I’ve been teaching inside the box this year - doing my best, but following the rules. It is not how I really want to teach. I assigned homework because we are required to assign homework and it is required to be 20% of the grade. We know that homework is an equity issue. We know that homework is rarely instructionally helpful. We assign it anyway. Why?
Discipline means “to teach”. Yet we assign punitive punishments for every little thing. Referrals, detentions, in-school-suspension, suspension. On and on. We maintain a database at my school of every minor infraction. Had to change a student’s seat? Put it in the database. The students do not know this database exists. Double-secret probation.
It is time for me to rebel. Starting now. Fourth term. The real me is going to work on Monday. No database. No detentions - which I rarely assign, but now there will be none. No referrals, with the lone exception of violence.
No homework. No. Homework. Go play. Assign yourself.
If we did schools right, kids would be excited to be there. They’d want to be there. They would trust the teachers, the teachers would care about all of their students. We’d reward creativity and independence, not docility and compliance.
The real me is going to work on Monday. The one my own kids know. The one who thinks learning is cool, likes kids who are little sassy,who ask questions, who challenge, who rebel. The one who thinks learning should be messy and engaging and new. The one who isn’t on a power trip.
I finished grades. Other teachers were talking with dismay over how many students would be receiving failing grades because of the number of missed assignments. My thought was, there’s a problem here. We’re looking at the symptoms and not at the issue. I gave out very few failing grades. My favorite disciplinary method is nagging. Where’s that assignment? Why don’t I have it yet? Give me something? Sit down right now and write it out, finish it, something. Half credit is better than a zero. I drag them from failing miserably to a D or even a C. Failure is not an option. Have a conversation. See, you did get it. Why didn’t you turn in the work? A mumbled response. Then I count the conversation. They showed me, didn’t they? A kid has to try pretty damn hard to get a failing grade from me. If you show up, try at all, care at all, together we will find a way to get you to that grade. Students email me all the time. With questions, assignments, anything.
We have to care more. We have to come out from under the bureaucracy and pettiness and endless trivial rules and the testing. We need to get back to teaching. We need to care. We need to cut some of these kids a break. We need to give them a hand up. A second chance, a third chance, as many chances as it takes. We are teaching them to fail. We need to teach them to get up and try again. And again. Until they get it.
Monday. I can’t wait until Monday. Game face on. Time to take back my classroom. Look out.