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Sometimes They See the Thread: Project 180, Day 94

Been a roller coaster of a week. Admittedly, I got blind-sided and a bit rattled by an unexpected drop with a couple of loops. I allowed “An Observer’s” anonymous attacks on 180 and me to seep into my spirit, distracting me from the goal. But as I moved forward, I was able to accept it as an opportunity to reflect upon and continue with my journey, my vision to help improve education.  Her attacks persisted (if you care to see her latest rant, you can find it in the comments of the following link  Another opportunity to reflect.

In her attacks, she suggests that I am all alone in my selfish universe, on an island with little support, suggesting, too, that I hide the negative to project a shiny facade for 180. I am sorry that she sees me that way. Those who know me, know differently. Those who see my thread, see me–support me. And it is that which keeps me plugging along. I know I am not alone. And while few do comment on my actual blog, (Mom comments all the time, but she’s my mom…), many of you let me know in various ways through Facebook, Twitter, email, and face-to-face conversations. You are there. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. The 96 comments on the FB post this weekend offering support and love was incredibly uplifting and heartwarming. Again, thank you. And while I do not think it is either feasible or necessary to show them all, I do think it is necessary and fair to share some. I want to share the support that exists within the walls of the “shiny facade.”

  •      Syrie. Just so you know, I am in complete support of what you are doing in your classroom. You responded to those not very nice comments very well in today’s post. I thank you for what you are doing in education, and I hope people continue to question you so eventually they can see how great your approach actually is. BECAUSE IT IS GREAT. It is what is best for the kids. You are not taking any experiences from them. You are giving them the most important experience a teacher can offer: OPPORTUNITY. As you said, we get out what we put in no matter what grade we end up with. I was a 4.0 high school student because I was really good at turning in extra credit and turning in my assignments on time. Yes, I had A’s, but those grades did not represent what I had learned academically or what I had learned about myself. Your classroom is a place where students can learn about themselves as they struggle, take risks, reflect, grow, and succeed all on their own (with your guidance). They have to care about themselves, not a grade, and in the end it makes them a stronger person and independent learner. I apologize for ranting. Again, I thank you for what you are doing. Have a wonderful rest of your week. Stay positive! The kids are worth it.
  • Mr. Syrie,
    I hope this will be a surprising blog post for you to read. Surprising not so much with regards to content as with some of these posts I’m sure, but to the sender. I posted once to a blog in 2007. I literally have 10 things more meaningful and productive that I could be doing while I type this. I don’t know why I decided to post on your blog which looks well sorted out by the way. Maybe needed to say a few things. My initial reaction when reading your post on your blog was “wow he’s actually making a difference, that’s really great!” Reading along I found the comment revealing the wrinkle in your plan-namely giving each student an A. Wait a minute. That did not sound like the guy I remember. Mr. Syrie as I knew him was one of the hardest working, most dedicated, driven and inspiring people I had met at the time. You inspired me many times to push on, literally push myself further up those hills and through the challenges that life hit me with.
    I kept reading a few posts and it all made sense-perfect sense! Grades are indeed often handed out in school. If a 4.0 is the best-100%-how can a kid get a 4.2?!? What does it mean? What’s the point? The point is public education in most locales is absolutely broken. Grades don’t mean much anymore. My class had 14 Valedictorians 20 years ago. They all had “perfect grades”. What a joke. I had the urge to reply to the Observer who had quite obviously missed the entire point of your approach. A response from me was unnecessary. Reading further, your responses could not have explained it more perfectly. Do you remember a saying “If I have to explain it to you, you wouldn’t understand.”? Bingo. Not everyone will “get it” That’s OK. You care too much, perhaps. Is that a bad thing? Good?
    If there is one thing I am made acutely aware of every day, it’s that you can’t help everyone. Not that you wouldn’t if you could. You simply can’t. Some things aren’t fixable. Trying to fix things that aren’t can break you. Some people don’t care to understand and some simply cannot. Those are tough lessons to learn. But that’s OK because you have helped by this time, a couple thousand students. I suspect many would have never found their thread without having someone like you step into their classroom and give them the “opportunity” to find it for themselves. Whether you continue with your current grading system or not, the student experience in your class will undoubtedly be the same or better that parents pay tens of thousands annually to send their kids to “the best of schools” to receive.
    I remember talking to my Dad in my mid-twenties driving through central Washington. He asked me “whatever happened to Monte?” I told him you’d gone off to Royal City to teach English and coach Cross Country. I never really understood why-I mean, I knew what kind of person you were. We both kind of reflected on that and agreed that you could’ve done anything for a career and been hugely successful by any measure. Now I know why you went into teaching. It’s what you were destined to do. You’re a great motivator.
    So how’d I find Mr. Syrie? By accident, procrastinating work, on a whim while looking to see if JW was still coaching in Cheney. I saw his picture and saw yours as I scrolled down the page. Ahh the power of the Google! It’s good you are in Cheney. Good peeps there. Throughout life, there will be times when the only thing that will keep your students going is their thread. If there is anyone who can help them find it, and motivate them to hold onto it and follow it, you can.
    Strong work, Pal.
    Maybe we’ll get together when we’re retired for an easy spin.
  •      …even though I wasn’t fortunate enough to ever have you as my teacher, I know that you have incredible passion for learning and for each and every student. Heck, I still tear up thinking about that post you made about my sister and her singing in your class. These comments were obviously made by people who are upset about something in their lives, and they’re anonymously lashing out on you. I just went through something similar recently. Please don’t take this to heart though! Honestly, you are a huge inspiration to me as a future educator, and you touch so many lives with your love for teaching and students!
