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Words of Wisdom: Morning Minutes, May 23, 2016

Over the last week there have been a number of student posts on my blog. One of the requirements of our Real-World Writing Project was to join a bigger conversation, which meant that kids had to get their voices into the larger world by posting a comment or question on a website, blog, etc. I told the kids that if they had nowhere else to post, they could post to my blog. Some did, and I am so thankful, for it gives me some real feedback on their experiences in 219. What’s funny is that many who posted expressed to me in person their anxiety over being judged by others, fearing their words wouldn’t be significant. And though I am not sure how others will judge their words, I know how I have judged them. I find them deeply significant, wise words from honest mouths. Thank you all for joining the conversation. Below are their words. I have placed in bold the parts that I found most resonant.

“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.”  –Zab

“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.” –Kasia

“It’s hard stepping out of that “hand-holding” stage when it comes to our work. Personally I am a perfectionist. I am used to doing exactly what is asked of me, especially from my teachers. I may constantly ask for guidance or “if this is okay” because in the end I strive for that good grade and the teachers approval. All my life I have been told exactly what to do and basically given a rubric for everything. Now that I am in control of something, my mind fills with ideas, but also worries if any of those ideas are acceptable. Therefore, I go to you for guidance. I realize that we need to learn on our own and have faith in ourselves but at the same time that’s stepping way out of our comfort zone, worrying on “am I doing this right?” I do not think that you have failed us, but I believe we are in a state of shock. We have never been given the chance to choose our own path in learning and now that we have, we are worried, and our first instinct is to go to you for acceptance.” –Kasia

“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!” –Ash

“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!” –Peyton

“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.” –Hannah

“Personally I am not surprised that you have interest in this talk and would like to change education Sy, from what I’m familiar with you are a movable person and receive a lot of respect in this community. I’m just wondering though, what are you going to change? You and Ken Robinson (and some students) want to get education out its personal death valley, but where will you take it to? A tropical forest with a lot more vegetation and life? If education needs to change and isn’t the best it can be right now, how are you proposing it can reach that level? Also, rain brought life to that dead valley, not a factor that was already included. You live in the same world us the rest of us, it’s not a rare thing to contact you. The flowers were already at the bottom of the valley, hidden because of lack of water. But students exist already here, what can you provide that’s new? How will you change education, what do you think needs changing, and is it that you think education is awful right now? Why is not perfectly fine to you?” –Kali

“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.” –Amarise

“Ever since i was small, my teachers would hand me projects or papers with everything to do. They give me a place to put my name, the date, and a title. They even go the lengths to tell me how to title a paper so it’s correct. All i have to do is look something up in a book. Then when i was nearly seven-teen i pop into the class of a crazy English teacher who has a interesting perspective on life. He actually gives me the reins and let’s me find things out on my own. All i got to do is tell them what i’m doing. Make sure it follows the lines, and then show it. Syrie is a magnificent teacher. This is his first time doing an honors class and he’s been a experimenting scientist doing a bunch of concoctions, but when it comes down to it. I find it lovely how he teaches.” –Holly

“Along the lines of being told what to do and being programmed to just follow directions that were given since we have entered our school lives, I think that we have been programmed since birth. All our lives we follow directions from our parents and older people. We have to ask for permission on almost everything we do and we’re told that until we are 18 we are not old enough or mature enough to make our own decisions. So now we are in Mr. Syries L.A. class and we are all of a sudden given the responsibility to choose whatever we want and there are almost no directions or guidelines to follow. True to what we’ve been taught all out lives, we need to ask permission, we understand the concept that we can choose what we want but we still need to get the reassurance that you are okay with what we chose. I don’t believe you have failed either, I just believe you have work with what we have been taught our whole lives.”


“As a student and a child, I know that parents can get overwhelmed and slightly crazy when it comes to their child in school. But then you have the teacher that wants to do the best they can for their students. While not all teacher succeed in this, they still try. This often creates issues with parents, only because every person is different and has different ideas of good education. As a teacher, this is not new information to you. But my point in saying this is that what I personally think really matters is you trying to do your best for your students. The parents may not always be happy with your methods but the parents are not the ones that you see everyday. They are not the ones that depend on your teaching. Even though your mind may wander to what the parents want, does that truly matter? I would rather have teachers focus on their students and what they think is best rather than the parents. Though parents are in charge of making sure their child grows up right and is a functioning human being. But it is the teacher’s job to make sure that the child has a proper education.” –Keegan

“Syrie, I do not believe that you have failed. I do however believe that you do not understand why it is so difficult for us to accept that we are free to do as we wish in your class. We have always been told what to write, how to write, what’s right to say and what is wrong and even how to say it. So, when you give us free reign to do a project on something we actually enjoy and care about we are cautious. Its not that you have failed us or have not gained our trust. We just can not believe that a teacher is not controlling our thoughts and work, it is not you though, it is what has been programmed into us since the beginning of our school lives. You have not failed, you have simply begun to open our eyes to a more open learning system and it took us longer than you expected for us to accept the system.” –Kaila

