RIP School Survival Forums
August 2001 - June 2017

The School Survival Forums are permanently retired. If you need help with quitting school, unsupportive parents or anything else, there is a list of resources on the Help Page.

If you want to write about your experiences in school, you can write on our blog.

To everyone who joined these forums at some point, and got discouraged by the negativity and left after a while (or even got literally scared off): I'm sorry.

I wasn't good enough at encouraging people to be kinder, and removing people who refuse to be kind. Encouraging people is hard, and removing people creates conflict, and I hate conflict... so that's why I wasn't better at it.

I was a very, very sensitive teen. The atmosphere of this forum as it is now, if it had existed in 1996, would probably have upset me far more than it would have helped.

I can handle quite a lot of negativity and even abuse now, but that isn't the point. I want to help people. I want to help the people who need it the most, and I want to help people like the 1996 version of me.

I'm still figuring out the best way to do that, but as it is now, these forums are doing more harm than good, and I can't keep running them.

Thank you to the few people who have tried to understand my point of view so far. I really, really appreciate you guys. You are beautiful people.

Everyone else: If after everything I've said so far, you still don't understand my motivations, I think it's unlikely that you will. We're just too different. Maybe someday in the future it might make sense, but until then, there's no point in arguing about it. I don't have the time or the energy for arguing anymore. I will focus my time and energy on people who support me, and those who need help.


The forums are mostly read-only and are in a maintenance/testing phase, before being permanently archived. Please use this time to get the contact details of people you'd like to keep in touch with. My contact details are here.

Please do not make a mirror copy of the forums in their current state - things will still change, and some people have requested to be able to edit or delete some of their personal info.

Post Reply 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Read this. :O
Author Message
Cory Offline

Posts: 663
Joined: Apr 2007
Thanks: 1
Given 8 thank(s) in 3 post(s)
Post: #1
Read this. :O

What is Academic Rigor and Why is it So Critical at the Middle School Level??
Opinion and Explanation by Sue Thompson
The term academic rigor is a current educational buzzword that can heat up a discussion in a hurry. It appears at first glance to be a multifaceted issue divided between those who favor an educational environment that emphasizes passion and intrinsic motivation, versus those that embrace a more disciplined, stringent approach, colored by those that feel students should not be challenged and will do quite well in life if they get by in school doing undemanding work. Having taught in gifted education for almost twenty years, I feel it is important to share my definition of academic rigor, my philosophy regarding structuring an environment that promotes academic rigor and the long-term value that is gained by students who have been encouraged to embrace academic rigor long before they reach high school or college years.
From my perspective when instruction is academically rigorous, students actively explore, research and solve complex tasks to develop a deep understanding of core academic concepts, but also to own knowledge at a deep and profound level – a level that allows a natural, logical progression to the next stage of advancement. Increasing rigor does not mean more and longer homework assignments, rather, it means time and opportunity for students to develop and apply higher level thinking skills as they navigate sophisticated and reflective learning experiences. Students with strong habits of mind, thoughtfully and intuitively weigh evidence, consider varying viewpoints, make connections, identify patterns, evaluate outcomes, speculate on possibilities and assess value. They find creative paths to resolve problems when they don’t immediately know the answer. They learn that dead ends and disappointments are all part of the process and not a place to give up, but rather a point to increase intensity. Through an academically rigorous program students not only gain knowledge and skills to achieve at high levels, they also develop ways of thinking and acting that prepare them to embrace the challenges of high school and college, compete in a global job market and to be better prepared to be contributing citizens with global insight and understanding.
When students are engaged in educational experiences that provide a relevant connection to their lives and at the same time stretch them to grow intellectually, that innate, intrinsic, passion flows naturally. Stringent, rigid requirements and enforced mandates get in the way of that human passion to learn and grow. Ideally the best educational opportunities come from instances where the students became so engaged and passionate that rigor is self-sought. So, how do you keep the passion, the rigor and the intellectual growth and get rid of the rigid requirements and enforced mandates?
First we have to agree that rigor and passion in education is important and to stop sending our students mixed messages. When we speak of school in terms of something to be endured, “gotten through”, or survived until Friday, it clearly sends the message that school is not to be enjoyed. Another concept that contributes to the resistance of academic rigor, is that much of our free time as a society is filled with unchallenging and mindless entertainment which leaves students inexperienced and unprepared to tackle rigor at school. When presented with rigor, they often feel resentment, frustration, irritation and resistance which then leads to the enforcement approach of academic rigor – “Do this because I say it is good for you or “You’ll thank me later when your older”. When we have to resort to enforcement and a stringent, disciplined approach, we give the implicit message that school is not something that is going to be enjoyed, but endured no matter how much we say otherwise.

The middle school environment is a critical time to rekindle the belief system that academic rigor is exciting; school is an experience to be embraced and not endured. If we don’t take students back to the inborn love of learning in middle school, it gets harder and harder to ignite that passion in the future because habits and attitudes become engrained. When our children were young, we encouraged them overtly every day as they acquired new words, new skills, or new knowledge. They saw the delight we experienced as they accomplished a new and often difficult task, and they were motivated to keep trying, keep going and felt joy and satisfaction when they accomplished a genuinely difficult task. If you think about early language acquisition, toddlers acquire language at an astounding rate. It would never occur to a parent to discourage that language growth or give the impression that it was a chore or too much work, yet somehow when our children reach school age, we give them the mixed message that we feel sorry for them if school is hard. Academic rigor begins to take on a negative connotation.

