A Stark Choice, IV

I’ve been concerned –  worried – about E for a while.  She’s quiet, capable, highly intelligent, though she hasn’t really clicked with what the “Latin Family” is about.  On a typical day I see her chatting with friends before class, paying just enough attention in class to manage the high B’s and low A’s that satisfy her, possibly intervening sharply with a classmate who annoys her.  On Wednesday, a theme-dress day for Spirit Week, she wore a sweatshirt with a message about smart girls with attitudes …. and on a typical day, that label fits E perfectly.

But for a week or so, E has been withdrawn, silent, and sad.  Yesterday I emailed her other teachers to see if they’d noticed.  No, they said, E had been pretty much as usual in their classes.  So, after you read this post, I’ll  find time to talk to E privately, to tell her I’m concerned, to see if she’ll open up about what’s going on.  Is she frustrated because, all of a sudden, her do just enough skills aren’t working in Latin?  Is something going on at home, something she hides, with a smile, from  friends and other teachers?   And will she trust me enough to tell me what’s really going on?  E has lots of friends, but not many in her Latin class … is that part of the problem?  I know she’s upset with K, who was a closer friend until she got romantically interested in U.

Is it ironic – or just connected – that we’re exploring young Lucius Valerius’ impossible crush on Lollia, his father’s client’s daughter, in the Tres Columnae Project stories we’re reading this week?

At Kindly Mr. T’s visitation Tuesday night, I met a church friend of the Ts’ who had graduated from our school fifty years ago, and – as it turns out – whose granddaughter had been a student of mine a few years ago.  We talked for a bit about Mr. T, and about how K was doing, and about her memories of the school.  And then she told me she was really happy I was there – there at the school, and there for the T family.

I hope E will be happy, too, when I talk with her.

Even in the midst of a factory-system, community is right there under the surface, just waiting to burst forth at the most uexpected times.  Wednesday evening, since my daughter was in a dress rehearsal (opening night tonight!), she’d asked me to pick up dinner for her at a favorite local restaurant.  The owner lives in my neighborhood, so we often talk about neighborhood stuff.  As I was placing my order, the young man at the counter and I both realized we knew each other from somewhere … and somewhere was  Former School, where I’d taught him Latin 12 years ago.  And, of course, he’s my neighbor’s son.

Community … and connections.  If you’re reading this post live, it’s the day we’ll publish our first-ever episode of the Corgito Ergo Sum web comic.   What started as an off-hand comment has taken on a life of its own!  And yes, the adventures of the yet-unnamed Corgi are connected, in the end, with some of the Tres Columnae Project characters –  grown-up versions of the boys and girls we meet at the beginning – and with another project we discovered, and started collaborating with, almost by accident.

“Almost by accident” – that’s a funny phrase!  When students of mine are struggling or unhappy, I rarely  email their other teachers … but with E, I felt compelled to.  I almost didn’t answer that phone call Wednesday afternoon, the one with the amazing piece of good news.  And I thought about calling in my daughter’s dinner order, which would have kept me from that moment of community and connection in the conversation with my former student.

Sometimes the factory is part of the community, as the Three Mills used to be in the neighborhood where I work.  Debbie made that point on Google+:

Perhaps the factory model does emulate life…we focus on our tasks at hand, struggle with our own challenges and then every once in a while an event occurs where we come together with a share focus, and then we drift back to our personal lives. Maybe the factory model just needs to recognize and celebrate those community moments more

Sometimes the factory interferes with community. It did for Mark when homework (practicing skills he’d already mastered) cut short visits with neighbors and friends (who taught him skills and mindsets he still uses and values daily):

The unfortunate concept that existed back in my time of formal education and still exist today is the disconnection between community, passions, and core knowledge, that we all need so badly for a full life. I needed this knowledge that school was supposed to reveal to me but limitations of that time prevented teachers from being able to reach all different types of learners.

When we experience these horrific assaults on a community like what happened in Boston on Monday, we see the richness of life where people with a shared passion come together and then when a tragedy happens, we see community at its finest.

Communities of parents today could be the small groups which have the ability to influence change for the factory system.

I’m not sure if I’ll need to talk to E’s parents or not … but I know they value her, love her, want what’s best for her, as most students’ parents, friends, and extended communities do.  “Why are kids bad sometimes?” my colleague Mr. N asked rhetorically.  “Because nobody cares enough about them, and because they aren’t part of anything!”

He’s right, of course.  So, if community is so important to all of us, why do we let the factory get in the way?  Why do we let a good servant or tool become a terrible master or goal?

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Published in: on April 18, 2013 at 9:53 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] so much better – on Thursday.  When we had a chance to talk, I could see she really appreciated my concern.  She didn’t want to go into details, she said, but there had been “a thing,” […]


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