How to make my blood boil: Imagine we’ve just had an intensely wonderful class discussion on a weighty topic. I ask you to answer a few reflective questions independently via short answer response. Then, you raise your hand and ask, “How many points is this worth?”
“17,000” is my usual response as I flash a smile to mask my silent scream.
The “how many points” question isn’t what I actually hate; it’s the implication behind that question that I find insulting. If I say that, for instance, a short answer assignment is worth 50 points, boy, my students will break their pencils giving me thorough, thoughtful answers. If, though, I say the exercise isn’t worth any points, that it’s just a practice round of writing for feedback, guess what happens? Yup, half-hearted, barely there answers.
On Thursday, I went to my dark place when, in one class period, three different freshmen asked, “How many points is this worth?”
Now, I understand that they’re nervous, especially as my freshies head into their very first round of final exams this week. I get it. There’s pressure. Everyone knows these semester grades’ll be engraved on transcripts and eventually viewed by college admissions officers who hold the power to determine the entire path of lives, success, and ultimate happiness.
I’m unwilling to feed the idea that the only reason to complete an assignment is for points. How many points is this assignment worth? An incalcuable amount. It’s worth doing because the information is worth knowing. It’s worth challenging yourself in a worthy endeavor. It’s always worthwhile to throw your heart and head into your work. That’s what all of this is worth to me. I wouldn’t lead this class, give this lecture, assign this task if I didn’t think all of this is worthwhile, if I didn’t think my students were worthy of my time and attention. Have faith, young people. This assignment, today’s small lesson, is just one step in the epic journey of making you worthy of being a citizen of our world. (I was, alas, far less eloquent when I gave a lathery version of this speech to Thursday’s class. It’s true; there was spittle.)
All of this reminds me of John Green’s World History Crash Course (note the first 56 seconds of the video below), which I designed and posted today as my new classroom computer desktop wallpaper. Feel free to grab and post a copy of your own.
Now, I’m not one to linger in the Land of Negativity. When I see a problem, I’m a regular Fix-It Felix Jr. (Annoying, I know.) To that end, I’ve decided to launch a massive – and terrifying – project with my freshmen this spring designed to change, or at least challenge, their mindset. A million particulars still need to be decided, but I’m cannonballing into the waters of self-directed, project-based learning. (Thanks for the inspiration, 20Time and Kevin Brookhouser.)
More details will follow, but basically I’m going to guide my students through an experience where they choose a worthwhile project to complete (somewhat) on their own. I’ll grade only the process, not the product. I promise, I’ll keep blogging about my adventure and post materials as I finish creating/trying them out with my students. In the meantime, you can see what I’m up to with this free and reusable Prezi.
Oh, this is gonna be crazzyyy, people. It could be a humiliating disaster or the single greatest thing I’ve ever brought to my classroom. Time will tell. Either way, I hope to make some valuable points with this worthwhile investment of our time.
Teach on, everyone!
Click here to read my 20Time Update #1.
Click here to read my 20Time Update #2.
Click here to read my 20Time Update #3.
Click here to read my 20Time Update #4.
Click here to read my 20Time Update #5.
Click here to read my 20Time Update #6.
Click here to read my 20Time Final Wrap-Up Post.