Wrapping Things Up, III

“Effort,” I said in the middle of yesterday’s post, “brings success.”  And it generally does … but not in a simple, linear way. And not the way Ms. X and Mr. Y define effort and success.  As Bernardo pointed out in a Google+ comment,

Gen Z students are very time savvy. They don’t waste any effort on things that are not going to give them immediate rewards. That’s the big clash with teachers that focus on a delayed gratification scheme that frankly may never come into fruition. Students are right on this one.

In an instantaneous world, what’s the place of delayed gratification?

I spent Tuesday evening at my daughter’s high-school orchestra concert.  And as I listened to that talented, hard-working group, I thought about the gratification of music.  When I was a young musician, I did appreciate the promise of getting better eventually.  But I loved the satisfaction of getting better each day.  As we design learning experiences for – and with – students, we need to help them see their daily small improvements.

It’s hard to measure success if you’re measuring constantly, but it’s also hard if you never measure.

“What does success mean?” Debbie asked  Tuesday morning,

And success in the eyes of .. the student? the teacher? society?
One’s efforts “should” fulfill goals. If a student’s goals aren’t the same as the teacher’s then there is a problem. If a student doesn’t have a goal then there is a problem. If the “goal’ is blurry then how can one put a good effort into achieving it?
For me, then, one of the questions we need to ask is how do we help students set goals, even for activities that they aren’t particularly interested in. How do we instill a belief that learning, experiencing, exploring, and seeking is valuable? How do we instil a sense of curiosity and a desire to learn more, experience more, risk more, and learn more?

Great questions to ponder any day, especially a chilly, rainy, halfway-point day.  Great questions to ask as I moved around the classroom Tuesday, hearing students’ Individual Responses, listening to their self-reflections.

“I’ll be honest, Mr. S,” said O, “I do understand some words and phrases, but I really can’t put the whole thing together.”  Yes, I know, I said – and since you’re a Novice Low to Novice Mid learner, half-way through Latin I, that’s exactly where you should be.

“I can find the nōminātīvus and the verb,” said U and D, “but those other nouns! They confuse me!”  Yes, I said, and that’s perfectly OK for you as Novice Low to Novice Mid learners.

“I’m not perfect at pronouncing Latin yet,” said several students.  And that’s OK; they, too, were exactly where they should be.

“Did you notice,” I asked several, “how the rubric is a bit different this time?  And yet you still moved up a level!” Or “you’re still right where you need to be!”  Yes, they said, we noticed – and I saw brief flickers of joy and learning, tentative steps toward community.

“Just think,” I said to a few, “what would happen if you took your engagement level up!  Look what you did with 50-60% engagement, and imagine what would happen with 70% or 80%!”  Again I saw flickers of joy and learning.

“Should I walk over,” I asked, “and quietly point out when you’re starting to lose focus?”  Yes, they said, that would help.  So we’ll try on Thursday.

“I’m not doing as well as I was,” said Latin III students like T, T, B, O, C, F, and U,  “Or as well as I want to.  And I’m worried.”  Yes, I said, and we talked about engagement level too.  Once again I saw flashes of joy, of learning, of community re-growing.

Tuesday was a day of good signs – signs of growth and change as autumn moves toward winter. Signs of growth and rebirth in students I’d worried about, growth and progress in others.

Somehow I didn’t see Ms. X or Mr. Y.  I was busy, and they probably had papers to grade … and complaints to make about “bad, lazy students” and “not enough time.”  About “unreasonable parents” and “all this paperwork.”  About “wasting time” and “busy work” at the professional-development session today.  “Don’t They know what we teachers need?” Ms. X and Mr. Y often moan.  “Why don’t they ever ask?  But we know exactly what those bad, lazy students need!”

How, I asked yesterday, “Can you build a learning community in the midst of a knowledge factory?”  James noted one simple way:

I don’t think we as teachers can try to build community anywhere else than in our own classrooms. Even if we teach within a big-scale factory-model system, our individual rooms can exist on their own paradigm. This is the only progress we can hope to make: to do the best we can individually and to offer a good example.

Is it that simple?  Plant the seeds, water them, wait patiently, see what happens?  Give time and space for learners to find goals, make efforts, see success?

Is eager haste for change a factory-model thing?

How do we let go, trust, and let things grow?

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Published in: on October 31, 2012 at 10:27 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] community, enough to “let go … and let things grow,” as I put it in yesterday’s post.  Then I was talking about interactions with students – but Wednesday reminded me […]


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