There is a big difference between failing because you didn’t show up/hand anything in and trying your best but still coming up short.
I like to think that I’m a big softy, and when it comes to seeing students put in the effort and still coming up short, it breaks my heart to think that they should/could fail. In the face of failure (not at school, but within my personal life), I’ve been thinking a lot about the kids who try hard and still can’t quite get it for whatever reason within the allotted time frame.
Why fail? There’s lots of reasons, the first of which is that it doesn’t do the student any favors to pass them so that they can be helplessly lost next year. I guess this is where the issue ofyears starts to bug me. I have to admit, I think that the 1800’s one-room school houses were on to something with their extremely split grades (hello K – 9 in one room, yikes!). What would it mean if we lost the stigma of “you’re in grade five.” Do you have to be working on fifth grade everything? You could be working on grade six English, grade seven math, and grade five social studies.
We do this all the time outside of school. For instance, how many of you took swimming lessons? How many of you had to retake a level? How many of you were also taking some other hobby at the time? Were you held back in that hobby because you were held back in swimming?
The best example of this from my life is within my dance and baton training. I started dancing when I was 4, and I started baton when I was 6. I continued with baton, but discontinued with dance for a couple of years. I realized that in order to help my baton twirling skills, I needed to take some dance again. So I started back in with a beginner jazz class and an acrobatics class. I added ballet the next year. I didn’t fit the stereotypical classes, but as I progressed, I moved back into a class with girls and boys at my appropriate levels. Twirling, however, remained at a higher level the entire time. It was a mix-and-match program, and it worked great.
I completely understand that school isn’t quite as “mix-and-match-able,” since there is a standard that must be met, but with electives in high school, I don’t see why we can’t move toward a more customized learning menu. Perhaps it takes two years to get through English 30. That’s okay. Keep going! Why rush? Perhaps it takes less than a semester to get through Math 10. Great! Here’s the next class. I think I smell another niche for using the handy-dandy flipped classroom and SBG.