  •      It takes courage to post the challenges and not just the support. There’s almost always both and often little we can do to please everyone (except not give up!). Examining our practices takes courage and you do it publicly, taking the risk and being a leader and learner…keep it up! **And yes, I’m at school right now as well, preparing!
  •      Monte, this is awesome! You’re getting out there AND getting anger and resistance? Fun! Bring it on– the timing is perfect– you spent last week reviewing, revising, and recommitting. You are ready for the naysayers! (And if you don’t want a piece of them, I do! Lemme at them! Guest blogger? 😉 )
  • Your approach to education is founded on fostering intrinsic motivation. By removing the big, extrinsic motivator of grades, you reinforce students’ innate curiosity and love of learning. The research supporting this pedagogical approach is longstanding and overwhelming, of course. Those attached to the culture of extrinsic motivation have a difficult time recognizing the value of instilling the love of doing something for its own sake as the deepest, most enduring aspect of education. But never mind. Take heart in the independence and strength of mind you are helping young people to find in themselves.
  • I find it interesting that the second comment mentioned that this was a selfish project to be doing, and yet in all of my education courses where I have to write forty page finals, I have to use empirical and peer reviewed research to back up my methods and ideas for teaching in a classroom. Research like that starts with projects like yours. Research has to come from somewhere. I feel that your project is a reflection that you want to find better ways to inspire and educate future generations. This is how growth in the field of education works.
    There are more important things in life than working for a “reward.” Being self inspired to be better as an individual and as a community member is one of them.
    On a final note, you absolutely were the catalyst for my passion to be a teacher. I often refer back to your methods when I think about the way I want to teach. Educators that want things easy for themselves don’t make positive, life long, lasting impressions like that on their students.
  • I do have a son in your class. I allow my son to make his decisions towards his education choices. He wanted to continue project 180. I told him i didnt believe he had enough self discipline to handle it. I said, this project is for kids who are ready to be mature enough to want to earn that “A”. I said project 180 in my opinion is for kids that are self motivated, that are driven to show off their knowledge or their determination to gain more knowledge without the prodding of the teacher or parent. Ill be honest, i wasnt a FAN of project 180 but I believe in it. I think youre being innovative in your teaching methods and i appreciate that. My son has had a ton of stress in his life, i do my best to help lessen it but im sure i probably just add to it. Being his parent i did tell him, he needs to start taking a more active roll in Project 180. He said he would and i hope he is.
    I have faith in your project Monte Syrie, i think many do.
    There will always be those that disagree and may say hurtful things. Change is hard. Change is scary and can be very confusing to those not willing to allow change in their life. Control is another thing people have a hard time letting go of. Believe me…..i know!
    Stay strong, hold your ground, youre the teacher, not them.
    People may believe your giving kids a free pass, i believe youre leading kids to find their own way to a Pass that works for them. Some it may take a bit to embrace the change, but Rome was not built in 1 day, let alone a school year. Keep up the good work Monte.
  • Hey Syrie, I haven’t been reading your blog so i don’t know by what means you’ve been implementing this experiment. I do, however, know the motive is not laziness. You’re teaching style has always stressed the idea of student motivated learning, and that led to my proudest moment in my student career! To be honest it’s still one of the proudest moments of my life. Whoever these skeptics are clearly don’t know who you are. Keep being the teacher students deserve!
  • See how much love and support you have?? You’ve made such a huge, crucial impact on so many lives. This is a learning curve for both you and the students, and these people who are insulting you and your style of teaching clearly don’t have the slightest idea of the type of person that you are. I think what you’re doing is great, Sy, and obviously a lot of other people agree. I hope you have a little more peace of mind with all of these positive comments and don’t lose too much sleep over the couple of haters. 🙂
  • Interesting Syrie. I must say, considering my own cynicism, that I find your approach motivational. Grades are a disappointing social construct that I never cared for. I would have sought exploration in such a class, however I am keenly aware of individuals who would not have, and it does rub my impressions of merit the wrong way. Frankly I think the problems with grades is the rigidity it imposes on the system and lack of mobility for students. Up or Down. I entered kindergarten at above college level reading. By the time I reached college i’d stopped reading. I hated public school, but despite calling you third graders, I loved your class. It is the thread you speak of that I loved. Not so much the content but the way you taught was what the instruction was about. An openness. I find your experimentation thoughtful from my perspective 1100 miles away getting my masters. Cheers
  • I usually do not chime in on such posts. However, I am very grateful to have such a teacher as passionate as you Monte Syrie. When I had you as a teacher you were so much more than just a person who shared knowledge with us. You were someone who challenged a student in ways that could maybe appear “non-conventional”. Someone who received joy from empowering and encouraging students to see within themselves how great they were or could be. And with that you helped form difference makers. I believe that is how you have impacted so many lives of your students. You taught me things that go far beyond the classroom. You were teaching me valuable lessons. Things that actually prepared me for the “real world”. And with comment #2 I think the premise behind your whole idea is great. A student given responsibility within a safe environment (your class) is an example of what life is all about after school. Well played! Keep being you Syrie. I appreciate all that you have been and all that you have helped me be.
Alone, indeed. Thanks, all. Thank you for seeing my thread. Thank you for helping me through a rough spot in the journey.

