look at High Tech High in San Diego, California.

As a nation, we assess students through standardized tests that reward memorization rather than problem solving abilities. We view students as data points rather than human beings. Studies have shown high schoolers would rather ‘pass the test’ than learn the skills that will lead to a successful life because passing the test allows them to get into the right college. Student engagement plummets to 40% in high school from 80% in the early elementary school years. 

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When 65% of grade school children today will end up working in jobs that haven’t been invented yet, we must question the efficacy of an educational system founded on an industrial analogy: students should learn the same things across the country so they can be plugged into any job with the same set of knowledge and skills upon graduation.

Sir Ken Robinson proposes a new analogy for education in the film, “Humans are organic. We cannot use an industrial metaphor to educate them, we must have an organic metaphor. We must work to grow students as you would grow a garden. You don't screw in the roots or assemble the leaves of your plants. Instead, you prepare the soil and water the seeds to allow them to grow themselves.”

It is this analogy that reminded Frances (explaining her capstone project for her Environmental Studies Concentration in the video above) of Proctor when she saw the film. Proctor strives to meet each student where they are, to uncover talents, identify seeds of growth, and then provide fertile soil for them to grow. It is when this environment is ubiquitous within a school culture that students eagerly take risks and step outside their comfort zone as they pursue their passions. This type of community also fosters the growth of essential 21st century economy soft skills like empathy, collaboration, grit, and perseverance as students work together to build, create, and innovate.


Most Likely to Succeed reminded each of us to see what is ‘right’ with Proctor, while at the same time, challenged us to see how we might further trust our students to take ownership of their own learning. We are a work in progress as a school, just as we are as individuals. If you are able to attend a screening of the film, do so. It will remind you the very important role Proctor plays in the educational landscape of America and encourage you to rethink the ultimate goal of education.

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