The patterns of a year include the breaks: the winter break, we have a mid-winter one, and now the spring one is on its way. There is a change of energy, and moreover, stress, that comes with the change of seasons and the realization we may not be as far along as we’d hope. We adults, by and large, are mature enough to know what we need to do to regain inspiration, motivation, and determination, but many of our students do not. Take a moment and think about how your year is going right now — take a look at the landscape–what is working, and what is not?
In How to Teach Resilience by Paul Tough, he explores the paradox of “teaching” noncognitive skills–they can’t be taught, at least not in a traditional, rote manner. “Grit” does not, nor should it, be assessed in any way, either. Many educators have misused the concept of grit, and as an unintended consequence add more stress. I know I’ve done this, and stop myself short when my “motivational” talks become “lectures.”
So what are some concrete means to teach the abstract, the unassessable? Here are some steps I take and will take again, along this journey:
- Renew the bond: start off the class with the greeting in a more formal, intentional way, as I did at the beginning of the year.
- Start the class with a minute of mindfulness: just breathe.
- Bring back our First Fifteen minutes of reading–not sure how that got in the ditch, but time to tow it out again.
- Construct/personalize progress: I’ve been starting a new approach about grades: there are some assignments that are non-negotiable, but others that students can choose to complete a set amount of points: for example, a choice of ten articles to read to complete 70 points for an annotated bibliography. I’ll report back on how this worked, or what could improve.
What sorts of routines do you start the year with, and then sometimes get off track? How do you renew safety and consistency in your classrooms? Any suggestions or ideas are more than welcome.