So, how does a classroom create rigor, rekindle educational passion and encourage students to develop and embrace using productive habits of mind? In my opinion, we start by setting that expectation. It is most productive when that expectation is shared and valued by the classroom teacher, the school community as a whole, the parents and the students, however, it can happen as long as the teacher and the student are connected together with that shared value. Secondly, the students need to experience educational opportunities that are relevant to them. They need to see the connection between what they are learning in the classroom and value its application to their own lives. They need to feel connected to the learning, a part of the process and in charge of choices that will make the learning more valuable to them. Rigor needs to be structured so that students are challenged at a level that is appropriately demanding and expanding for them. And, at the middle school level, education should be about the experience, the process and growth rather than the grade. Students should have opportunities to try new things, be allowed to fail and feel safe in the process. Grades should measure a student’s growth and their willingness to persevere. Students will not embrace rigor if they fear disapproval or ridicule for failure. Just as we encouraged our little ones to get up each time they fell when learning to walk, we need to encourage our middle schoolers to take educational risks, to be excited about tackling tough problems and to feel confident about their abilities to succeed, maybe not the first or second time, but eventually. If we had come in to rescue them each time they fell as toddlers and never allowed them to develop the strength to pull themselves back up, many might still be crawling! Okay that’s for dramatic effect, but we do cripple our kid’s educational potential when we do not allow them to experience educational rigor. Failure is part of the learning process. If we protect them from it, they will learn to fear it. They will avoid taking risks that might incur failure and they will surely not develop thinking skills necessary to problem solve and persevere.

Academic rigor is an exciting part of my classroom. It is a planned daily, curricular experience; however, it is offered without risk. Success is not a one-chance, one-attempt opportunity, but a multi-stepped process. Students, who have been challenged with academic rigor at an early age, expect it and accept it as a motivating part of their education. They actually miss it and become frustrated when it disappears. Trust is a necessary part of academic rigor. Parents and students need to trust that the teacher knows what her or she is doing and will be fair in the process. If you have questions or concerns about any of the units that we are doing, I would be very happy to share unit objectives with you and explain the long-term, “big picture” goals of the unit.

“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

And guess who's teacher this is by? Yup, mine. Aren't I lucky? Seriously, though. She is the best teacher in the world.
11-13-2007 08:49 AM
Find all posts by this user Quote this message in a reply
Shuri Offline

Posts: 50
Joined: Nov 2007
Thanks: 0
Given 3 thank(s) in 1 post(s)
Post: #2

I agree with everything except the conclusive quote. It almost contradicts her entire theory. If the idea is that students are capable of learning their own self-motivation techniques and enjoying school through their own interpretation of the structure, then they will treat themselves as what they are able to become in their own ways, learning how to become that through their own methods, at their own pace. No one else need do that; it can only produce stress and pressure within a child's own mentality if they are constantly trying to live up to another person's expectations. School should be about kids learning to be themselves, not what somebody else invisions for them. And if what they are isn't what you want them to be, forcing them to fit your mold is only proving everything we hate about school to be entirely valid. So the last quote is entirely inappropriate for the essay.
However, the rest is true enough. I don't think school is inherently evil, I think the way it is structured at this point in time is very worrisome and wrong. I also don't think it's something that could be solved so easily as writing a few essays. Contrary to popular belief, one change does not make all the difference. Imagine if the government just got off its high-horse and gave us a choice in the matter. I do believe school would be a much improved environment. The people who want to spend five hours a day getting lectured can choose to do so. The ones who don't will live a different lifestyle they carve for themselves. Either way, both will be self-motivated, and the ones who aren't will learn to be very quickly. Unlike a teacher, the world doesn't require grades and testwork. All it requires is a person who knows what they want to do and is pursuing their goal. It's not as complicated as people make it out to be.

[Image: saladhearts.jpg]
11-13-2007 09:12 AM
Find all posts by this user Quote this message in a reply
SoulRiser Offline
Site Founder

Posts: 18,240
Joined: Aug 2001
Thanks: 2669
Given 1978 thank(s) in 1208 post(s)
Post: #3

She sounds really cool, and I agree with all of that, except her use of the word "rigor".

rigor: Something hard to endure, Excessive sternness, The quality of being logically valid

The third definition is fine, but the other two send the message that "rigor" in school is doing exactly what it's supposed to.

Also, if school wasn't compulsory, none of this stuff would be necessary. Let people find ways to challenge themselves.

"If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them." - Dalai Lama
Help & Support - Get help with leaving school, unsupportive parents, and more.
Click here if school makes you depressed or suicidal

Support School Survival on Patreon or Donate Bitcoin Here: 1Q5WCcxWjayniaL92b8GfXBiGdfjmnUNa2
"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it." - André Paul Guillaume Gide
"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination." - Albert Einstein
"I'm pretty sure there's a lot of beauty that can only be found in the mind of a lunatic." - TheCancer
EIPD - Emotionally Incompetent Parent Disorder

Push Button for Collection of Useful Links:
Hidden stuff:
11-13-2007 10:43 PM
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply 

Forum Jump:

User(s) browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)

Contact Us | School Survival | Return to Top | Return to Content | Mobile Version | RSS Syndication