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Making Sense: Project 180, Day 89


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!


5 Replies to “Making Sense: Project 180, Day 89”

  • A looks better then a C??? bro are u serious? No kidding ? U expect 16 years olds to do work when u promise them an A ? How is a child supposed to learn anything when they don’t have to care ? All you are is a stupid liberal. You clearly have no brain cells.

    • Thank you for chiming in. I will attempt to address some of your concerns in tomorrow’s post. Again, thank you for you perspective.

  • I have been reading your blog with interest and skepticism. It sounds like this project is more for your benefit than that of your students. I am also surprised that a school would even allow a teacher to give an automatic A to every student in the class. You made it very clear that this was a project to see what the outcome would be, like a test of a teenager’s mind, instead of actually teaching them. Maybe you did it to make it easier on YOU, so you wouldn’t have to work so hard and give a test to see how good you actually taught them. You are angry at a student because he chose the A and now you want to start grading him? This is what YOU wrote: I told him 4 months ago when I gave him the A, I was giving him nothing. So if you are admitting to giving ‘nothing’, what makes that child interested in doing ‘something’? He hasn’t been given a guideline as to what you even expect if you are giving nothing. You as a teacher, are not doing this in the best interest of the student. You should be teaching them that hard works get the rewards, it doesn’t happen automatically. And then to change it midstream? Really? How will you teach a class where some want a grade and some don’t? What will the students with the automatic grade do while the others are being tested? In this life, there is no job, anywhere, where the boss says, I will give you a wage to come every day to work. You just decide what to do with your time, because I have nothing to tell you that I expect of you. That is ridiculous! You did not earn a teaching degree by winging it and the collage just passed you. You had to work hard to earn that degree! That is what you should be teaching these students. That is what they go to school for. Otherwise, they could stay home. You would not be needed. People pay taxes and expect their children go to school to learn.

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