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This Is Not A Test: Project 180, Day 24



I try to avoid the “T” word in the 180 classroom. One, it creates anxiety. Two, it suggests finality. The former is not necessary. The latter is contrived. Well, at least in the 180 classroom. So, I avoid it, and I offer in its stead: performance.

The 180 experience is a cycle of practice, feedback, and performance. The kids practice. I give them feedback. They perform. I assess their performances. Together, we adjust their aims and trajectories, and we enter the next cycle. When learning is a circle and not a line it obviates the constructs of anxiety and finality. When kids know they have practiced the performance (practice looks identical to performance), anxiety is greatly reduced, for they know what to expect. This is not always the case with “tests,” many of which are often the embodiment of the “gotcha game” that some teachers play under the guise of “rigor.” It is no wonder, then, that kids experience anxiety, especially in high school, where they arrive with their deeply conditioned responses and continue their “conditioning” throughout most of their educational experience, up to and including college. Further, when kids know they have another shot (multiple if necessary) to demonstrate proficiency, they come to learn that assessment can and should be “for” learning. And, too, they learn that the notion of finality is really more a teacher’s choice than a dictum of the system, but it has been their reality for so long they may never fully grasp the “untruth” of the nefarious notion of a test being an end rather than a bridge. And that is what I want performances to be: bridges, crossings to the next stage. I don’t want them to create anxiety. I don’t want them to connote finality. I want them to be natural steps along the learning journey. But that takes time, and that takes trust. I speak it. The kids hear it. But they do not yet believe it. After all, I am up against years of conditioning, so I will be patient and diligent. We will get there.

Last week, we had our first performance. And despite my communicating its purpose, the kids approached it like a test, and they responded to it like a test. Tommy was crestfallen upon learning his score: a 1 (far miss). In his mind, he failed. In my mind, he helped create an opportunity for learning. But he did not see that upon sitting down with me to discuss his performance, but after seeing his mistakes and learning that he would not only have the opportunity for “corrections” but also a retake (retakes, if necessary), his anxious fears of being trapped in the land of no return diminished as he began to imagine the possibility of building a bridge and continuing his journey.

Our next performance is on Thursday. Yesterday, I reiterated the purpose of performances, and while I believe some kids are coming around to this approach, many are still hesitant to settle into this new reality. And that’s okay. They’ll get there. Trust takes time. In many ways, I am asking them to cross a great divide, and if I were they, I, too, would want to be sure of the bridge before me.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…continue determining direction and developing plans for Passion Papers.

…reflect in our Journey Journals.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.



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