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Don’t Give ‘Em an Inch: Project 180, Day 73

What is something that you struggled with on this piece of writing? Be specific.

“I got it done. I started over a lot. I couldn’t find the words for the experience, but I stuck with it, and they eventually came together. I’m sorry that it took so long.”


Maggie finally turned her narrative essay in. It was nearly six weeks late. I knew it was late. She knew it was late. I pushed occasionally. She responded gradually. And she finished eventually. I knew she would. I trusted her. I gave her room. And she grew within that space. No, she did not meet the deadline, not even close. But she did accomplish the required task. She did meet the given standards. But she did it within a time frame that allowed her to do her best. And as the guard at the gate of deadlines in room 211, I could grant her the time and space necessary. Time was, I would not have granted such freedom. Time was, I would have given her a zero until she turned it in, mercifully granting her half credit, teaching her about the importance of meeting deadlines. Time was…

That time has passed. I no longer penalize kids for late work, even really late work. More, I now better understand that learning happens in different ways and at different paces. Even more, I now better understand that true responsibility comes from commitment, not compliance. Maggie did not miss the deadline out of laziness. Maggie missed the deadline because she had not finished creating. Creativity cannot be canned. It doesn’t always fit neatly into the packages we prescribe. It happens outside the lines. It happens in the margins. It happens in ways we don’t readily imagine. But. If we give our kids, time and freedom to exist and explore beyond the borders, it can happen.

In my compliance-classroom of old, I may have had more marks in the grade book at the time of the due date, but I am not sure that those marks were indicative of more or better learning. Yes, there’s some inconvenience that comes with such flexibility, but that is a small price to pay for kids who need the time and space outside my convenience. I gave Mag that space. And she took advantage of it. She took advantage of my flexibility. Some would suggest that if we give an them inch, they will take a mile. In this case, that’s exactly what Maggie did. And I could not be more proud of her. She obviously needed more than an inch. Below is the beginning of her essay that took a few extra miles.

The bus shook as it rattled down the dirt roads of Saint John, Washington. One young boy screamed and fought his seat belt, trying to avoid going to school. This happened every day. He was a cry baby who needed to grow up. I wasn’t the only one who thought this, who rolled their eyes and sighed as he kicked and screamed onto the bus every morning. He was a pain.

The days went on, the screams got louder, and our sighs of annoyance grew deeper. Looking back I don’t look down on my or my fellow bus mates’ reactions to this young boy, it is human nature to assume everyone can control their actions and emotions. As the year went on my curiosity grew about the boy. I needed to know more about why he acted the way he did. I grabbed my backpack lying on the seat next to me and made my way down the aisle to the only seat with straps.

My feet shook as I took the risk of meeting the boy. I sat down in the adjacent seat. It was at that moment that I spoke the most powerful “hello” of my life.

He was quiet, not very comfortable talking to me. But I began, day by day, breaking down the barriers, digging deeper into a relationship with the boy strapped into the seats on the bus. At first it was just a shy “hi Moggie” and then a quick snap of his head to avoid more eye contact with with me. However, that changed.

As days went by he opened up to me. I saw a spark in his eyes, and I could feel one in mine. He began sharing his day with me. I helped him with his homework. We mastered the ABC’s. We became friends…


Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…discuss chapters 4-6 in Night.

…reflect in our Journey Journals.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Thursday, all.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.

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