In the factory-school mindset, today’s Monday, so of course Ms. X and Mr. Y should be starting a new chapter in the textbook. That’s what you do on Mondays in factory-model schools. Of course, things might be a bit odd this week, after four days without students last week. But if Ms. X and Mr. Y do the safe, predictable thing, they’ll be reviewing whatever they did last Monday, then continuing with last week’s plans. Just like a production line that got shut down for maintenance, then restarted, things in their classes should be humming along smoothly before too long.
Or at least that’s the hope for a Ms. X and Mr. Y or two that I know. A few may even be expecting to go over the homework that was assigned last Monday, due originally on the Tuesday we all spent at home, waiting for and then riding out the big storm. Somewhere, though probably not at Our School, a Ms. X or Mr. Y might even be yelling and labeling about “bad, lazy kids” who didn’t do the homework assigned last Monday, due on Tuesday, when everyone was preparing for and then dealing with the big winter storm.
But I’m thinking about new chapters in a more metaphorical sense. For the Latin Family, the big storm and weather-related closures came at a fairly convenient time. The beginning class had just finished reading the stories in Tres Columnae Lectio I, and we were just about to sort the words into categories, make sure we felt comfortable with the most basic distinctions among partes orationis, and start working in earnest on our first Minor Assessment, the creation of a Roman family who can live in Herculaneum and interact with the “core” Tres Columnae characters in various ways. Had the snow come a day earlier, we would have had to backtrack just like Ms. X and Mr. Y feel they need to do; had it come a day later, we would have been in the middle of the project, and restarting would have been difficult and unpleasant. The intermediate group, too, was at the point of reading one more story, then choosing a set of familiar stories to re-read and summarize for their first Minor Assessment. And the more advanced group was in the middle of reading selections from Eutropius, selections that will form the basis of “The World’s Largest Timeline” which serves as their first Minor Assessment, too. When we meet again today, there will obviously be some catching up and brushing up to do, but we can take care of that as we need to, in the context of our authentic, continuing work. If all goes as planned, we’ll be presenting the products on Tuesday and Wednesday, starting new things on Wednesday and Thursday, back to a more typical routine by Friday. And even if all doesn’t go as planned, we’ll move forward on our journey toward building meaningful things together.
That will help newer Latin Family members see some important ways that they’re starting new chapters, some important ways that their Latin Family experience will be different from what goes on Ms. X and Mr. Y’s classes. Since we haven’t had a long weather-related closure for a few years, even veteran Latin Family members will discover the different ways that weather and other external factors affect our particular joyful learning community. And we’ll all have a chance to start something new, something important, something meaningful together on what’s forecast to be a warm, rainy Monday. That’s a happy, exciting feeling as I finish this post, drink the last of the coffee, and prepare for a busy day.
When you’re building and sustaining joyful learning communities, every day is a new chapter … but every day is also a continuation of what went before. Learning happens on its own schedule, unique for each learner; you shouldn’t necessarily assume that on the third Tuesday of the class, everybody will have mastered Goal 18.104.22.168(b) in the Big Curriculum Document, regardless of what the Big Curriculum Document says, and you shouldn’t expect to be on Page 73, Exercise J, in The Textbook just because that’s “where you wanted to be” or “where you were last year.” That’s scary for factory-mindset teachers and schools who think a standardized process should yield standardized results, but it’s liberating and challenging for anyone who understands how people actually learn and develop.
I wonder what new forms of learning, what new developments, and what (literal or metaphorical) new chapters await us all in the days to come!