As I sat at my desk one evening grading papers, I got stuck on a poem. It was the final paper in a stack I’d been working on for nine hours. I stared and stared at it. I read it aloud once, twice, three times. I counted the syllables in each line. I wrote out the rhyme scheme. I walked away and came back. I read it aloud again. And I just could not tell what it was saying.
In part one of this series we looked at relationship as a prerequisite to assessment. In his book Norms and Nobility, David Hicks says “Knowledge – the activity of learning – gives teacher and student a common ground for friendship – while accentuating their unequal status.” This friendship, whether between parent and child, teacher and student, or mentor and apprentice, can offer a rich environment for the cultivation of knowledge and skills, and ultimately wisdom and virtue.
Part 2: Response - The Expectations During Assessment
When I first began teaching other people’s children, the thought of assessing their work filled me with no small amount of dread. Even back then, when it was simply known as “grading”, I became anxious at the thought of telling others that their work had, or had not, met the standard. Why oh why hadn’t I decided to teach math? You either get it right or you don’t. Yes or no. Correct or incorrect. Vainly I searched for encouragement from other Language Arts teachers. The advice ranged from the humorous (“Throw the papers on the stairs.
When the Grading Session begins:
Remember that writing is not like mathematics or grammar, but like music and sports. It is learned not by problem-solving and checking, but by practice and coaching.
Remember that, as in coaching, not all errors or weakness should be addressed at one time. I must limit my critique so my students can focus their practice.
What do you call a thing that is so "normal" to you that you couldn't imagine how life would work without it, but is so rare everywhere else that others wonder why you do it at all? What would even qualify for that description? I imagine sugar might be close. Americans, apparently, eat far more sugar than the rest of the world. Is sugar such a "normal" part of our lives that we couldn't even imagine life without it, whereas the rest of the world wonders why we use so much of it? Testing fits in this category.
Our Lord, Jesus Christ is not a specialist. He did not come to earth to do one project or to solve one problem and then go back to heaven.
Christ is, as the Apostles John, Paul, and Peter all repeatedly assert and assume, the One in whom all things are held together. He is the Logos.
It is not possible to express in a blog, a book, or an article all that St. John expresses in that word Logos, with which he opens his gospel and by which he identifies his beloved teacher. Perhaps words from St. Paul's epistles might help:
On July 18th I stopped contemplating Harmony with about 250 colleagues, friends, and kindred spirits. On the 22nd, I drove up to the University of Kentucky for a week of Latin immersion, and from August 3-7 I was immersed even more deeply into the love of truth-seeking that is the CiRCE Apprenticeship.
After each, I was physically exhausted and intellectually and spiritually nourished, stimulated, and aroused. Dozens of blog posts asked me to write them. Dozens of ideas raced around the spaces of the hollow caverns of my skull. Frustration and joy contended for my chest.
Until catholic Institutions throw off the yoke of the accrediting boards, and exercise a free judgment on basic educational questions, they will never be able to realize in practice any of the principles which belong to Catholic education.
Reforming Education: The Order of Learning, page 185, 186
A Few Axioms
We imitate: It would be sensible to ignore the pride that strives to transcend that.
We are an imitation: It would be good to embrace the Glory that comes with that.
We are imitated: It would be wise to embrace the responsibility that comes with that.
It is our wisdom and glory sensibly to humble ourselves by choosing responsibly who and what we imitate and by doing it well, for we become what we behold.
The best American schools have yet to remember why western civilization introduced “school” as the foundation of that civilization. Mostly, that is because the more we talk about school, the less we do it.