Telling Stories Together, V

After that painful Monday, excellent Tuesday, and quiet, tiring Wednesday, Thursday was a day of contrasts.  The Latin II classes,  now exposed to the “complete picture” of Latin verb tenses, were ready to play the “famous verb dice game.”  Given a list of Latin verbs with partēs prīncipālēs, you roll a die twice  – first to determine persona et numerus, then to determine tempus – and then make the random form specified.  Then we looked back, all together, at a story we’d read Tuesday and Wednesday, searching for specific tempora of verbs in specific versibus of story.  We finished our Quaestio Maxima products, read the third and fourth stories in Lectio XXV, and started deciding which story (one we’d made, or one we’d written) should be featured in a short film,  our Major Assessment Collaborative Response for this rapidly-ending reporting period.

Or that was the plan.  And in the early-morning class, that’s what happened.  They did a beautiful job with making verbs, perhaps because I’d added a simple direction that changed everything.  Instead of “make as many correct verb forms as possible,” the directions now say that, after making 5 verbs, you should check with Mr. S and see how well you did.  If they were all correct – right endings applied to right stems – you could move on to the Next Thing; if not, I’d point out the problems and you’d make a few more verbs.  As soon as you had 5 right in a row, you could move on.  Within ten or twelve minutes, everyone had made 5 correct verbs in a row, and the vast majority of the class gave instantaneous, choral, accurate responses to those “Find the Verb” questions.

Then came the mid-morning class.  The directions were the same, the flow of activities identical …  the whole feeling  different.  N and U started a loud conversation – across the room from each other – about the banana Ms. X had taken from U earlier.  D grabbed something from T’s desk, and she snapped at him, louder than she’d meant to.  “Did you notice,” I asked, “that when you did those things, it didn’t just affect you?  Did you notice that it affected everyone in our community?”  To be fair, they did … and they apologized with words.

But Ms. X’s attempts to “keep a tight rein” – and factory-schools’ attempts at “order and discipline” – have a sad, ironic effect.  Externally-controlled students don’t learn how to control themselves. In an environment where self-control is the minimum expectation – an environment like the “Latin Family” – it’s a terrible, painful struggle.

N messed up her first five verbs, putting right endings on wrong stems every single time.  “You put the right ending on the wrong base,” I pointed out, “and that would have been acceptable when these verbs were new, three weeks ago.  But it isn’t now.  You need to fix it.”  She looked puzzled and sullen – “Why won’t you help me?” she asked.  “I did,” I told her, “I just told you what the problem was.  Now fix it.”  Sullenly, grudgingly, she did … and then B started helping her and had a light-bulb moment himself.  Poor J didn’t bother to read the directions, or maybe she was seeking “extra credit.”  She made 15 or 20 verbs, mostly wrong, and looked astonished when I pointed out  the errors.

N and J are so terribly, terribly used to Ms. X’s  “Chapter 5 way” to do problems.  To choose among many different possibilities, to follow a pattern without Ms. X giving the algorithm – that’s an enormous challenge for both.  But N, by label, is a “good little student” while J is “just so bad and lazy and talkative.”

When we moved on to “Find the Verb,” there was deafening silence in that mid-morning class – silence as loudly communicative,  as the early-morning group’s choral response.  “Do you know,” I asked, “that in the other class, we had something like 80% responding with 99% accuracy?”  They looked stunned and sad.  “And do you know why?  Because they do the activities that you pretend and avoid, so they develop the skills they need.  Whenever you make verbs wrong or don’t make them at all, you’re harming yourselves and everyone around you.  When you don’t read, don’t practice vocabulary, don’t respond to Quaestiones, you’re harming yourself, your friends, and the whole community.  You’ve been digging a terrible hole for yourselves.  What should be a small, logical step has turned into a giant cliff.  And when you’re stuck in a hole you’ve been digging, the first thing to do is to stop digging it deeper … and the next thing is to start digging yourself out.”

They looked sad –  so sad.  But a few more than usual did a bit more reading than usual after that.  B, U, and M, who had been so tuned out for so long, were especially focused.  The Law of the Farm is beginning to make sense to them; as they put in effort, they  feel results.

In the upper-level class, U and T had to search the recycling bin for a paper they’d accidentally put there.  They were amazed to find Verb Forms Consolidation Sheets there.  “It must be a Latin II class,” they said knowingly.  “What’s wrong with them anyway?”  So I explained it was an especially smart group who, till now, had never had to put forth  effort or manage themselves.  “In other words,” I teased them, “they’re exactly like you were when you were in Latin II.”  And they smiled … and, again, we all felt  hope for the future.

I closed yesterday’s post by asking

“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?”

And Debbie suggested,

Keep telling your stories! Keep inspiring others with the what, the why, and the outcomes. I can’t imagine anyone not getting a glimmer of importance of “joyful community” learning.

Thanks, Debbie!  I’ve taken that advice!  And thanks to all you readers, and to “Latin Family” members over the years who share  their stories with our joyful  community.  What new stories will we share today?  And can you really change a factory into a community garden by sharing stories?

Published in: on May 3, 2013 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  

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