salvēte, amīci et sodālēs! I do hope that all of our U.S. readers had a wonderful, restful, and meaningful Memorial Day Weekend. I’m writing the first draft of this post on a weekend beach retreat, with the soothing sounds of birds nearby and the peaceful sound of surf in the background. But for those who will read this post “live” on June 1, it’s the first day of final exams in my face-to-face teaching world … absolutely the opposite of the peaceful, reflective atmosphere in which I drafted these words.
That juxtaposition of peace and stress – along with the pensive, reflective mood that often comes over me near the end of a school year – led to the title of today’s post. I also was reminded of Magistra Ginny Lindzey’s very reflective blog, which often addresses issues like the goals, purposes, and ends of the work we Latin teachers do. So I started thinking about the ends and goals of the Tres Columnae Project, but from the perspective of a participant or a teacher-user. The project itself, of course, will continue to evolve and change as long as our users continue to contribute stories, images, audio, video, exercises, Continuing Virtual Seminar posts, and other content we can’t yet imagine. But most likely, each individual user will, at some point, become a former user. They’ll “finish studying Latin,” or graduate, or move on to be independent readers and writers of Latin … and what lessons will they bring with them from their time with us?
First, I hope they’ll cherish the memory of the Joyful Learning Community they’ve helped to create. As I think about that phrase, which inspired this journey from the beginning and continues to inspire it now, I realize that all three elements are critical to our success … and to the memories I want our alumni to take with them:
Joy is the key to everything. Without it, learning is drudgery, reluctantly endured or quickly forgotten. Without it, community is painful and tedious at best. But with it, everything changes. Even in the midst of pain (and our participants will certainly experience pain, loss, frustration, and all the other negative emotions that go along with being human), it’s still possible to experience – and be overwhelmed by – joy. I want our alumni to leave us with the realization that joy is possible, that joy is the key to learning, and that joy is the key to community. But I also want them to realize that joy, if pursued as a goal rather than embraced as a gift, will lead ultimately to frustration and disappointment.
If I want anything for all our participants, it’s the discovery (or rediscovery) of deep, meaningful learning. So many children in factory-model schools are caught up in processes that are antithetical to lasting learning. For so many others, learning is subsidiary to other goals – getting into “the right” college, or doing well in “the right” field of study, or finding “the right” job. Of course, these other goals are important, but – like joy, when you try to make it the goal rather than the gift – when they’re made the center, they ultimately disappoint. I want our participants to leave us with a deep awareness that learning, in the pursuit of one’s deepest callings and truest passions, is a source of joy, a source of community, and a source of healing for the world’s deep hurts.
And, of course, I want our participants to realize that joy and learning both require and build community. It’s certainly possible to be happy by yourself (in fact, as I write this on a quiet deck, with my very tired little boy asleep inside, I am definitely happy and definitely alone!), and it’s also possible to learn by yourself. But when you’re overflowing with joy, or overflowing with the excitement of new learning, it’s natural to want to share your joy and your learning with others. That sharing, in turn, draws you closer to others. And yet, in our constantly-busy twenty-first-century world, how rare it is to have the chance to build a deep, lasting community! I want Tres Columnae participants to have that experience, even if it’s”only” a virtual community.
And, of course, I want participants to leave us with a strong commitment to our other core value of Ownership, both metaphorical and literal. I want them to “take ownership,” as we teachers often say, of their lives and their learning, and I also want them to leave with literal, legal ownership of the content they create and share as part of the project. Few things would make me happier than to deliver royalties for a story, an image, an audio clip, or a video to a former participant who’s now moved on to do great things in the “adult world.” And I hope that, having experienced a Joyful Learning Community with Ownership as a significant part of their own learning, our participants will advocate for this type of learning for themselves – and their own children, and other people’s children – in their future, and that some will take sufficient Ownership to build complementary Joyful Learning Communities in other disciples.
So, lectōrēs cārissimī, what are your goals for the upcoming months? For those whose school year is ending, what lasting lessons do you hope to leave with your students? And to what extent do you think the Tres Columnae Project can contribute to your goals?
Tune in next time, when we’ll share another new story and begin a new series of posts about the next steps for the Tres Columnae project. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.