Fair warning.  Since it’s late, in a couple of ways, this post might get a little ramble-y.  It’s late at night, or at least late for me.  I wanted to crash since I got home but I spent a bunch of time working on Powerpoint instead.  This blog is also late on posts, behind is a better word, as I am on the verge of missing 3 out of 4 days for this 30 day challenge.  I imagine I can pick back up with a flurry of activity during the conference.

One of the reasons I am busy is that now is the end of the 3rd cycle of our year and our students are finishing up their final projects. These final projects cause kids to work late and freak out and otherwise barely hold it together right until the very end.

Shipping, a term to describe finishing a project and meeting expectations on time, is scary for for kids.  It’s scary for adults too.  Seth Godin talks a lot about fear of shipping, as does a lot of the internet. He writes:

Shipping is fraught with risk and danger.

Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you’re exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself.

It’s no wonder we’re afraid to ship.

This should be true for students, and because of that I do as much as I can to help ease the process of finishing their papers.  I scaffold the final write ups, I offer extensions, and I sometimes change small parts of the project or the assessment in the middle of the class (e.g. “Alright guys, you see what it says on page 3???  Well that’s now optional!”).  This is all in the name of “helping” the project so they can ship.

While teaching today on the last day of the cycle  and kids were telling me how confused they were, and how they didn’t know if they would get it done, and whether they could have extensions, I wondered if I was the one who had the fear of shipping.  I was scared of putting out a finished project, scared to expect kids to independently make sense of it, and scared to stick to the date for correct work from my students.  Because I don’t ever tell students “This is your task. This is your responsibility now.” they lack the opportunity to really wrestle with what it means to finish the task. What it means to ship.   Students learn that playing me, or looking to me to alter the time frame, and essentially the task, is a key part of their success on any project instead.

To first get my students to overcome their fear of shipping to me, I need to overcome my fear of being shipped on.  When the project gets started I need to let go of “helping” students by tweaking the project, and instead have a conversation with them about their approach towards the project.  I probably thought about this because my whole ignite talk at NCSM is about Fear so it is probably fresh in my mind.