Getting Serious?

Over the weekend, when the “weekly bulletin” reminder email arrived from the Relevant Power, I noticed that someone had – probably wisely – included the number of instructional days remaining before Winter Break.  It’s a small number, smaller still when you factor in special activities and programs, of which there are at least two involving the whole school in these next two weeks.  Ms. X and Mr. Y, the ones who don’t tend to look at calendars (or email reminders) regularly, are probably starting to panic.  Or if they aren’t now, they will be whenever they finally read That Email and make the connections between time left and stuff left to cover.

It’s still about coverage for Ms. X and Mr. Y, and coverage is their job.  Everybody knows that!  In factory-school thinking, teachers cover, students complete assigned tasks (including some “cute little activities” to make the process slightly less unpleasant), and learning – or test scores, or something – automatically (or magically?) results.  “I have to give those notes today,” as One Ms. X said despite her laryngitis, and from her perspective, she was entirely right.  Without Ms. X’s notes, how could her students possibly learn the information?  (Never mind the thousands, even millions, of websites they could use; never mind the Fairly Comprehensive Textbook filled with that information!)  As far as Ms. X and Mr. Y are concerned, now is the time to get serious, to do more of the same … and to get different results or more results or something.

“We have eighteen sections of The Book to cover, and fifteen class days till exams start,” One Ms. X said at lunch the other day.  “And we’re going to do it!”  And they will – but how much of what’s covered will her students actually retain?  How much will they still be able to remember and use a year, a month, even a week after That Exam?  In schools as they are, that’s really not the point; the point is Those Scores and the learning (or teaching, or something) that they theoretically represent.  The point is the process, which – if it were just applied with fidelity, as textbook publishers and curriculum designers like to say – would surely lead to the desired results.  Whatever those are.

Meanwhile, in our small corner of the factory, the Latin Family has been trying to build learning that lasts.  We’re serious about it, but it’s also seriously fun a lot of the time.  T, B, B, P, and the others finally finished their video on Friday, and they were more excited than I’ve ever seen them.  “It’s really good,” they said, “and we’ll get it edited over the weekend.”  D, D, C, E, and the others in the upper-level class got excited by the Quick Background Research topics on Friday – was it just that they seemed so mysterious?  Or was it the physical act of choosing a card rather than picking a topic from a list?  Every group in the upper-level class gets creative control of a minor storyline starting with today’s Minor Assessment, and (for the most part) they’re excited about the opportunity and ready to take their character – or characters – in potentially unexpected directions.

Getting serious.  It’s important – but it’s different in a joyful learning community.

Over the weekend, in addition to reading That Email and spending some time with the family, I also reconnected with a group of friends I haven’t seen in almost 35 years.  We were inseparable (much to our teachers’ dismay!) from kindergarten through fourth grade, and then I went to a different school, and then we gradually lost touch … but we didn’t all lose touch, and when T and her friends had their annual holiday dinner, they started talking about folks they’d lost touch with, and through the power of social media, we were all reconnected within a few days.  And memories came flooding back – memories of silly things and serious things, of time we spent playing and learning and sometimes getting in trouble together.  And those memories – and the connections with childhood, and the friendships restored – are important threads in the tapestry that seems to be weaving itself these days.  “I’m more myself than I’ve been in a while,” I told a friend Sunday afternoon … and when you’re working to build and sustain a joyful community, it’s important to be (and become) as much yourself as possible!

So today, as Ms. X and Mr. Y fret about coverage and getting serious, the Latin I classes will be finishing up those last stories in Lectiō XII and deciding which of the two alternative endings has Vipsania, Cnaeus’ mother, becoming more like herself.  And the upper-level group will see Lucius Valerius becoming even more like himself as he prepares for a life-changing mission.  I couldn’t have planned for the narrative threads to come together with the personal threads, but I’m enjoying the serendipity … and I’m hoping that we all get serious – in a seriously fun way – about our personal journeys of self-discovery as well as the shared work of building (and discovering) joyful community.

And I wonder what other amazing bits of serendipity await us all today!

Published in: on December 9, 2013 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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