I'm going to tease you and make you think that I'm going to talk about assessment and grading. I'm not. One day I might but it's not here yet. I am going to share a story that could go down that path. But it won't.
1985 and I was in Kindergarten. If you know me now and you think I am kind of a "knowitallbossypants," (it's o.k. I can't see you shaking your head yes) than boy, oh, boy, you should have seen me back then. First, I was pretty blonde. Like that corn field Southern girl blonde with ringlet-ish curls. Next, my eyes were about 1/4 of my face and my eyelashes were like tiny arms. Oh, and last, my mother was amazing and a little bit insane and she would put me in tiny color coordinated things with matching accessories and shoes that squeaked.
|This is a younger picture but it's late and it was available. Just add awesome.|
I was basically the poster child for "Adorable." And everyone told me how great I was. I was an early reader, an early talker, and my pretend food was out. of. this. world. If there had been Kinder-superlatives, I would have been Dress-Up Prom Queen.
So, fast forward to the exam day. That's right. In the 80's in South Carolina you had to prove that you could do some things and do them well if you had any chance of advancing into the wild, wild world of 1st grade. From what I can remember, there were some physical challenges. You had to write letters (easy), you had to cut on a line (champ), you had to walk on a balance beam (please?), and you had to skip (FAIL). What? How could I have messed up skipping? I was an adorable, tiny, blonde human who skipped everywhere I went just for affect and to make my pony tail swing! Oh, my skipping was fine but the established rule of the classroom was that each child must walk on cement. Movement any faster than walking had to be done on the sand. Including skipping. I looked down. Cement.
But I was excited! The teacher was sitting on the cement! I just wanted to win Kindergarten.
It didn't matter. I broke the rule. I failed skipping even though I could skip. As you can tell, I'm still not over it. Maybe in 30 more years.
Today, a co-worker and friend seemed surprised that I was so "ridgid" when it came to "rule following." It was interesting to hear her say that because I totally understood why she felt that way. I tend to waiver on the far side of wacky. I don't like things to line up, I barely match, and I think dance breaks should be mandatory for any age group. The actual Senior Superlative I received in high school was "Most Original" and I have been called a hippie and a free thinker.
But the bottom line is... I never want to fail at skipping again when I know how to skip. I am perfectly happy making mistakes and failing because I tried my hardest and it just wasn't right. But I'm not going down because I didn't follow the rules.
In fact, the reason I am so confident and capable when it comes to taking risks and flexing my creativity is because I feel safe in knowing the established rules. Once you know them, you know what's important and what can be pushed. Once you agree to abide by them, you don't feel defined by them and you can put your free thinking towards an area that hasn't been defined. I love being me but I'm still that kid. I want to please and I'm kind of a "showoff."
So, as I go back in the classroom, I want to make sure that the established rules are set in stone. However, I also want my kids to be a part of the process and allow them the autonomy to contribute to the classroom procedures. I want them to feel comfortable enough to fail, but I never want that failure to be for the wrong reason.
If they break the rule, I will let them know and I won't let them off easy. That 4 in skipping has followed me for the rest of my life but it was a lesson that stuck. And sometimes, those kinds of lessons are hard to learn and not easy to teach. But I will, because I want want what's best for my kids. And, sometimes, that includes a serious chat and a humbling experience. No matter how big their giant eyes are.