Student Choice vs Culture.
All the literature saying that choice is central to creativity, curiosity and engagement. It sounds so reasonable and it’s what I would like. But it doesn’t take into account the 8th grade coolness quotient. I had forgotten the enormous social pressure of middle school and the social death of being see to be sucking up to the teacher or being a nerd. (In the UK it’s called being a ‘swot’. Nice eh?)
On Friday, the data was in for the Great Carbon Race and it’s time for the Carbon Court. I’m all excited, what a perfect way to show the value of good evidence!
And then the top carbon savers each wanted to back out. I’m stunned and upset. I nearly abandon the whole thing to watch telly instead. But then I shake myself and insist that the orgininal people have to be defendants, and the next four are the prosecutors. No choice, you have to. It went fine after that.
At brunch, two courageous students came to see me to let me know what had happened and that people were upset. It was for the reasons above. How sweet that they would risk coming to talk to me about it. It took a big breath to react constructively instead of with exasperation. Thinking about it over the weekend, I get it. Social pressure made middle school a hard experience for me, because I didn’t care about being ‘academic’ aka a teacher’s pet suck-up swot and nerd. See, you hate me already.
What to do from the other end of the old grading pencil?
I decided to actually grade them on more stuff than I had planned for the Kid’s Choice stuff coming up. A couple of classes had indicated that they would choose to do text book work if given the choice, I think because they wanted to pick the thing they knew I would least like AND because it would be the easiest as they try to coast to the end of the year. I’m nixing choices I don’t want them to take. Duh. And reducing the chaos of a smorgesbord of choices to this week being Kids Choice of science topic research, next week being Lego building challenges, not both mixed together.
I’ll be giving them daily points for being on task and for writing journal entries to show what they are learning each day. Hoping that’s enough to keep them honest, on task and actually allowing them to enjoy learning about something they always wanted to, because they ‘have to’.