Finding Our Rhythm

After all those years at the Former School, with its daily, 95-minute, semester-long classes, it’s a joy but also a challenge to find a good rhythm with the Latin Family at District Q and District Y.  With shorter classes (60 minutes), a full year, and classes that don’t meet every day, the rhythm has to be different anyway.  Since these new Latin Family members are new to the Tres Columnae Project and, in some cases, new to the idea of Latin as comprehensible language rather than complex code, the same-old-same-old rhythm wouldn’t work even if we did have a similar schedule and pace.  But after our first week and a half together, the new rhythm is starting to establish itself.

It’s a good feeling … good to break from the same-old-same-old, good to learn new names and new personalities.  Good to find a new rhythm when the old one was starting to feel stale.

Ms. N, who’s temporarily in charge of the Latin Family at Former School, asked if I could send her “the” lesson plan for the week ahead … and to my surprise, when I looked at the equivalent week from last year, “the” lesson plan was right there waiting for her.  After so many years there, and after several years of using Tres Columnae with those students, in that place, on that schedule, we had found a rhythm that continues to work even when I’m not there to set the pace.  That’s great for Ms. N, and I’m sure it will help the Next Teacher … but the more I thought about it, and the more I looked at those plans, the more I realized how much I’d needed the change.

If you’re not careful, finding a rhythm can cause you to fall into a rut.  And a rut will quickly diminish the joy and the learning and the community.

A few times last spring, I looked at the Latin Family at Former School and thought to myself, “they don’t really need me.”  They were so proficient with the rhythm we’d found, so expert at reading and understanding Latin together, that I seemed to have very little to do.

In some ways, that was very fulfilling for me as a teacher; my goal has always been to remove myself, gradually but steadily, from the position of mediator between learner and language.  “By the time you leave,” I’ve said for years, “you really shouldn’t need me anymore.”  B the time you become an Intermediate Mid to High interpreter of a language, you can survive and understand and participate without much help, and that’s what I wanted the Latin Family to do … and what they did.

But in other ways, the proficiency with the rhythm had started to bother me.  Were we stretching ourselves, building and sustaining the joyful learning community as we reached ever higher and challenged ourselves?  Or were we stagnant, going through the motions, stuck in a permanent valley … or in what Seth Godin calls a “dip?”  Was it time to quit, or should we keep pushing ahead?  Would things get better, or would they just stay the same?

It turns out that the answer was “yes and no, all and none of the above,” the way it so often is.  For the Latin Family at Former School, the key was to keep pushing ahead together, but to do so without me, relying on the rhythm they’d created and the joyful learning community we’d built together.  For me personally, it was important to keep pushing ahead in a different place, by embracing a new teaching context, helping to build new joyful learning communities … and finding a new rhythm that, in turn, will strengthen and challenge these new, different communities.

I “always” stood at the physical classroom door, saying salvē or salvēte as individuals or groups entered.  Now I greet each Latin Family member as he or she enters our virtual space, saying the greetings out loud and sending them through our virtual classroom’s chat feature.  There “always” was a posted agenda, but now it appears on a virtual whiteboard.  We “always” did something interactive at the beginning of class, either to pre-assess for an upcoming activity or to consolidate what we’d been learning about … and we still do, but now that something is usually a Google Form, and I can see the results in real time.  We “always” did some reading together … and we still do, but now there’s a choice of responding to questions by microphone or by text chat.  We “always” looked at a projected copy of the text together … and after a few days of experimenting with students’ clicking on links for themselves, I rediscovered the power of that shared text with the District Q group today.  I “always” asked for comfort levels on a scale from 1-5, but now everyone can respond privately, instead of with a show of fingers.  And there are cultural products, practices, and perspectives that we “always” talked about … and we’ve been talking about them in similar ways.

Some aspects of the rhythm haven’t changed that much.  But others have changed a lot.

We “always” moved to small-group reading when we were ready, and we’ll be ready soon.  But I don’t feel pushed to start that before we’re ready … to go ahead and do Paired Reading because it’s in “the” lesson plan.  And when I ask for feedback and reflection, I have time and space to absorb the responses, to alter the flow and the rhythm to meet the needs of these Latin Family members, in these places, at this time, without the pull of the same-old-same-old.

And that’s why finding a new rhythm has been a joy and a challenge. I wonder what other joyful challenges and opportunities await us all today!

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] is what they do anyway.  We’ve found a rhythm in those groups, to pick up a theme from yesterday’s blog post, and that rhythm seems to be working well for most of us.  We’ve lost a few members of […]

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