One of the goals of Project 180 is to reduce the amount of stress kids experience in their days. And while science supports the notion that stressed brains can’t learn, I tend to rely on sense more than science. It’s not that I don’t value what science offers; to be sure, it’s just that I don’t need it to establish and back up what I already know. Kids cannot, will not learn when they are over stressed. And while I cannot completely remove all stress, I can reduce it. I cannot control what happens outside my classroom, but I can control what happens inside. I am in charge of how kids feel in my classroom.  And that is one of the major driving forces for my taking grades off the table. But really it’s about  more than the grade. So much more.

It’s about how the kids feel for 55 minutes a day in my room. And that requires intention and constant effort. It is not an accident. It is a carefully-considered, carefully-choreographed approach that places kids first and content second. Yesterday, we began “Writer’s Craft Workshop,” which we will have every Thursday for the rest of the year. The academic aim here is to introduce and apply elements of craft to our writing. The human aim here is to provide a low-stakes, low-stress environment for kids to practice and play with their writing. And, as I discovered, this is not as simple as carving out a day of the week to create the necessary environment. It is a complex endeavor that requires a surprising amount of guidance and reassurance. Oh, not in the academic sense. On the contrary, the kids don’t need much help to assume their academic personas, fretting over the right way to do things; they have been well and thoroughly conditioned for that role.  They need help and support to just relax and and learn by making messes on their papers, by making mistakes in their efforts. Sad that we have to guide kids to a place where they can breathe, where they can relax, where they can learn. And so, I try. I try. I work hard to create a culture where kids can just be, where can kids can learn, where kids can relax, where kids can breathe–just breathe. And that is the 180 difference.

Happy Friday, all. Don’t forget to breathe today. Just breathe.