This week brings the end of the marking period at District Q, and today was the official exam day for the Latin Family. Our mostly self-directed Honors Projects are due later today, and we’ll be looking at them … and celebrating our many accomplishments so far … during our shortened class period on Wednesday. It’s a time of year when gratitude and joy are the themes, and I’m feeling both grateful and joyful as I look at what the Latin Family, both at District Q and at District Y, has accomplished so far.
We’ve come a long way together in a fairly short time. And we’ve overcome some barriers in the process.
At District Y, the old paradigm was that “nobody really knows how Latin was pronounced, so there’s no need to try to pronounce or speak it.” We didn’t directly challenge the old paradigm; we just started saying salvē and salvēte, valē and valēte, and a few other phrases in the intermediate and advanced groups, and of course we started reading things out loud in every class and asking and answering Latin questions with the beginners. In a short time, everyone’s pronunciation has become about as good as you’d expect it to be in each group, and our Interpretive Reading proficiency has followed suit. We’re all getting more comfortable with creating things, too; all three groups will be embarking on their first Minor Assessment project of the new marking period this week, and no one seems to be stressed or scared about the process this time. “Oh!” said W and J and B in the advanced group, whose product is more open-ended now, “Can we make a video with costumes and everything?” And of course they can … and we’ll see how it goes, and we’ll see what we learn about the process as well as the products from this new adventure.
There were fewer barriers to overcome at District Q, where there’s always been a focus on language proficiency and using the language. But it’s still been exciting to watch how a greater sense of ownership has developed there. “Pick a topic,” I said, “for those Honors Projects, and find good sources, and make a thing, and find a primary source or two if you can.” And the only questions were about finding the primary sources. It had been a while since any Latin Family branch used a process that self-directed and complex, and I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. But the products I’ve seen so far are outstanding, and I’m really looking forward to the presentations on Wednesday. I’m hoping some Latin Family members will allow their products to be published on the ever-growing Tres Columnae Project site, and I’m hoping some of us will build on this first Honors Project by creating stories with our chosen cultural elements in the weeks to come.
I’m thinking about joy and gratitude this week … and some of my joy and gratitude comes when I compare this week with its equivalent in prior years. If folks are following the Normal Old Pattern at Former School, there’s probably a “special” Holiday Lunch for the faculty today or tomorrow, and there was probably mumbling and grumbling as Ms. X, Mr. Y, and the others decided what they’d sign up to bring. There might even be mumbling and grumbling about the “special” altered schedule, which gives Ms. X and Mr. Y more time to “enjoy and celebrate” during lunch by extending the time they’ll be spending with One Particular Class and shortening the time they have with the others. A friend who teaches at Another School in These Parts was grateful for the short week, but mumbling and grumbling about how her students would “certainly” behave and act.
Do the negative expectations contribute to the bad behaviors? I thought about asking, but decided not to. Both the expectations and the behaviors are symptoms of systemic and structural factors that I couldn’t see from the inside Back In The Day. I can’t very well expect folks on the inside to see them now.
But I do wonder why those systemic, structural factors don’t seem to be as prevalent at District Y and District Q. Maybe they are, but I just don’t see them because I’m not physically present. Maybe they aren’t because the structures and systems of District Y and District Q are so different. In any case, when I think about this week and compare it with all those weeks, I’m definitely feeling joy and gratitude.
Most of all, I’d say, I’m grateful for the joyful learning communities we’ve formed and the meaningful things we’ve already built together. I’m grateful that N and the others were sad when it looked like technical glitches would keep us from meeting on Thursday … and I’m grateful that we were able to meet after all. I’m grateful that early fears have given way to hope and joy, and I’m grateful that early concerns about grades have dissipated as we’ve all grown familiar with our processes, routines, and expectations. When you’re building a joyful learning community inside a larger structure, it’s important to express your joy and gratitude regularly, especially if the joyful learning community is new and fragile or if it’s quite diverse. But it’s hard to overdo sincere expressions of joy and gratitude, and every community benefits from hearing (and saying) them regularly.
I wonder what other causes of joy and gratitude, and what other insights and discoveries, await in the days and weeks to come!