The day before break I gave my Latin II students a challenging passage as a yardstick with which to measure their current skills. Like almost every formal assessment of this type this year, I allowed them to use a dictionary and whatever notes/charts they had. I'm interested in seeing if, with the tools, they can read Latin. I couldn't care any less about how many words they managed to memorize. That's not how things operative in the real world. I'm never in a situation where, if I don't recognize a word in a Latin text, I'm forbidden to look it up.
But I digress..
One of my students got called down to guidance before the class even started. He came back with just under half of the period to go. There wasn't any way that he was going to have enough time to do his best on the passage but I told him to just do what he could. At the end of the period I asked him if he had any free periods during the rest of the day because I didn't want this to spill over after the break. Given that he's a pretty high powered student, I wasn't surprised to hear that he didn't.
Then he had an idea: "Mr. Bal, we do NFA Reads," (a 20 minute reading period during the lunch channel), "before lunch. Hopefully my teacher will let me come and finish this up before lunch."
"Great idea! I'll be over in my other room."
Well, the student came back later and said, "My teacher won't let me come finish the test. I'm sorry."
I also got an email from that teacher "explaining" to me that NFA Reads was not the time to have students come take a test. It should be used for reading. (Wait, isn't he coming to read Latin?)
So here's an honors student, who got called out of a test from his guidance counselor, trying to do the right thing and take care of his obligations before April break. And his reward? Being put in a situation where he's made to feel like he's somehow disappointed me.
But the best part is that the story doesn't end there.
This student sent me an email on Friday night (yes, the first night of vacation) to apologize for not being able to come finish the passage and to offer a proposition: would I be willing to put the passage on Google Wave for him to mark up and then translate?
Absolutely -- I even typed in the work that he had done so he had something to start with. The student finished up the passage Saturday morning (only missing a couple ablative absolutes and he'll have to review imperatives a little bit more).
If you can teach them how to be resourceful and use the tools at their disposal, you'll find that students are capable of success despite our best attempts to prevent them from doing so. But then again, having twenty minutes of forced reading absolutely creates a love of reading, right?