The beginning branch of the Latin Family at District Y … brilliant and energetic and occasionally silly, like so many beginning groups I’ve worked with over the years. On Wednesday, though, the silliness crossed over into distraction and annoyance, and I sent a few private emails to the offenders and a brief message to a Relevant Power.
In a very short time, I had something like an apology from each offender, and by last night I even had a great suggestion from one in case there was a problem in the future. And District Y schools were closed on Thursday, too.
At Former School, when silliness started, I would usually stop and wait. My silent presence was generally enough to calm the silliness in a few moments, and then we’d talk about why it was a problem and how we could keep it from happening again. Without a physical silent presence or years of reputation, the specific approach had to be a bit different on Wednesday, but the underlying principles were exactly the same. We had gotten ourselves off track, and we needed to find our way … and in the process, we needed to rediscover some important truths about joyful learning communities and how they function.
In some cases, we probably had to discover those truths for the first time, because some of us haven’t ever participated in a joyful learning community before. Almost everybody has been part of a community of some type, and most of us have belonged to a joyful community or two along the way. Groups of friends often become joyful communities, after all, and the towns in District Y are fairly small and fairly stable. Many Latin Family members have known each other for years, and they’re comfortable with each other in a way that wasn’t always true at Former School, whose students came from lots and lots of different places in an area where turnover and movement are constant. So it was easy to form a community, even a joyful community … but sometimes that seems to make it harder, or at least different, to form a joyful learning community.
After all, how do you take an existing community and repurpose it?
If the Latin Family members were hanging out together at somebody’s house, at some “third place,” or in a virtual social space, the silliness would be both welcome and expected. That’s what teenagers do, after all, and it’s what Adult Authorities expect when groups of teenagers gather socially. Take that same physical or virtual group, put it in a collaborative online space, and it’s not surprising that its members behave in those silly, but social ways. It’s not surprising, either, that we had to identify the problem, see it as a problem, and experience some of the pain and discomfort of the problem before we could find our way to a solution.
But I’m impressed at how quickly that happened … and I’m looking forward to the results when we meet later today. It was helpful that we “just happened” to be working with a new, more abstract set of skills, with classifying nouns by their dēclīnātiōnēs and changing them from one cāsus to another. That exercises different “brain muscles” from a reading comprehension task or a creative activity, and that magnified the annoyance factor of the distractions.
Ms. X just would have yelled, labeled, and threatened … but maybe Ms. X doesn’t work at District Y. Mr. Y would have fussed, fretted, and complained … but maybe he doesn’t work there either. Maybe there’s something about the culture and community at District Y that helps with the formation of joyful learning communities.
I don’t know … but I’m grateful for the outcome, and I’m looking forward to our time together today. We’ll do some more work with nouns, read the last bit of Tres Columnae Lectio II, see a few Minor Assessment presentations if we have time, and start thinking about the houses and rooms we’ll be designing for the familiae we’ve created. And the intermediate and advanced groups will do a bit of work with verbs, discover more about modus optativus verbs, and do some reading to prepare for our second Minor Assessment. Character Diagrams are new to them, so we’ll talk about how they work and how to make a great one … but we’ll probably save that conversation for Monday. We’ve definitely been finding our way to joyful learning community, and it hasn’t taken long at all … most likely, I suppose, because these groups of friends have already navigated the transition from community to learning community.
Looking back at “problematic” classes at Former School, I can see how the friendship communities in them had trouble with the transition to a different, but related form of community. And I can see why Ms. X and Mr. Y, with the terminology and world views they had, saw “bad, lazy kids” and “horrible parenting” in the conversations and the webs of relationships. As we work to build, sustain, and strengthen joyful learning communities, I wonder what other insights and discoveries await … and I wonder how we’ll all navigate the various communities in which we participate today!