Two Sides of “Always”

One thing I’ve really enjoyed in my work with District Q and District Y is that none of us can do what we “always” used to do.  Returning students at both schools loved Magistra A and Magister B, but we can’t do what they “always” did … because, of course, I’m not Magistra A or Magister B, and also because we’re not in That Old Classroom, using Those Old Textbooks, with Those Familiar Decorations on the walls.   And I can’t do what I “always” did at Former School, either … because the class periods are different lengths, the rhythm of the school year is different, and (except in the case of the beginning group at District Y), the students aren’t “exactly” where they would “always” be if I’d taught them in the past.

When I first thought about that, I wondered how I’d feel.  I found that I feel oddly free.

After all, there are two faces of “always.”  If you’re tired and your energy levels are low, if you’re fighting off a cold or preoccupied with All That Stuff, always can be comforting and familiar.  No need to think about the particular needs of this group of students today!  We can just do what we “always” do on the third day of this particular unit, and it will probably turn out OK.  That One Activity “always” causes problems for students, but maybe things will be different this time, we hope.

Of course “always” can quickly turn from a comforting, familiar friend into a comforting, familiar trap … especially if that tiredness, that low level of energy, that impending cold or preoccupation continues, as it generally does.  Doing what you “always” did … does it help, or does it actually increase the tiredness and decrease the energy level?

I’m not sure, but I’m glad that what I  “always” did isn’t possible this school year.

To be fair, we’re doing lots of similar things, but with new, unexpected twists.  Beginning Latin I classes “always” used to struggle, not with creating plans for the Roman houses for their families, but with making the stories and interactions which will be an important part of the second Minor Assessment next week.  So, freed from the tyranny of “always,” we’re going to practice making such stories and sentences today, reinforcing the names of the rooms in the house and the process of changing nouns to their genitīvus and ablātīvus forms a few days before the Minor Assessment products are due.  The intermediate groups at District Y have been struggling with what feels like an overwhelming amount of unfamiliar vocabulary, so we’ve added Vocabulary Images (an old Latin Family activity where you create or find public domain or Creative Commons – licensed images to go with words that you struggle with) as an element of our next Minor Assessment.  And of course the advanced group at District Y is making mysteries … because we don’t have to read Pliny the Elder’s description of elephants just because it’s early October.

Of course that tradition began as a break from “always,” as traditions usually do.  It began when F, who loved elephants, asked if we could read something about her favorite animals.  And we may well bring that tradition back, in a revised and improved form, at a different time of the year with a slightly different product or process.

That’s the great thing about letting go of “always.”  It lets you rediscover the power and purpose of things.  Sometimes you have to let go of tradition to reclaim tradition.

Many years ago, when The Dog was new to the family, we took him to be blessed on the feast of St. Francis … and it was a disaster.  He was upset and over-stressed, and he was surrounded by new people and other animals, by men and dogs and cats and horses and other suspicious creatures.  He got blessed … in the safety of his crate in the back of the car … and we never took him or The Cat again.  But over the weekend, The Dog and The Cat were blessed in absentia; I took pictures of them, printed those out, and brought them to the ceremony, which alos departed from what “always” used to happen in some important ways.

And then The Dog and I took a long late-evening walk, and we took a longish stroll around The Yard this morning.  We let go of what we “always” do and rediscovered some important things about what we like to do.

On a beautiful, cool October Monday, I’m really glad I’m not where I “always” used to be, doing what I “always” used to do with a group of students and colleagues who expected I would “always” continue to be there, doing more or less the same things in more or less the same ways.  “Always” had become a crutch for all of us, a crutch we continued to use even though we were quite able to walk independently.  From what I hear, things are going well at Former School as everyone rediscovers the joy of walking independently, and I know I’m a lot more joyful than I’ve been in a long time, too.

Could it be that “always” had become an end in itself instead of a useful tool?

I’m not sure, but as I consider the days and weeks ahead, I’m glad that these new joyful learning communities are developing new traditions and new expectations and new ways of being together, and I’m glad that the meaningful things we build together are different from the old things.  I wonder what other new insights and discoveries await us all today!

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Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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