Morning, all. Slept in a bit. A slow day today, good day to charge the batteries. Kids are registering for classes next year. At CHS, kids register during their LA classes, so there won’t be much going on in 211 today. Next year, already? Crazy. 100 days into the journey tomorrow? Even crazier. See you in the morning.
Of all the things I do as a teacher, the most rewarding for me is collaborating with kids on their writing. And in terms of learning, it is perhaps the most effective thing I do for my students. There’s power in the face-to-face, head-to-head, eye-to-eye moments that I share with my kids. I get to see them and they me as we work through the truly tough but terribly important skill of writing, a skill that will follow them far beyond the walls of the school house. Effective communication skills will not only get them through doors but also help them climb ladders. But honing these skills takes time and support. I have found that the best support I can give is conferencing with kids one-on-one, where I believe I can accomplish more in two-minutes during the process than I can with five-minute written comments after the process.
But this takes time, a great deal of time. And that is not always easy for kids when they encounter my approach. Accustomed to the hurry-up-get-done-and-move-on approach, they don’t always readily or easily adjust to spending weeks, sometimes months, on a writing task. Currently we are on week 3 of our argumentative letters to the school board, and it is likely that we will spend at least three more. Oh, we don’t work on it every day; to be sure, we are only able to devote Monday and Tuesday to this task, but during that time, we immerse ourselves in the task, in the process. And that is the key to the long-distance, endurance approach: the process. Though we in education know the power of process in writing, it often gives way to the product, and in our rush to the end, the learning often gets neglected. I know some of my kids care not for the pace I set with writing, but I believe there is nothing more important that I will teach my kids, and so I am willing to give it the time it deserves–the time to struggle, the time to grow, the time to triumph. Together. Eyes forward. Feet pointed. Heads joined. We journey forth. Together.
Happy Wednesday, all.
Though this recipe may not bake everyone’s cake, it captures what is often missing in the compliance-based classrooms that our young find themselves during the pivotal, formative moments of their early lives. And though I get–to some degree–that we need to fold some compliance into the mix, it is too frequently the first and thus primary ingredient in the conventional-cake mold that we attempt to place all kids. And, sadly, by the time they reach us in high school, they have been cast in compliance, with only a sprinkle of creativity to be found, and most of the time it is so sparsely sprinkled that one wonders if it ever made it into the mix at all.
And so, in an effort to rescue, to remedy the recipe we try to work creativity into the mix, but it’s often too late, and we settle for some cheap frosting on the surface, unable to break through the baked-on crust that has enveloped the still-young, but harder to reach spirits that we encounter. With 180, I am trying to breach the crust, to revive within what I believe exists in each, an innate desire to be creative, to be free, to learn, to grow, a desire that has been suppressed by the assembly-line molds in which we place our young as we rush them down the line towards a “real world” that accepts compliance but desires creativity.
And it is here where I believe we miss the mark, where we bake the wrong cakes. We are so steadfast in our belief that things “are as they are” and “will be because they have been” that we cannot see the potential in other paths and possibilities, summarily dismissing them as craziness when and if they do present themselves. And I get it. I think. But I no longer accept it. I took a risk with 180. I changed the recipe. And while it disheartens me that it does not present a cake that is palatable to all, I want to believe that it is the necessary nutriment for those starving for far too long on a compliance-only diet, a reality highlighted by the fact that kids have been so conditioned to eat the compliance cake that when a new item from the menu is placed before them, they deign not touch such a thing so foreign.
And I am not okay with that. I am not okay with a reality where kids only do out of compliance, and I am far-less okay to be a part of a system that perpetuates such an existence. So I changed the recipe. And though some kids still push their plates aside, I figure that whatever compliance I am withholding from their diets in room 211 is being more than made up for in their hourly feedings as they move from room to room, on bells, sitting in seats, looking forward, paying attention, not talking…complying, starving while eating the only diet they’ve ever known. It’s time to change the recipe.
Happy Tuesday, all. Change the recipe.
