Saturday, March 7, 2015

Saturday Sayings: Rigor - Use Caution

I firmly believe in high expectations.  Heroes of my profession, like Donald Graves and Regie Routman, have made it clear that expectations must be high and are rarely high enough.  Having said that, I'd be willing to bet the farm that both Graves and Routman would echo Burgess' cautionary thought about the word "rigor."  

That word put a bad taste in my mouth from the first moment I heard it used to describe what should take place in my classroom, as well as in thousands of others across the nation.  After reading its definition in Burgess' book, it's no wonder I had that reaction.  Check out these synonyms: strictness, severity, stringency, toughness, harshness, rigidity, inflexibility, intransigence.  Like Burgess points out in his book, the educational world obviously wouldn't intend for rigor to translate into the classroom exactly as it is defined in the dictionary, yet I ask, "What exactly does rigor look like?"  The possibilities for misinterpretation scare me, as do the potential byproducts.

Does rigor simply mean ten times more of the same, resulting in quantity over quality?
Does rigor turn into regurgitation?
Does rigor lead to meaningless busy work or "stuff" about learning instead of real learning?
Does rigor produce a stiff and sterile environment?
Does rigor result in jumping through hoops instead doing what's best for kids?
Does rigor lead to more high stakes testing?
I could go on.

Rigor doesn't have to result in any of the above side effects.  What if rigor invites kids to rise to the challenge due to content that is so relevant and meaningful to their lives and their futures? That's surely something Graves and Routman would most definitely herald.  My worry is that the opposite occurs, and its misinterpretation will cause irreparable damage to our system but more importantly to our clientele.  Use caution.  The ever-present question of "Why?" must keep us grounded.  

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  1. Yes, I know there is a lot of debate surrounding that word. Whenever I hear it my mind goes to rigor mortis which I'm sure is not helpful either! :) I read a FB discourse the other day about how that would should never be associated with Kindergarten. I wish there was one standard definition but everyone has different expectations of that means. To me, it's digging deeper into our objectives. Applying our knowledge in different ways. Authentically teaching creativity and critical thinking. I could go on--you know that's my thing! But your right, it has to be done with caution!

    Not Just Child's Play

    1. Miss Trayers, your definition sounds great, and I know the ways you apply it are sound.

  2. I agree, Tammy, there seems to be confusion over this word rigor. I sometimes see that misconception that you listed- doing something ten times the same way and also the busy work. I like your question that we must ask ourselves before asking our students to do something- why should they do it? I will add "how" to that as in how is this going to help them grow as a learner? Thank you for always reminding us to be reflective in our teaching.
    Conversations in Literacy

    1. Lori, adding "how" is a great suggestion. If it doesn't help them as learners, then maybe it's not worth the time.

  3. Hi Tammy, I'm hooked on your Saturday Sayings now. (: I see rigor in a very different way. To me, it just incorporates higher level thinking and learning, high expectations and authentic, real-world assessments.

    I have a question for you, what do you know about the term "experiential learning"?
    Have a great Sunday! I'm on spring break! Woohoo!
    The Caffeinated Classroom

    1. Ann, I love the way you see rigor. That fits in with my philosophy too. I haven't heard of experiential learning. Enjoy your break!

  4. Your Saturday Sayings always make me think, Tammy. I love that. I suppose that is why I keep coming back for more! I believe I have very high expectations for my students--in fact I know I do. Sometimes that means I have to build confidence in my little ones who have found everything in school "easy" before stepping into my classroom. I want them to be challenged, but not to the point of frustration and I think that is a fine line--especially for those little "perfectionists" out there. As for that word rigor--I love the idea of continually asking ourselves why (and how as Lori suggested) to keep things in perspective.

    P.S. Can you tell I'm catching up on my blog reading today? Ha! ;-)

    1. Crystal, confidence and a can-do attitude are so important. Also, letting them know that smart kids aren't kids who know everything. They're kids who keep trying and ask questions. They persevere. Oh my, do we ever have lots to teach them about life. P.S. Yes, I noticed! :)