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I Mean What I Say: Project 180, Day 31

“Okay, gang. Here’s some optional sentence practice for tomorrow’s performance. I am encouraging you to write and label fifteen sentences: five simple, five compound, and five complex. But, you need to make a big kid decision as to how many you’re going to do based on your confidence level. If you feel confident with the simple sentences, don’t do them. If you’re not very confident, do them and get some feedback from me. You decide.”

After Smiles and Frowns yesterday, this is how I opened each period. And despite leading early with the word “optional” and ending with the words “you decide,” every period–with no exception–someone raised a hand asking, “So, do we have to write all fifteen?” Kids. Love ’em, but by gosh they drive me crazy sometimes. I have a beautiful voice, so I am always dumbfounded by the fact that there could possibly be anyone out there among them who did not hang on every word of my eloquent explanations. Kidding. Really, it’s just job security. If not for the fact that I have to repeat myself, I may be out of a job. So, I repeat myself, and oh man, who knows how many times I have had the pleasure over the last twenty-two years. Regardless, I repeat. It’s what I do. I am a teacher. But there’s more at work here than kids not listening.

“Option” goes against the grain. It runs counter to years of conditioning in a carrot-and-stick system where few if any options have existed before. They are not accustomed to making decisions. They expect me to do that for them. That’s the nature of their existence, so when faced with the opportunity, it feels foreign to them, and it becomes more a matter of trust than poor listening. They don’t trust me…yet. But they will, and so I do not take it personally. We are out here in uncharted territory. But some day, they will believe, will trust that optional means optional. Of course, I am also weaving a web here, for with choice comes responsibility. Today, on the performance, they will learn if they made a good big kid decision. But I have options for that to: retakes. They always have the option of retakes. Always, another word that’s taking some getting used to.

“Can we use our resources on the performance?” Always. Another word I oft repeat as kids are getting used to me and my odd ways.

“Always. You may always use resources.”

That’s the point. Resources are meant to be used, not tucked away in a binder, out of sight, lest they help kids “cheat” on an assessment. I provide and encourage resources, for I can think of few occasions in the “real world” where we don’t use resources: mechanics use manuals, doctors rely on second opinions, cooks use recipes, cashiers use cheat sheets for produce codes, and the list goes on. So, in room 211, we use resources. Ironically, it is often the teachers who would never allow resources on a test who are also the very same ones who use the “real world” to scare kids and justify their own not-really-of-this-world practices. I am not interested in the learn-it-and-leave-it model, the learn-it-for-test approach. I am interested in learning. And I think there are better approaches than what we have relied on for years. But that is a hard trend to buck, and as such, as with “optional practice,” the kids have a hard time trusting me when I say, “Always.” But I hope at some point I earn that trust, and they come to believe that optional means optional and always means always. Always.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

...begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…take the sentence performance.

…reflect in our Journey Journals.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Thursday, all. End of the week for the kids. Tomorrow I get to sit in meetings with adults all day. I will miss the kids.

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