“I am racing people, and I always win.”

If I ever waited until I “finished” a blog entry to post it, this would be an empty blog. This post is another string of thoughts I have had this week that just never made it into a complete post, but I know that you could draw your own connections between these various thoughts…

I would love to make a graph showing attitude toward school and grades. Lower the grade, the worse the attitude. Continuously failing a kid does not “teach them a lesson” or help them eventually succeed. Making the curriculum more rigorous does not lead students to be more successful.

We spend a lot of time forcing kids to do things when they are not ready. Their first experience with a great many things is failure. I think teachers believe that it is just part of the process to fail something when you start, and slowly build up to success.

My daughter is seven and has never learned how to ride a bike. It just seemed as though there was never a great need to learn. There have been attempts over the years but each time she resisted so we never pushed it—it just did not matter whether she knew how to ride. Yesterday we were planning on going on a bike ride as a family at our local rail-trail. Suddenly it dawned on us that she could not ride, didn’t even have a bike, but really wanted to go. I dug an old bike out of the garage and handed it over to her on the driveway. The first time it was a bit shaky and I held her tight not even letting her wobble. The second time I held onto her shoulder to help her balance. The third time I ran next to her. The fourth time I just helped her on and let her go. The fifth time she did the whole thing by herself. Each attempt she experienced success, not failure, she knew what it was like to ride with the wind blowing back her hair. When she fell in subsequent attempts, she knew what it was like to feel success, and gathered herself up and did not feel like a failure. The earlier success gave her encouragement to try it again. Later on that day I saw her streaking up and down the driveway. At one point she stopped to come in and get a drink. I asked her what she was doing. She said, “I am racing people, and I always win.”

Do teachers fall into two groups?  One who never let go of their kids, and one that never holds on and lets them fall and expects them to get back up with out any help?

Can you imagine what it must be like to spend seven hours a day, everyday, in a place with people that label you a “D” or an “F,” a loser, a failure. Everyday entering a race and never winning, never even knowing what the race is for or which direction to run? And if you even decided one day to try your best you would still not be labeled a success?

Scenario for you—a bit extreme but…you have student who has done nothing all year. Refused to do oral presentations, never turns in homework, and forget about studying. On the day of a presentation she gets up for the first time all year and delivers a speech she wrote for homework—the first thing she has done all year. Her 5 minute project on Civil War Battles is 2 minute speech about D-Day. She walks proudly back to her seat thinking she has nailed it….what do you do…she entered the race, you get to decide whether she is a winner or loser. Don’t give me any of the mushy garbage about telling her what a good job she did but yada yada…That only sounds good in your head, not hers. She thinks she is an A. Do you tell her she is an F?

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