With all but five returned, 81 of the 83 (97%) in so far have elected to stay with the 180 option. And while I am pleased with this result, it gives me pause as I wonder what it really means. Here are some initial thoughts as I continue to process the outcome.
It was the path of least resistance. It’s become the “new familiar,” so folks stayed. I get it.
It’s a “free” A. Regardless of one’s feelings about 180, an A on a transcript looks better than a C. But nothing is free. One parent brought the word “nothing” into play with her comment at the bottom of a returned letter. In short, she made it clear that they were NOT in support of 180, that my approach had given her son the green light to do nothing, and that reality would be on my shoulders, my conscience. My response to her is below (name changed).
Good afternoon. Thank you for returning the parent letter indicating your preference for the approach I take with grading Justin. Thank you, too, for your frank feedback regarding 180. When I gave the A to Justin at the beginning of the year, it was certainly not intended to be an invitation for him to do nothing. On the contrary, I had hoped that it would motivate him to take greater responsibility for his learning. Unfortunately, my grand plan has not worked for Justin as it has for others. And that is why, mid-year, I presented the option to return to tradition. That said, I think that if it would better motivate him, we should return to tradition. His doing nothing is not okay, and if that is his plan for the rest of the year, I do not think it’s a wise choice on his part. I told him 4 months ago when I gave him the A, I was giving him nothing. It was up to him to make it something. So, of course the choice is yours, and it seems you have made it, but I wonder if we shouldn’t reconsider for Justin’s sake. Again, thank you for your candid comment.Monte Syrie
So, it makes me wonder, then, about the motivation to stay with 180 in this case. If it is the cause of “nothing,” then why continue? Is it because they know he would not likely earn an “A” with a traditional approach? Is the grade more important than the learning? Is this representative of what the system has done to condition students, parents, and society to place too much emphasis on grades instead of learning? How many others made the choice for the same reason? One wonders. It is of particular interest to me that all my most-vocal critics stayed with 180. Hmmm.
The 180 approach has reduced stress. I have a hunch that for some families this was a key factor in their decision. And this makes me happy for that is certainly something I sought to achieve. Stressed brains cannot learn.
The 180 approach is working. I am certainly not suggesting that is working for all, but it is for many. I hope at least that this was a factor in some of the decisions.
I may have been duped. It’s likely that a small handful of returned letters had forged or not fully-informed signatures. It’s what it is.
Okay, but what about the two who opted to return to tradition? What was their motivation?
Student #1: He needed the extra challenge of tradition. Mom and I had several face-to-face conversations about Jason’s (name changed) experiences in my class and their family’s breakfast-and-dinner-table discussions about character, learning, and the future, and for them, a return to tradition made the most sense. And so, after reassuring me that she believed in what I was trying to do with 180, she informed me that tradition was the better choice for them. I am happy to oblige. I love that they did not take this situation lightly. I love that they had deep, sustained conversations about learning. Love it.
Student #2: I will let Haley’s letter speak for itself (see above). I am so proud of her for taking charge of her learning, for making the choice that was best for her, and I am pleased to provide a culture of possibility that allows for such a choice. Choice is commitment. I have no doubt that Haley is committed. I hope those who elected to stay with 180 are as committed as she. So proud of this young lady.
Happy February, all. Come on spring!