Something Old, Something New, V

Around lunchtime on Thursday, the rain started – a heavy, driving rain that’s expected to continue all day today and for part of the weekend.  Blame Tropical Storm Andrea, which made landfall in Florida and is working its way up the East Coast bringing rainfall of two to four inches in a 24-hour period.  So, as I thought about this post Thursday afternoon and evening, and as I sat down to finish writing it this morning, it was unusually dark, unusually cool, unusually wet for early June.  With potential flooding in the forecast, sensible Powers decided to cancel (or maybe postpone) the end-of-school-year dance that had been scheduled for tonight.  But five area high schools have graduations today … which reminds me that I want to take a slightly different route to work this morning!  Traffic near the graduation venue will be considerable, and the wet weather will only compound people’s frustrations.

As the rain became heavier, it was time for one group of students to leave lunch and return to class as another group arrived at the school cafeteria.  The arriving group were, of course, drenched – one of the downsides of a beautiful, historic campus with multiple buildings.  They were also excited and talking loudly, much to the dismay of Ms. N and Mr. O, whose classrooms they passed on the way.  Mr. O, though, thoughtfully stepped out into the hall and offered substitute umbrellas – posters his students had made but not reclaimed – to anyone who didn’t have an umbrella.

It was a thoughtful, kind gesture … but as I looked out the exit door a few minutes later, I saw the posters lying wet and unwanted on the ground.  They seemed symbolic, somehow, of the complex journey we’re all trying to navigate as we move from 20th-century schooling to a new paradigm of learning.

Earlier in the day, a friend had shared this editorial piece from The Atlantic about the importance of developing a “real code of ethics” for newly professional teachers.  As it is, the author argues, both teachers and their Powers That Be conceive of educators’ professional ethics as “following the rules” – and Rules, as we all know, are sent down from On High and can be changed when necessary, especially when people act bad and lazy.  I thought about that a lot on Thursday, as various Powers announced Rules or Rule Changes.  “Teachers,” said one aggrieved Power over the intercom, “please be reminded that there are no parties at the end of the school year.  If you want to do a celebration or something with your class, you have to have that approved through The Office.”  Another gave a reminder about the new, improved system for turning in printed copies of grade information – and it is a new, improved system, but it apparently caused a lot of confusion for Ms. X and Mr. Y.  A few other, very tired Powers were doing “walk-through observations” on Thursday, just to make sure “their” teachers were “keeping kids busy and on task” … and the one who visited our class, right after we’d finished the Culminating Activity, was most impressed by what the students had to say about it.  We’d stopped because, in addition to the mandate for “busy and on task,” there was also a mandate for students to report – in three different groups – to a central location for a special program.

I guess you could accomplish busy and on task and a third of the students out for a Special Thing if you had enough worksheet packets … but it’s a bit harder if the task is real and meaningful.  And for all three classes, the Culminating Activity proved to be real, meaningful, and even fun.  “I’m no good at improv,” said K, who played the role of Mercury in the early-morning group … but that gave W, as Jupiter, the opportunity to be even more bossy and directive than he’d expected to be.  “Go down there,” said W-as-Jupiter, “and tell them this!”  Will Lucius and Lollia end up happily together after she quarrels with her husband Vipsanius?  Will the gods grant Lucius’ not-so-secret prayers … or, in their anger at his lack of pietās, will they decide to begin the slow process that leads to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius?  The outcomes were different in the two Latin II classes, but all the active participants had a wonderful time and the spectators seemed to enjoy watching things unfold.  “Is this the third column of the Tres Columnae System?” I asked each group.  “Reading, writing, and becoming the characters?”  Yes, they said, and we need to do this more often, and start earlier.

I thought so, I told them, but I wanted to be sure.  We now have proof of concept; if we could do this well at the end of the year, when everyone is exhausted, just think of how well the role-plays will work when everyone isn’t exhausted, when there’s enough time to develop the characters and situations fully.

Meanwhile, down the hall, Ms. X was  fretting about what They might say or do if They happened to visit her classroom.  I saw One Ms. X around lunch time, sitting at her desk, head in her hands.  She looked as tired and frustrated as any “bad, lazy child,” and my heart ached for her.

The role-play scenario was a bit different in the afternoon class – and it took longer to start because that’s also the time when students were being called to receive their “summer packets” for Advanced Placement courses.  U and T came back with something the size of a textbook – and they were bitterly unhappy because, in fact, it’s “a complete review” (according to Ms. D) of “the whole curriculum” of the prerequisite course.  I reminded them that, if they’re interested, the equivalent Latin course is at the exact same time as Ms. D’s class next year … and they picked up that minimal “packet” just in case.

How do all these threads connect?  What are the lessons for us builders and sustainers of joyful communities?  What literal or metaphorical storms will we face as we move forward?  And how will we respond in the moment, when someone offers us literal or metaphorical discarded posters to help stay dry?

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Published in: on June 7, 2013 at 10:40 am  Leave a Comment  

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