“Teachers, please check your email now. Again, teachers, please check your email now.” With the weather forecast that students had been bouncing around among themselves before school started — snow, sleet, blizzard, nothing, depending on the individual student’s optimism — it seemed obvious what the email would tell us. Sure enough: “School will be dismissed early today. Will let you know more details later.”
I finished reading and, turning around, met a chorus of pleas: ”What did it say?!” “Tell us!” “Are we getting out early!?” I just smiled and continued with where I’d been in the lesson.
“Come on!!” was the only response I got.
Still, I pressed on. We were working on using transition words as markers in an argument. “Even if” was our phrase of the moment, and I smiled and gave as an example, “Even if we have early dismissal today, it won’t affect our first period class.”
Still later, a trickle of announcements begins interrupting our work: ”Jane Doe, please come to the office for early dismissal.” ”Michael Smith, please come to the office. You have an early dismissal.”
It seemed obvious by now, but still, I said nothing.
Finally, though, the clincher: “Those students who borrowed a belt from Mrs. Thomas, please return them now.” With a mandatory belt a part of our school’s dress code, Mrs. Thomas has taken to lending belts to students who arrive without in an effort to help them avoid the inconvenient consequences. But that’s not what the students heard. They heard, “We’re getting an early dismissal.”
It was a teachable moment I couldn’t pass up. Recalling a student’s comment earlier in the year about how she never infers as part of her day, I asked the class, “Since you all now think you’re getting an early dismissal, would you mind telling me what skill you’re employing to reach that conclusion?”
Miss I-Never-Infer-And-Likely-Was-Only-Trying-To-Be-Contrary said, “We inferred!”
We went through the observations we’d made in order to make that inference:
- “You got that email. No one ever makes an announcement for teachers to check their email!”
- “You used that ‘Even if’ example!”
- “We’ve been having half the school called to the front for early dismissal.”
- “Everyone only has to take their belts back to Mrs. Thomas. You only have to do that at the end of the day.”
I agreed to each one, probing a bit further to get them to express their reasoning a little more fully. Finally, I asked, “What about the most obvious piece of evidence?”
Seemingly all hands in the room pointed to the window. “The weather!”
Only one thing to do — put a bow on it: “So don’t tell me you don’t infer endlessly on a daily basis.”