After such a positive first week, I wasn’t sure if the excellent start would prove to be a foretaste of good things or a brief interlude before disaster. It’s too early to be completely sure. But the positive feeling was still there when I left the house Monday morning, still there when I arrived at school, still there throughout a busy Monday. Ms. X and Mr. Y would mutter darkly about “honeymoon periods” and “just you wait” and “maybe the bad, lazy ones stayed home today.” But from my perspective, seeds of joyful community were continuing to sprout.
Take the thoughtful G+ comment thread that developed around yesterday’s post. As I read it in scattered moments, I was pleased, but not surprised, by the amazingly thoughtful, insightful responses. I loved Debbie’s story of the family who “couldn’t” sit down together for pancakes until she helped them see a way. And David’s point was powerful:
i prefer windows of opportunity to dead-lines… any massive achievement in class has been down to how we align to work at the same time, and to agree by consensus to hit some kind of target within a period of time…
the trick is maintaining focus and intention on a future objective when we feel out of sorts for whatever reason at any particular moment… a socially defined time can be very useful for individuals to help one another during these personally tricky times
I was pleased because we kept talking about priorities rather than punishments; not surprised, because I’ve come to treasure these diverse, fascinating commenter. A bit surprised, at times, when I’m reminded how different my experiences are from those of other bloggers; a bit sad, when I think of face-to-face colleagues for whom compliance still trumps learning and engagement.
But I didn’t have many interactions with Ms. X on Monday. I had arrived a bit early, hoping to make the copies that weren’t possible during the frantic early-dismissal time on Friday. She was there, of course, copying the same-old same-old worksheets she’s used for years … but she wasn’t in a mood to complain. Other Ms. X was there, too, but she was both busy and in a good mood. So, self-assessment forms in hand , I headed up the stairs to greet my morning classes. (What would Ms. X think? That online training session– the one that helped me so much, the one that Ms. X will eventually do, retaining little, changing less about her practice, “because They said so” – strongly recommends that all students learn to self-assess and do so regularly … but I’m sure she would be horrified, protesting that “they don’t know how!”)
So we started with self-assessment, looking closely at each of the three key elements of our current projects, thinking about what, if anything, we might still do to “move up a level” before the presentations started. We made the presentations, with only a few reminders about why one might avoid other conversations. We took time to complete an “Assessment of Other Groups’ Products” form, which I’d included on the back of the self-assessment form, then collected those and moved on to a brief review lesson about Latin verbs and a whole-class reading activity that, in both classes, went faster and much more smoothly than I’d dared to hope. We even had time to re-read the Latin story (this one, in which young Cnaeus Caelius is poised for a disastrous life-lesson about whipping horses), making our V-for-verb hand signal every time we said or heard a verb.
The afternoon class, in which the Latin IV and AP students read more Caesar, then started work on an Illustrated Timeline of the “most important” events from Book I of De Bello Gallico, was also pleasant, peaceful, and productive. Even the faculty meeting was short and to the point … though most of the point was a pitch by a vendor of supplemental insurance products. (To their credit, they spoke quickly, avoided the hard sell, and even provided pizza.) With the Monday Evening Book Group still a couple of hours away, I had time for a quiet cup of coffee, brief conversations with friends I ran into there, a first draft of this post. Then, after a quick dinner out, there was time and space for a wonderful, wide-ranging conversation with a friend before Book Group … and a spirited discussion of the beginning of our current selection.
What is it that makes some days peaceful, pleasant, and productive like my Monday, while others feel rushed, frantic, and horrible from the beginning? And why is my peaceful day someone else’s nightmare? Late Friday, Young Ms. X had emailed me to ask if I could check over the setup of her second-semester classes before she started entering grades in our student information system. I told her I’d be glad to help (it’s part of my “Technology Mentor” role), and I offered her a couple of possible times on Monday. When the return email came, she said her day had been awful, so we met ever-so-briefly before the faculty meeting … and the setup was fine. But there wasn’t time or space to ask why her day was awful … or, to be fair, I didn’t find time for that.
As Debbie pointed out,
We fill (or overfill) our time with so many things that don’t need to be done and we often try and do everything “now” rather than organizing our time and activities. If we step back and look at what our intentions are, what the have-to tasks are, what can be eliminated, and what can be packaged together for time-saving .. well, we really can make a difference in our schedules.
After my weekend of learning, I keep thinking of the power of that little word will. What will I do today, each day, to make that difference for students, my colleagues, myself? How will I help to build joyful community today?