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.