Amen, Amenability

– adjective
1590s, “liable,” from Anglo-Fr. amenable, from M.Fr. amener “answerable” (to the law), from à “to” + mener “to lead,” from L. minare “to drive (cattle) with shouts,” var. of minari “threaten” (see menace). Sense of “tractable” is from 1803, from notion of disposed to answer or submit to influence.

Your final grades are now online.  Folded into the fourth quarter are a series of enrichment scores for newspaper articles and the suggested reflection on your term papers.  The latter may not have earned you a bonus, however; if you failed to complete the steps as outlined, or if your work was not sufficiently developed, you were not given credit.  You can gauge the effectiveness of your reflection by comparing it to the following two documents:

If you work does not match up in meaning and detail to either of these, you failed to meet the requirements for enrichment.  This has everything to do with the richness of the term paper as a writing artifact.  Here is a term paper from this year given categorized commentary:

That may help illuminate the depth of the original assignment and the necessity for a thorough and measured reflection.

A note on final exams: Final exams are not released to students, but you can click the following link for the DAMAGES breakdown of your cover letter and the score given to you by your roundtable evaluator:

The cover letter’s two scores correspond to the fourth quarter and final exam, respectively.  Any deductions reflect late submissions.

– noun
1560s, “degree of merit or importance,” from M.Fr. calibre (late 15c.), apparently ultimately from Arabic qalib “a mold for casting.” Arabic also used the word in the sense “mold for casting bullets,” which is the original literal meaning in English, though the earliest cited sense is a figurative one. Meaning “inside diameter of a gun barrel” is attested from 1580s.

The roots of caliber give us calibration, and the connotations are helpful: You are going to mold your final presentations carefully over the next week, and you might consider each element of the roundtable a chamber for which you are stockpiling ammunition.  Remember, you are speaking for 7-9 minutes.  This can feel like an eternity or an instant, if you aren’t ready.  Here is the suggested process:

  1. At all times, maintain a focus on answering the essential question(s).
  2. Set an approach.  The first thing your evaluator hears will open the door to follow-up questions; it will also set the tone for your presentation.
  3. Prepare talking points: Select details from your cover letter and representative writing pieces that you want to be sure to discuss during your presentation,
  4. Arrange those details so that you can flesh them out within 7-9 minutes.  Block off ideas into a logical sequence.
  5. Attach meaning to every detail, and vice-versa.  If you lay out a pattern in your writing or thinking, offer examples; if you list detail from papers, discuss what they reveal about the relationship between your writing and thinking.
  6. Construct an ending.  Don’t trail off or stop abruptly.  Determine how you want to conclude your 7-9 minutes, and use that ending to guide your arrangement.
  7. Pay attention to grammar and presentation: maintain eye contact, sit up straight, try not to stumble over your words, and balance familiarity (with the material) with formality (toward the table).
  8. As for style: You will set yourself apart most easily (and authentically) by paying attention to the other half of Approach.  What is your perspective on yourself?  How original and organic is your answer to the essential question(s)?  Do you have an implicit or explicit thesis?  And so on.

I also suggest that you prepare index cards or a reference sheet for your presentation, as this will help conquer any nerves that threaten you on the 21st.  Remember that this is a final exam, but it is also and obviously about you—a chance for you to showcase your writing and thinking.  Take it seriously, apply what you have learned this year, and you will do well.

The table and session to which you have been assigned are listed here:

Please write your session number and table number at the top of the cover letter you are submitting to the evaluator.  And, as always, speak to me or email me with any questions or concerns.

GC: Term Papers

Formative steps

As you work on your cover letters, you should use this labyrinthine post as fodder.  For every assignment, remember, you are required to reflect on your scores and any commentary, general or specific, that you’ve received.  You’ve even been given a refresher on the idea of reflection.  So the question is simple, I think: How many of the required compendium entries have you written since December?

When I’ve checked along the way, few of you have been keeping up (for those QORAS, only two of you reflected at all, and those reflections were exceptionally weak).  And that, as you write your cover letters, and as you read this post on your term papers, should be at the front of your mind: Without the necessary reflection and self-assessment, you would stagnate in this course.  For any writing assignment since December, you should have

  1. the writing itself, printed and filed in your writing folder;
  2. any specific commentary, whether it’s affixed to the writing or was distributed elsewhere
  3. any general commentary that was printed or uploaded;
  4. a careful unpacking of any DAMAGES+ scores and commentary; and
  5. an entry in your compendium that delves into how you performed, what kind of feedback you received, and how you might improve.

