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Project 180: The Story

It all began two years ago when my student Megan Lavin called me out. “Hey, Sy, you’re going to do an Independent Learning Project, too, right?” “Uh, sure,” I responded. And that set things in motion. The project required our pursuing something of genuine interest, something that we wanted to learn about. Consequently, I’d always toyed with the idea of starting a blog, so I decided to make that my project. I would start a blog.

A Blog Begins

Had no idea. No idea how to begin. So, I Googled it. “How can I start a blog?” And after some time, and a lot of trial and error, a blog was born. Going in, I knew the content of my blog would focus on education, particularly changing education, for I had always pushed for change, and now I would have an “official looking” platform. And with that, the proud papa named his baby blog, Let’s Change Education. I officially kicked it off on January 4, 2016 after winter holiday. Here’s the link to my first  “Morning Minutes” post. Below is the first paragraph.

“Good morning, all.  So, it’s officially begun, a journey to better education in anyway that I can for the next twenty years. Not satisfied with what I accomplished in my first twenty, I am newly committed and energized to help change the narrative on public education, helping it evolve to better deliver the promise of hope and opportunity to the young who inhabit a new, ever-changing world.  And, so, as with any journey, it begins with a step.  This is my first step.  And while the journey will no doubt be lonely at times, I take comfort in knowing that some will join me along the way as I cross paths with those who too share a passion for improving education.  I am eager to encounter and share your company somewhere down the road.”


Finding My Voice

For the next six months, I blogged every morning. But there was no real focus as I went from topic to topic, format to format. But as I continued, I began to notice that grading was a recurring topic, a topic that generated interest among my few readers (mostly family, friends, and students). So I started focusing on grading, and the more I focused, the more I came to question the validity of traditional grading practices, the more I came to despise grading’s disruption of learning. And by April, I had decided to move ahead with Project 180 (though it had not been named yet). I would turn grading upside down with a bold experiment where I would give all kids an A for the year, so we could focus on learning. I would “knock the sloth on his ass.”

What’s in a Name?

Plenty. Here’s what’s behind the title, Project 180.

  • Turning grading upside down. 180 degrees. I would truly put the sloth on his back.
  • The school year. 180 days in the school year. It was a yearlong project, and I would blog about it each of those 180 days.
  • The triangle. 180 degrees in a triangle. Three corners whose angles always add up to 180. The equilateral triangle became the ideal. 60 degrees of ownership and responsibility in each corner: one for me, one for students, and one for parents. This is the ideal that I still pursue with 180.
  • Do. Reflect. Do Better. Saving the best for last. This has become the essence of Project 180. It is my mantra for my endless quest for better, a quest to turn my world upside down, so I can see it differently, so I can make it better. Project 180 is the approach that I want to share with the world, to share with those who are also unsettled by the status quo, to share as a means to disrupt so as to only make better. Always better. An endless cycle, 180 degrees at a time. An assurance that I will neither be on my feet nor my back for too long, for there is danger when things come to rest. So I will not rest. I will journey forth, and with each path I will seek to do to reflect to do better. No destination. Just a chase. Chasing better.

What’s Next?

The journey continues. Year two of Project 180 is just around the bend, and I will be turning things upside down again. I will also be blogging every morning as well. This year, though, instead of focusing on all that went with giving kids an A, I will be focusing on sharing my learning through the 180 lens. For each daily blog post, I will take something that I learned from the day before and present it in a do-reflect-do better format. I also plan to share more resources for those who are interested in venturing into the gradeless realm.

So, that’s the story behind 180. Nothing too exciting, but I wanted to clarify for any who wondered about the name. I am so excited to get underway with year two. I hope to walk with and continue to cross paths with all the awesome folks who are out here with me. So many, many awesome people. Glad I have connected with you.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.

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