Morning, all. Below is a draft of the letter that I plan to provide for parents this year to introduce Project 180. Just wanted to share. Happy Tuesday.
Welcome to the 2016/2017 school year! My name is Monte Syrie, and I will have your child in my Honors English Language Arts course this year. This year marks the beginning of my third decade as a teacher in public education. And with that beginning comes a significant change in how I will approach learning in my classroom, a change that I wanted to share with you, for it will certainly impact your child’s experience in room 211 over the days to come. And while it will seem a radical departure from business as usual, please know that I have thought deeply about this, and while I am prepared and committed to seeing it through, I do expect to make adjustments along the way, as I try to make learning the central focus in my classroom, not grading. Please know that, above all, as we progress through the year along this rather radical route, I have your child’s best interests–both present and future–in my mind and in my heart.
After years of suspecting that traditional grading gets in the way of real learning, I have decided to part ways with convention. In short, I have decided to do away with traditional grades, adopting something that resembles a standards-based approach, but with a twist, a twist that I feel is necessary to truly approach learning differently, a twist that will no doubt raise eyebrows and objections, but one that I believe is critical to bringing about change and improving the learning experience for all kids. I am giving each student an A–for the year. Aside from one minor catch/requirement, your student will get the A on day one and keep it for the rest of the year.
In the attached packet, you will find details on how I will report learning in my classroom this year. Please know that, despite my taking grades off the table, I hold high expectations for your children, and I will do all that I can to push and support their learning for the next 180 days, but I will not dangle the “grade carrot” in front of them. I will instead intimate and impart to them that they have an opportunity to “build themselves” in my English Language Arts classroom, and it is up to them to take advantage of that opportunity, to whatever degree they choose. Of course, I expect that you will play a large part in encouraging and supporting them in their pursuit of developing their literacy skills this year as they prepare for their important futures.
I suspect by now you have a number of questions and/or concerns. I anticipate that, and I will work hard to address those questions and concerns both now and later, to whatever extent necessary. I have included my contact information below, and I am always willing to meet with you in person to discuss the important matter of your child’s learning. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any concerns–big or small. And while I am sure that this has been perhaps overwhelming, I am excited about and hopeful for the changes/improvements this can bring about. Imagine, for a moment, that in my class you and your child will not have to play the grade game. You will already know the grade for the rest of the year, so now instead of asking about the grade, you can ask about the learning. And that is the essence: learning. An old teacher adage suggests that “grades are earned not given,” but that is simply not true in the vast majority of classrooms. Grades in many cases and in many ways are given, and so I am doing as most do, giving a grade–granted it’s an A, but a grade is all I can give. I can’t give learning. Learning truly is earned. I really only provide the opportunity. I look forward to working with you this year.