"Don't Let the Sorting Define You…."


Cross posted on Figuring It Out by  Johnny Bevacqua  

The other day

I spoke to a group of students at our academic Honour Roll assemblies.  For the last few years I have attended and spoken at these assemblies with mixed emotions and a sort of tension in my “gut”.

 I have written before about awards in high school and the need to walk a bit of a “tight rope” .  Yet the other day, as those students that had achieved academic honors were being called up, I couldn’t help but notice how we viagra cheap were, once again, “sorting” our students.

Following the roll call, in a moment of inspiration and vulnerability,  I spoke the students and implored them to not be defined by how they are sorted in school.

Our education

system is obsessed with sorting students.  Academic ability, athletic ability, gender, creative ability,  age, “diagnosis” – we have found any and all ways to sort students.  In most cases, I understand why we do it and understand the systemic forces that drive the sorting.   I don’t necessarily agree with it.

Ken Robinson has eloquently and convincingly has made the case for changing our educational paradigm.


Perhaps the best way to shift the paradigm is to empower our students to push back against the system.

In my message to our students I asked them to do just that.  Push back against the system.  To force the adults, most of whom profess to be about “students first”, to expedite some the shifts we are looking for.

I also asked the students to, regardless of how they are sorted by the system, to not be defined by this sorting.  I asked them to follow their hearts, their passions.  I asked them to explore new opportunities, to always persevere and put their best foot forward.  I asked them to define themselves NOT by any external achievements, but rather by their own internal best efforts and passions.

As the assembly ended and staff and students streamed out of gymnasium, I (naively) felt better that I may have mitigated the negative effects of the sorting we had just participated in.

I also walked over to my Vice Principals and reminded them that we need to initiate a broader conversation about reforming

what we are doing with our Honour Roll Assemblies.

I hope the students took my message to heart and will put the necessary pressure on us adults to rethink how we are sorting our students…..



  1. I always think, “Who is successful in life?” and what does that tell us about what’s important. Essentially when we ask that question we are led to people who follow their passion, strengthen their skills and knowledge in that area, believe in themselves, find people they enjoy and live life fully.

    Also as a high school student, I was “dropped down” a level one year due to my lack of homework production. I remember realizing how many skills and strengths the students in the new level had that I didn’t have–it was a real eye opener for me and a great education one that has led to my current perspective on leveling and “sorting.”

    Thanks for sharing your powerful post.

    February 8, 2013
  2. Rose Colby said:

    I think that we, in education, are complicit in using terminology which may make us feel better but essentially masks the underlying problem. When ‘tracking’ became a negative term, we spoke of ‘levels’ always with the explanation that a student could take the ‘level’ class of choice. Between parent pressures, scheduling conflicts, it seems students generally don’t meet the teachers’ expectation for that level and the student seems to be as locked in to the level system as the tracking system. Then there is the ‘sort’ by course level–honors courses, AP courses, tech courses, etc.
    It seems recently that ‘grouping’ is ok though because students are learning at their instructional level. But, alas, those groups are formed at the beginning of a school year and often doom a student to the group regardless of student achievement.
    Great article Johnny–I think we have to keep this on our radar screen and be ever mindful that regardless of what term we use, the practice and effect on learning is just as insidious as tracking.

    February 8, 2013

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