Two rivets for change

Have you ever heard of the two rivet rule? I hadn’t until recently during a devotional that I had been reading, and I think that the idea is fascinating.

Apparently, when the Golden Gate Bridge was built in San Francisco, the engineers thought that it would withstand earthquakes. Unfortunately, that was a lofty dream, with the bridge being so close to the San Andreas Fault line. Eventually, the bridge needed to be retro-fitted to withstand earthquakes, and the task needed to be completed with the bridge still functional. I can’t imagine the daunting task of changing a bridge while it was still a main source of transportation. So, they put in place something called the “two rivet rule,” where they decided that in order for the bridge to be used during this process, only two of the 1,000,000+ rivets that were in the structure could be removed at a time.

Imagine the time it took to change this
Imagine the time it took to change this …
Now, the idea of this has sparked a lot of people to think about what that means for change. Most blogs and articles I’ve read that talk about this process recommend that we follow the “two rivet rule” when making change in our own lives. Sure, you could take a look at your life (or specifically your teaching life) and decide that x, y, and z (and maybe a whole lot more) need to change to make you a better teacher. But in order to not fall apart, cause chaos, or burn out, two changes at one time is plenty. And think of how much faster you can get to the other changes that you want to make if you’re not buried under the rubble that 16 changes have caused in your life or classroom. The moral is that life goes on when changes are being made. You can’t halt all other progress just because you want to overhaul something in your life or classroom. 

That being said, there are a lot of things that I want to change to become a better teacher. But as last year and a lot of advice from great teachers taught me, you can’t take on everything at once. So this year, with so many changes involving location, classes, schools, etc. I’ve decided to tackle only two changes at the start of my school year. Once those two changes have become ingrained into my teaching and my classroom, then I’ll tackle a few others that are on the eventual list.

My two changes for this school year are:

1. Standards-based grading with a focus on proficiency. This is a policy that the other French teacher in my department uses, and for consistency and a focus on growth for my students, I’ll be taking on this same (or a similar) grading scale.

2. Meaningful and timely feedback for students. This is one that I’ve decided on after changing out with a few other hopeful changes. But, at the beginning of the year, it’s so much easier to stay on top of feedback and “grading” because I’m not weighed down by … well … other feedback and grading that I haven’t given yet. If I can start out strong at the beginning of the year, I hope that this will create a habit that I can continue, while making other, harder or more intensive changes later on in the year.

What changes are you hoping for this school year? Are you looking at two or more? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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3 thoughts on “Two rivets for change

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