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Tragedies of Social Promotion

I was listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show where he was interviewing former drug dealer "Freeway" Ricky Ross. Ricky had this interesting thing to say about school:

Teachers didn't hold me back, even though I didn't know how to read or write. They didn't want to hurt me. (Parphrased, not an exact quote.)

I will say that education (you'll notice the little e, there) is the solution to our greatest problems in this world. Whereas, Education (the system) is not the solution to our greatest problems, but is in fact a great contributor to our problems.

Repeating a grade or being held back is almost always a complete waste of time because the expectation is that a student is just being exposed to the exact same things they were exposed to last year.

Why in the world should we think that the exact thing that didn't work the first will magically work the second time?

Instead of going to college on a scholarship, this tennis player turned into a drug dealer, and guess where he finally learned how to read and write? That's right, in prison.

Talk about a failure on our part as educators.

So, what is the solution?

Eliminate grade levels.

Establish proficiency standards at a local level that kids need to master in order to advance.

One complaint is with this approach we won't know that a diploma at one school means the same as a diploma at another school.

Guess what?

IT ALREADY DOESN"T MEAN THE SAME THING!!!

It means that students in the state likely spent a similar amount of time sitting in a chair in a certain number of classes.

It doesn't mean that students all know the same things. It doesn't even mean that students were exposed to the same things.

A diploma from Adlai Stevenson High School is not the same as a diploma from the school I graduated from, Ferris High School.

Courageous, dare I say transformative, principals understand that they need to serve their local population, more than they serve colleges, the federal government, and even the state governments.

This started out about social promotion, but even social promotion could be beneficial if done well. The problem is we are focused on what other people think more than we are focused on the impact of our actions on the kids in front of us!


Zeroes aren’t permitted is not permitted.

I’ve done ZAP in previous schools and, like most “fixes” in education, it’s a bandaid for an arterial wound.

The issue is not that kids are getting zeroes, but it’s easier for us to say zeroes are the problem because then we don’t have to change anything. We just have to stop teaching and force kids to do the work.

In a ZAP scenario, there’s no focus on what the assignments look like or if they are meaningful. The focus is still on compliance and doing the work.

We can spend all the time in the world on doing the wrong things and not go anywhere.

We need to take a critical look at why our students aren’t doing the work.

We also need to take a critical look at what our assignments are. If they are not relevant, that is a pretty good reason for kids to not want to do them.


Gratitude

For the past eighteen months, I have worked in a school that has a large number of military-connected families.

I've learned a lot about people who join the military, and like most other people, they are good people at heart.

Like every other demographic you can think of, they want their kids to grow up and be successful adults.

The idea of going to war just isn't in my DNA, but I am grateful that other people have been willing to do that.

I hope that by serving these families daily in my school I can show my gratitude for their service not just today, but throughout the entire year.


What to measure...

If expectations without consequences is wishful thinking, then we get exactly what we ask when our expectations aren't followed.

You know what I hate? Tracking and following up on all the little things that everyone is supposed to be doing.

I hate that because I have a lot of other things that seem more important than hounding teachers for not doing their attendance every day.

Sometimes, however, I feel that my teachers need me to hold them accountable so they can hold the students accountable.

The question I still don't know the answer to is what needs to be measured to get actual results?


Relaxation

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. While that proverb is probably most well-known from the 1980 movie, The Shining, there is real truth to that.

So many educators I know put their heart and soul into supporting kids. As a result, they are often left with little time to relax and something enjoyable.

What are you doing to relax this weekend? Is your "relaxation" rejuvinating or more work for yourself?


What is Synergy?

What is Synergy?

You'd probably call it project based learning. And that would be pretty accurate. But it's not exacly that.

Synergy is a time for students to learn without limitations. Synergy is a time when students bring all their skills and knowledge together to do something that leaves an impact.

I made a little video to explain it to my students, and I'd like to share it here.

What makes synergy so awesome? It's all driven by kids. They come up with the ideas. They do the work. Teachers are very much guides on the side supporting them. It's so exciting to see what kids are creating.

I'm working on a list that shows everything that kids are doing in Synergy, but it isn't quite done, yet. Kids are writing novels, making scale models of battleships, organizing a step team, finding ways help homeless youth, raising awareness about LGBT issues, decorating our school, writing uplifting messages on origami to give to others, upcycling, organizing after-school programs (sports and chess) for a neighboring school, creating a smoothie company, a locker decorations company, a vinyl decal company, and so much more.

I can't believe what I get to witness every week with these kids. Stay tuned for more to come about this exciting chapter in our school.


In Your Voting Conversations, Don't Use Names

While everyone is getting out the vote, I'm going to challenge you to talk to your children about why you are voting the way you are voting.

Bonus points for those keeping score at home, don't use party or politician names at all.

I'm reminded of a quote that is often attributed to a former president's spouse, who said,

"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." - Eleanor

Our hope for democracy isn't about preventing or enabling certain groups' ability to vote. Our hope for democracy is having conversations that don't turn into yelling matches.

A quick story:

John and Ben were discussing how they were going to vote in the upcoming election, and used the strategy suggested above. They talked about issues and declared what they thought was important. They discussed ideas related to what they valued and found they agreed on most points.

When they went to the ballot box, they cast their votes. Upon leaving the ballot box, they said to each other, "I hope our guy wins."

When the ballots were counted, John and Ben voted differently from each other.

I believe that if we talk about the issues and not the people or propositions, we will find much more in common than we ever thought we did, even if we end up voting for different people.