Fresh and Local in the Future

“Wait,” said the young woman at the cash register, “don’t you usually order an extra packet of sauce?”  Yes, I told her, but I get that for friends who live somewhere else, and I just recently took them a set.  “I try really hard to know my regulars’ orders,¨ she said, and she told me about one set who confuse her by ordering something different each time.

Even in a somewhat standard and standardized place like a chain restaurant, there’s still room for personal connections.  I started going to that particular location because it was convenient, especially on Monday nights before Book Group.  But I continue to go there because I get personal service and they recognize me.  They may not know my name, but they know my order.

At the location closer to my house, the one I ate at for years, that never happened.  So I don’t go as often, even though the food itself is obviously the same.

Even when things are standard and standardized, little variations can make a big difference … and being known and welcomed is really important.

For well over twenty years, I’ve made sure to learn students’ names as quickly as possible at the beginning of a new school year.  Of course I already know the names of returning students … but even in a relatively small school, and even within the smaller environment of The Latin Family or a particular class, it’s not always the case that everybody knows everybody else.  “That girl over there” or “the boy with the glasses” … it’s not terrible to be known that way, just as it isn’t terrible to be the middle-aged guy who orders the extra sauce packet.  It’s definitely better than not being known at all!  But it’s so much better to be known as A, B, C, or Mr. S., especially in a standard and standardized world where being known seems rare, and being valued seems still rarer.

I’m thinking about knowing and being known because I obviously don’t yet know the members of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum classes, and because I can’t know, until I meet them, how well they know each other.  It’s quite possible that some are old friends (or even old rivals) from prior GHF classes, but it’s equally possible that we’ll discover, on our first day together, that nobody knows anybody.

That’s a new experience for me as a teacher!  Even when I’ve been Mr. Unknown, I’ve known that many of my students will know each other to some degree.  And the last time I was theoretically Mr. Unknown, when I moved from the Big School to the Smaller One over a decade ago, I was actually Mr. Known By Reputation.

The last time I was Mr. Unknown in a (physical or virtual) space where everybody was Mr. or Ms. Unknown, I was a college freshman.  That was a long time ago!  But as I think back on those days (and write this paragraph), I remember I was more excited than apprehensive, even though I’d expected some nerves and even some fear.  It’s good to have a fresh start every so often, and it’s good to find a new place and new experiences when the old ones start to grow stale.

That’s one of many reasons I’m glad not to use 20th-century-style textbooks when I work with Latin learners these days.  I was inspired to start working on Tres Columnae Project by a group of students who told me, both by actions and eventually by words, that they loved the class but hated the textbook.  “Why?” I asked them.  “Because the book is so flat and dead,” said B, rolling her eyes because it should have been so obvious to me.  All textbooks, it turned out, felt stale and prepackaged and flat and dead to B and her friends.  “But we like the other stuff!” they said.

The great thing about collaborative co-creation of learning materials is that they’ll never be stale and prepackaged.  They’ll always be fresh and locally grown because you, the learner, can always make a contribution.  It was a perceptive group of students who made me realize that quite a few stories in this Lectio are actually an anxiety dream.  “Should we make that clear in the storyline?” I asked them.  “Yes,” they said, “because otherwise people will get confused and they’ll think bad things about the parents and the child.”

That’s where this story and this one came from.  And there are others just waiting to be added … and others just waiting to be created, too, by future Tres Columnae Project users.

“What about the future?” someone asked me recently.  “Will there be more advanced GHF classes available?”  Yes, I hope so, I told them … but that obviously depends on demand and interest.  I had an exciting conversation that may lead to other opportunities for more Tres Columnae Project users, too, but I don’t want to say too much about that until everything is official and finalized.

“But what about the far future?  How and when do Tres Columnae learnersstart reading and understanding ‘real’ Latin texts from the Classical period?”  That question deserves a post in itself (a post that you’ll probably see tomorrow), but the short answer is that when you build a joyful learning community around the thoughts, words, actions, feelings, and attitudes of the Romans, it’s not hard to bring in their authentic words.  We start out early with some mottoes and proverbs, and it’s not too long before we can get at least the main idea and some details from something a real Roman wrote for a real Roman audience.

Fresh and local in the future … that’s my favorite thing about this part of our shared journey.  I wonder what other fresh, new insights await us all!

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Source: NatalieMaynor on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0 license

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Published in: on July 23, 2014 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

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