Changing the Rules of School

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One of the things I found myself saying over and over last year was that the one thing that students learn more than anything else in school is how to succeed at school. As a great book by Robert Fried suggests, it’s all about “The Game of School.”

So much so that when we do bring change to our classrooms, students resist.

I remember when once, on the first day of the semester, I told students in my Expository Comp class that I wasn’t going to grade their writing, and that we’d arrive at their course grades via a negotiation that reflected on their portfolio of work at the end of the course. Many of them freaked.* “What do you mean no grades? How will we know if we’re getting better?”

They were not pleased.

I hear similar stories all the time from other teachers who have tried to change the rules of the game. And it’s not just kids that get a little crazy. Often, parents don’t like it either when we divert from the script.

But here’s the deal: The main objective shouldn’t be learning how to win at school. It should be learning how to learn and how to thrive in a pretty complex world.

It’s time to change the rules, and the change the game of school. It’s time to make it less about winning and more about learning, the kind that really matters.

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