After a quiet, restful, reflective Labor Day, today marks the beginning of a long stretch of rhythm and routine for students, colleagues, and me. There’s a professional-development day at the end of October, and I may be asked to lead a session in mid-September. But as I sat down to draft this post Monday evening, I saw a stretch of predictability and routine on the calendar.
That’s not necessarily bad. Routine and rhythm can be joyful or painful, depending on how you approach them. I’m aiming for joy and community this fall.
For the Latin Family, this second week will bring introductions (and re-introductions for the upper-level classes) to important procedures and routines we’ll be using all year. The Latin I classes, having finished reading the stories in Tres Columnae Lectio Prima, are ready for their first vocabulary self-check, their first Derivative Quest, and a brand-new graphic organizer (built on a great suggestion from my friend Emily) called the Vocabulary Reflection and Organizer. We start out with the self-check, an individual, paper-based activity where you rate your comfort level with each word on a scale from 0 (“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this word before”) to 5 (“I am comfortable with this word and could probably even use it in a story of my own”). After finishing the self-check, we’ll form pairs for the Reflection and Organizer. It features a large triangle for “three really important words,” a rectangle for “four or more words you know very well,” a circle for “two or more words you need to focus on,” and a plus sign for “interesting Latin-English connections you noticed.” I’m hoping it will help my more visual learners – and the kinesthetic learners who need to move words around in order to process them – and, of course, the plus sign should make a natural transition to our first Derivative Quest. Since each pair or group chooses “three or four” words for the Quest, there’s a natural opportunity to share and learn from each other – a small piece of voice and choice, perhaps, but a clear message that the Latin Family is different from Those Other Classes with vocabulary quizzes and worksheet packets. Then we’ll be reading the first two fabellae in Lectio II, learning and using a new question word (cuius?), and discovering the differences between nōminātīvus and genitīvus noun forms. We may even start learning the famous Latin Family Hand Signals … and of course we’ll be creating and sharing questions with each other.
Establishing rhythm and routine, preserving and expanding joyful learning. It all feels and sounds very hopeful from where I sit early Tuesday morning.
I’m still not sure why this group is so eager, willing, and able to create questions for each other! A few of my Latin III students are still struggling with question-creation, a struggle that started at this very time last school year. Could it be the power of creating our own question-word posters? Was it really that simple, but that profound?
Meanwhile, the upper-level group will start out making the sentence; we’ll be making nouns, to sum up our review work from last week, and choosing verbs, to see how much work we need to do with those. A few of us tried to fall into a sad old pattern of sitting and staring or randomly circling at the end of last week, so I need to make sure to encourage and model things for them. We’ll spend most of the day finishing and polishing our first Minor Assessment. It’s called the Character of Focus, and it involves choosing a character who appears in one of the two “Bridge Stories” we read last week, searching for other stories in which that character appeared, looking for that character’s thoughts, words, actions, feelings, and associated vocabulary and cultural “stuff,” and designing some sort of product that brings everything together. Part of the product will be our first-ever student-created embodied role play, which I hope will inspire the kinesthetic learners who look at me sadly (or try to avoid the whole process) when faced with a lengthy-looking reading task.
I’ve discovered that D wants to join the Marines when he graduates, so I think he’ll really enjoy the upcoming sequences where Lucius and Caius contemplate the Roman Army. And B, who has a huge leadership role, a heavy class schedule, and a job, is likely to enjoy the boys’ transition into young men with major responsibilities like his. For some reason, at this time last year, I couldn’t see those unquantifiable details of D, B, and their friends; I was too caught up in task compliance, too ready to see labels instead of people, and my Ms. X colleagues were happy to supply the labels for me! I’m glad my vision has been growing clearer.
When I look at D, I think of his friend L, who was also “old for his grade,” also struggled against Ms. X’s “bad and lazy” label. L, like D, is a kinesthetic learner, a natural leader with musical and athletic talent who’s planning on a military career. But I found myself worrying fretfully about L; I felt powerless when he struggled and faltered. He liked me personally, and he was surrounded by caring friends who supported him – but I still worried fretfully and felt powerless. With D, I feel hopeful and can plan proactively … and I’m grateful that things are so different. The team around us has changed (there’s a different spirit in the old building even though most faces are the same), and the small change in our physical place has been a big help. And of course the time is different, too: 2013 isn’t 2012. I didn’t feel much team spirit last September, either from students or from colleagues, and the isolation was exhausting and draining. It kept me on edge, and the Latin Family picked up on my ill-defined, half-articulated anxiety.
My emotional well was running dry last fall, and I was trying to give what I didn’t have. It’s fuller now, just as this summer’s frequent rains have restored water levels in lakes, rivers, and wells all around. I don’t think I realized how empty, how dry I’d become.
If we hold to our plan, the Latin I classes will be ready to present their first Minor Assessment by Friday, and the upper-level group will be finishing their first set of new stories. We’ll have a rhythm in place, and our joyful community will be growing and strengthening. I’m hoping Ms. X and Mr. Y will be getting curious about what we do, about how the “bad, lazy ones” become more productive and pleasant when they’re with us. You can’t force participation in joyful community, after all, but you certainly can make some invitations.
What will we all do to invite and welcome others today and in those days to come? How will we use rhythm and routine as welcoming tools?