I went to a local library the other day with my children.

We discovered a maker-space and asked if we could print out some lego. We could, so we did. And as I watched the lego piece build up layer by layer, I was mindblown. But my kids wanted to check out the movie and comic book sections, so we wandered off.

Final cost $5.05 and 1.5 hours of time. Seemed expensive… but I had no benchmark to measure from, so I paid.

It made me think about the last few days of my school year.

On exam review day a student challenged their final mark on both the exam and the culminating task. I am always open to these discussions and encourage students to think critically about their needs and wants in my classes right up to the last day of school.

Throughout the semester I slowly move the students from a marks based sense of learning to a competency base of learning. My aim is to help my students see themselves as skilled, not numbered. As such at the beginning of each semester, I explain that each student will be able to explain and describe their learning without any references to marks by semester end.

This student looked at their final marks and asked ‘Why’s my mark was so low?’

‘What have you done? What have you learned?’ I asked.

‘I haven’t learned anything obviously…’

‘Then your mark is on point, what have I missed?’

‘What do you mean?’ Anger bubbled in the question.

‘I really enjoy teaching this course, so sometimes I get caught up in the activities, the conversations, and trying the foods that my students make. At the end of the day I often write down my thoughts, but I do not always share these thoughts with you. That is one way I learn. When you think about your experiences in this class, what have you learned from them? Have you learned more than what I observed in class? What did I miss?’

The student then proceeded to explain their thoughts and observations from class, sometimes there was curriculum connections, other times just keen observation.

Ultimately, the student demonstrated a depth of learning that indeed did not surface on their final summative tasks.

Final cost 1.5 hours of my time.

What should I have done with their final marks?

What would you have done?

being iterate

I have watched my kids’ immersion in creation and design for some time now. Maddie 8 and Jake 6 exist in a state of creative evolution that sometimes is breathtaking. When I am caught in their ‘Flow’ of activity, I get lost.

The most remarkable thing about their process is the effortlessness of it. In it, I see the seeds of future design, experiential learning and much of what we secondary teachers are pursuing – the elusive modern learning motivation.

My kids can shift from computer to crayon, to theatrics on a whim. And when I key into their creative frequencies I witness storytelling, performance, monologue, pantomime – pure drama, pure joy.

Untethered and unlimited.

For this single reason, I confess that I am ridiculously and irrationally jealous of my elementary teacher colleagues – they get to see this side of my children every day.

And they are completely willing to create anything, over and over and over again. I will take some fault for this. I draw and write and cook and get fascinated frequently. I get messy and random often. I lose myself, find some of my parts, and begin again.

This process is blowing my mind. In its elegance, I can see how higher designs can be achieved. Nonlinear processes start with unbound potential at an early age. Both of my kids revel in the non-linear. I love that they lead me into their nonlinear open spaces. But still, I fear the future.

So, to make this post a bit shorter, I will cut to the chase – this fire may burn out. I do not want it to, but the curious spirits of my children may not make it to high school.

I’ve seen it too many times.

Something about getting marks, something about puberty, something about peer pressure, something about stress, something about executive function- so many somethings that could erode growth mindset.

Grade 9 may be the beginning of a something-like-an-ending. So, I am mapping out my counter strategy like a navy seal, making every logistical chess move to keep the creative in every day. To make open space for fun, I tell them to skip homework, play video games, and make choppy movies on their leap pads. My hope is that I am inoculating them against the slow rumbling onset of adolescence.