Yes. Yes. And yes. Success should not only be measured by the grade I hand out at the end of a term, for I am human, and I am fallible. Oh I think deeply and work conscientiously to measure each kid fairly, but even so, learning is too complex, the job too big to know with unwavering certainty if the label I place on a kid is one-hundred percent valid and reliable. And so, I cannot claim to-do right by each kid with a mark, for I believe it is impossible to fully measure the essence of learning. I may be right, but I may be wrong. And in a world where labels are believed to measure success, I wield a terrible power that goes beyond the limits of my human capacity. With a stroke of a pen on the page or the tap of a key on the board, I have a power to set a kid’s day, a kid’s year, and in a sense, a kid’s life.
I see it every day. Kids judge their own self-worth by the mark I put on their work, and as a result, we have created a system of false idols and hope. And by the time kids reach me in high school they have been so deeply conditioned to respond to those marks, they can hardly function in an environment where those marks are de-emphasized. Of course, I blame not them. They have been subjected to years of psychological stimuli in the form of grades, and so they cannot help it. And as such, it may well be that I cannot change it now, but I am bold–dumb–enough to try.
Not everybody gets what I am trying to do with Project 180, my journey to flip education on its back. Some think I am crazy. Some think I am ruining kids’ lives. But then there are others who do seem to believe in what I am doing. But is not for them. It is for my kids. It is about transforming their experiences in such a way that I place them at the center of what I am doing. And that takes a different approach, an approach that is foreign in many ways to what they have experienced in the past, for it runs counter to what’s always been done. But I believe that’s all the more reason to do it.
I waste time each day. I spend five minutes at the beginning of each period with Smiles and Frowns. I chant Mindset Mantras with the kids. And I share a Sappy Sy Rhyme at the end of each period, a last chance to let my kids know they matter before they leave me for the day. These all take time. Sometimes, like last Friday, I waste even more time, taking kids through an activity to help them think about and address their stress by “putting down the glass.” They could have used the fifteen minutes to work on their essays. And then there’s the hour a month I waste with Community Circle. Yep. I waste a lot of time, so much that I hope admin doesn’t catch wind, else they will find me guilty of malpractice, of slowing down the proficiency and output in my corner of the factory.
But they have caught wind. In fact, the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, and the principal happened by during the “put-down-the-glass” activity. They saw me wasting time. They wasted it with me as they joined in, joined in helping me let kids know they matter. And if it takes wasting time to make that happen, then I will be labeled head time-waster, for nothing I teach matters more than those whom I teach. That’s what matters–now and later. And that tops my agenda each day. Kids can’t matter some of the time. They have to matter all of the time.
Along today’s trail we will…
…begin with Smiles and Frowns.
…finish up and turn in narrative essays.
…reflect in Journey Journals.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Monday, all. Thank you, Amy Fast, for your words. They matter. You matter.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.