“At least have the decency to wait until you get home before you throw it away.”

I said that to a student once, one of many things I said to students early in my career that in hindsight make me cringe. In this particular case, the student was throwing away a project I had assigned, he had turned in, and I had graded. (Teachers grade what students produce and assess what students learn.  Since I asked him to produce, I was grading.)

It hadn’t even made it out of my classroom, let alone been hung on his fridge at home.

I remember feeling incredibly disrespected. I had worked hard designing, assigning and grading a project that got him to learn what I wanted him to learn, and he just threw it away.

And, how dare he throw it out in front of me.

What I failed to see was how disrespected he was. I failed to see that he saw no value in a project in which I dictated the learning. I failed to see that the project wasn’t about learning, it was about producing. I failed to see that I created a project that was about producing enough stuff, quick enough to meet a due date so he could get a good grade. Once he had that good grade the project was meaningless to him.

I failed to honor him as a learner that day. I only saw him as a producer. He showed me that when he shoved my project into the trash.

I failed to realize that if this had been his project, designed around the things he wanted to learn the way he wanted to learn them, it would have been hanging on his fridge at home and not in my trashcan in school.

Have you had similar experiences that helped you become a more aware educator?

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Tony Baldasaro

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