2 Replies to “Sometimes They See the Thread: Project 180, Day 94”

  • You know, I came on this blog by accident one day. I started to read it, fascinated, by your postings each day. Fascinated watching you wondering over and over again if you are making a difference, if it was the right thing to do. No comments at all one way or the other from anyone. So, the day you posted the letter that you sent to parents, the day you chose 3 students to be the example, the day you chose to post an email that you wrote to a parent that didn’t agree with you, is the day I decided that maybe you should know there are others out there that don’t agree either, even if they don’t have a student in your class. I don’t know you except what I have read on this blog, but I did NOT ‘attack’ you. I disagreed. I didn’t rant as you put it. I disagreed. I am not a hater, as one of your commentators said. I disagreed. Is that not what you wanted? Discussion? I am sorry that I took you out of your comfort zone, when no one was commenting, and made you ‘stress’ for a few days. I am also happy to see that you have students and friends that will back you up. You must have posted this on FB, to get 96 comments back.
    My entire objection was that you gave a promise of an A, with nothing in return, not even “I will give you the A if you turn in all of your homework for the year.” Then you second guessed it in mid stream.
    I don’t know you, I don’t know your students, in fact, I don’t even live anywhere near you, I only know what I have read on this blog. Which means, I have only seen what you have posted. So if you want to call my disagreement and ‘attack’ and a ‘rant’, that’s fine, if that is what it means to you. It wasn’t meant to be that way. You wanted discussion, you got it.
    This will probably be my last post, as it is clear that you do not really want discussion at all. You only want comments that agree with your agenda. That is fine, too. It is after all, your blog.
    Keep on keeping on. Fight for what you believe in. Don’t fret so much about me disagreeing with your Project, I hope your students are learning and retaining what you teach them.

  • Syrie,
    I know it can be hard to keep going, especially when there are those few strong voices telling you that you are wrong. I’m not in your class this year, so I can’t testify as to how effective 180 actually is, but from what I saw last year, I have no doubt that you are teaching, and teaching well. And I have no doubt at all that students are learning. Maybe not English, if they choose to not pay attention, but they are learning. Learning that it’s ok to challenge the status quo. Learning it’s ok to be their own person. To be themselves and to stand up for what they believe. Through 180, you do all of that and I feel like your students see it. You are making a difference. Keep up the good work! You CAN do it!

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