Tradition is hard to change. The status quo is familiar and comfortable, and the silos are hard to penetrate. But that does not mean that we should simply accept this as “how it is.” We can and should challenge convention, for if we don’t, then we find ourselves static, lethargic, and apathetic. We should seek, instead, the dynamic. We should seek to find new and better ways to push our kids beyond customary compliance, to push them to the outer reaches, the outer edges to help them discover the power of commitment. That is a central goal in the 180 classroom, and to that end, things have to be different.
Last week, an outside “observer,” called into question my teaching, seeming to suggest that I simply set 180 in motion, so I could sit back in the easy chair and let the kids sink or swim, that I was remiss in my duties for not teaching. I wonder if that would still be her view if she became an inside observer, actually present, seeing firsthand what my teaching looks like. As I also mentioned last week, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is right around the corner, and the kids will have to pass it to graduate. And this event will certainly place 180 beneath the microscope in June when we get the results. At present we are preparing for this significant landmark in our journey, but I am not scaring the kids with the fear of failure; in fact, I have merely remarked that the Performance Task we are currently working through is a vehicle for me to introduce argumentative writing so they are familiar with what they will find on the test. I want them to be prepared for the test, so we are working towards that end.
So what’s different then? Well, for one kids are working hard–very hard–towards something without the threat of grades to get them to do the practice. They are doing the practice out of commitment, not compliance. They are wholly engaged in something for which there are no points, no grades waiting on the other side. Yes, there is the “test,” but I have merely presented it to them as a part of their reality, and I am doing what I believe is my duty as a teacher in preparing them for that reality. So what am I doing? Beyond what I am doing behind the scenes, I am cast in a supporting role as I confer with each kid about his/her work, supporting and challenging them along the way, so that they may succeed today and tomorrow. Last week, I met with every kid amidst the buzz of brains and whir of fingers on keyboards, in an environment with not a grade on the horizon, only commitment to a better self.
The door is open. Always has been. Always will be. Inside you will not see perfection, but you will see a dogged commitment to making kids’ educational experiences better–today and tomorrow, a commitment that shies away from “past practice” and “it’s always been,” a commitment that, instead, seeks to disrupt the silos. In the end, it may very well be that I am tilting at windmills, but until then, the end, I will persist. Windmills beware.
Happy Monday, all. Disrupt your silos. Change is possible.
Snow day to sick day. I swear winter hates me, and it knows right where to hit me: time. Lost days are hard to get back, but I guess it is what it is, not much I can do about it. So, back at it Monday. Sorry, all.
Started the week with nearly a 3,000 word post on Monday to barely a word yesterday and today. Thanks for all your support this week. To “An Observer,” thank you for the opportunity to reflect and express on 180. Everything is an opportunity, even if it doesn’t seem it at the time. The journey continues.
Happy Friday, all. Have a great weekend. Be gone, dreadful winter. Be gone.
Been a roller coaster of a week. Admittedly, I got blind-sided and a bit rattled by an unexpected drop with a couple of loops. I allowed “An Observer’s” anonymous attacks on 180 and me to seep into my spirit, distracting me from the goal. But as I moved forward, I was able to accept it as an opportunity to reflect upon and continue with my journey, my vision to help improve education. Her attacks persisted (if you care to see her latest rant, you can find it in the comments of the following link http://www.letschangeeducation.com/?p=1504). Another opportunity to reflect.
In her attacks, she suggests that I am all alone in my selfish universe, on an island with little support, suggesting, too, that I hide the negative to project a shiny facade for 180. I am sorry that she sees me that way. Those who know me, know differently. Those who see my thread, see me–support me. And it is that which keeps me plugging along. I know I am not alone. And while few do comment on my actual blog, (Mom comments all the time, but she’s my mom…), many of you let me know in various ways through Facebook, Twitter, email, and face-to-face conversations. You are there. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. The 96 comments on the FB post this weekend offering support and love was incredibly uplifting and heartwarming. Again, thank you. And while I do not think it is either feasible or necessary to show them all, I do think it is necessary and fair to share some. I want to share the support that exists within the walls of the “shiny facade.”
Success is rarely a straight, easy, or expedient line from start to finish, and if and when it ever is, it is success shallowly gained, shallowly achieved. Success–real, I dug-deep-and-fought-for-it success–is a mess, a circuitous mass of dead ends, restarts, and reroutes. Success without some mistake, some setback, some failure is not truly success.
