I wish I could say it’s organized. I wish I could say it’s neat and tidy. I wish I could say it’s well-in-hand. But I can’t. It’s a mess. It’s a juggling act. On a unicycle. And I am terribly uncoordinated. But somehow. It’s working. Sixty days in, a third of the year, it’s working. And while I’d like to claim it’s the product of proper planning, it’s more likely luck than skill. Either way, there is some emerging evidence that suggests that Project 180 is making a difference: for kids. And for me, that’s the only difference that matters.
Grades off the table, feedback on the menu, relationships as the centerpiece, Project 180 seems to be creating experiences apart from the norm, away from convention. And that is my goal. I want learning to be an experience, not a transaction. And it is in that experience that I want kids to learn themselves first, so they may better learn the world hereafter.
Recently–finally–I finished reading and scoring the kids’ narrative essays, and beyond learning a great deal about their lives, past and present, I learned, too, about how they are beginning to feel as writers. And “writers” is a key term here. I want my kids to view themselves as writers, not as “completers” of writing tasks. From saying, “We are writers,” each day in our Mindset Mantra to reflecting on our growth, I try to set the stage for kids to discover their roles as writers in room 211. Here are Abby’s and Shalla’s reflections.
Granted, this is a narrative essay, which creates more freedom, but even so, as our first major writing experience of the year, I feel like the kids were able to just be writers. Yes, they were still held to standards, and no, not all met those standards, but each had an opportunity to explore and grow as writer.
Additionally, I also recently asked kids to write letters to their parents for conferences, sharing their experiences in my class. Intentionally, I asked kids not to discuss grades but rather their day-in and day-out experiences in 211. Of course, though I was not the target audience, I was a reader, and in my reading, I learned a lot about how they are feeling about their experiences with me thus far. Here are some of the things I took away.
- Smiles and Frowns was the most-mentioned activity. The kids value it, recognizing that it’s an important piece to building community.
- Most indicated that they felt minimal stress in my class even though they felt challenged. This resonated a great deal with me. One, it is a primary goal for me to make this a stress-less class, BUT two, it is also a goal to present this as a high-expectations with high-support class. Stressed brains can’t learn.
- A vast majority mentioned our monthly Community Circle activity as a highlight. Community matters.
- Most, if not all, mentioned my flexibility with deadlines, retakes, and redo’s.
- Many felt like they were actually learning stuff and not just covering stuff. We do not set a fast pace in 211, and we hover around standards for lengths of time. Learning takes time.
This is a small sampling of the things that stood out in their letters to their parents. And what I appreciated is that as parents read the letters at conferences there were lots of head nods and “She-talks-about-this-at-home” comments. Here is Shalla’s letter to her parents. The “sweet summer day” comment is a little much, but I had asked the kids to work in a “trick of the trade.” Shalla included a simile.
For the moment, I am pleased with our progress, but I will not rest here long. The wheel will turn, and we will be upside down again until we right ourselves, 180 degrees at a time, rotating from one “do” to our next “do better.” That is the 180 experience, a messy, tossed-about ride as we move through our days, as we live through our experiences, doing, reflecting, and doing better. I am lucky to have such a fantastic group of companions.
Along today’s trail we will…
…begin with Smiles and Frowns.
…continue working on our Passion Papers.
…reflect in our Journey Journals.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Monday, all.
Do. Reflect. Do Better.