Finding Community

It’s an odd day, a quirk brought about by regulations about when Big Important State Testing has to be finished – a day of “regular classes” after exams (and regular classwork) have been completed.  I’m not sure what Ms. X and Mr. Y have planned.  They used to show movies on days like today, but a more correct understanding of copyright law now stands in their way … and even if it didn’t, Ms. X and Mr. Y had been complaining for a while about how “disrespectful” their students are during movies.  “They just want to talk, and they don’t even listen to the movie!” moaned One Ms. X a few years ago.  “I was trying to do something nice for them,” she added, “and look what happened!”

I don’t think Ms. X had actually asked her students whether they’d enjoy a movie on That Particular Day, or whether they’d rather do something else.  I think she just assumed, based on what her own teachers had done Back In The Day, or maybe on what she’d like to do … or what she thinks she would have liked to do when she was a teenager.  I can remember showing a few rapidly aging documentaries, things the school legally owned and legally could show, and noticing how students’ response changed over the years.  When the productions were relatively new, we were all relatively interested; as they began to show signs of age (there’s one about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that features Iraq … before the Gulf War), we all began to lose interest.

Interest.  It’s important.  It’s hard to find community if you don’t share any interests with each other.  One thing that makes my community building work easier is that someone had an interest in Latin, or in the Latin Family experience, whether it was That Student or a family member.  Building community is harder when you’re thrown together, when you don’t want to be there … harder still when your lack of interest is obvious or stated outright.  I remember a Particularly Difficult Class years ago … particularly difficult not because of its large size, nor because it was at the end of the day, nor even because we were still trying to use Those Old Textbooks to a degree.  It was particularly difficult because K, T, and E didn’t want to be there, and they really didn’t want to be with each other.  They didn’t even want to be in the same building with each other, let alone the same class.  Community?  Forget it.  Eventually T’s greatest wish came true, and he got kicked out.  And slowly, painfully, a learning community formed … and eventually, reluctantly, E became part of it.

Sometimes you have to work hard to build community, but sometimes you can find it … and sometimes you find it in unexpected places.  I’d been planning to take Seth Godin’s short Skillshare course about Leverage Plans, and I’d decided to take Larry Rosenstock’s course about New School Creation.  I was expecting communities of interest to emerge in both venues, and I haven’t been surprised.  But then someone mentioned the Yale Roman Architecture course on Coursera.  It’s a topic of obvious interest and passion for me, and when I discovered that the capstone project involves creating your own Roman city, I decided to sign up and see what would happen.  Friends had warned me that, all too often, there’s not a sense of community in an xMOOC environment.  But so far, just a day or so in, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  Yes, the discussion boards feel chaotic and disorganized, but there’s also an official Facebook page and an unofficial Facebook group where the interactions are easier to follow.  And even the discussion boards are full of eagerness and anticipation.  We’re a diverse group, ranging from high-school students to professional architects to folks who just love the Roman world, and we’re not yet a community, of course.  But people are welcoming each other, and the first few lectures are engaging, and I’m excited to see what will happen between now and the beginning of May.  Folks are stepping up and creating smaller groups, too, based on native language and geography and other factors.

And what about today?  Well, this afternoon, we’ll be “visiting” our second-semester classes, spending twenty minutes with each group to “hand out syllabus and supply lists.”  And Ms. X is probably frantic about copies, and Mr. Y was fretting about seating charts.  But while those things are important, what’s most important – at least from my perspective – is setting a tone of welcome and support, of joyful community from the beginning.  We’ll be wrapping up the first-semester Latin I classes in the morning with an Embodied Role Play where Caius Caelius attempts to find suitable wives for his “lovely and charming” daughters Prima and Secunda., and then most of us, differently configured and with some additions, will reconvene in the afternoon as the Latin II group.  The upper-level group, with some additions and deletions, reconfigures as the new upper-level group after a similar role play whose topic is … too exciting to reveal just yet.

Community.  Sometimes you find it, sometimes you build it, sometimes it just seems to happen … and sometimes, no matter how hard you work, it doesn’t happen even when you do expect it.  But when it happens, it’s important to celebrate … and when conditions are favorable, as I hope they’ll be this afternoon, sometimes you just need to get out of the way and see what happens.

I wonder what new adventures, in community and other important things, await us all today!


Published in: on January 17, 2014 at 11:36 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] syllabus and supply list when the second-semester classes “visited” on Friday afternoon.  Apparently she’d been “too busy,” and she’s planning to hand them out […]

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