When a school decides to up the ante in terms of rigor, there will be growing pains. There is no doubt about this. These growing pains will be true for all those involved.
Teachers, used to teaching one way, will experience frustration as they rework certain areas of their curriculum and instruction to meet the demands of the new, more rigorous approach. Students, used to learning in one way or used to receiving high marks, will experience angst as they learn a new way of thinking, as they learn new strategies for growing. Parents, even those who say they want their students to be challenged, will complain (sometimes very loudly) when their students go from making all A’s to making some B’s and C’s. These complaints add to the mounting frustration of both teachers and students alike.
The combination of all this frustration, angst, and criticism all too easily leads to teachers, students, and parents throwing up their hands and saying, “It’s not working. We give up. Let’s go back to the old way.” Of course, we can all see the problem in this. We end up back at square one. We end up choosing to do what is easy and convenient rather than what we know is truly in the best interests of our students. This is true for all those involved.
So what’s the answer? The truth is there is no “easy” answer, but there is an answer: stay the course. Work through the frustrations, keep hammering home the message that challenge is good and grades are less important than growth, and seek support from those around you. Teachers and administrators need to stand as one in this message in order to get the “buy-in” from the parents and students.
And one last question for those who would continue to put this off one more week, one more semester, one more school year. If not now, when?