Suppose We Ask the Tough Questions…



I’ve been reading The Hardest Questions Aren’t on The Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School by Linda Nathan. She explains how key to the reform at their school is to develop a philosophy, “a unifying framework” from which their focus on improvement could evolve. I just put my iPad down and thought, “I tried to guide my colleagues this way for several years, and some colleagues tried to help, but without leadership, that floundered.”??

She discussed Fenway Park HIgh School’s guiding Habits of Mind (PERCS: Perspective, Evidence, Relevance, Connections, Supposition). I had adapted that to my sixth grade self-contained classroom years ago.??Nathan also explained: “At Fenway, we asked a particular set of questions: What is my perspective on this? What evidence do I have? What is the relevance? What other connections can I make? And suppose that…? Students had to apply a Habits of Mind framework to school projects and exhibitions, even to homework. The PERCS framework we devised worked well at Fenway.” At her new school, the staff also needed to “own” their framework and??spent two years framing their focus: RICO – Refine, Invent, Connect, Own.

Since I’m familiar with PERCS, I think I’ll pursue??that again:


I want my students to develop the habits of mind that engender thoughtful planning, personal reflection, and positive life focus.??


Right now students barely earn Ds; they are satisfied with this. If I plan for units of learning to which PERCS reflection can occur, then students should have more buy-in and work for a more satisfying experiences while earning better grades.??


There is no relevance for teaching if the students have no relevance for learning. Therefore, this idea for curricula design with PERCS is relevant.??


I think of the engagement my sixth grade students had with project learning, and all this “teach to the test” must stop if we are to re- engage students with the learning process and practice the habits of lifelong learners. ??




Suppose PERCS were evident in my teaching? Then I would think from the perspective of how we learn relevant to our students and from where they come.

Suppose teaching planned for how we learn? Then lessons would first of all include choices, secondly include social outlets, and thirdly would include the possibility of success.??

Suppose teaching realized community expectations? Then sharing successes should be frequent and easily visible.

Those suppositions would render my teaching more relevant for students who could then connect better with learning and create the evidence of their learning despite the test results. Who wants to learn with the fear of “the test?”. For that matter, I dread teaching for “the test.”

So what could this look like???

I could start out with menus for learning, the results to which students could display their reflections/products in displays around the community, in the school, and online. It would involve projects with student choice, social interaction, and community displays.??

I searched my hard drive, and found the web page I had developed with our Habits of Mind rubric and recreated it for use next year as a starting point, pending revisions as I develop this process.

I am reviving my philosophy of learning and teaching and implementing it into my classroom again; we’ve had so much change in leadership, and such a focus on “the test.” And Linda Nathan reminded me of why I began teaching…

Here I go… ??How about you?

Suppose you ask the tough question: What is important in school? ??

Suppose you follow your philosophy? How will your students benefit?