“Morning, Meg. Did you read?”
“Uh, I only read the first two chapters. When I have a lot of homework, this class is my safety valve.”
This is not an out-of-the-ordinary conversation in 219. With four sections of honors language arts, I serve students who are taking mostly advanced courses, which generally translates into their having a lot of homework–at times, overwhelming amounts. That in mind–and my being flexible to perhaps a fault, I have created, as Meg suggested, an outlet of sorts in 219 for kids when the pressure’s too much. I always accept late work–without penalty, and importantly, my reactions never go beyond disappointment seasoned with understanding when kids don’t get their work in on time. My class is important–maybe–a little bias here–the most important. But it is not more important than any of my kids–ever. And, in the end, that is what I teach: kids. It just happens that in 219 I do it within the context of language arts. So, when I make decisions, I make decisions with kids in mind first, then content.
Of course, my approach is not above reproach, for many of my peers think I am ruining kids by being too flexible. And though there are times when I wonder if my approach is the very best thing for kids, especially when I am dealing with the hassle of late paperwork, my gut keeps me on this particular path, pushing away any lingering doubts about the cost outweighing the benefit. Deep down I believe that flexibility doesn’t hinder responsibility; it promotes it, for true responsibility comes when individuals have the freedom to discover the implications of their own choices. I don’t think holding harsh late-work policies over kids’ heads teaches responsibility; I think it only forces compliance, and that is not commitment. I want my kids to be committed. I want them to make big-boy and big-girl choices. And then, I want them to own their choices. I have found that doing so creates a level of honesty that makes the experiences in 219 genuine, real.
Meg was real with me. She owned it. She did only read the first two chapters because those are the only two that she could reference in our discussion yesterday. She contributed where she could, and respectfully–honestly–bowed out when she couldn’t. She owned it. Isn’t that responsibility?
Have a terrific Tuesday. Thanks for listening.
- Love of Labor: Morning Minutes, February 22, 2016
- End of the Day: Morning Minutes, February 24, 2016.