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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Rigor

Posted by on in Teaching with Rigor

escape hatch

A common theme I get asked about during my workshops is student motivation, or student effort.

No matter what management techniques or systems you have in your classroom to maintain behavior, instilling a culture of working hard, or "grit" as some like to call it, is probably one of the most difficult things you can accomplish as a teacher.

A huge problem with traditional teacher-lead instruction is that the cycle of learning is "closed". You instruct, assess, grade, and move on. Students who don't want to do the work, simply don't try, turn in half empty papers, or don't study and fail. In the student's mind, it is easier to fail than to work hard for a short time and succeed (especially if they are used to this cycle and failing within it.)

By just stamping a grade on my students' papers, I was providing them with what I call an "Escape Hatch". For some students, it becomes normal to simply fail and "escape" hard work, so that is what they were inevitably doing in my classroom.

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Posted by on in Teaching with Rigor


“Life is not a matter of chance... it is a matter of choice.” ― Ka

Should we leave our students' learning up to chance? The answer seems simple enough right? But its application isn’t automatic. It is a conscious choice we must make as educators.

I have a confession to make. I have been a high school teacher for 13 years and this is the first year that I started writing down and consciously going over the learning objectives at the beginning of every class with my chemistry students. I mean, I always told my students what they were about to learn each day, and I even remember using the required SWBAT (Students Will Be Able To) format in the lesson plans I submitted to the administration weekly when I taught science in Chicago Public Schools. However, I did not ever consider or realize that simply telling my students what I was about to teach wasn’t enough.

Now I know that “just saying it” is not enough.

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Posted by on in Differentiated Instruction


Do we all define rigor the same way?

With rigor being one of the biggest buzz words in education right now, teachers and administrators have to make sure we are all on the same page regarding what we believe it means.  Like many concepts in education, rigor is a word, heard often, but never really explained. It's an expectation, an outcome, a belief - one never normed or calibrated, just expected and understood.

Like with many concepts where meaning is assumed, there seems to be a miscommunication that few are willing to address; we just "assume" we are all talking about the same thing and go about our own definitions in our own spaces, sadly in isolation.

When we use big terms like "rigor" or "learning" or "mastery", seldom do we talk about what it actually looks like and how we can achieve it. "Engagement" seems to come up often when discussing any of the above as one of the measureable factors to ensure they are happening, but that too is extremely subjective.

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Tagged in: Learning Rigor Twitter

Posted by on in Teaching with Rigor


Last night I started catching up on some time with some friends of mine - namely the doctors on Grey's Anatomy.  I don't watch it to be intellectually challenged or to be inspired or to do anything but to escape for a bit - but one episode really made me reflect on my teaching.  Imagine that?

In the episode a doctor (Dr. Amelia Shepherd) is planning a groundbreaking surgery on another character (Dr. Herman) to remove a massive brain tumor that no one but her believes is possible to remove.  And throughout the episode she is delivering a is delivering a lecture series about the upcoming procedure.

And the passion, the eloquence, the connection she had to her topic - for that hour - made me want to learn about neurosurgery.  Made me believe I could!  Made me interested in something I never had thought about being interested in or thought I could be interested in.  Made the impossible sound possible - simply because she believed it so.  

And I know it's TV, but I thought "Wow!" "If for even 10 minutes a day I could teach like that, what couldn't I do with my kids."

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

head on deskIt’s 12:35 p.m.  I’m picking up my 6th grade class from the cafeteria.  You can cut the heat with a knife.  The kids are sizzling.  We walk upstairs.  I’m waiting for something to happen.  Two boys start shoving each other and refuse to “stay hit.”  Two girls curse out their respective mothers, fathers, and grandfathers.  We stop on the fourth floor.  We’re out of emotional breath.  Thoughts of getting back to work again are repugnant to everyone—including the teacher.

            We finally get to the room.  We’re still boiling.  In desperation I reach into my desk drawer and take out a cassette tape of an old Billy Joel album, then put it into the “juke box.”

            “Get your heads down on the desk and listen!” I bellow.  Lights are shut.  Shades drawn.  “Sit back and relax,” I tell them in a calmer voice.  “Don’t think about work or anything.  Forget the world for a little while.”

            The tape ran for 15 minutes.  We came out of our dreams and I asked the class: “How did you feel while listening to the music?  What happened inside yourself?”  The children spoke freely:

            “I thought I was flying.”

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