Making the Grade, V

“Sometimes,” I said yesterday,

amazing things happen … and when they do, they usually come when you least expect them!

O, who had come to me yesterday with that amazing self-discovery, was absent Thursday morning, but he’d sent quite a lot of work in through Edmodo late Wednesday night and sent in even more last night.  B’s video, which he’d also submitted Wednesday night, was remarkably good, and his whole group participated in the making of it.  X, Y, and J were a little bit distracted – but as soon as they saw their excellent third-reporting-period grades, made the connection between the focus they’d shown and the results they’d achieved, the silliness and distraction stopped.  Even S, who’s been tuned out for a while, worrying about his mom’s health and his home responsibilities, was smiling a little, involved  a lot, intrigued by a question his group had posed.   The “Laptop Cart Team” of D, B, B, and U was sad that we didn’t have the cart yesterday, but they stayed fairly involved in our shared work.  A happy, productive day!

Responding to O’s story on Google+, Debbie commented:

How did you NOT cry when you heard the Wisdom stated, “I’m the one who has to do the work.” POWERFUL!!!! Congratulations to you, to the student, and to the entire class.

With my one young client I often ask him to reflect on the type of person he wants to be and wants to be seen as and then ask him how he matches his actions to this vision. While we develop our character and skills (at any age) we need to be conscious of the ideal until it becomes second nature to us. As mentors we can be that reminder to “look within” and then “look with-out” to see how our actions are being received and how they are affecting others.

I wish “O” well and hope the goals are achieved. I’m cheering for him.

My eyes were certainly moist, Debbie!  And I looked up toward the sky and silently whispered “Thank you!”  I’m hoping O has now had the experience Barry described:

Can you recall an episode when O figured something out on his own, experienced an endorphin (“feel good”) high for reaching a challenging goal on his own, and was acknowledged by a peer with an authentic “high five”?  It’s an addicting experience, but sometimes it’s hard to kick-start the first one in the life of a student who is behind his peers.

I set out puzzles of varying levels of difficulty, trying to ensure that, among my collection, each gamer will find the one that is best matched to their individual proclivities, to intrigue and fascinate them and capture their imagination, while being just hard enough that they will expend some effort solving it.  If all goes as planned, they solve it, experience the legendary endorphin high, and my role is then to beam upon them and congratulate them with a high five.

I guarantee you they will want to continue the game, time after time.

Yes, they will, Barry.  They will want to continue the authentic game.  It’s much better, much more exciting and engaging, than the badly-designed game called Factory School.

Amazing things do happen, just when you least expect them.  Things like a joyful community feeling in all three classes.  What made the difference in the mid-morning class?  Diana thinks it was the way I used “the Voice of Reason” on Wednesday:

Seriously, though. The Voice Of Reason, as you demonstrated in the “but with you’re actions, you tell us you want an unpleasant environment,” is an incredible thing!  Last year, I had the pleasure of mentoring a young teacher.  Her natural instinct, when her class got a bit loud, was to yell.

We talked about how, if she keeps her cool, and actually speaks more softly, or in an even tone, her students would be more likely to listen to her.  At first, she didn’t believe me, but when she saw me use that technique one day in my own classroom, she became a believer.  I call that the Voice Of Reason.  Not only does it work well, it models for the students how to keep your cool in a crazy, sometimes chaotic, situation.  Often, my students tell me that I am the most patient teacher they have.  I cannot possibly believe this is true–I’m a short tempered, Scottish/Irish mutt.  However, perhaps it is because I use The Voice Of Reason and take time to get to know my students and let them know me, that they believe this.

Diana, I think you’re right.  D came in quietly, sat down, and started working on the first assignment.  K  still wasn’t feeling well, so I made sure to ask how she was doing.  “I have a fever, or something,” she said, “but it’s Prom Week, and I’m a class officer, and I have to be there even if I’m sick.”  She was still feeling pretty bad, but she was able to focus on the stories we read, the questions we asked, the hand signals for participia.  So was D, so was T, so was C.  J, who knew she’d been doing a lot better, came to check on her grade and – when she saw that first-ever “A” – had the biggest, most sincere smile I’ve ever seen from her.  B, U, and M were happy, too, with their much-improved grades, and they happily read the story they once would have resisted, wrote questions they once would have avoided as “much too hard.”

The whole day seemed full of joyful community.  There was delicious bread and pastries from one of my favorite places for breakfast, a Teacher Appreciation gift from a student organization.  I had that “get one free” burrito for lunch; still fresh and delicious, just what I wanted, it reminded me of the temporary joyful community that had formed in the line of eager customers Tuesday night.  Joy, learning, and community – and as I participated in another favorite thing, my church’s monthly labyrinth walk, Thursday evening, another phrase came to mind:   “the team, the place, the time to build the dream.”

It may take me months to grasp the fullness of that little phrase … and it’s in blank verse!  That was a great gift, too.

Joy, learning, and community.  Gratitude and a sense of the Law of the Farm.  Team, place, time, and dream.  Making things together, learning by truly doing, sharing with each other in ways that confound but also fulfill the factory paradigm.  It’s all too good to keep to ourselves, so naturally we want to share it.  But how will we share when poor Ms. X and Mr. Y are too scared, too “busy,” too preoccupied with yelling and labeling to join in?

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Published in: on May 10, 2013 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  

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