On the speedy semester-block schedule of my face-to-face teaching world, Wednesday was the midpoint of our first 4-1/2-week reporting period – a day when students receive progress reports in each class, and when we inaugurated our new Advisor-Advisee system by asking them to do some reflection and goal-setting based on what’s happened so far. I’m not sure what happened in other advisory groups, of course, but my seniors were pretty happy with the process. There’s a good blend of structure and freedom: a composition book with certain things that happen on each page (the structure part), which I’ll be keeping in a safe place for them (more structure), but within which they’re free to set their own goals and reflect on their own progress (the freedom part).
And we all noted that by setting goals now, we’re less likely to fall into the “senioritis” trap in late winter and early spring. My seniors all have friends who barely graduated – or who didn’t graduate on time – in classes ahead of them, and many of them also know first-hand what happened in prior years when they didn’t set goals and track their progress. That extra sense of ownership (which, as you know, is a core value of the Tres Columnae Project t00) is really helping them stay on track as things pick up speed all around them.
Just as my seniors need and crave a blend of structure and freedom, I think most people need and crave a blend of speed and slowness. Sometimes you need to pick up speed, and sometimes you need to slow down for a bit. That’s certainly true with my Latin I students this week. We’ve maintained a good rate of speed with our most important goals: we can read and understand the Tres Columnae stories “on level” quite well, and our pronunciation is getting better and better. We can even distinguish nōminātīvus, genitīvus, and ablātīvus nouns pretty well as a whole group, using the soon-to-be-famous “analytic hand signals” my students have come to love, and we’re beginning to grasp some of the deeper ways that Roman cultural practices, products, and perspectives were both similar to our own and profoundly different.
That’s the good news. Acquisition of language and culture is coming along nicely.
But there’s also a space and place for formal learning , for analytical work, for seeing and applying patterns. It’s not the most important thing we do, but it’s beneficial, and of course it helps with the written and spoken production that’s inherent in building something meaningful together. So we’ll take some time on Thursday to work a bit with the three dēclīnātiōnēs of nouns we’ve discovered and with the three cāsūs (nōminātīvus, genitīvus, ablātīvus) we’ve come to know and recognize. We’ll be sorting nouns into groups, classifying them by dēclīnātiō and cāsus, and transforming them from one cāsus to another with the help of reference tools. And that way, when we create our first original Latin stories, they’ll be so good that we’ll be able to “publish with pride.”
My Latin III’s are doing similar work with participia, their current area of focus – and we’re noticing how literary Latin favors complex sentence structures with only one main verb, while English tends to favor short, simple sentences – or longer ones strung together with conjunctions. But in both cases, our learning (formal analytic work, seeing and applying language patterns) arises naturally from the acquisition work (using the language to understand and communicate).
I’m tired of the false dichotomy of acquisition OR learning, just as I’m tired of grammar OR communication and proficiency OR accuracy. But if you’re a long-time reader here, you already know that – and you know I’m always looking for the “Third Alternative” that resolves seeming dichotomies and dilemmas.
Where do you stand on the continuum between need for structure and need for freedom, and where do you stand on the continuum between speed and slowness? And what do you do when you find you need to answer an “or” question (“Do you want A or B?”) with “yes” or “all of the above?”
quid respondētis, amīcī?