“I am going to introduce a book to you in a way that a book has never been introduced to you before. You don’t have to read it. You heard correctly, you do not have to read Night. I am not going to make you. I don’t want you to read it because you have to. I want you to read it because you choose to.”
Last week, I indicated that I would roll out Night like this to my classes. On Friday, I did. Of course, I went on to make an impassioned case for why they should read it, but I maintained that it was a choice, not a requirement. Part of my impassioned case included more of Elie’s words that I used to create a sense of responsibility among my youngsters to become witness, to carry memory.
There is a display on my front board with these words. I have asked the kids who finish Night to sign it as a pledge, a memory pledge, a pledge that they will carry memory, that they will not forget.
Their choices did not end there. I went on to present them with a during-reading guide called Night Notes (see below). I wanted to provide some direction for those who desired it, but I left it optional for those who just simply wanted to read, unencumbered by distraction. Here, too, like with their choice to read or not to read, it took a moment or two for them to weigh what I was selling and make an initial choice. Sabrina, bless her brave heart, was the first to stand and return the handout; others followed. In all, roughly half declined the notes, preferring to guide themselves. And I was sure to honor their choices by making them feel at ease with their choices. I thanked them; I praised them for making big-kid choices. I want them to commit, and that commitment transcends their complying with the “work” I put in front of them. I appreciate and value their honesty. And I hope they are beginning to appreciate and value mine.
Will all kids read the book? Nope. But I will trust with unwavering certainty that those who sign the pledge did. I know that this is an unconventional practice. I know it’s a risk to let a roomful of sixteen-year-olds make such big choices, but after years of fake reading and game playing, I was willing to take such a gamble. Of course risks can lead to reward. After third period was over on Friday, Amelia and Logan stayed after to share that they would read the book because they have a choice. With ten minutes left in fifth period, I told the kids the time was theirs. They sat in silence and started reading the book. Fifth period doesn’t do quiet, much less silence. Big kids indeed.
How will I assess learning? I will come from a place of assuming that all kids are reading the book, and I will design performances to that end, and for the kids who don’t, they will have to help me come up with alternatives for them to demonstrate proficiency with the focus standards. Yes, that’s work, but it’s real work, work that I am willing to do to get to a place of learning for all kids, despite the content choices I make. There’s always another way. But we have to be willing to find it. I am.
Along today’s trail we will…
...begin with Smiles and Frowns.
…choose to read Night or work on Passion Papers.
…reflect in our Journey Journals.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Monday, all.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.