The Half-Way Point

It’s the last week of the second reporting period of the first semester, which means the half-way point of fall-semester courses is quickly approaching.  Small posters appeared around the school last week to remind students – and possibly some teachers – that midterm exams for two classes would be given today, while the other two would happen tomorrow.  There were various emails, too, about logistics – and you could tell it must be midterm exam week because one of the two large copier-printers was acting up and jamming and overheating Monday morning.

I’m sure Ms. X and Mr. Y were thrilled!  Actually, they may not have noticed, because One Ms. X was busy “typing up those exams for tomorrow” when I left for the day.  She was worried – not about the quality of those exams, which apparently she had written and made a review sheet for, but about that book which she thought she was supposed to finish reading by yesterday.  “Did you finish it yet?” she whispered in the hallway between classes.  Yes, I said, because I’ve been reading it at a particular time each week when The Boy is busy and I’m waiting for him.  But it doesn’t have to be finished until next week before the BIg Training Session.

Ms. X was surprised, but pleased.  She was also surprised to learn about One Email that had gone out on Friday, a reminder of something that happens every year around this time.  “I haven’t had a chance to look at my email yet,” she said.  “And there’s something wrong with The Computer anyway.”  She was happy, though, because That One Student had “done his work” over the weekend, had memorized answers to the Review Sheet.  “And he told me,” she added, “that he usually does know the information, but he just has trouble writing it down.  So I might just have him sit in the hallway and tape record his answers this time.”

Even Ms. X is at a half-way point, it seems.  She’s still partly stuck in the same-old-same-old of factory thinking, where They send out random-seeming directives and schedule “punishment meetings.”  But the Ms. X I knew a few years ago would never have thought of oral testing for a student who struggled with writing!  She would have complained about bad and lazy or unbelievable or that parent.  Having taught That One Student myself, I know that he does usually “know the information,” but he does have trouble with written expression … and he did do significantly better in the Latin Family, where oral responses are expected and welcome.

“How do midterms work in this class?” several students asked on Monday, and I reminded them that the Major Assessment process will be similar to what we did at the end of the first reporting period a month ago.  There’s an individual response task where you read some Latin aloud, tell me what you understood about it, and use our Analytic Hand Signals or their written equivalents to demonstrate certain grammatical forms, and there’s a collaborative response where (in this case) you choose a Latin motto or proverb, determine what it really means, and use it as a lens to analyze the thoughts, words, actions, and feelings of a Tres Columnae Project character who’s appeared in several recent stories.  (The upper-level classes get a more complex text for their individual response, and they use a motto and a proverb in their collaborative response, and they go into greater depth with their analysis – but the process isn’t dissimilar.)  We’ll start today, and we should be finished with the collaborative responses – and ready to share them with each other – by Thursday (for the Latin I classes) or Friday (for the upper-level group).

Meanwhile, I’m sure Ms. X and Mr. Y are worried about the copier breaking or finishing typing up Those Exams, about what They will say about lesson plans or midterms or That Book or the Upcoming Meeting.  A Particular Ms. X, who worries constantly about such things, was happy that she “just spent five hours on lesson plans” this past weekend – a claim which left me and at least one other colleague perplexed, because we’ve never seen much evidence of results from All That Time when we interact with That Ms. X or her classes.  “Do you want to see how I do my planning?” Ms. T asked her, and Ms. X eagerly agreed.  “You must be writing too much, or something!” Ms. T told her.  That Particular Ms. X, Ms. T, and I are all at different half-way points, but we can all feel progress and change afoot.

Meanwhile, Yet Another Ms. X  must surely be behind on grading and angry – if she’s remembered – that They will be taking the New Student Information System down for maintenance this weekend, when grades are due early next week and there are meetings all day Monday.  But even That Ms. X, based on a conversation we had recently, is moving toward a half-way point.  She knows she needs to make some changes in what she grades and how she grades, but she just doesn’t know how to let go of the old, familiar, and unsuccessful.

Half-way points are hard places to be … and they aren’t places you can stay for a long time.  We’ll be moving on to new adventures, new learning, and new discoveries in the Latin Family next week, and – like it or not – Ms. X, Ms. X, Ms. X, and Mr. Y will be finishing up Those Grades and Those Exams in the next few days.  But without half-way points, there’s no journey, and without a journey, you’re stuck … and when you’re stuck, joyful community is a distant dream at best.

I wonder what adventures await us at the half-way point and beyond!

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Published in: on October 22, 2013 at 10:47 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Ms. X had finished it a week early, it seems, because she got confused about dates of things.  There’s a beautiful, well-organized, […]


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