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Where’s the Line? Project 180, Day 98



Somewhere there’s a line. It divides. It defines. It draws. It repels. It compels. It impedes. It is there. But I cannot find the line.

Somewhere there’s a line. “Sy, I have a drive today, so I am not gonna be in class,” reported Kat yesterday before school, letting me know that she would be missing class due to her scheduled drive for Driver’s Ed. I chided in response, “Taking advantage of my flexibility, eh?” “No, no…I just. I can’t miss any of my other classes,” she stammered. Can’t. Seems like a line. Maybe I need that line.

I teach sophomores, sixteens, which means, driver’s license. Gone are the old days when kids took Driver’s Ed as a class in school, paying fifty bucks, driving before and after. Now they take the class after school, paying nearly five-hundred dollars, driving during school. It’s a pain. It’s a struggle. It’s a reality. Oh, I can refuse to let kids drive. They have to get my “permission” to miss class. And if I do not excuse it, and they do it anyway, then I can choose the consequences for their absence. Just so happens– guess–that my consequences pale in comparison to my colleagues, so kids miss my class. “Sorry, Sy. Do you want me to schedule my upcoming drives during another class?” “No. I just want you to do what’s best for you. Of course, I want you here. But I don’t want you stressin’ either. Do what you gotta do, kiddo.” Do what’s best for you. If there’s a “can’t,” there must be a line. But I cannot find the line.

Somewhere there’s a line. “Sy, I missed my math test yesterday. And I have to take it today. Any chance…” Have to. Seems like a line. Maybe I need that line.

Annika was out sick the day before. She is a rock-star student whose status brings a great deal of self-induced stress. So, when she came to me yesterday, I knew she was stressing, and before she even finished her request I said, “Yes.” She would no doubt make up what she missed in my class; she was facing a “have-to” in another class, so I granted her request. Apparently, *math tests can only be taken in one sitting. One cannot start during lunch and finish after school. Apparently, one cannot take the test during her math class because she will miss that day’s section and fall farther behind. Apparently, math tests must be completed by all kids as quickly as possible because knowledge of the problems is out there. If there’s a “have-to,” there must be a line. But I cannot find the line.

Somewhere there’s a line. “Sy, can I go to the bathroom?” “Sy, can I eat in here?” “Sy, can I drink in here.” “Sy, can I call my mom?” Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. People have to pee. People have to eat. People have to drink. And people even have to call mom. Apparently, for some, the answers are no, no, no, and no. No. Seems like a line. Maybe I need that line.

But when I look out on my class, I see people. People. As a person, I understand people’s needs. I go to the bathroom during class (I have a fellow teacher cover). I eat during class. I drink during class. Sometimes, I even call my mom during class. If I can say yes, why would I say no? But if there’s a “no,” there must be a line. But I cannot find that line.

Somewhere there’s a line. “To get credit for this course, you have to complete all performances with an honest effort.” This is what I share with kids when explaining my grading approach. It is not a high hurdle, and for the vast majority of my kids, earning credit for the course is not difficult. But in every situation, despite the line, even the ones we set and can see, there are exceptions. A self-set have-to. I have that line. Maybe I need to follow that line.

Remember Jack? A month ago today I shared a letter I wrote to him, seeking to understand him and compel him to cross the line, the “have-to” I impose in my classroom (Dear Jack). In the letter I mention a line, “…it’s not too late for us to get across that line.”  At the time, I had not this particular post in mind about lines, but now a month later it haunts. We did not cross that line. Jack did not “complete all performances with an honest effort.” But he did write me back, and I had intended to share his response with you, but it was deeply personal, so I chose to keep it between Jack and me. So, then, what happened? Well, apparently I cannot even find my own lines, for I passed Jack. He got credit for the course. His letter affected my gut. And when one lacks lines, he finds his gut, he trusts his gut. On this one, I went with my gut. Jack did not cross the line. But perhaps I did. I gave credit where credit wasn’t earned, and though such a transgression may well land me in teacher hell, it’s too late now. There was a “have-to,” so there must have been a line. But, even then, I could not find the line.

Somewhere there’s a line. It divides. It defines. It draws. It repels. It compels. It impedes. It is there. But I cannot find the line.

For I am more lost than found. And as I move ever-deeper into creating a student-centered world, my identity fades in and out. And the lines that once existed blur as I seek to find myself through my kids. And that, I think, has become my new have-to, my new line. I become re-imagined, re-cast with each attempt to discover my next “better.” And that lies down a different path, that follows a new line.

Somewhere there is a line. But it is not here among tradition or convention. It is out there. And I will not find it. Never. But I will seek it. Ever. And maybe that’s the best line of all.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns. 

…Finish up our Book Thief analysis and prepare for tomorrow’s performance.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme

Happy Thursday, all. Sorry for the odd post this morning. Trying to find myself a bit. *No offense intended to my math peeps with the example up above. I know there are a great many of you who do more than cover and test content. I hope no one took it the wrong way.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.  



2 Replies to “Where’s the Line? Project 180, Day 98”

  • I have the same problem with lines. One of my gr 12 students last semester handed every assignment in late, some after the semester was over and exams were written. But we spoke many times about how to deal with being overwhelmed and how another teacher takes off 10% a day no matter what excuse (which is against the district assessment policy btw) so they have to meet their deadlines. It’s frustrating and exhausting to meet my own deadlines when I am so flexible with students. But what else can I do?

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