Has it really been thirteen years since That Day? Intellectually, of course, I know it has been; I can count the years, see the faces of generations of students at the Former School, know how old the Latin Family alumni of that era are now. In the military town where I live, 9/11 has a special significance; it has a different significance, of course, for the young people in District Q and District Y, many of whose parents work in The City.
So it’s understandable if today was a hard day … and to a degree it was, especially this morning when the bizarre tech issue almost prevented me from meeting with the District Q students. No Internet access? Really? Endless disconnections and timeouts from servers? I picked up the phone, called the school, and within a few minutes I was giving directions “the old-fashioned way” with the help of the room-monitor teacher and several of the District Q students. “I’ll join you,” I said, “as soon as I can, but in the meantime, please keep reading from where we stopped.” And they did.
And then, just when I least expected it, the Internet issue solved itself. And within a few minutes, everything was “normal,” and we were reading Tres Columnae Project stories and talking about them the way we “always” do. Of course, as I look back, I realize that even a few months ago, this normal would have seemed completely strange. Could it really happen? Evidently it could.
Joyful community comes through, even on a hard day. The morning was hard because of the connectivity; the beginning group at District Y was a bit hard because they’re so intelligent, so capable, and so quick to pick things up. That’s a good kind of hard, but it’s still an adjustment as we figure out how many questions to ask, how quickly to go, how much to review or not review. At their request, we started the day with a vocabulary review activity, a Google Forms equivalent of the “vocabulary self-check” my face-to-face students knew for the past few years. Instead of writing your “comfort level on a scale from 1-5” as in the Old Days, we were able to choose our comfort levels and see answers in real time. I can focus on the lower numbers and on students who felt less comfortable over all … and together, as a community, we can help K, who’s brilliant but occasionally distracting.
Joyful community on a hard day.
Later this afternoon, the intermediate District Y group will start out with a Google Forms version of “Choose the Word,” an old Latin Family favorite diagnostic activity about noun forms. “We did a lot of grammar,” they’ve told me, but I don’t know exactly what that looked like. Did they name constructions or write declensions and conjugations? Did they analyze sentences? Did they “compose” by translating English painstakingly into Latin? Probably some of each … and “Choose the Word” will help me know if they can apply their grammatical knowledge and build a Latin sentence. And then we’ll read some more of the Tres Columnae stories, and we’ll celebrate all that we know and are able to do. And then, after that, there’s the visitation for Ms. E, and then my normal Thursday evening church commitment. And then, in the evening, I’ll be “virtually present” for the District Q Back to School Night.
Joyful community, again, on a hard day.
That’s a very full agenda, isn’t it? I hadn’t realized quite how full until I sat down to write this post. I saw the events on my calendar, of course, but the spaces between events are so much bigger than they used to be. There’s time and space to breathe and think; even on the busiest days, when all three District Y classes meet back-to-back as they did on Tuesday, there’s still a pause before that and a pause after. The sense of joyful community is strong, and I find the time and space so much more helpful, even vital, than I’d realized.
On a hard day, that time and space will help a lot.
And even the hard days are differently hard, maybe even less hard, than the face-to-face days at Former School. It was easy to feel rushed and frantic there, easy to get caught up in the moment, in Ms. X or Mr. Y’s complaints, in the sense of urgency that comes from That Directive from Those Powers That Be. On hard days and on easy ones, the power of joyful learning community sustains and strengthens us, and so do the meaningful things we build together.
“Never forget,” we say on this day, though so many Latin Family members don’t have first-hand memories these days. “Don’t forget Ms. E,” say her friends and former students, but already at least a quarter of the students at That School have no memories of her to draw on. But communities sustain themselves even when the memories fade, and it’s in communities that we find courage, strength, and insight even on the hardest days.
I wonder what other new insights we’ll all find today!