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People, not Nails: Project 180, Day 41

Okay, maybe I should have knocked on wood yesterday after sharing how great things were going in room 211. Should have, but I didn’t, and so I should not have been surprised when things didn’t go as planned, when things didn’t go as imagined. I should have knocked.

“Okay, please go write your “reader reaction” on the board.”

In an effort to get kids to wade deeper into the analysis pool, away from the safer, shallower, summary end, I have begun asking them to first capture their emotional responses. Last week, as writers of their own stories, they had learned from Pixar writer Andrew Stanton that the first commandment in storytelling is to make the audience care–emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically. Here, I was looking for how the author made them care emotionally. So, I asked them to share on the board.

Some made their way to the board, but many were still in their seats, a good number of them rifling through the pages of their literature text. And it suddenly dawned. They didn’t read the story. 

This, of course, is nothing new. Kids don’t do. Kids don’t read. Regardless the teacher. Regardless the grading approach. In the end, kids are kids. What I should say is that people are people. For I have discovered that even in the “real world,” even when your boss asks you to do something, people don’t always do, for there have been many times in staff meetings and professional development sessions that the real-world adults have shown up without having done the homework. And I marvel at the irony, grumble at the hypocrisy, for they are the very same who hammer kids who don’t do their homework.

No hammers in 211. I quit hammering kids a long time ago. I never really found hammers to be particularly effective at motivating kids anyway. And, even though there remain vestiges of my old-get-the-hammer self–I was truly not pleased yesterday–I kept my emotion in check. I don’t need a hammer. Hammers are for nails. My trade puts people–puts kids–in front of me, and people are not nails to be pounded into position. They are to be worked with, challenged, and supported. And so, with no hammer to place in my hand, I tried my seek-to-understand tool, my empathy wrench.

“Okay, stop. Let’s own it. Who didn’t read the story.” Too many hands went up.


“Wi-fi was down.”

“It was in the book and not in a handout.”

“I forgot.”

“I meant to this morning.”

“You didn’t give us a link in Classroom.”

The list went on.

“Okay, fair enough. I will do better. I will–no matter the length–make hard copies for everyone (we only have a classroom set of literature texts that we don’t use very often). I will also, when possible, provide a link in classroom. I will own my part. And I will do better. But, you must, too. I am not saying your excuses are neither fair nor valid, but I am firm believer in if there is a will, there is a way. So find a way. Please. I am not mad, but I am disappointed. Not in you, but for you. You are missing out on an opportunity to learn and grow. There will be more to come, but we can’t get this one back. Fortunately, I still think there will be some benefit as you listen in on the discussion and lesson today. We gotta do better, chicos.”

I am not sure if it’s because the kids talked to their peers in my other classes or if their peers actually read it the night before, but as the day went on, fewer and fewer kids showed up without having the story read. Either way, all was not lost yesterday. And I believe it will get better moving forward. Of course, there will still be days of disappointment. They’re kids. They’re people. And people just do “peoply” things sometimes. And when they do, I will do what I can to turn it into a teachable, reachable moment, but no hammers; my days of hammering are far behind me.

Here’s my Sappy Sy Rhyme that sprouted out of my disappointment yesterday.


Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

...begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…complete Learning Logs.

…clear some clutter from the trail.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Friday, all. Have a great weekend.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.


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