Fences That Free

     It was 1948.  Willy Mays, an all-star major league outfielder and batter of all time, first played for the Chattanooga Choo Choos in the negro league.  Many ballparks back then had outfield areas with no fence to delimit or define left, center, or right field.  The real estate went on and on.  Willy hit a ball one day that traveled some 540 feet in the air before landing and rolling far enough, that by the time the outfielder caught up with the ball, Willy was rounding third base and heading for home.  There was no way any fielder could have gotten to that ball and made a play.  When ball fields began to put fences up around the outfield, it relieved the outfielders from an unrealistic expectation to catch such phenomenal hits.  Simultaneously, it honored the batter for an outstanding performance at the plate.  A respectful win-win.  Most MLB fences are about 400 feet from home plate.  540 feet was well out of all ballparks in existence today!  Major League Baseball (MLB) took away unrealistic expectations and concomitantly honored superior batting performance.  By “subtracting” the field size… players could focus on the game before them.  Similarly, batters were celebrated for their superior performances.

Just as the fence created a celebration of achievement and a realistic expectation of performance, what does education need to do/stop doing to enable the foci of learning to be on essential learnings that are timeless?  What boundaries would help us see what needs to be identified and celebrated?  And, just as important, what need be reduced or eliminated to make that happen?  It’s time to unclutter…


Elaine M. Millen, M.Ed. C.A.G.S., has over 50 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, director of special education, curriculum director, and assistant superintendent of schools.  She has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  As an educational consultant/instructional coach, she has worked countrywide with hundreds of school leaders in areas of leadership, instructional coaching, and student engagement.  She worked with Brown University as a consultant, guiding project work.  Elaine.millen90@gmail.com


Dr. Robert K. Greenleaf was formerly a professional development specialist at Brown University. Bob has 45 years of experience in education ranging from superintendent, principal, teacher, & special education.  As President of Greenleaf Learning Bob has traveled the world conducting Brain & Learning Institutes.  Dr. Bob’s doctoral work was at Vanderbilt with undergrad psychology.  bob@greenleaflearning.com