And this is what I try to instill in my kids. I want them to see success as much a struggle as a triumph. And, more often than not, this manifests itself in my work with them during our writing experiences. I tell them I want to see their beautiful messes. I tell them that they may not erase or backspace on drafts, as it destroys the evidence of their toil, the trail of their paths. I tell them that if it was easy, it’s probably not good. I tell them that success in writing is series of intentional accidents until they find the right words. And I say this over and over until it sinks in. And that is not easy, for they have learned that–been conditioned to believe that–success happens in a straight expedient line from one lesson, to one chapter, to one unit after another, ever-forward in a linear fashion as they are rushed headlong through the coverage model that we so perpetuate in education. And consequently, they–I believe–experience too many shallow successes because we don’t give them the time to live and breathe and struggle in their messes. Learning takes time. Success takes time. A lot of time. Through the 180 experience, I am able to give that time, that opportunity, that important first step for kids to embrace the mess of success. Today, the mess, the long road to success continues. Love making messes with my kids.
Happy Tuesday, all. Take the long road today. Make a mess. Give yourself that gift, that freedom. You deserve it.
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
There is a thread I follow, a thread I latched onto a long time ago, and while that thread has gone in and among things over the years, it has not changed, and I have not let go. Can’t. Won’t. I cling to it desperately as I make my way day to day in a world filled with the young whom I serve, pledging my best to help them on their own ways. And as I go about my days, I encounter those who do not see the thread, and I have to explain. This past Saturday, I encountered two who do not see the thread in my ways, so I have to explain. I must. The thread brought me to them; they, then, must serve a purpose in my journey. And so, I will explain.
A looks better then a C😂😂😂 bro are u serious? No kidding ? U expect 16 years olds to do work when u promise them an A ? How is a child supposed to learn anything when they don’t have to care ? All you are is a stupid liberal. You clearly have no brain cells.
This comment was in response to my saying in the “Making Sense” post from last week that perhaps one reason some chose to remain with Project 180 is that it was a “free” A (I will speak to how free the A really is below). It was my attempt to provide an honest analysis of the results. As for, “How is a child supposed to learn anything when they don’t have to care?” Well, it is troubling that we perpetuate a system where we have to give kids a reason to care beyond the opportunity to learn and build oneself. If we have to give them a reason to care, then do they really care? Is compliance really a better sign of caring than commitment? I am not convinced, so I push my kids to care for their own sake, not for the grade carrot that I dangle in front of them. As for your final comment, I doubt I can get you to see my “liberal stupidity” any differently, so I won’t try.
I have been reading your blog with interest and skepticism. It sounds like this project is more for your benefit than that of your students. I am also surprised that a school would even allow a teacher to give an automatic A to every student in the class. You made it very clear that this was a project to see what the outcome would be, like a test of a teenager’s mind, instead of actually teaching them. Maybe you did it to make it easier on YOU, so you wouldn’t have to work so hard and give a test to see how good you actually taught them. You are angry at a student because he chose the A and now you want to start grading him? This is what YOU wrote: I told him 4 months ago when I gave him the A, I was giving him nothing. So if you are admitting to giving ‘nothing’, what makes that child interested in doing ‘something’? He hasn’t been given a guideline as to what you even expect if you are giving nothing. You as a teacher, are not doing this in the best interest of the student. You should be teaching them that hard works get the rewards, it doesn’t happen automatically. And then to change it midstream? Really? How will you teach a class where some want a grade and some don’t? What will the students with the automatic grade do while the others are being tested? In this life, there is no job, anywhere, where the boss says, I will give you a wage to come every day to work. You just decide what to do with your time, because I have nothing to tell you that I expect of you. That is ridiculous! You did not earn a teaching degree by winging it and the collage just passed you. You had to work hard to earn that degree! That is what you should be teaching these students. That is what they go to school for. Otherwise, they could stay home. You would not be needed. People pay taxes and expect their children go to school to learn.
Given the length of this comment and the variety of concerns raised, I will attempt to present my response in a point-by-point manner. Here goes.
2861 words later and sadly the thread is likely no more apparent than when I began. But it is there. I feel it. Always have. I am sorry that you cannot see it.
Happy Monday, all. Follow your thread.