This past week my 7 year old son and I have been on spring break. On Wednesday 3/27 the #sbgchat discussed redos and re-takes. Here is the Storify archive of the chat which I had to read because I was driving home from a day of skiing with my family. My teaching life requires me to think about redos and re-takes everyday as I try to effectively implement standards based grading. This week while at home with my son, I witnessed some real-life redos and re-takes I'd like to share here. Watching Tater reminded me that I am only scratching the surface with redo and re-takes in my classroom. This post will serve as a reminder to me that I need to keep revising my process for the sake of my students.
Tater the Spy
One morning as I was working on a project for my math students (will be shared on my classroom blog), my son and his buddy were pretending to be spies. Tater is a bit obsessed with James Bond at this time (yes, he is only 7 and yes, we watch James Bond movies with him - shame on me!). Anyway, Tater and his buddy were trying to sneak up on me and surprise/SCARE me as I worked on my computer. It was great because the first time they barely made it down the stairs before I heard them. At that time I had no idea what they were doing until they informed me that they were spies trying to sneak up on me. Upon hearing this I told them they needed a "redo" and sent them back upstairs to try again. On their second try they got closer before I heard them. Once I "caught" them, I complimented them on getting closer and then gave them another redo. Tater stated that he wanted me to pretend I did not hear them so that they could sneak up on me. I informed him that if he wants to be a spy, then he has to learn to sneak up on me using stealth - no sound, banging, or bringing attention to. They continued to practice and each time they got closer and closer experimenting, revising, and problem-solving. They were not punished for having to try multiple times. I did not tell them they had only one attempt and then they were done. Although they became frustrated during the process, they never gave up and found it fun to keep trying.
I immediately put myself into my classroom and the learning process my students go through to prove their understanding. Why is it I can patiently guide my son through the revision/re-take process, yet I struggle with my students. I find it interesting that my students also would like me to pretend that they know something, similar to Tater's request for me to "pretend" I couldn't hear him. In my classroom I drift in and out of "old school" and "new school". When I am in "new school" mode I am embracing the standards based research and listening to the incredible educators in my professional learning network. I am patient with the students, I encourage them to try again and give them hints and instruction that will help them revise their thinking and understanding. I differentiate between silly mistakes and true misconceptions to help each individual student. I push and do not give them an option to quit. I work hard to stay in this mode, but every once in a while I revert back to "old school" mode. My regressions are due to peer pressure from my colleagues, parents, and students who don't want to work hard to prove their understanding. Those of you trying to implement standards based grading know how challenging it is for every stake holder involved.
Tater the Skier
I think I mentioned that my son is seven. He has taken two full days of lessons and has a nice foundation of the skiing fundamentals. During spring break we took our first family ski trip. The night before we left, Tater was anxious about riding the chair lift and even got a bit teary. Skip and I assured him that we would not put him into any situation that he would not be able to handle and that we would be there to support and help him. All went well with the first chair lift ride. We took Tater on beginner runs which were easy for him, however, he did not need to turn to get down the hill. After lunch Skip and I decided that for Tater to learn how to turn, we needed to challenge him a bit, sort of force the issue. We took him to an intermediate run which pushed Tater to the edge. At the top of the run, Tater completely melted down and threw a fit. He gave up, quit and according to him was not going to ski down the hill. Unfortunately for him, I was not going to be hiking back up to the top so we could ski down the beginner hill, so we were at an impasse. Skip and I let Tater throw his fit which took about 10 minutes. We calmly waited and when he was calm enough to listen we explained the situation to him. He was going to have to figure out how to get down this run by making turns and we would be guiding him the entire way. Skip was downhill from Tater guiding his turns. I was uphill ready to pick up skis and poles as they dispersed when he fell. I yelled "pizza turn" (the new terminology replacing "snow plow") when it was time to turn. It was extremely painful at the beginning with lots of tears and declarations of quitting from both Tater and Skip. I told both of my boys that quitting was not an option, we were going to get down this hill and if we all worked together we would be successful. Tater's turned improved each time. As we made our way down the hill, we glanced up and saw the ground we had just covered. When Tater looked up and saw what he had skied down it gave him confidence and the will to continue. In the moment, it was a struggle and at times extremely unpleasant, however when we got to the bottom the three of us collectively felt a sense of accomplishment. On the chair ride up we complimented Tater on his effort and perseverance and we continued to point out the steepness of the hill he had just skied down. The rest of the day, Tater had no problems making turns. That hill we took him down was all about re-dos and re-takes. Every turn he made was a re-do/re-take and it taught him how to turn his skies. We had to challenge him on this hill because he would not turn on the easier hills.
This experience translates to my classroom in many ways. Again, it interesting that I found the strength to push my son yet I sometimes have a hard time pushing my students. I have learned a lot about "cognitive dissonance", that place where learners are extremely uncomfortable and struggle. Our educational system does not allow for students to spend time in this place, we are to rescue them and make them comfortable. I purposely put my son into a situation where he was uncomfortable and struggling and he learned - he was kicking and screaming, but he learned. Because of the "pacing guide" I am forced to follow, I cannot put my students into this state often enough, nor do I know how to do it properly in an educational setting. I feel I am doing a disservice to my students by not allowing them to have this experience of discomfort while learning mathematics. I need to explore how I can create these experiences with the confidence I had with my son as he tackled skiing.