An Unexpected Gift, IV

Wednesday was School Picture Day in my face-to-face teaching world.  If you’re not familiar with the school picture process in American schools, you should know that it typically involves a great deal of confusion and interruption.  There’s probably a schedule of when each class is supposed to report for pictures, but the schedules tend to be quite unrealistic.  So, unless the school is one (like an elementary school) where students stay with the same teacher all day, there are likely to be many intercom announcements (Ms. X’s homeroom needs to report to Location Y at this time for pictures) and many confused students … and there may be a few angry teachers who hadn’t thought about Picture Day when planning for the week.

(Yes, I could talk about how the 20th-century industrial model of schools has prioritized all kinds of things – including school pictures – over teaching and learning.  Or I could talk about the importance of “picture money” for school budgets in a time of ever-decreasing resources.  Or I could talk about how the 20th-century model of teacher-centered instruction rather than learner-centered exploration of knowledge might contribute to teachers’ anger in the face of interruptions.  But that’s not where I want to take this post.)

It was also a hot day, in an old building where classrooms are air-conditioned but hallways can’t be.  And those classroom doors, which normally stay closed to keep the cool air in, had to be opened a lot as students went to and from their picture appointments.

So why was it a day of unexpected gifts for me and my students?

Partly because the day was less chaotic than it might have been.  There were relatively few calls for classes, and hardly any other interruptions.  My students have begun to develop norms and procedures for themselves around our vision (a joyful learning community) and our mission (building something meaningful together) and our expectations for ourselves (we try to be prompt, prepared, responsible, and respectful, and we help each other achieve our goals).  So, in general, they took the heat and the periodic comings and goings in stride.  That was definitely an unexpected gift!

Partly because some genuine, exciting learning happened along the way.  My Latin I students, working with the materials in Lectiō II of the Tres Columnae Project, were firming up their understanding of the nominative – genitive distinction in Latin nouns, reading a couple of stories, and creating story-based questions for each other.  My Latin III’s continued their work with Latin verbs (we’ve been thinking about tense and aspect this week), read some of this summary story, and worked on their first design-oriented product.  Given the heat and the interruptions, the level of focus and engagement was high.  So that was an unexpected gift, too.

And partly because I had some unexpected moments of connection with colleagues.  There was a “technology glitch” I helped someone with – and I was so impressed with the quality of her interactions with her students!  There were a couple of conversations where colleagues shared their frustrations – and they were the same frustrations I’d battled last year, when I was so desperately unhappy with 20th-century-style schooling that I couldn’t write a word in this space.  There were moments of kindness given and received, too.

Lots and lots of unexpected gifts!

Have you ever had a day like that? One where your expectations were low but realistic, and then all kinds of small, unexpected good things happened?  Even in times of heat and confusion, I’ve realized those unexpected gifts are all around, just waiting to be noticed.

What unexpected gifts will you notice – and pick up and cherish – today?

quid respondētis, amīcī?

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Published in: on September 6, 2012 at 9:50 am  Leave a Comment  

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