An Unexpected Gift, III

Tuesday was a hot, sticky day in my face-to-face teaching world – and it was also the first day back at school after a three-day weekend, and the air conditioning had been off over that hot, hot weekend, of course. So it was a hard day for my students: hard to get back into the fairly new routine, hard to focus in the heat, hard to remember the routines and procedures we’ve begun to establish.

Hard days are important, though.

Even if you aspire to be a joyful learning community that builds meaningful things together (as my classes do, and as the Tres Columnae Project specifically says we do), that doesn’t mean every moment will be sunshine, roses, and daffodils. Joy and fun are closely related, but joy is a much deeper, more meaningful thing. You can hold on to joy even when things aren’t fun at all – or it can show up, unexpectedly, even in difficult, painful times. (Actually, I think joy tends to disappear if you try to hold it too tightly, but that’s a whole series of posts in itself.) In the midst of our difficult day, there were some moments of real celebration:

  • My Latin I students grasped the idea of cāsus nōminātīvus and cāsus genitīvus very quickly, and they loved the “Analytic Hand Signals” we’ve developed to show the functions of words in Latin sentences we’ve read and understood. They also have great plans for their first real design-based products, which will probably be ready on Friday.
  • My Latin III students surprised themselves by how much they remembered about Latin verbs. We did a brief review today, read a story that stretched them, and had some time to work on their first design-based products, also scheduled to be ready on Friday. Another unexpected gift!
  • I rewrote an old-favorite Latin I project (“Create a family tree for a truly strange Roman family, and create a story that describes them”) into a design brief this afternoon, and I finished the revisions to my grading policy in keeping with the conversation I described on Monday. The old-favorite project, now revised, will combine with the one students are working on now to form the basis of our first “minor” assessment.
  • I had a chance to talk with a colleague I rarely see – and we had a good talk about a whole bunch of things. That was a most unexpected gift! Just in passing, she said something about how love sometimes requires you to be firm when you want to be soft … and I’ll have to think about that for days before I can write anything else! But it’s so relevant to the kind of love you need when you’re building a joyful learning community … or, for that matter, when you’re building anything worthwhile!
  • I even had time to run an errand on the way home, and I still avoided rush-hour traffic. Talk about a most unexpected gift!
  • And then there was a truly inspiring Twitter #edchat this evening – I’ll try to remember to link to the transcript later this week. It was about teachers’ attitudes toward their work in this strange, difficult time … and if it had been last year, I would have been too upset, too sad, too frustrated to participate! But as it was, I found hope and inspiration even in the midst of some serious challenges – another unexpected gift.
  • And then there was this on my Google+ stream. What a gift to those lucky children, and what a wonderful model to emulate!

So now that the long, hot, difficult day is over, I’m glad for (most of) the difficulties, too. Have you ever found, looking back, that the hardest things to endure can lead to the most wonderful things down the road? That’s an unexpected gift, too, and one that I treasure in difficult times.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Published in: on September 5, 2012 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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