Imperfect, Yet Excellent

That’s the phrasing Don suggested on Google+ yesterday.  As soon as I read it, I agreed with his point:

Word order matters… “excellent…imperfect” gives too much power to the imperfection. “Imperfect yet excellent.”

Is it a coincidence that the upper-level class just started working with ways that Romans emphasized and de-emphasized actions, by promoting them to be main verbs or demoting them into clauses or participial phrases?  Word order matters, and so does word form.  And most of us – even some of “the thirteen” – are ready to start noticing these things.

Monday was another imperfect, yet excellent day.  Most of the remaining Latin I groups did make their Minor Assessment #1 Presentations; two needed one more day to be ready.  Ms. X would have stormed, raged, yelled, and labeled, I’m sure.  But as Debbie wisely pointed out,

my first thought as reading your blog was, “what is your intention?”.
If the intention is the learning and the project, .. then why is there a time limit? If the intention is to develop time management skills, then the other learning isn’t the priority – getting things in on time becomes the focus and changes the project all together, I would think.

In this case, the intention definitely was the learning and the project!  Those two groups will do an imperfect, yet excellent job today (or tomorrow), just as their counterparts did.  The only reason to rush would be “because progress reports go out this week” … but I have plenty of evidence of how everyone is performing.  Even Ms. X “isn’t worried about” grades and progress reports, she told me Monday afternoon.  “It’s Their fault anyway,” she said, “because They changed all these things at the same time.”  The only other reason to rush would be because I said so … and that sounds ridiculous to me, though it might not have in years past.

Anyway, there’s no rush.  And that’s a wonderful feeling for everyone.

The Latin I classes started out their day on Monday by reading an imperfect, yet excellent story about a new Tres Columnae Project family whose māter just happens to be the soror of our central character Lollius.  Like Lollius and his familia, the Quinctii are poor, and they rent a cēnāculum in the same īnsula where Lollius lives … but the Quinctii aren’t entirely like their relatives, as we’ll discover.  They have a little secret that will be important later.

And no, I’m not going to tell you.  You’ll just have to wait and see what it is.  The story hasn’t even appeared on the site yet.

Then came those presentations, and then came a “quid est in pictūrā” vocabulary activation task with the illustrations from Lectio III Fabella Prima.  We read the story together, celebrating how well we could understand and how well we were doing with the Analytic Hand Signals.  And then, at the end of the day, we formed pairs to create Quaestiōnēs Latīnae about the story.  Everyone had picked up a sheet of construction paper per group along with the “quid est in pictūrā” handout … and I realized that my imperfect yet excellent decision to leave the construction paper out had provided a great opportunity.  We folded the construction paper in a particular way – I’ll take a picture of one and share it in tomorrow’s post – and created question-booklets with the questions on the front,  with places for three or four different groups to answer them, without seeing each other’s answers, on the inside.

We’ll be sending the booklets around and answering each other’s questions today … and that never would have happened if I’d done the “perfect” thing and put the construction paper away.  It probably wouldn’t have happened at this time last year, either.  Though I was working on my escape from the factory-mindset, I was still stuck in the paradigm of doing things for students.  I would have sighed and collected the construction paper at best, yelled and labeled about following directions at worst.  And I would have missed a golden opportunity.

The upper-level class did some vocabulary work, a “quid est in pictūrā” based on illustrations from this story, and then we read the first page together with our Analytic Hand Signals … and we noticed some “split-personality combination noun-verbs” that were hard to signal.  We focused in on them, remembered the term participia, and practiced the two-part signal of tempus and cāsus that we’ll be using with them.  In years past, I would have rushed to hand out a Consolidation Sheet … but I didn’t, because we’re not ready, and because there’s no need to rush to produce complex forms when you’re focusing on proficiency.  After lunch, we read the next story in the sequence and created another set of driving-restraining force diagrams. C, D, D, and E are still resisting both the stories and the diagrams, partly because they’d rather be perfectly wrong (a blank paper) than imperfectly right (reading but not necessarily grasping everything) and partly, I think, because the subject matter of life transitions and family struggles is so close to their hearts.  Again, in years past, I might have labeled or Done Something; on Monday I was content to observe, and today, if the pattern continues, I’ll have conversations with, not for, not at them.

Then came That Long Meeting … which was imperfect, yet excellent too.  Two huge tasks awaited us, both involving unfamiliar computer systems.  I was in charge of training for the second task, creating assignments and putting in grades for Progress Reports that will be printed in a few days.  Of course the system is different, but I was also feeling different – and I think I stopped more frequently to ask for feedback than I used to, and I know I was more patient, less rushed, when Kindly Mr. N or Sweet Ms. H or Distracted Ms. C needed to attention.  A year ago, I would have rushed to “help” … but as I mentioned in Monday’s post, I realized that some help, the kind you do for, not with others, really isn’t helpful at all.  So I encouraged colleagues to help each other, to work with each other through the rough spots … and they did!  They felt empowered, too.

The Monday evening book group at church is starting Thomas Merton’s No Man Is an Island, and I’d read the Prologue and the first chapter Sunday afternoon.  What Merton says about love is equally true of help: it becomes a sad, destructive shadow of itself when you go about it in the wrong way,  with the wrong priorities, in the wrong frame of mind and heart.  One form of help for others is just a demonstration of how much you know and how “wonderful” you are.  Another destructive form involves trying to give what you don’t actually have.  Yet another involves trying to fill your own emptiness by looking like a hero.  As we talked Monday evening, I saw connection after humbling, but exciting connection.

Building a joyful community … it’s impossible without love, without help and support, without the team, place, and time to build the dream.  But the love, help, team, place, and time all happen with, not for the builders, and they happen with, not for the community itself.  My head is still spinning from the insights!

And I wonder what new insights, what new discoveries, what new challenges and opportunities this new day will bring.

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Published in: on September 10, 2013 at 10:22 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] the Google+ conversation about yesterday’s post, Don described and interpreted students of his who act like […]

  2. […] makes for a harder world in some ways, but I guess it’s an imperfect, yet excellent world.  It’s the only world available in any case!  And I keep thinking about making a […]

  3. […] need to be perfect, in other words!  I’ve known that for a long […]


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