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tough LOVE: Morning Minutes, May 20, 2016

“The truth is the educational system has created [a] lack of confidence with its command-and-control environments. Students are given rubrics and study guides. They sit through mini-lessons and endless modeling. All this hand-holding creates a passive and paralyzed student body. If we want to end this cycle, we are the ones who have to change.”

–Michael Matera from, Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners

To begin, I don’t believe Mr. Matera means to suggest that we throw out rubrics, mini-lessons, and modeling in our classrooms. I do believe he means to suggest that we use them intentionally and necessarily in such a way that we propel and then support kids on their own journeys, letting go of their hands, even when we don’t want to.

To continue, my kids have nearly reached the peak of Mt. Stress this week; they are clinging, clambering, crawling–and complaining–their ways to the top of┬átheir own ascents, their own destinations. The stress is palpable but it is not paralyzing. It’s close for some, but I am monitoring it closely, and I am ready to step in and help, but I am resisting the urge to too quickly come to their aid. And that is not easy. It’s not easy to watch my kids struggle, to see them stressed. At times, every fiber of my being wants to “helicopter” in and save them, but I don’t. I resist, shouting words of encouragement from the sidelines, offering help where and when I can, but I cannot carry them to the top. They have to go it alone, or they will not have the satisfaction of placing their flags atop their own peaks, triumphant over their own struggles, now stronger to face the next range in their respective journeys.

I began “hell week” by saying to each class, “We can do this.” And I’ve said it every day since. Yesterday, required additional assurance, as Avery in third period informed me that I would have to remind her several times over the period that she could do it. So, every five minutes or so, I cheered her on, telling her she could do it. Of course, I’d like to believe that my cheers fell on more ears than just Avery’s.

To end, today and this weekend will place my kids in a heightened state of stress as they struggle to complete all that is due on Monday. But I know they’ll survive. And while I’d like to come off as the tough-love character I am pretending to be at the moment, in 219 there’s always the “I-accept-late-work-with-no-penalty” lifeline available, and some of my kids will need to grab hold of it this weekend. Yeah, real tough guy, huh? Sorry, I am trying to change, Mr. Matera. Really, I am. But it’s hard to let go of their hands.

Happy Friday, all. Have a nice weekend.


6 Replies to “tough LOVE: Morning Minutes, May 20, 2016”

  • Room 219 is different from any class I’ve ever had. There is no cruel pressure to get our work done or else we will be punished. There is only guidance and help through it all. Even though there is no actual “due date” for anything , I find myself getting stressed, and that is just me. I know I’ll get the grade, but I also want you to be proud of me for the quality and getting it done on time. You may not swing in every time we are in need of help, but by not being the “hero”, you are truly helping us in that way. Teaching us an important life skill we will need in order to survive the cruel harsh world that we have yet to come. No one will always come to our aid, Our responsibilities are our responsibilities and no one else’s. I understand that it is hard for you to not save your students, but there is only so much you can do.

  • I agree with all three of the above. As the school year draws to a close, our want for summer is getting stronger and our motivation for school weakens. My mom has always told me within the month of school ending, “This is the final stretch, I know your motivation for school has dropped, and you have summer on your mind, but you can’t stop now. Keep going! Don’t give up. You can do this!” I think it’s really great that you’re trying your hardest to not hold our hands through this. Some teachers say it’s for the real world and no one will be holding your hand, but I think starting in high school, it also shows the student that “Hey, you can do this on your own, and you’ll be okay.” I’ve had to be in the similar situation with my younger freshman and 8th grade friends, to not hold their hand all throughout the year, but to instead, to be there if they fall and help them back up. You’ve helped me realize over the year to check my time management/productivity skills, and while I’ll still probably be having late nights doing work for classes, I can still try and do them to the best of my abilities. Thank you. You’re doing a great job, Sy! Keep it up!

  • Syrie! I believe in your not wanting to hold our hands right now. And it is making me a better student. I personally am more of a student that needs some of that “encouragement” to keep on going especially right now. This year is almost up and I’m lacking motivation, but I’m pushing through and yes I know “we can do it.” Lots of work needs to be done and yes sometimes having a rubric is nice but also pushing us to figure it out on our own is a good skill for the future to have.

    • I completely agree with Hannah. As the year starts to come to and end, my motivation starts to dwindle a bit. Syrie, not wanting to hold our hand is a good way to let us be our own motivators in this stressful time in the year. The words of encouragement and help you have given us has just made this process easier and it hasn’t felt like we are alone in this! While my procrastination will most likely be stressing me out in the next few days, it is also my way of coping with lots of projects to get done! That is my motivation. Thank you for wanting us to push ourselves in these last few weeks of school!

  • I know it’s hard to let go of our hands Syrie, but you’re doing a good job. I know how hard it is to not come to the rescue. My younger brothers start middle school and high school next year, and it’s hard to not come to their rescue every time they have a problem. For 11 and 13 years, if they had a problem, they came to me for help and I have to start letting them go. Just keep doing the great job that you are! All of your students will benefit in some way from you not helping us each step of the way. Some, it’ll make them realize that they are growing up and need to pull their act together. Others, it’ll make them realize how important time management is and yet others will learn some other lesson from this experience. Keep doing what you’re doing, and you will change the world of education.

    • Yup, Syrie. I have reached the summit of Mt. Stress. I’d like to ask you why, if you knew it would be like this, you didn’t change anything. I would also like to ask myself why, if I know what your late work policy is, I’m stressing out so much. But come on, everything due on the same day? I know we’ve known about it for a while, but when it’s not due the next day, I frankly don’t do it. Which is why I have had so much to do because instead of having one thing to turn in tomorrow, I have 6,000. OK, maybe only 5. Which is why I am still up when I want to be sleeping. I am not blaming this on you (maybe just a little) but on my poor time management. I’m just saying you could have made it easier. Mr. Not-So-Tough-Guy, thanks for the late work deal. So why do you even have due dates? And why am I even worrying about due dates? Who knows? Now that I’ve thought about it, I’m going to bed. Good night.

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