“Should I turn off chat privileges for That One Class?” I asked myself this morning. They had been a bit silly and distracted on Wednesday, and if we’d been in the same physical room, with whispering or loud conversations instead of typed chat, I just would have stopped in mid-syllable and waited for them. And then, when they noticed, I would have reminded them about managing ourselves … about how the Latin Family avoids behaviors that would distract or annoy others, not because Somebody Else makes us, but because we have ownership of our own lives and behaviors.
It’s easier to talk about managing ourselves than it used to be. It was hard when I was in a physical environment where (obviously) various Powers That Be were managing everybody. To be fair, there’s a room monitor there with the Latin Family in both District Q and District Y, but s/he rarely has anything to say. And of course there are Powers That Be who could be summoned, called, or emailed if needed … but the room monitor would probably handle that.
So, even in an overall structure where somebody is there to manage, the Latin Family at District Q and District Y is uniquely poised to manage ourselves. And this morning, when I woke up with a cough, a scratchy throat, and the other unmistakable signs of late-summer cold, I was glad that I could manage myself, too. I’d still be meeting with the two Latin Family groups that meet today, but I could take a quick nap if I needed to. I’d still be talking and guiding them, but I could have hot tea and toast nearby. I’d still be dressed normally for this new phase (I don’t feel compelled to wear a jacket and tie anymore), but no one would have to see the fuzzy slippers. And my half-formed plan to get a haircut this afternoon? That could wait for another day.
It’s exciting to see what happens when the Latin Family takes ownership of managing ourselves. It was exciting back at Former School, but it’s even more exciting with District Q and District Y. “We know each other well,” they all told me at the beginning, “so we really can be the Latin Family.” And sure enough, barely two weeks into our shared adventure, that joyful learning community is forming.
The upper-level group moved into breakout rooms today, and they moved themselves into rooms that corresponded with the Tres Columnae Project characters they’ve been focusing on. They created summaries on the virtual whiteboard, and we moved those summaries out to the “main room” to share with each other. “I know!” I said, “I’ll save a PDF copy as well as a ‘regular’ whiteboard” … and that was the last thing they heard from me, because a sudden crash ensued. We were almost done, and I sent them an apologetic email with directions for tomorrow. We’ll be creating our first-ever interactions tomorrow, bringing our “new” and “existing” characters together. We may need a bit of time on Monday, especially after the Great Crash. But I continue to be impressed by the quality of their work … and by the quality of the community we’ve formed together.
And all it took for That One Class was a quiet reminder. Then we answered Latin questions together, using the first two paragraphs of a new story that may find its way onto the Tres Columnae site fairly soon. Then we read the rest of the story and created some Latin questions for each other … and we shared the “authentic” families we’ve created for Minor Assessment #1, and we talked about the illustrated family tree or brief Latin description we’ll be making before tomorrow. And we started talking about our first interaction, which will bring pairs or groups of three together, each one representing a member of the familia they created.
It’s exciting! And now that the tasks are becoming more comfortable and more clear, we’re managing ourselves well as we rise to the new challenge. “I’m glad we finally had homework,” somebody said today, “after a week and a half of not having any.” That surprised me; I never would have heard such a comment at Former School, where Ms. X and Mr. Y’s lengthy, tedious homework assignments had spoiled the notion of practice outside of class for almost everyone. But the school cultures at District Q and District Y are very different from that … and the demographics are different, of course, and so are the students themselves. “I need practice,” they’re telling me. “Will we ever start checking the Make the Noun assignments for accuracy?” K had asked me during the other class … and even though they’re still struggling a bit with the speed and intensity with which I want them to make noun forms, I could tell that was more of a request than a concern.
Managing ourselves … it involves a lot of listening and responding. “Could we have a vocabulary list for the stories we read independently?” Yes, of course, and I’ll share the “complete VOCABVLA” link with the relevant groups tomorrow. “Could we spend more time with small-group discussion of stories?” Yes, absolutely … and that’s one big reason we used the Breakout Rooms for reading preparation today. “Could there be a game for vocabulary practice?” Of course … and we’ll be designing one together.
It’s a lot easier and better when we manage ourselves and build it together!
And that’s the thing about a joyful learning community: when the conditions are right, you really can build it together. Maybe it’s the combination of physical and virtual, maybe it’s the new season of life I seem to be in, or maybe it’s just the much-needed change, but building it together and managing ourselves seem a lot easier than they did a year ago. I wonder what the cause is, and I wonder what other effects and insights we’ll notice in the days and weeks to come!