So yesterday, in 219, my kiddos took the first of two finals, an assessment on rhetorical elements in two speeches. They had to not only identify the elements but also analyze them and then deliver them in a “three-sentence-essay” format: claim, cite, clarify; we’ve come to call them CCC’s. And though my kids have had ample practice, they and I were a little anxious going in, feeling a little pressure on game day, performance day. And atypical to how things usually go in 219, there was an added element of pressure: time. With so much still to do and the end looming, I could not give them the entire period but only thirty minutes, which really, if they were prepared, was a fair amount of time to successfully complete the task. Most did, but a few used every available second, and even the extra minute or two that I tacked on at the end. Hey, I’m flexible to a fault. I’m working on it.
Anyway, as Jacob, my last straggler, made his way up to my desk (we had already begun getting ready for the next task) he remarked aloud, in his ever-affable way, “Hey, I think I’m finally getting this stuff.” A few smiles and chuckles emanated from his peers, and I responded, “Well, Jake, now is probably a good time for that to happen. And while I was pleased with his remark at the moment–teachers like to hear that kids are “getting it,” it was not until later, upon further reflection, that I discovered that his “getting it” was not what pleased me most. No, what really set with me, was that he finally got it. Truly music to my ears, for that is what I strive to make happen for my kids.
I believe in the practice-feedback-performance path to proficiency…well, path is probably a misnomer; it’s more like a cycle, for I believe learning happens when things come full-circle for kids, and sometimes that requires numerous spins around the block until things come to fruition, until kids demonstrate proficiency, demonstrate mastery. I do not believe in the linear, “learn-it-and-leave-it” model that so many teachers employ, trying to plow through as much course content as possible, often leaving kids behind. And while I think it is hard to truly put a finger on what learning is, I dare say that the “content-is-king” model is what learning is not. So, when Jacob revealed his aha moment yesterday, I reveled in his simple sentiment, glad for him and glad for me, for I put a lot of stock in this approach, and it’s nice to find affirmation in the small successes that my kids experience. It’s really rather thrilling.
Today, my kids will take their second final, an assessment on sentences and phrases. For this, too, they have had ample practice, so I hope that most have an “I’m-finally-getting-this-stuff” moment as things come full circle. And long before I grade their tests, I will know. I will know by the confidence I find in their eyes as they hand me their tests. Looks give measure as much as words. Not much better than the eyes of a confident kid.
Happy Wednesday, all. I wanted to share with my faithful few that I successfully reached a wider audience yesterday on Edutopia. They published my first weekly wonder and another post is pending. I am really excited to have another venue. Here’s the link. http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/should-we-fail-kids