Resting and Reflecting

For many of my students and colleagues, this past weekend was full of everything but resting and reflecting.  There was a last-minute “remediation” session Saturday morning for classes that have Great Big High-Stakes State Tests, and there was a cluster of last-minute emails from Powers That Be.   Many seniors are putting final touches on their Graduation Projects, which they’ll be presenting on Thursday evening – and there was a last-minute cry for a few more judges, too.  If they obeyed the directive to have “all grades keyed” before exams start (which doesn’t really mean all grades, as they’re reminded every year), Ms. X and Mr. Y were probably rushing madly through the weekend; if they ignored it, they’re bound to be upset and worried, afraid that Somebody will do or say Something about their tardiness.  And of course students spent the weekend studying (often, without any real guidance in how to do that) or not studying.

For lots of different reasons, many of us are probably feeling frantic and exhausted this Monday morning.  “The only good thing,” Some Ms. X is probably thinking, “is that They make all the copies for Those Exams, so the copier won’t break down today.”  And Some Mr. Y is probably glad that there’s a script to read during the testing sessions, and that the threat of a Great Big High-Stakes Test will keep “those bad, lazy kids” quiet for most of the three-hour testing session.

There aren’t Big High-Stakes State Tests for World Languages in These Parts yet, so my students and I will do what we’ve done for the past few years.  Their culminating task begins with an individual written response, reading a story, looking for a character’s thoughts, words, and actions, trying to write a brief continuation of the story in Latin, and analyzing the cultural products, practices, and perspectives important to the story.  Then comes a collaborative written section, where we’ll work in pairs to distinguish and analyze familiar grammatical forms in a passage, then build Latin sentences from multiple-choice options, and finally construct a large graphic organizer that shows specific similarities and differences between Roman and American culture.  We’ll have hard copies of the various Noun and Verb Forms Consolidation Sheets available for that section; it’s not about recall of the forms, but about applying and evaluating what you know.  And during the collaborative written section of the exam, I’ll be circulating from pair to pair to administer the individual oral response, where you read out loud and then summarize what you understood in a short paragraph.

The time tends to pass quickly; students tend to do well; and we get accurate, usable results without the fear and terror that frequently accompany Big Scary High-Stakes Tests.  And there’s no need for a “remediation” session, either, or for the dreaded “packets” that, according to Ms. X and Mr. Y, they “hate just as much as the kids do, but I don’t have any choice.”  While Ms. X and Mr. Y were struggling through Those Packets Friday, we had an oddly joyful day: groups worked hard to finish their video products, uploaded them for us to watch in odd moments this week, and had a few moments to relax or, in some cases, to finish That Last Thing for Ms. X’s class.

That Last Thing that, of course, will leave Ms. X rushed and frantic as she struggles to get it graded during exam week, and to get stuff ready for the new semester that starts next week.

If the copier cooperates, I’ll be getting stuff ready today, or maybe tomorrow – getting stuff ready, that is, by printing the requisite number of syllabus copies and first-few-day forms.  The biggest part of getting ready, though, when you’re building and sustaining joyful learning communities, is getting yourself ready.   And that’s why rest and reflection were so important for me this weekend.  That’s why I’m grateful I was able to sleep a bit late Saturday morning, to spend some time in the afternoon with a dear old friend who’s moving across the country to start a new chapter in his life, to reconnect with some other old friends who’d also come to wish him well.  And I’m grateful for the rainy weather Saturday, which meant I “had to” spend some restful, quiet time with The Dog and The Cat.  And I’m grateful for a beautiful Sunday, for a quiet breakfast at an old favorite spot, a deeply meaningful church service, lunch at friends’ new (and excellent) food-truck venture, a peaceful afternoon nap, some writing time at the Local Coffee Shop.  Grateful, too, to have learned about this not-so-massive MOOC about New School Creation, and for Seth Godin’s new course about creating a “leverage plan” for new ventures.  And grateful for unexpected good news from a former student I “just happened” to see at the grocery store.  Grateful, indeed, for rest and reflection, for community built and rebuilt.

After we finish with the exam process, each class will be participating in one last Embodied Role Play, and we’ll take time to compare the last with video footage we kept from the first.  We’ll have a chance to rest and reflect as the semester hurtles to an end, to prepare ourselves for the next class (for those of us who are going straight on) or for our time away from the Latin Family.  I’m grateful for that time, too, and for the new members who will be joining us.  For the opportunities to build and rebuild new forms of joyful community.

In this busy, sometimes crazy time of the year, I’m grateful for a few moments of peace and quiet.  And I wonder what exciting new adventures await us all in the days to come!

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Published in: on January 13, 2014 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  

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