It’s been raining a lot in These Parts recently, and you can tell that Fall will be here soon. And it “just happens” that, depending on the week, I have two or three free mornings before the first District Y class.
I can’t remember the last time I didn’t set the alarm clock on a September Monday. I was awake at my normal, long-programmed time, of course … but then I was able to go back to sleep for a bit. The Dog and I took a rainy stroll at a time when his equanimity wouldn’t be shattered by an approaching school bus, and then we had a leisurely morning of thinking and writing and planning for me, eating and sleeping and looking at stuff for him.
And listening. The Dog loves to listen to things going on in the world outside of “his” house and “his” yard and “his” neighborhood and universe.
I wasn’t sure what joy on a rainy Monday would feel like … but now I know.
To be fair, I’ve felt joy on other rainy Mondays over the years. I love rainy days, especially the ones when summer is turning to fall. I love working with learners of Latin, and I’m looking forward to the groups I’ll virtually see today. The upper-level group, who didn’t meet on Friday, will do their “virtual information card” and their Cumulative Vocabulary Review Task as their counterparts did on Friday; the beginners, after a brief review of the words (and Restored Classical Latin pronunciation system) we began to work with on Friday, will dive into the first few Tres Columnae Project stories, aiming to read (and answer questions about, and understand, and begin to be excited about) the first two Fabellae in Lectio I. Both groups meet again tomorrow, joined by the intermediate group at District Y, the upper-level group from District Q, and the Gifted Homeschoolers … and yet, even as I think about that busy day, it seems so much less busy, less stressful, less difficult than a “perfectly ordinary” day at Former School did.
It seems that joy on a rainy Monday, at least on this rainy Monday, is closely linked with the sense of freedom. It’s not the kind of freedom where you can do whatever you want, whenever you want; I obviously still have obligations, and I don’t think I’d want it to be otherwise. But for the first time in a very long time, I’ve agreed to all the obligations; nothing got added at the last minute, or changed after the fact, or imposed “because They said so” by some distant set of Powers That Be. Instead, there’s a web of agreements that binds us together … and there’s a distinct absence of coercion, at least on my end.
It’s hard to have joy in the absence of freedom. Hard, but not impossible; joy can show up in the most adverse circumstances, and it certainly has for me as I reflect on the hardest times in my own life. For some people, I suppose, a rainy Monday at home, with the prospect of two hours of teaching by remote video conference, might seem an adverse circumstance for joy. Some might feel more terror than joy at the prospect of making a living (and a life) outside of all the comfortable, familiar structures of large, hierarchical organizations. Joy and freedom come from different sources for different people. What causes them for me might very well prevent them for somebody else, especially somebody like Many A Ms. X and Mr. Y who has “always” gained comfort from Schools As They Are … or schools as they “should” be in Many A Ms. X and Mr. Y’s golden memories.
A quick look at the weather for Those Parts where District Q and District Y are found reveals that it’s a sunny Monday there. No rain, lovely Fall weather, and a forecast for more of the same all week. I’m hoping that we’ll all find joyful learning community as we read today, and as we begin to create our own original Roman families (for the beginners) and characters (for others) … and as those families and characters begin to take on life and depth, to interact with the existing Tres Columnae Project characters, and to become important parts of the “expanded universe” of the Tres Columnae Project.
One of the joyful things about this new adventure for me is that, in contrast with my days in a physical, face-to-face classroom, there’s so much that I can’t even pretend to control. Looking back, I can see how my attempts to hold on to a false sense of control would sometimes distort and hinder the formation of joyful community in the Latin Family. “I’ve always done things this way,” I’d think, “so I should probably keep doing that.” Or, at other times, “So I should probably change that even though it seems to be working just fine.” Notice the pronoun in both cases! For all my sincere intentions to create a sense of us in that space, it was deceptively easy to fall back on me … because, after all, that’s what hierarchical individual school structures encourage. “My classroom,” I’d think, or “my activity” or “my plans.”
But with the students in District Y and District Q, it’s not my classroom at all. I’ve never even seen the physical space, and even when we do two-way video, I won’t see the entire physical environment. It’s much more theirs than mine … and the shared space we create together online is necessarily ours, too. That’s a joyful realization on this Monday, no matter what the weather.
I wonder what other realizations and discoveries await us all in the days and weeks to come!