As I have intimated in the past, one of the challenges of the 180 classroom is the absence of power found in grades. In particular, it is challenging because it is a 180 degree departure from what kids are accustomed to. While they may resent the compliance that tradition dictates, they find it familiar. And as it happens, when we are caught between ends, we will generally cling to that which we know. And though I am not certain that their present persistence to resist in the form of “not doing” is really a manifestation of nostalgic pinings for practices past, I find myself discouraged by the number who are still not fully committing to practices present. And so, I do what I can in the absence of power and try to muster some influence. Yesterday, I took a shot at some two-bit wisdom. Here’s how it went down.
As the period began, I turned the kids’ attention to the front board. But before reading the message on the board, I shared with them that I no longer have the power of grades to motivate them. And so, in that absence, I find myself having to resort to influence instead to get them to move–in this case, to get them to eat. And then, I made the attempt at some flimsy philosophy, trying to draw a comparison between eating and growing and doing and learning, and I read the message on the board.
As I read, I paused at “What am I to do” and “What are you to do?” For the first, I shared my real, keeps-me-awake-at-night doubt about 180 and if I have made a mistake by flipping things upside down. For the second, I shared my dismay at their apparent hunger strike in response to their new environment, continuing on with the expression of my sincere worry about their choices, even borderline pontificating about regret and wasted opportunity. I ended with, “Where are your appetites my young friends? Why will you not eat? I have food aplenty, and I will gladly share it, but I cannot, will not force it upon you. The table is set. You are at the table. You have a choice to eat. You have a chance to grow.”
And we got to it. Of course, never one to pass up an opportunity to extend a metaphor, I milked my momentum all period long.
When they started to get off track, talking instead of working.
“Hey, where are your manners? You are talking with your mouths full.”
“Pause. Take note of what you are eating. Is it of nutritional value (working) or are you just consuming empty carbs (talking)? If it’s the latter, you are filling time and space but you are not growing. Eat your veggies.”
Handing practice back.
“Thank you for eating, Abby. You are growing.”
After helping kids with their work.
“Luke, you just grew three inches.”
“Really, Maddie, thirds? Haven’t you eaten enough already. Let’s not overdo it.”
And, as the period went on, the frivolity continued. But so did the work. By the end, there were more empty plates and seemingly sated kids than there has been of late. Of course, their appetites will not last. Guess I’ll just have to keep trying new recipes. Got a few picky eaters in the bunch. Kids.
Happy Wednesday, all.