Few TPRS listserve posts have inspired me like post #90514 from Laurie Clarcq, from which I have here pulled a few gems. In this text, Laurie absolutely gets to the soul of teaching.
Another Laura had said on the list: “I, their teacher, have not yet figured out how to …keep the ones at the front and the back all on the same train.”
Laurie responded first to that common idea that everybody learns at the same pace:
“Well….actually….that is an illusion that education is trying to sell us and the public we serve. That doesn’t happen. Never has. Never will. Not in the classroom. Not in the church service. Not even at the most frenetic concert of fans. Someone will always be off in their own little world.”
Then Laurie brought up an idea that is very close to my heart – that of staying in the moment with the kids, the fear, all of it:
“The great thing about teaching is that we have the chance…once in a while…to reach out and bring [unconscious kids] back in…if not into the lesson…then at least back into the moment with us.
“It’s about the MOMENT.
“That’s why slow enough is important. So the moments don’t rush by.
“That is why Personalization is so vital. So the moment connects with the recipient.
“Learning, true learning, is about the world communicating itself with the mind, the heart, the soul.
“This is what TPRS allows us to do. And grading has little to nothing to do with it.”
In the above comment Laurie is shredding the entire idea of evaluating kids. She suggests that evaluation is a complete farce, done only as a received idea and because we have to. Laurie states that, in the true world, data is never going to communicate one speck of how much is actually learned by a child.
If one were to reflect on it, there is deafening research now that the tell and test method of grading is REALLY off, that since the kids forget what they learned for the test within twenty-four hours, it is really a bogus instrument. Such research supports Laurie’s point here, that learning is not really something that can be measured.
In this next gem, Laurie suggests that the real purpose of teaching, grading, all of it, is simply to keep the kid in the room. To keep the kid connected to something that has meaning. To keep the kid involved in something interesting. Any teacher that does that cannot be said to have failed a child. Thus:
“That is why you don’t want them to leave the language classroom. That would be soooooo many moments lost.”
“This too is the knowledge, the truth to keep in your heart, and to communicate with your students every chance you get.
This next paragraph suggests that we cannot use grades to force kids to learn, that education cannot be forced on anyone but must and will be received by the learner as a conscious choice that they make.
“School is a GAME. Education is found, accepted, or taken…not given. No one can give you knowledge. They can give you information, theories, insights and their own conclusions…..but until the student takes it, and responsibility for it , on their own…it is not acquisition. It’s not knowledge. It’s not anything. It’s just equipment in the GAME.
“There are some good, actually excellent, reasons for playing the game and playing it well. Certainly there are many many social, personal, and financial benefits. But it is not soul-defining. It’s not value-inducing.
“It’s the moments that take place during the game that make playing it truly valuable…and those very rarely (at least in my 26 years of playing…) the result of a great lesson plan.
“They are almost always the result of connection and communication.
“Now that is all well and good in theory. How about reality? We are all left to our own individual and professional devices. You know your students and your system. Follow your heart. Lead with your convictions. But be careful not to sacrifice anyone in the process…especially yourself.
Those last two words must not be overlooked. Too many teachers trash their own lives in some kind of frenzy to please others. We must take care not to sacrifice ourselves in the grading and assessment game, which is a point that I hope came through in a few of my recent listserve posts about assessment – that simplifying how we grade is, in the current climate throughout our nation, a necessary thing.
“So I do my grades as honestly as possible. And then I get back to the moments.”
Thank you so much, Laurie, for speaking so with such bravery in a data-driven world. I certainly am not going to stop giving tests, because I want a paycheck, but I am going to trust even yet more what my intuition has been screaming at me all these years, that we are there in those classrooms for those kids and nothing else.