Have you ever been really sleepy, but not exactly tired? Or tired, but not exhausted? Thursday was a tired but not exhausted day, a contrast with earlier this week when I was exhausted, but not sleepy. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and for many of my students, a productive, happy one too.
For groups that have stayed focused on reading and understanding Latin, the Major Assessment process is a celebration of what you know, what you can do, and what you’ve learned. The Latin II groups are transforming stories from Tres Columnae Lectio XVII into film scripts, filming them (with puppets or simple animations), and creating an original ending and an analysis of the Roman cultural products, practices, and perspectives inherent in the stories. Meanwhile, the Latin IV groups are focusing on Caesar (as he depicts himself in Books I and IV of De Bello Gallico), and the AP’s are comparing the character of Caesar in those selections with that of Aeneas in the first 200 lines of Book I of the Aeneid.
For the II’s, there are four scoreable parts of the Collaborative Response: reading comprehension of the underlying passages, the script itself, their presentational speaking (everyone has to say at least one line of dialogue or narration), and their cultural analysis. For the IV’s and AP’s, the focus is on reading comprehension of the passages and on the accuracy and quality of their Character Diagram(s), including textual support for assertions and interpretations. Everyone will do an Individual Response focusing on pronunciation and reading comprehension of an unfamiliar passage. The Latin II groups should be completely done today, while the upper-level classes can finish on Monday, in the worst case, while I’m at a full-day “train the trainers” meeting.
One of the odd things about project-focused, proficiency-oriented lessons like these is that during the lesson, I have relatively little “work” to do. The difficult work came earlier, in designing the projects and creating the materials. In class, my role shifts to supporter, encourager, sometimes cheerleader …. and, if necessary, redirector, voice of reason, or community guardian. Those last three aren’t my favorite roles; my goal is always to develop a community that can guard itself, students who can redirect and reason with themselves. But sometimes someone (or several people) will forget that all of us are affected by the actions of each of us.
That happened a couple of times on Thursday Nothing serious; just some thoughtless, impulsive behaviors that would have “made” Ms. X start yelling and labeling. (Ms. X never chooses to do anything, at least according to her! The Powers That Be “make” her do some things; her students “make” her do others.) So X and Y started talking loudly; X wanted to play-wrestle with O; U asked to go to the bathroom but ended up somewhere else; somebody thought it would be “funny” to vandalize another group’s project.
“What you don’t realize,” I said, “is that when you do things like that, it doesn’t just affect you.” That’s hard to learn, harder to retain in an isolated, consumer-driven society. It’s even harder when Ms. X keeps yelling and labeling about “do your own work” and “listen to me,” about “don’t you dare …” and “you’d better ….”
The Latin IV’s and AP’s needed time to talk about that, too, since T, C, T, and U were frustrated by “drama” their friends were causing and K, B, K, and N were upset about their vandalized illustration. And we “had to” make time for it in both Latin II classes … and I’m glad, because sometimes the real lesson for the day isn’t the “instruction” you’d planned to “deliver.”
A few years ago, when the school was “doing” Habits of Mind, we would have (theoretically) had common language to address such issues. We woud have talked about Metacognition and Empathy and Managing Impulsivity, and there would have been 16 posters, one per Habit – created by the faculty, for the faculty, in a workshop – hanging in each classroom. But times change, priorities change, people change … and even then Ms. X just hung the posters “to cover her butt” and Other Ms. X yelled and labeled “bad and lazy.” Eventually, the announcement came that we had “done” the Habits of Mind, would be “moving on” to other things. Ms. X rejoiced, since she’d been jealous of the Habits of Mind consultant anyway; the posters lie half-forgotten in closets and storage bins. Like the Paideia mindset I referred to yesterday, real commitment to those Habits of Mind would shake the very foundations of the factory mindset, but surface compliance isn’t that hard.
As Debbie pointed out on Google+ yesterday, surface compliance and the “flavor of the month” are connected:
why do we do what we do? The original intention is often lost as the action becomes the goal in itself. Good intentions lost. Checking in with “intention” refocusing on the goals, keeps us moving forward and doing what we do because we believe in it not because “that’s just the way we do it”.
I am also reminded of a conversation with my daughter about changing policies in the education system. The teachers go for training and learn some new technique or assessment process. They go through the “figuring how to apply it” stage and just get it moving along when they are sent off to new training for some new technique or assessment process. Teachers are so busy learning new ideas, so much time energy and money is put into identifying, teaching, and setting up new strategies that teachers are left spinning their wheels and frustrated.
In a world of constant change, of far too many choices, mixing compliance for its own sake with change because I said to is a recipe for disastrous failure. As we build joyful learning communities, how will we keep focus on intentions, roots, Truly Important Things? How will we resist the siren song of Change Because?