That last step is absolutely and ineluctably the most important one.  If you haven’t been reflecting as instructed, do some soul-searching.  Ask yourself why you haven’t done the one thing that has guaranteed all year an increase in your understanding and performance.  Consider the wealth of resources you have in front of you, and reflect on what prevents you from using them effectively, even though it is in your best interest to do so.  Then take the time between now and the last day of school to write one exceptional reflective entry in that compendium.  Build it around the steps and feedback below.  Use it to set up your roundtable discussion, your summer work, and the writing you will do next year.  In fact, all of you should bring your compendia in on Monday the 13th; we’ll fold a discussion of this last reflection into our roundtable practice.

We start with the numbers.  Load the following document in a separate window, and then return here with your compendium to continue reading:

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Duck and Cover

Update: Your cover letter will not be evaluated on the 21st; your roundtable evaluator will assess only your presentation, using the cover letter to generate questions and direct the conversation.  The letter will still comprise half of your final exam score.

At this point, you have a substantial draft or outline of your final portfolio and cover letter.  You should be ready to read other students’ responses, revise your own work, and format your final letter according to a prescribed template.  First, review the packet that details all requirements and expectations for this final exam:

The only additional note to make now is about succinctness.  Don’t write five pages here; your evaluator will want focused, specific writing, not a rambling account of the last year.  Limit yourself to two pages except under the direst circumstances (which means, I think, that alligators or sharks are attacking).

Now you can begin to revise, edit, and print your work.  Here are four model letters from previous years:

There are several important differences between your assignment and the one given to these classes.  First, you were instructed to avoid a pedagogical diatribe or celebration; while your teachers are a critical part of the relationship between your writing and thinking, your letters are about a portfolio of your work.  Avoid hero worship and demonization.  Second, you are answering a single essential question.  Even if you include the optional clarifying questions, your focus should be on the relationship between your thinking and writing, not thematic elements of the course or essential questions from specific units.

Here is a template you can download or copy when you are ready to format your final letter:

Note that this is somewhat more refined and formal than previous years have been.  Your goal is professionalism, after all, and you are professional students of a kind; make sure your letter, your portfolio, and your presentation demonstrate that.

Definition: protection; support: under the imperial aegis.
Etymology: “protection,” 1793, “shield of Zeus,” from L. aegis, from Gk. Aigis, the name of the shield of Zeus, said by Herodotus to be related to aix (gen. aigos) “goat,” from PIE *aig– “goat” (cf. Skt. ajah, Lith. ozys “he-goat”), as the shield was of goatskin. Athene’s aigis was a short goat-skin cloak, covered with scales, set with a gorgon’s head, and fringed with snakes.

–noun, plural-cies.
Definition: capacity for producing a desired result or effect; effectiveness: a remedy of great efficacy.
Etymology: 1520s, from L. efficacia “efficacy, efficiency,” from efficax (gen. efficacis) “powerful, effective,” from stem of efficere “work out, accomplish” (see effect). Earlier in same sense was efficace (c.1200), from O.Fr. eficace (14c.), from L. efficacia; also efficacite (early 15c.), from L. efficacitatem.

And with that, we’re across the threshold of the AP test.  Twenty days remain.  It would be pedagogically bankrupt to allow you to waste that time, however, because our course does not rise and set with a three-hour examination.  The work we do doesn’t even end in June, when you escape into the sweet embrace of summer apathy; if you want to become a better reader, thinker, or writer, it’s going to take a lot of work. And that brings up two issues: you as a student and the end of your school year.  [Self-plagiarism note: The following is adapted from a post written to this year’s Media Studies class.]

Before you can leave the building physically, you will link together the last of your choices in this class.  Remember that this course is provisionally an elective, and you chose to take it; you may have felt pressure from your parents or your peers or the nebulous specter of college, but you chose, in the end, to be here.   That choice identifies you as a particular kind of student.  Now you must finish your year under that aegis: as an intelligent, honest, and curious student with a sense of self-efficacy and a general respect for the work we do.

During the first dozen of these remaining days, you will write an essay.  This is the last paper you will write in this course, and you are being asked to take some pride in it; like the portfolios and roundtable presentations that will follow, it will be driven by your choices.  You will chose the topic, the research, the structure, and the delivery.  You have complete agency and, as an inexorable consequence, complete responsibility.

I believe that you understand what this means.  If you blow off your final essay or exam, you are likely to fail, and it might not matter if that failure is attached to grades.  But the more you are told this, the more some part of you rebels against it.  Good advice wears out with repetition, just like anything else.  Your frustration demands some defense or justification, so you hunker down: the exam is over; it’s already May; you’re a senior; you will be a senior; you’ve earned some half-considered idea of freedom; you’re not going to use this in your real life; your teacher is a jerk; none of this really matters, anyway.  You choose apathy and disengagement, dress it up in distracting language, and wait for it all to be over.

