Wedding Stories and a Presentation

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As you read this, I’m on the way to the 2010 American Classical League Institute in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, just a 100-mile drive from home for me. With me, in addition to a trusty laptop computer and clothing for the next few days, is a small stack of handouts for those who will attend my session tonight about the Tres Columnae Project. I’ve done a number of presentations at ACL Institutes over the years and have been part of a group that did a Pre-Institute Workshop, so the process of preparing for sessions like this isn’t at all new for me. I found my “TC” session easier to prepare, in some ways, than previous sessions about things like “Implementing Paideia in the Latin Classroom” (2006) and “Collaborative Reading Games” (2008). In those cases, I was sharing strategies and activities that I’d used successfully in my own classroom, but I found it difficult to pare the material down to the 90-minute length of a session, while still giving participants a chance to try the activities out.

Unlike those previous sessions, this one almost wrote itself! Maybe that’s because I’ve been talking and writing about the Tres Columnae project to so many people (including you, of course, lectōrēs cārissimī) for months. But I also want to thank Chip and Dan Heath, authors of books like Made to Stick and Switch, for sharing their insights and research findings about presenting new ideas. If you haven’t read either book, I recommend them both highly! I’ve just been re-reading Switch, and I can’t say enough about the metaphor of the Elephant, the Rider, and the Path.

Getting back to my presentation for a moment, it falls into four main sections: an introduction, a bit of background, a live demonstration of the Tres Columnae Project, and a conclusion. First there’s an introduction, in which we examine five critical problems that, meā quidem sententiā, are common for Latin teachers and programs in the age of what Dr. Larry Rosen, in Rewired, calls the “iGeneration.” It’s interactive, but not in a high-tech way; I want to know if, in fact, others are seeing these problems – other than you lectōrēs cārissimī who have frequently agreed with me, in blog comments and emails, that you see the problems. In briefest form, the problems I’ve seen are with

  • students’ fluency and comprehension when reading Latin,
  • availability of extensive rather than intensive reading material,
  • opportunities for creativity and sharing by learners,
  • opportunities for immediate feedback, and
  • ways to help learners build deeper Understandings along with Knowledge and Skill, to use the Paideia terminology for a moment.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or if you’ve perused some of the information “about us” at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, you’re probably not surprised by the list of problems! After the introduction, we’ll explore two aspects of background: the research base that suggested to me that there was a problem, and the existing attempts to solve the problem that I was able to uncover. As you know if you’re a lēctor fidēlis, I had assumed there were lots of good, existing alternatives, but I couldn’t find them if they were out there; hence the decision to build the Tres Columnae Project.

And of course the bulk of the session is a demonstration and exploration of the TC materials themselves, both at the Version Alpha Wiki site and at the Instructure Demo site. I’m not sure how many attendees will bring their own computers and want to play independently (we’ve been assured that everyone at ACL will have access to Wake Forest University‘s wireless network), so I’ll do a “teacher-led” exploration for part of the time and will also invite computer-less participants to come up and take us on pathways that seem interesting to them. Finally, in conclusion, we’ll close with a return to the five problems we addressed in the introduction … specifically, by looking at how well the current version of TC addresses them, and by asking participants to brainstorm about improvements they’d want to see in future versions of the project. If there’s time, I’ll encourage participants with computers to think about creating and submitting their own stories and other content.

As I said, the presentation was simple to write and simple to describe. But it’s challenging in a different way: it’s a lot more participant-directed than most conference sessions I’ve presented! So there’s a lot of it that I can’t practice in advance – a difficult situation for Mr. Over-Prepared! 🙂

I think that’s why I chose to focus on the wedding stories this week: because just like a participant-driven class or conference session, you can’t practice a marriage, a friendship, or any other deep relationship in advance. Of course you can rehearse a wedding ceremony – but do we know how much the Romans rehearsed them? They may not have, since the participants had a lot less to say than the bride and groom in a twenty-first-century American wedding – ubi tū Gāius, ibi ego Gāia isn’t that hard – and relatively few things to do – join hands here, try to eat there, parade through the streets, anoint some door posts, pick up (or be picked up, depending on your gender), throw a torch or some nuts (again depending on your gender), etc. But even if you do rehearse the ceremony, you can’t rehearse the relationship; that has to be created each day by countless interactions, large and small, between the spouses. And even if you know a lot of theory about how relationships work, that doesn’t necessarily help with the nitty-gritty of this relationship on this day, does it?

