A Joyful Beginning

Here’s the video I made on Thursday, the one that was still uploading when I published Friday’s post:

When I shared it on Google+, I was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive comments.  Brendan said,

I really like your idea of leaving the classroom unfinished in order to let the joyful learning community co-create it and feel a sense of shared ownership.

In other words, the IKEA effect applied to building a (joyful!) learning environment.

Roz said,

Yes, this IS excellent…AND joyful…!

…for being the first pioneer to upload the very first #MOOCV …
…and what an excellent exemplar pilot #MOOCV it is!

…may there be more to come, from you AND from other CoRe Learners around the world!

And Don added,

You even sound joyful!

Faithful readers know that I hardly ever include video content in these posts, and even when I do, it’s hardly ever a video I made myself.  So making the video was a challenge for me, a step out of my comfort zone of text and links.  And sharing the video, both on Google+ and now here?  That was another big step.

It’s important for us teachers to step out of our comfort zones, especially as a new school year begins.  How can we ask our students to risk such steps if we’re not willing ourselves?

For the first time in a very long time, I have an advisory group of ninth-graders.  They’re new to the school, full of energy and excitement and apprehension.  They’re young – almost exactly half-way between the ages of my own two children – and their parents, who showed up in force for Open House on Thursday,  mostly look younger than I am, too.  It seems like yesterday, but half a lifetime ago, that I was the young, energetic teacher, only a few years older than my students.  Am I the grim and grizzled veteran now, or am I the confident, welcoming, joyful veteran?  I was feeling  grim and grizzled for a while, but on Thursday evening, just when I least expected it, my confident, welcoming, joyful self returned.  I’m pretty sure that, if I hold onto the courage to think small, I’ll be able to help my students build a joyful learning community in the midst of an institution that’s trying – trying oh, so hard, and maybe even successfully – to transform itself from a factory into something else.

What will that look like on the first day of school?  There’s a requirement that I “cover the student handbook and Code of Conduct book” with the advisory group, but we’ll be doing that in the form of a game rather than endless oral reading.  There’s a rather joyful-sounding gathering that the Student Government has planned after that, and then abbreviated classes for the rest of the day.  On this twenty-second first day – more than that, really, if you count the first day of each semester in the many years on a semester-block calendar – you’d think I had the whole thing down to a science.  And in some ways I do … but it’s an art as well as a science, and there will be some subtle changes.  For a long time now, we’ve started out the first day with a small survey card and a larger survey about learning preferences.  The small card is the same as it’s been for a while, but I’ve shortened the larger one.  What do I really want to know on Day 1?  I want to know how you, the learner, think and process information, so we’ll be looking at thinking and processing styles.  Other kinds of learning preferences will wait, and we’ll be collecting that information with an online tool rather than a paper form.

After the surveys are completed, we’ll talk as we always do about what it means to be a joyful learning community.  I’ll introduce our guiding principles of being prompt, prepared, responsible, respectful, and helpful to each other, and we’ll think together about some of the implications of those principles.  Then  the Latin I classes will learn some vital classroom vocabulary.  For many years, we looked around the room at little posters and labels … but this is a new classroom, and I want to keep the wall space free for student productions rather than old clip art and Latin words.  So I printed out the posters as sixteen separate sheets (they have Latin word and accompanying image), and each pair of students (in the large class) will get one sheet to start.  We’ll rotate them around the room until everyone has seen all of them, and then we’ll work with an old, familiar handout – old and familiar to me, but new to them – where you work together as a group of three or four to match the Latin words with English equivalents.  As we check our work together, we’ll learn how to pronounce the words, and we’ll see some of the ways that (restored Classical) Latin pronunciation differs from English.  We may or may not have time to make a list of things we know and think we know about Latin and the Roman world, and we probably won’t have time to read the very first Tres Columnae Project story.

When it’s their turn, the Latin III class will form groups to talk about things they loved in prior Latin classes and things they disliked, things that should be kept, discarded, or changed.  That may take a while!  They have class for an hour, go to lunch, and return to class for another thirty minutes, and as the “lunch class,” they’re the only set who have a full-length class on the first day.  So after we’ve created and shared these lists, we’ll do a simple little review of Latin noun forms and talk about the diagnostic vocabulary review activity we’ll be doing on Tuesday.  I’m curious – and excited – to see happy faces as they see how much they do remember … and that should spark some conversations about deep and authentic learning in comparison with memorizing for The Test.

That’s the plan.  What will actually happen?  Something like it, but not identical, is my guess … and I’m curious to see what that will be.  I’m hoping for an excellent but imperfect first day and for many such days ahead, and I’m really hoping we’ll be starting to feel like a joyful learning community before the day ends.

What are you hoping for in the next few days?

Published in: on August 26, 2013 at 10:07 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] – and they half-believed me at first, but by the time we’d done what I described in yesterday’s post, they did believe.  We haven’t finished that “old, familiar handout” yet, and […]

  2. stumbled upon your blog today. what a treat! especially enjoyed your video and the idea that we need to leave “unfinished spaces” for the learning communities to grow and share! thanks for stepping outside of your comfort zone and sharing your thinking!

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