“But will it work with ‘regular kids’?”
“I don’t know. I’d like to think so. Next year, I will found out.”
That was a common conversation among colleagues last year. They acknowledged that I was experiencing some success with my honors kids with my gradeless approach, but they always wondered if it would work with “regular kids.” Their “wonder” seemed to suggest that it wouldn’t. And though I had nothing to offer up as “proof” otherwise, in earnest, I believed it would. In fact, I believed it might even work better. My choice not to use it with my “regular” kids last year stemmed from the fact that I was one of four LA 12 teachers, and I thought it neither fair to my colleagues nor the other senior students to offer it only in my classes. So, I used the approach in my Honors LA 10 courses, for which I was the only teacher. This year that changed. I was no longer teaching LA 12. I was back to teaching one section of LA 10, and with my LA 10 peeps jumping into the gradeless arena with me this year, we would use the approach with all sophomore LA classes, regular and honors.
Of course, this year is markedly different, as I am not offering all kids an A for the year. But we are still staying true to our gradeless beliefs with our select-and-support approach. And so this year, with all kids–not just the honors–on a gradeless journey, we are making a lot of discoveries about the impact of de-emphasizing traditional grades and emphasizing feedback as the key ingredient to student motivation and success. Yesterday, as I made my way through the latest performance in my regular LA 10 class, I found myself fist-pumping the air as one 3 (meeting proficiency) after another materialized. For Kelly’s I even uttered, “Yes!” aloud with a giant smile, writing a “YAY!” and “I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!” in all caps on the top of her paper next to the 3. And it just kept going as Bing, Katie, Courtney, and others filled my heart with their successes on their performances. And though all my kids did not score a 3, many–most–improved, and that was worth celebrating, too. They’re just not there…yet, but they will be, and I believe that. And my believing that is as important as anything that I do.
Sadly, the “regular kids” are often unwittingly held to lower expectations, and I have certainly been guilty of this dangerous inequity over the course of my career. I suspect we all have. But I have discovered that with grades off the table and with the promise of feedback at each placemat, the distinction between regular and honors is obviated, and the singular title of learner fills the place card. In the strictest sense of the idea, my “regular” kids are not great students. But they are learners, and all learners regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and ability, respond to feedback, learn from feedback. And it is that–feedback–which led to Kelly’s latest success. It was an intentional string of moments which led her to the 3. I am not patting myself on the back. I simply did my job. I responded to her efforts in a way that would help her take better aim and hit nearer the target with each attempt. In her latest, she hit the target. And I could not be more proud of her. I can hardly wait to share the news with her, today. So proud of you, Kelly.
Along today’s trail we will…
…begin with Smiles and Frowns.
…begin a new descriptive writing activity.
…reflect in our Journey Journals.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Tuesday, all.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.
- Communication Clears the Cluttered Path: Project 180 Guest Post
- Maybe It’s Down a Different Path: Project 180, Day 48