Food for thought, for me as well as for you, lectōrēs cārissimī! Anyway, today we’ll return to the preparations for Valeria and Vipsānius’ wedding with this story (now available here at the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested) about the preparations at domus Vipsānia. And if you’re curious about why Quartus Vipsānius bought a house in Herculaneum – especially when his own sister Vipsānia and her husband Caelius live so close by – you might want to check out this story at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site. Let’s just say that, while Caelius did (reluctantly) offer, Vipsanius (not so reluctantly) declined.

So here we go with today’s story:

hodiē māne, cum Valeria et Caelia vestēs nūptiālēs parant, tōtam per domum Vipsāniī clāmātur et festīnātur. Britannicus coquus et Ulyssēs scrība cum cēterīs Vipsāniī servīs lēctum geniālem in ātriō, lectum nūptiālem in cubiculō parant et flōribus lānīsque ornant. “hercle!” inquit Britannicus, “nōs oportet hoc officium celerrimē cōnficere. mē enim decet ad culīnam regredī, quod mihi necesse est epulās dapēsque repōtiōrum parāre!” ancilla tamen Pēnelopē subrīdēns, “tacē, Britannice,” respondet, “et labōrā! nisi enim hic lectus rīte parātus erit, haud opus erit repōtiōrum!”

aliae ancillae tōtam domum flōribus ōrnant et canistra nucum prope iānuam pōnunt. “hercle!” inquit Helena ancilla, “quam mihi placent nucēs! nōnne mē oportet multās ēsse, quod valdē ēsuriō?” “nōnne ōmen pessimum?!” respondet Xanthippē ancilla. “tē haud decet nūcēs māne ēsse! paucīs tamen hōrīs, quandō dominus uxōrem dūcet, nōnne ille plūrimās nūcēs iactābit? tum tē decēbit nūcēs captāre et permultās ēsse! nōlī illās tangere!” Xanthippē, haec verba locūta, ad iānuam festīnat oleum lānāsque parātum. “heus!” inquit, “ōleum ubi est? nōnne opus est oleī? quid, sī uxor postēs iānuae oleō unguere nōn poterit? nōnne ōmen pessimum?”

Helena questūs Xanthippēs audit et, “ō Xanthippē, nōlī tē vexāre? nōnne oleum nunc iam in culīnā est? nōnne ampullam oleī hūc ferre potes?”

et Xanthippē rīdēns, “certē,” respondet, “nōnne tamen tū quoque illam ferre potes? et nōnne tē decet? quid sī, sōla hīc cum nūcibus relicta, illās ēsse cōnāberis?”

Helena “hercle! callidissima es,” respondet et ad culīnam festīnat oleī ampullam quaesītum.

tum Ulyssēs, “nōnne tē decet, Pēnelopē, Ulysseō tuō, ut marītō, ōsculum dare?” inquit et ōs ad illam prōtendit. Pēnelopē tamen haec interpellat: “tacē, stultissime! haud tua sum! sī enim vīgintī annōs aberis, regressus mē dolentem haud inveniēs!” tum omnēs servī iocīs et cachinnīs sē trādunt.

intereā Vipsānius cum patre in tablīnō colloquitur. “pater mī pater,” inquit, “sollicitus sum! quaesō, amābō tē, mihi cōnsilium dā!” Quārtus Vipsānius, fīlium amplexus, cūrās fīliī lēnīre et mollīre cōnātur.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If we run into each other at the American Classical League Institute – and I hope we will – feel free to tell me in person!
  • Otherwise, please comment here – whether you’d like to respond to the presentation as I’ve described it, to the story (especially the new servī et ancillae), or to anything else!

I hope to be able to write posts from the Institute on Monday and Tuesday, though they may be somewhat brief … and I’m not sure whether they’ll be about the Institute itself, the next stories in this sequence, or a combination. We’ll have to see! intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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