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.