Telling Stories Together

I realized, to my surprise, that I haven’t said much about N, J, and C – or  J, N, K, and K – or about C, U, and H, or  J, L, K, and D, or  the small Latin I class.  Of all my current students, they have most embraced the notion of telling stories together, of creating things that deserve to published on the Tres Columnae Project site.  It was J, L, K, D, and the small Latin I class, for example, whose reactions to the Cnaeus and Fortunata sequence in Lectiō VI caused me to consider the possibility that the whole thing might (just possibly) have been an anxiety dream on Cnaeus’ part – the kind of dream that all of us have probably had when we’re concerned about making a good impression or living up to others’ expectations or being liked or not being excluded when we enter a new, unfamiliar situation.  Throughout their time in the Latin Family, N, J, and C have created a whole sequence of stories about Cnaeus – stories that might well be dreams, but that give remarkable insights into his character and motivation.  As soon as I’ve collected the relevant permissions, I’ll be sharing their stories both here and on the site itself.  And I’ll be doing the same with the two excellent but imperfect films that Z, E, M, and D have made, and with the stories C, U, and H are working on, and with other products from these groups and others.

But why have I said so little about them?  In part, I suppose, because things are going so well – because they’ve really embraced the notion of joyful learning community, of building meaningful things together.  When things are going well, it’s easy to ignore them, to focus on things that are going less well … especially when vestiges of the factory-mindset still cling to your thought patterns.  I remember Coach Y, many years ago, complaining about a Power who had encouraged teachers to focus on – and develop rewards for – students who met and exceeded expectations.  “What a load of crap!” Coach Y exclaimed bitterly.  “Those kids shouldn’t get a reward for doing what they’re supposed to do!  It’s not like we get a reward for doing what we’re supposed to do!”  A few days later, when he and I did receive a “reward for doing what we’re supposed to do” – and, in the days before direct deposit of paychecks was routine, I was waiting at the bank to deposit it –  I saw the folly of his claim.  But it’s hard to laugh in a long line at the bank!

On Sunday afternoon, at a time when there’s often a broadcast phone call from one Local Power or another, the phone rang … and there was, in fact, a broadcast phone call with reminders for the upcoming week.  But the Power In Question also took a moment to acknowledge some recent difficulties and – what really struck me – to thank teachers, parents, students, and other community members for trying to do the right things in challenging times.

It didn’t take more than thirty seconds, but it moved me – much more than I would have expected.  And it got me thinking, once again, about the importance of celebrating successes in a learning community – about celebrating them publicly as well as privately.  The Latin Family has done a better job this year of sharing products between different classes and groups, but we haven’t consistently shared our work outside of our small joyful community.  We hang physical products in the hallway, to be sure, and we may yet be sharing our research about education in the Roman world with That Other Language Class I mentioned last week.  But sharing beyond the school walls?  Publishing openly for the world to see?  Fulfilling the original premise of the Tres Columnae Project by sharing our stories with other users and the world?  Somehow, despite hopes and intentions, that hasn’t happened the way I once intended.

There’s something comfortable and familiar about not sharing, after all, or about sharing, but on a limited scale.  Back when Coach Y held court about getting a reward, I had colleagues who worked in Another School, whose principal absolutely forbade the posting of student work – or much of anything – on classroom or hallway walls.  There were small bulletin boards, it seems, in each classroom, and those could be used for that purpose – but Dr. X liked his factory to be spotless and uniform, and posted student work would have been a distraction.  Dr. X had retired long before the Current Set of Powers started encouraging the posting of student work; I wonder how he would have responded!  And I wonder how Coach Y, whose classroom changed hardly at all from August to June, from year to year, would have responded to the notion of featuring student work on “his” walls and bulletin boards.  I never felt possessive of halls and walls – and I don’t  feel possessive, exactly, of the Tres Columnae Project site.  But something still holds me back from posting students’ products there, from sharing stories together in such a public venue.

Today is a staff-development day, so there won’t be any new student work to share.  But I’m hoping I’ll gain some insights into why I’ve held back on sharing stories.  Maybe someone will say something in the morning sessions I’m facilitating, or maybe our afternoon work with Applied Control Theory will help me see if it’s a control issue.  I’m curious and hopeful, because joyful learning community is too important to keep secret, and because the meaningful things we’re building together deserve a wider audience than they’ve been getting.

I wonder what other new insights – and what new stories to share – await us all today!

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Published in: on October 28, 2013 at 10:09 am  Leave a Comment  

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