There’s more to the story. Some, I suspect, wonder what happened two days ago that prompted yesterday’s post. Well, at the end of second period on Wednesday, as things were wrapping up, my giving an A plan came up, and the kids started asking questions and making comments. Though some kids had reasoned out that I was going to actually proceed with the plan next year, for many it was the first time that reality dawned and their responses ranged from incredulity to intrigue. One kid was particularly incredulous, staying after to express both her dismay and concern over my plan. “Sy, I am worried about you. Are you okay? You do know this is crazy, right? You know that this won’t work? You know kids won’t do anything next year? Do you really want to do this?” Time short, I couldn’t adequately respond to Stephanie’s question flood, and we parted with her telling me, warning me that she would be posting on my blog, addressing this madness. Moments later, on my way to the restroom, self-doubt settled on my shoulder, and the whispers began.
Then, yesterday morning, I wrote the post. But at the time, I did not know that Steph had made good on her promise, and waiting in my SPAM folder was her post. Below is what she wrote.
What are you hoping to accomplish with this study? What is it you’re trying to change in the grand scheme of things and to what degree? As a student who works sometimes past midnight trying to finish assignments and study for tests to maintain an A, the thought of that kind of stress being lifted is admittedly appealing. But for me, my drive is to get the A. I’ve talked to many of my fellow students and that’s what drives them too. You said you want us to focus on the learning. and before I would have completely agreed. The learning is what we should be there for. But it’s not for most of us anymore once we get to this degree in our schooling. We lost a passion for learning that I don’t think is realistic to try to revive this late. Granted I’m only a sophomore, but I’m sure if you speak to other students, you may discover that the will to learn for the sake of learning and knowledge is almost not feasible. Which is why I wonder what you want to accomplish with this, how far do you want this to go? Do you want it to spread? I can’t help but see this as giving participation ribbons to kids in a soccer game whether they lose or win. I don’t mean to sound pompous by saying that, but I always thought that while the grading system could use improvement, it was meant to be a ” you-get-out-what-you-put-in” thing.
–Stephanie, Sophomore, CHS
Ah, Steph. It is you who exposed the chink in my armor yesterday. How far do I want to go? Far, young friend, far. I aim to change the world, a world that would cause our young to lose “a passion for learning.” I cannot live in that world, so I would see it change. I shed my armor, then, for it is weak, and I will face the foe as I am. It is all I need. I will put your post on my wall next year,as a reminder that I do this for you and all you represent–the young to whom I would give the world. A gift that begins with an A, a symbol to represent that which was once pure: a love of learning.
There’s more. The story continued yesterday, as of course, I had to engage Steph about the events that had transpired in the previous twenty-four hours. The other kids, witness to our discussion, asked to see/hear our interaction on my blog, so I shared–first my post, then Steph’s post and my reaction. As luck would have it, for I did not plan it, our focus for the day included a look at the real-world writing purpose of expression and reflection, so it fit perfectly to have a genuine express-and-reflect model to share with the kids. Even more, Steph by posting to my blog satisfied one of the real-world writing project requirements, employing the purpose of evaluate and judge. From there, the lesson plan changed for the day, and I continued to share what happened between Steph and me in the rest of my classes, showing our real-world interactions on my blog.
Of course, this invited discussion about my plan for next year, and I have to say, it may well be that it was one of the very best class discussions I have participated in during my twenty years in teaching. We engaged in an honest, open, real discussion about teaching and learning and this critter we call education, a critter about which our kids have a lot to say, in ways that belie their young age. Kids know more than we give them credit for. I just think we don’t give them the right opportunities to share and shine. For me it was magical, an oh-my-gosh-why-don’t-I-have-this-on-tape moment. Thanks, Steph. You saved me. You cast me adrift one day, only to throw me a lifeline the next, a buoy in my mad sea. But before you saved me, you made me swim. Thank you for making me tread through my troubles. And, please know, that your post will be on my classroom wall next year and all those to come, my reminder that there are those for whom I must swim, even when the waters are rough.
Happy Friday, all. Have a splendid weekend.