Making Good Calls

With the southern edge of that Big Winter Storm heading towards These Parts, the Relevant Powers made a good call Monday afternoon: no after-school or evening activities  on Monday, and a delayed start for school today.  Ms. X and Mr. Y had been hoping for an early dismissal on Monday too; I hope they were satisfied with what they got.  There was certainly a lot of sleet and freezing rain late Monday afternoon and into the early evening.  But it’s sunny this morning, and as I write these words (a bit later than usual, after some extra sleep I’m truly grateful for), I can already hear the sound of melting ice dripping down the wall outside.  The Boy is happy because his big, scheduled event will go on as planned today (though it will start two hours late), and The Dog was happy to have company for longer than usual this morning.

This was supposed to be the day for the statewide in-school ACT administration for  high-school juniors, but that will have to be rescheduled.  When the announcement came on Monday afternoon, the advanced branch of the Latin Family erupted in cheers.  The seniors were happy about the extra hours of sleep, and the juniors were happy about the rescheduled ACT.  It had been a good, productive day for them, too, with much to celebrate as Latin participia suddenly began to make sense for the first time for all three groups.  Apparently I made a good call by waiting until now to emphasize the formation of participia and by structuring the task as I did.  For a whole variety of reasons, the Latin IV group, in particular, get easily flustered with multiple-step directions and multi-stage processes, so I’d been careful to break the assignment down into single steps for them.

It had been a good day earlier, too.  The beginning group started its day by classifying and transforming some nouns related to food and eating, then used the words to create and share a fairly simple story about a cook preparing food for someone in the familia, who either liked or disliked what was served.  We’ll be expanding on those stories today, adding some more food options, serving-dish options, and potential actions for the family member, with the idea that these stories will form the kernel of one scene of our Major Assessment Collaborative Response at the end of the month.  We’ll be learning about the salūtātiō ceremony today, and it will feature in another scene of those Collaborative Responses.  The beginning branch of the Latin Family are almost all avid Minecraft players, so they’ve been building the domus for their familia in virtual space.  If all goes well, we’ll put all of those domūs and villae on the same server and build a virtual Herculaneum (and quite possibly much of Campania) around them before we’re done.  It was a good call to emphasize the creation of domus and familia with this group!

Meanwhile, in the intermediate group, U had an amazing breakthrough.  U had joined the Latin Family a couple of years ago, and he did fairly well in Latin I and at the start of Latin II, but then he got sick at the end of the year, missed the final exam, and never came to take it.  “I just knew I’d fail,” he told me later, “because I suck at languages.”  Given that U is fluently, effortlessly bilingual in his two home languages, this claim surprised and disturbed me at the time.  But this spring U returned to the Latin Family, and he’s been doing well even though he was sure he “sucks at languages.”

U had been absent on the day we did our Major Assessment Individual Response, so I sat with him on Monday for that.  “I know I’ll fail,” he said, “because you know I suck at languages.”  I showed him the rubric and asked if there were any failing grade possibilities on it.  He was still sure he’d fail even though there weren’t.  “My Latin reading will sound bad because of the Spanish,” he said, and then I reminded him that, actually, Spanish would be an advantage, not a disadvantage.  Of course the oral reading was excellent, and much to his surprise, so was the reading comprehension.  “I suck at grammar stuff,” he insisted, so I asked him to find words for people and places and actions rather than the more abstract nouns and verbs … and of course he not only found them, but recognized that this word and this word were, in fact, different forms of the same word.  U probably would still insist that he “sucks at languages,” but I’m hoping that his good call (of going ahead and trying the Major Assessment anyway) and mine (of pretty much insisting that he do so) will bear fruit for him in the weeks and months to come.

Ms. X would just have written up a discipline referral, of course.  Because U used the word “sucks” out loud.  More than once.

Making good calls, and knowing what calls to make and when to make them, knowing what to focus on and what to ignore, are all vitally important whether you work in a hierarchical structure or in a joyful learning community.  As one colleague of mine said yesterday, in a somewhat related context, “I’ve never known a micro-manager who made a good leader.”  And yet there’s something about the structure of factory-schools and factory-classrooms that encourages micro-management, or maybe just doesn’t discourage it.  Ms. X storms or frets because the “bad, lazy ones” put Notebook Handout #30 where #31 “should” go, or because E, F, or G “did the Chapter 7 problems the Chapter 6 way.”  Endless meetings are devoted to processes and procedures rather than to the goals behind them.  And on and on.

I wonder what new insights await, what good calls to make or bad calls to avoid, await us all today.

Published in: on March 4, 2014 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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