Finding the Path, III

Tuesday … what a peaceful, sunny spring day!  Monday had been such a busy day: my daughter and her choral group had a long rehearsal, a short “pre-concert,” and final preparations for the trip to their out-of-state competition.  When I arrived at Book Group Monday evening, a friend commented on how tired I looked – and I was surprised because I’d been too tired and busy to notice!

It seems that Tuesday was the first real day of rest I’d had in … I’m not sure how long.  We decided not to go any further afield than our yard, but spent a lot of time there, enjoying the afternoon sun.  When we first moved in, back in the summer of 2004, I said that someday, when the technology was reliable and available, I wanted to sit in the yard, overlooking the little pond at the rear of the property, working peacefully on my laptop on a sunny day.  And on Tuesday, for the first time ever, that finally happened – not perfectly (it would have been a good idea to wear a cap to make the screen easier to see), but very enjoyably.  So did a pitched stick-sword fight with my favorite and only 11-year-old, also imperfect but glorious … and an imperfect, but glorious and much-needed nap.  Along the way, there was a wonderful (but, again, imperfect) Skype conversation with a colleague who’s now passionately interested in using the Tres Columnae Project with her Latin I classes next year.  And there was another, with two friends who are planning Something Amazing and Partly Related.  Stay tuned for more details about that in the next few days!  For the moment, let’s just say it has to do with a very unusual corgi.

So Tuesday was an excellent day, but it certainly wasn’t perfect.  One planned conversation didn’t happen at all – someone got busy, someone else just forgot, and of the rest of us, no one even thought to send a reminder email to the group.  At first I was frustrated and angry; then I briefly doubted everyone’s commitment to this Related Thing they’d proposed to me last week; then I realized the folly of expecting perfection from others.  Like my mother’s perfect dinner parties, perfection in general is an impossible goal; I remember times when Mother’s “perfect” food wasn’t all ready at the exact moment, despite the stopwatch precision of her timing in the kitchen, and that one time when her friend Mrs. Q, tasked with picking up That One Thing, completely forgot and had to run out, on the Fourth of July, desperately seeking an open store.

Even if achieved, that perfect dinner party isn’t all that interesting, memorable, or even fun.  In my memory, the perfectly perfect ones run together, while the little imperfect incidents (especially poor, horrified Mrs. Q, desperately seeking ice on the Fourth of July) stick out in my memory.  There’s something appealing about the gloriously imperfect.

We’ve had two new contributions from Tres Columnae Project subscribers this week – this one from our remarkable team of five-year-olds, and this one from a Latin teacher friend.  Both required some editing, and I’m sure neither is perfect by the impossibly high, static standards some of us Classicists want to set for ourselves.  But in their joyful participation, both in the Tres Columnae community and in the co-created lives of the characters, they reach something higher and better than static perfection.  They also do a beautiful job of expanding the (deliberately unfinished and imperfect) roles of important Tres Columnae characters – Fortunata the cow, in one case, and Valerius’ wife Caelia and younger daughter Caeliola in the other.

Like a potluck dinner, the Tres Columnae Project doesn’t aspire to perfection, but it does aspire to joyful community.  As our subscribers and contributors add more and more to the project – and as they feel a deeper sense of ownership, seeing their own contributions right there on the site – it’s important for us to remember that perfection isn’t the goal … and that one beauty of an online learning community is that “big” mistakes, once found, can easily be corrected.

Debbie had some great insights about perfection in her Google+ comment yesterday:

for me, if we can envision the classroom as a Fire of Truth we see the students, the guests at the dinner party, as contributors – we invite it, we expect it, we respect it, and we are grateful for it.

“What do you think?” “How do you want to expand on this?” “What type of project would you like to do?” “What is your experience with this?” “How does this relate to your hobbies, interests, knowledge?”

Beyond the questions and the opportunities for sharing we have to be open to student-driven projects, outside-the-box thinking. Perhaps this is one of the barriers. “Outside the box” thinking makes us think, takes time to process, to assess etc.

I think of the “pot lucks” organized by some people (organized is the key word here) … they assign dishes to people to ensure that the end result is that “perfect meal”. I’v always thought about that meal where everyone brought dill pickles. Oh what a laugh that would be. Memorable and I’m sure the off-shoots of conversation would be delightful….

And Emily’s blog post today touches on the ways that perfection, as a goal, leads to paralysis rather than growth or learning.  Meanwhile, over on Google+, George connected this Edutopia piece on “Ditching the Deficit Model” with our conversation about Chris Lehmann’s piece on deficits vs. passions as fundamental paradigms for organizing schools.

If the goal is to eliminate deficits, then perfection, while hard, is probably attainable … but if finding your passion and joy is the goal, is perfection even meaningful?  Poor Ms. X and Mr. Y (and the Mr. Y who lives inside of me) – how will we invite them to abandon the fearful quest for no deficits and embrace the joyful community?

Published in: on April 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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