It was brutally hot in These Parts on Tuesday, and the Almost Former School building had been baking in the heat of a three-day weekend without air conditioning. Tuesday was my last full day with that branch of the Latin Family; I’ll be seeing half of them this afternoon, the other half tomorrow morning, as I continue with my transition from the old to the new. I wasn’t sure how I’d be feeling … and I wasn’t sure if Unofficial Word had begun to spread or not.
And yet, even for that branch of the family, it ended up being a joyful day. And it was definitely a joyful day for the broader Latin Family.
The Latin I group, all thirty-plus of them, had read the first three Fabellae in Tres Columnae Lectio Prima before the holiday weekend. We started out with a paper-based version of this family tree activity, and then we did Paired Reading and Latin Question Creation for Fabella Tertia and Fabella Quarta. It’s a long tradition that the first Minor Assessment project in Latin I is to create a new “authentic” Roman family who can interact with the existing Tres Columnae families and characters, so we started on that process, and “we” will be continuing it today (though I won’t be there at the time), and then we actually will present our families to each other on Thursday. And then they’ll continue, under the capable temporary leadership of Ms. N, until the permanent replacement for me is in place.
Did D sense that something was up, or was he just in a generous mood? “Did you just thank us for doing our work?” he asked as the class was coming to an end. Yes, I said, because it was a long, hot, frustrating day, but in the end you all did rise to the occasion and you were the Latin Family and you did make a joyful learning community and start building something meaningful. And then D thanked me “for being a great teacher,” and he led them in a round of applause.
I’ve never had a round of applause from a class before! Never in all those years. When it happened, I wondered if I’d feel any bittersweet regret … but if I did, it was only for a moment. I think I dealt with my bittersweet and my regrets over the weekend as I mourned for B.
The upper-level classes were creating characters who could interact, in some way, with existing Tres Columnae Project characters. I’ll see one set this afternoon, the others Thursday morning. They were sweet and subdued, and I think they knew something was up … but we didn’t talk about it. Not yet. We just enjoyed our joyful learning community time together.
And then there was a reception, which I had half expected; I knew the “faculty meeting” Tuesday afternoon was mostly planned around my farewell. But then there was cake, which I hadn’t been expecting at all. And my Officially Official announcement to the faculty of Almost Former School. Would I cry? I wondered. Ms. B cried at her retirement celebration, and she wasn’t expecting that at all. Ms. Q cried, too, because she and her family were moving.
I didn’t cry, though. And as folks congratulated me and talked about “the end of an era,” I suppose I felt B’s wise words of advice about “you know when the time is right.”
And then it was time to go home, time to meet the Gifted Homeschoolers. And what a joyful learning community we quickly formed! Within 45 minutes, we’d read the Lectio Prima stories that took two 95-minute class periods for the face-to-face class, and we were all feeling confident about understanding Latin and determining the meanings of new words. And then, yesterday evening, a brief “tech orientation” for the upper-level class at School Q.
Today was their first day of school, and this morning … the first day of school … they all arrived, and they got set up in their computer-lab classroom, and they logged on, and we had a joyful community beginning of the year. I sent them greetings from their Former Teacher, whom I’ve known for many years, and I shared the syllabus with them and talked about questions and joyful community and building meaningful things together. And with our virtual whiteboard, we worked together to make a giant chart of things we know about Latin, the Romans, and Herculaneum and Pompeii. And then our hour together was over and it was time to log off and say “valēte” until next time.
And it was joyful! The Dog and The Cat were at my feet; I was sitting in what seems to be my Work Zone, in a place where you can see one of my framed Pompeian fresco prints over my shoulder. Coffee and water nearby; various forms of computer technology; fifteen or sixteen eager participants; and an amazing amount of background knowledge on display.
And then a few moments to breathe, to write this post, to eat another half bagel. And, starting Friday, a few hours between that alternating-day morning class and the “rotating drop” of the afternoon classes at School Z … and abundant morning hours on the other day when the alternating-day class doesn’t meet.
Until it was all Officially Official, I hadn’t realized how much I’d been longing for freedom … because it’s hard to build a joyful learning community when you feel like you’re under compulsion. First impressions say that the young people at School Q don’t feel the kind of compulsion my students have so often felt. Is it the demographics? Is it that the school district itself is so much smaller? Is it because they had a real choice to join or rejoin the Latin Family? We’ll find out, I’m sure, over the next few days, but today I’m pausing in joy and gratitude and just a bit of amazement. I wonder what other insights and discoveries await in the days to come!