Forget prison; school is the Matrix.
When you look at a kid, what do you see? A genius? A business person? An artist? A leader? Someone to lift up? Someone who lifts you? Someone to limit? Someone to control? Someone you love? Someone who fills you with dread? Someone who could be doing so much more, just not here, not at school? Do you see what I saw – what I sometimes still see – a scrolling cavalcade of assessment data? A balanced scorecard? A bar graph? A line graph? A scatterplot? Do you know a kid’s chance to pass a test better than you know him or her? Is this how you are, or is this how the system has trained you to be? What is the first thing you look for at the beginning the year? At the beginning of a school day? Of a class? What are you asked to look for at school? What is the meta-game? If it’s turtles all the way down, when do you and I step off the ride and really wake up? When do we resist harmful practices instead of decrying them? When do we make back-to-school night fair-assessment night? When do we make parent conferences abolish-grading briefings? School isn’t education; our brains just think it tastes like education.
In many ways, despite all I’ve learned, I feel like I’m at play inside the Matrix. I want to exit the pod. Here’s my challenge to myself for 2010-2011:
- We have daily community meetings.
- I negotiate content with my students.
- Every kid iterates an excellent work of art with peer critique.
- Every kid publishes a piece of excellent work for an audience outside school.
- Every kid receives feedback from an audience of community members from inside and outside school.
- Every kid learns a skill outside school, makes something excellent outside school, and shares her experience with her community inside and outside school.
- Every kid completes an excellent service project and shares it to inspire others.
- Every kid understands why we don’t use grades and willingly endorses our assessment practices to parents.
- Every kid self-assesses daily and every kid gets feedback from me daily.
- I do everything every kid does.
I need help; please sign on.