The ugly parts of us don’t operate on a switch, however.  Apathy, disrespect, entitlement—these aren’t sweaters or jackets you can shrug off and cast aside when they’re no longer fashionable.  You are breeding future selves, and if that’s too metaphysical for you, think of it this way: You are developing right now the habits that will poison or empower you down the line.  This is inculcation in its purest form.  Every choice you make affects you in some way, and I don’t deal in scare tactics; most of your lives are a series of small choices that become a chain, and that chain will protect you or, like Jacob Marley, weigh you down forever. You are probably—hopefully—never going to experience the effects of a sudden and obliterating choice, but you should be much more concerned with the insidious and irrevocable ones.

To borrow an Orwellian metaphor (from the novel that so few of you read): Do you truly believe that disrespect, disengagement, or failure now will pass through you like a grain of corn through the body of a bird, undigested and harmless?

Continued here.

A Penny Saved

Synthesis writing update: If you have another AP class tomorrow during seventh period, please go to that class instead of going to the LGI.  You will be able to take home the prompt for our course and write a response over the weekend.  We will focus on peer exemplars from previous years on Monday and Tuesday, and that comparative analysis will be graded; your own timed work will be a formative component only.  If this is confusing, I will work quickly to send you where you need to be at the beginning of seventh.  Spread the word, though: Go to your other AP courses seventh period, then come back to the LGI for eighth; you will be able to take home the prompt over the weekend.

Whether you were riding roller coasters, cramming as many dates and names into your cavernous short-term memory as possible, or celebrating an absence from our pseudo-field trip for some other reason, your homework is now to scrape together 60 minutes to respond to the synthesis prompt here:

You are responsible for only the synthesis prompt (Q1).  You might enjoy* looking at the other two prompts, and we will return to them as part of our pre-exam bum rush, but you are required only to respond to the synthesis prompt (Q1).

If you were in class, you have no homework.

*This is obviously not the right verb.

Against all expectations, I’d like to lead with the positive: Some of the best writing of the year happened in these metacognitive essays.  Here are a few of them:

To help you reflect with these more efficiently, here are their respective DAMAGES scores (ignoring presentation for a moment):

  • Metacognitive Exemplar: 98 (1)—8/8/8/7/7/8/8
  • Metacognitive Exemplar: 98 (2)—9/8/8/8/7/6/8
  • Metacognitive Exemplar: 96 (1)—9/8/8/6/8/6/7
  • Metacognitive Exemplar: 96 (2)—9/7/8/7/8/7/7
  • Metacognitive Exemplar: 92 (1)—8/7/7/8/6/5/6

Depending on your own scores, you will want to load these and consider them as part of your required, compendium-based reflection.  They demonstrate the flexibility and creativity possible in responding to this kind of prompt, and each one blends exhaustive data with engaging style and insight; they are exemplary, and these writers should be proud of their work.  I have left them anonymous only to help their authors avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous competition.

Whether you worked hard or procrastinated, when you began this assignment, you were given a series of posts to help prompt you:

  1. General Commentary: Practice Exam
  2. A Note on Metacognition
  3. The Stuff of Growth

Within that first post are all the documents that were distributed in class, and you were asked over many periods to parse that feedback and data and to reflect on the meaning of every bit of it.  It’s the second post there that should briefly interest us, however.  A number of you, perhaps six or seven, wrote in your metacognitive essays that you were unclear about what metacognition is.  A few even complained that the term had never been defined, and that you had been thrown, more or less, to the wolves.  Even in the better responses, there are shadows that imply a lack of certainty or self-efficacy.

This is emblematic of a more general failure to read the commentary provided to you in class and in posts like this one.  It speaks to an inability or unwillingness to consider feedback carefully, a failure to maintain handouts and notes, perhaps a choice not to take notes in the first place. You have studied metacognition since September, and the word is not new.  You have reflected and revised and revisited your work from the beginning, and been asked all year to consider your responsibilities as a student, especially the need, at your ostensible level of academic potential, to use the resources provided to you.

What these metacognitive essays tell me is that you—enough of you, at least, or the collective you, or just that ineluctable group of you— consider those resources poorly, if you read them at all.  You must correct this habit.  This is not just about the looming AP exam; this is a matter of inculcating better habits, ones that might distinguish you and help you in college and beyond.

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