Telling Stories Together, IV

After our struggles on Monday, Tuesday was much better for the mid-morning class.  We started, as we often do, with a Match The Sentence activity; it introduced our last major “new thing,” verba temporis futuri.  There were 14 Latin sentences, each with an English equivalent, and as usual, students worked as pairs to match the sentences and “circle the Latin word(s) that correspond(s) with the English words in bold.”  As we checked the answers together, I pointed something out: if you’re at the Novice Mid level of reading proficiency, these tasks let you practice  familiar words and phrases.  If you’ve moved beyond that, they help you pay attention to connections between forms and functions.  How many times have I said something  like that, only to have it ignored because the time wasn’t quite right?  But on Tuesday, several students stuck at that Novice Mid point saw themselves, understood the connections, felt renewed hope.

We tried something new on Tuesday, something we’re calling a Quaestio Maxima.  After we read the first Fabella in Lectio XXV, practiced some quandō? questions, and worked with the Analytic Hand Signals for verba temporis futuri, we took some time to explore a collection of links about Roman products and practices for funerals, tombs, and such.  Then, when we started reading the first and second Fabulae Longae in XXV, we were trying to form answers to this Quaestio Maxima:

What evidence of Roman products, practices, and perspectives about the Background Research Topic [Death and What Lies Beyond] can you find in these two stories?

As we’ve been grappling with that question for parts of two days now, it’s wonderful to see how C, N, and  others who sometimes tune out during reading activities were tuned in, even excited, to engage with a challenging question.  On Wednesday, we added in parts of the Vicipaedia articles about the Lemuralia and Parentalia, and C was fascinated.

But Wednesday was a day of interruptions and special programs: one thing for ninth- and tenth-graders (though the emailed directions just said ninth), another for seniors, and a field trip for three mid-morning students.  The school has a special schedule designed for such programs, but Someone Or Other decided it would be “better and easier” if students just missed an hour of  class.  So we’ll be taking up the Quaestio Maxima again today, reading the last two stories in Lectio XXV, and thinking about the films we’ll be making as our Major Assessment.  But if Ms. X and Mr. Y are still enraged over “lost instructional time” and “awful communication,”  that may be a challenge.

If Ms. X and Mr. Y saw the Quaestio Maxima – and the students I was asking to consider it – they might be enraged, too. It’s the kind of question teenagers should grapple with – the kind that might inform an exciting undergraduate course at the schools my students claim to aspire to attend.  But Ms. X and Mr. Y wouldn’t care.  “There’s too much to cover for such nonsense,” after all, and questions like that aren’t on The Test.  Responses are hard to grade, and you can’t use multiple choice.  Besides, Ms. X and Mr. Y not-so-secretly believe, only  “good little students” are capable of answering such a question.  You wouldn’t give it to  “bad, lazy” ones or those with the “less talented” label.

After a day with her young grandson, Debbie reflected,

As I read your blog I kept envisioning my grandson’s learning journey. I tried to see testing and traditional report cards for him, labels, limitations.
Language arts A+
Creative Arts: B
And so on
This just seems so absurd! I am constantly making assessments -he is gifted in Lanaguage Arts, although his enunciation is still developing; he isn’t interesting in art activities so much, but the inclusion of letters and numbers captures his interest and he will explore the art materials for some time. His balance isn’t perfect yet and going for walks on uneven ground will help the muscle development. (And so on)
There are no limits, only possibilities and where do we go from here.

I also thought about how he uses the computer games. He gets lots of “wrong answers” but he doesn’t care, he keeps pushing buttons and trying again until he gets it right and figures out how the game works. There are times when he asks for help but these are few and far between. Sometimes after so many “baaa” sounds of getting it wrong he closes the game and moves on to another one. Later he comes back to the game and tries again. There are no fears of getting a “D” and I don’t think there are thoughts of being incapable.
Toddlers are fascinating and have a lot to teach us. The Fire of Truth….are we listening?

And I thought of George’s point about introducing students – and their teachers – to Carol Dweck’s work about mindsets.  And of Emily’s Google+ reflections on being oh-so-wrongly labeled by That English Teacher:

My intelligence was fixed.  No, there was no way I could improve, and She was going to believe that and make sure EVERY other teacher knew it.

Anyway, she made the mistake of telling this to my mother, who pitched a fit.  I was very lucky to have parents who insisted on getting to really know their daughter, and learning all of her quirks.

This is part of why I became a teacher.  I was so sick of being labeled, and having students believe that they couldn’t do anything other than what their teacher said they could do.  And Parents don’t always help.  Some do.  But there are a large group of parents who don’t know and advocate for their children.

So, in a world where every student is labeled, and parents get pushback and retaliation when they advocate for their students, which leads them to not doing so and submitting their students to the labels.

How do we break the Intelligence is Fixed mindset?

After years of yelling and fixed-mindset approaches and tested curriculum as ceiling, it’s not that our students can’t raise their sights.  It’s just that they don’t remember how.  Like anyone out of practice with anything – like me, if I took my long-neglected bicycle out later  – things will be a bit wobbly at first.  But there’s something deeply, essentially human about joyful learning community.  What will we do, today, to invite the reluctant, the stuck, the Ms. X’s, and the Powers to lay aside fearful defenses and join the circle?

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Published in: on May 2, 2013 at 10:37 am  Comments (1)  

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