Thinking Outside the Rubric

Following the RubricIn the midst of final exams, my daughter went to school early three days during the week. Preparing for final exams? No, she was spending time working on a clay box for social studies class.

It is debatable as to whether a grade is even assigned for that clay box.

It was also debatable as to whether my daughter followed the rubric, within the “letter of the law.”

Yes, the pattern was correct as was the color.

However, the color was not dark enough, according to the rubric.

My daughter told the teacher she applied the paint, according to her artistic interpretation of the project.

I support my daughter’s response.

I’m not criticizing the school, or the teacher. I’m not even criticizing the curriculum. In fact, I’m proud to say my daughter attends one of the most highly rated schools in the state.

What I believe, however, is that there are times when the rubric should serve as a plan – not THE plan.

Certain subjects leave no room for interpretation of the rubric, while others do.

Our educational system has done of fine job of preparing people for a life of following directions. The days of preparing for factory jobs are gone, as these jobs have migrated to other parts of the world.

Fewer products roll off assembly lines than before. Often times are products cannot be weighed with a scale, but are ideas to be acted upon. Our service economy forces us all to think of better ways to serve – to identify solutions, modify strategies, and measure results.

America has always been a nation of innovators. In order to remain on, or near the top of the list of prosperous economies, we are dependent upon thinking outside the box when necessary.

Innovators need to know when to follow direction, but more importantly, innovators need to have confidence in their ability to move outside of the box.

Sometimes they must move just slightly outside of its parameters, while at other times they must know when to break out of a box with tremendous force.

Only experience teaches us when, and how to move outside of the box.

So, while it isn’t necessarily a job of the school system to teach our children when to take risks, or approach opportunities from a slightly different angle, it is my job to teach my children this lesson, and to provide them with confidence.

I talked with my daughter about the box rubric and let her know that as long as she is respectful to her teachers, and follows the general guidelines of the rubric, she has my permission to approach things a bit differently, when there is room to do so.

While respect and general guidelines are not open for interpretation, there are times when the end result may call for some it.

We live in a time when so many adults seem to be seeking the same type of permission.

The economy is different than before.

The issues are more complex than they were before, and the importance of thinking outside of the box is more important than it has ever been.

So while there are times when the rubric leaves no room for interpretation, I want my children to know the difference between situations when no interpretation is allowed, and when creative license is needed.

The rubric of today may be tomorrow’s box.

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