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The Stress Less Classroom: Project 180, Day 12

“Sy, I didn’t quite finish…”

“Um, I didn’t get a chance…”

“I got the passage read and annotated, but…”

“I’m sorry that I didn’t…”


Trail Talk

Yesterday, was our first big turn-in day. “Life is Lit” work was due. The kids had to have read and annotated the passage, and they also had to have completed the “Identifying Theme” sheet. Many did. Some didn’t. My response?

(To the whole class)“Okay, here’s the deal, chicos. There should never be any unnecessary stress in this class. You did it or you didn’t. But either way, you need to own it. You need to take responsibility. I appreciate that many of you are sincerely sorry for not getting the practice done, but I don’t want you to be sorry; I only want you to do better. So you didn’t get it done. Life goes on. Mistakes and regrets are simply part of that, so take this as an opportunity to reflect and do better next time. That’s the best thing you can do for me. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Let’s get down the trail.”


Let me explain. Of course, I care if the kids get the work done on time. That’s the ideal situation in any classroom–graded or no. But the reality, in any system, with any approach, is that there will always be some who don’t get it done. In some systems, kids are penalized for that. In my system there is no penalty. But there is opportunity. To learn. To do better. In my system, there is only practice and performance. I work hard to make sure that the practice matches the performance, so my kids are prepared when they have to perform.

Yesterday, without having done the practice, some kids learned that they were not prepared for the day’s work. It was hard. They were lost. And I seized upon that lost moment. And by the end, there were many aha’s as kids began to realize that the practice I had placed in front of them was necessary work, not busy work. I am expecting a lot from my kiddos. I expect them to perform at their best. And as many had to go back to the proverbial drawing board yesterday because they could not get over the bar, I believe that the notion that work will pay off began to click. And it’s that “click” that I seek. I want them to discover on their own the connection between practice and performance. I want them to discover the struggle that comes with neglect, and I want them to discover the triumph that comes with dedication. And I don’t need to penalize with points to achieve that end. I just need to push and support them along their way.

Here’s a peek at our work from yesterday.


Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with smiles and frowns.

…clean up some of the work that’s cluttering our way.

…reflect on our week in our Journey Journals.

Been a great, first full week. Such great kids. So many awesome experiences lie ahead. Have a great weekend, all.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.

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