At Top 20 Training we are constantly learning. We learn from each other and we learn from the wonderful people we meet along the road to fulfilling our Mission! Mr. Patrick Bowlin is a teacher at Saint Mark’s School in St. Paul, MN and has been living and teaching Top 20 concepts for quite some time. Mr. Bowlin has been kind enough to share a series of letters/communications that he writes weekly to the parents/guardians of his 4th grade students.

These communications are a great way to not only share the information being covered in the classroom, but to also provide deeper insights to the material in hopes that it is carried on at home.

Mr. Bowlin is a Top 20 Teacher teaching in a Top 20 School and we are learning A LOT from his exemplary efforts on the front lines of education.

Below you will find an entry from earlier this year. Please share and check back for future entries!


Top 20: Mountain of Confusion

It’s just an illusion… climb the Mountain of Confusion is our newest classroom slogan as we continue to discuss the impact Top 20 responses to mistakes and confusion can have on our learning. This week we used the analogy of learning is like climbing a mountain. I thought the follow quote perfectly explained the comparison:

“Everybody wants to reach the top of the mountain, but there is no growth at the peak. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak.”

When face-to-face with the Mountain of Confusion we always have a choice to respond with frustration or determination. It is through these experiences that we develop Star Qualities that can be continually broadened over time. Similar to how we would need to pack certain things on a mountain climbing adventure, we held a brief conversation on what we would need to bring with us on a trek up the Mountain of Confusion. The list included perseverance, grit, resourcefulness, zeal, diligence, courage, and persistence. When faced with challenges, we must look at them as opportunities to further develop these essential attributes that have a great impact on our ability to be a great learner.

Confusion is tough as the feelings that come with it aren’t necessarily desirable. Our ability to look at confusion differently has the potential to change the effects we receive from it. Rather than the usual reactions of frustration, disappointment, and lack of confidence, we can look at confusion as an opportunity for big learning, to explore our curiosity, and grow as a learner.

Our weekly “Math Challenges” have intentionally brought us to Mt. Confusion. With practice and experience sorting through the feelings of being confused, I’m hopeful our 4th graders are indirectly developing strong interpersonal skills. What may look like a challenging math problem to them is actually an opportunity for them to practice perseverance, persistence, and grit. Nelson Mandela once said, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” When we reach the aha moment, we are reminded how great it feels to reach the top of the mountain.

Mr. Bowlin

Saint Mark’s School