I’ve said it before. I will no doubt say it again. And I will say it now. Nothing charges my batteries like helping kids learn. Perhaps sensing my weariness yesterday, the kids leaned on me, asking me for help, inviting me to do what I do. Of course, one might think they’d do the opposite and let me lean on them, but they needed me. No time to slack. They needed me. And yesterday, turns out, it’s all I needed, too. Recharge complete. Piper paid.
One thing that I love about 180 is that it creates a more genuine opportunity to break down barriers between students and teachers. With grades gone and the pretense of points passed, I have discovered that my engagement with the kids has taken on an authentic, let’s-learn feel. It’s not about the grade; it’s about the learning. And, as I have intimated before, it feels like trust. And, man, that feels good. Good.
Yesterday, Jane (name changed) offered her trust. In an ongoing effort to grasp firmly clauses and phrases by year’s end, we are currently working with compound sentences, setting the stage for complex sentences, venturing into the vast wilderness of dependent clauses. Generally speaking, our work with compounds is review with our focus mostly on correctly joining independent clauses with the three types of “glue.” Anyway, not long into the trek sixth period, Jane’s hand appeared, and I made my way to her group. Expecting her to ask me for help with compounds, she revealed a different need. This was the start of our conversation.
Jane: (quiet voice) Sy, no one ever really taught me subjects and predicates.
Me: Okay. No biggie. We’ll do it now. We’ll catch you up. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
And though we were being quiet, Jane sits with five other kids, and they could not help but hear, and so I noticed as we went on, most were tuned in, likely needing a “refresher,” too. So, then, I proceeded, reminding her that even if she didn’t fully know the ins and outs of subs and preds, she had her ears, and she could trust them to help her with finding and writing independent clauses. That said, I gave her some operational tests for finding simple subjects and simple predicates, pointing to the relationship between the subject and verb. Then, we did some practice together, and that was that.
Of course, I am not so naive or arrogant to believe that she is now in full, firm grasp of subs and preds simply because I gave her some help, but she is farther along than she was, and it all happened because she took the first–and maybe most important–step in learning by acknowledging and then communicating that she needed help. And, as we know, that is not easy for anyone. I have found in my second year of teaching honors kids that it is especially tough for them. They have been conditioned to hide weakness, and asking for help is a risk, so by and large they don’t, and assumptions are made by teachers about these kids, and as a result, I think they are under-served, even neglected.
I hope to change that with P-180. Yes, I have made some changes in how I teach, but the biggest change that I am looking for, and the biggest change that will make any real difference, is the change in the kids. I want to believe that Jane’s asking me for help yesterday was born out of a genuine desire to learn, a desire to build and better herself. Please know that I am not suggesting that this doesn’t happen in other classes. I am simply suggesting that this is the at the core of the 180 classroom, an opportunity for kids to discover the value of their commitment to their own learning.
And so, I am fully charged, ready to run to keep up with my kids as they venture out, discovering their worlds, discovering themselves.
Happy Thursday, all.