“I feel as though I’m just dragging through school, my only motivation I have really ever had to get good grades is just so my mom doesn’t get mad at me. I know that even with honors/AP classes I could have a 4.0 GPA. But I don’t have an incredible drive to do that. I know I do have a great work ethic when it comes to working out everyday, and striving to become an elite athlete. I wonder why I just don’t have the ability to work through school. So I wonder Syrie will this new grading system have the potential to elevate my education to an elite status? –Jacob

“Grades are a huge part of any education. I want to go to college and that requires good grades and even more so if I want to be a college athlete. But when every class I have grades different how do we know how much I know? People around the country have different learning standards. How can we try to keep a fair society if some people are not getting the same education or are being graded differently? Every week I come home and hear my mom who is a teacher talk about the crappy standards she has to teach and how every teacher she works with has lower standards than she likes to have for her students. I have always wanted to do something in education and everyday I see the unfair grading scales being used, my mom told the other day changing these unfair grading ways and useless standards would be a great job for me. The more I have thought about what my mom said the more aware I have become about our school´s policies. I think what you are doing with the grades for your next couple groups of students will bring the change needed for schools! We need to have more even standards throughout our country.” –Meghan

“This TED talk speaks truth, I agree 100%. For your students to thrive they have to have different environments sometimes you may need to “water” some a little more than others. I believe that by giving every student an “A” next year you may be giving students that normally don’t get this chance, a chance to thrive instead of worrying if they will fail. I know from personal experience because of this last year that sometimes, if you miss a lot of school, you thank god for just letting you pass. I was and still am scared to death of having to re-do some classes. I was a 3.7 GPA student, so for me to worry if my D will drop or will go up is not normal to me. So in all I think you’re doing a great thing Sy; you’re giving kids a chance to thrive and succeed.” –Tyger

“I love your first sentence, You can’t change it, unless you change it. You have to have the guts to change it. You can’t wait for someone else to come along. You will keep waiting and waiting and nothing will change. Amarise made a good point. You have to be patient. You will keep trying to change it but you can’t expect everything to change in just one day or in a week. Sometimes you have to wait years before seeing even the smallest change. Keep working each day, keep building your rocket ship!” –Nika

“That’s a very inspiring TED talk I see why you got encouraged and excited about it. I truly think it’s great how much you care for your current and upcoming students and how well you’re showing you care. You are constantly putting in effort to make our lives as students better. As a student who has had teachers that don’t try to make learning fun and interesting it means a lot to see you looking for new ways to make our student lives better. Always coming up with new ideas to better the future. I’m excited to see what the future holds. Thank you for everything you have done for my education.” –Lelie

“Mr Sy,
As this week of teacher appreciation draws to a close, I felt I couldn’t, with good conscious, not send some form of message to you. Coming into this year, all I saw school as was a game. A game that I played very well, but one that didn’t really mean anything to me. As a young child, learning was my greatest passion and my favorite pastime. However, the education system in place in our nation has, in part, taken away that gift of love for learning from me. School has become about having an A at the end of the year. As the year has gone on though, you have begun to re-instate that curiosity and love for learning in me. By making me consider the true value of school and what I should truly be getting out of it, you have helped me shed the tunnel vision I’ve had regarding school. At first I was resentful of your class next year, for I felt cheated that I would not benefit form your ‘giving A’s’. Then I realized that by discussing your reasoning behind this crazy experiment, you indirectly made me think about how I perceive school and what it really means to me. You’ve helped me begin strive for education again, not for a letter on a piece of paper. You’ve helped me start to love to learn again. So thank you for this Sy. Thank you for giving me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.” –Anya

Happy Monday, all. Sorry for the REALLY long post.


2 Replies to “Words of Wisdom: Morning Minutes, May 23, 2016”

  • Hey Sy Guy,
    I figured if you liked getting feedback from your students then I’d give you some more, for the assignment of course. I don’t do this kind of thing for kicks and giggles. I really enjoy your class and I like the way you teach. I like most of the assignments and they don’t stress me out like a lot of classes because of your late work policy, which I am a fan of. By the way I just used an adverb clause. I look forward to wearing a singlet in your class today as well. See you next period or, depending on when you read this, tomorrow or something.


  • Wonderful and insightful comments from all of these students. I enjoyed reading them all,I had read most of them at some point, but having them all together like this brings the idea of changing education to a higher elevation, together students and teachers can and will bring about change, one step at a time. The journey you started is well on it’s way. Let these students comments only strengthen you and guide you.

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