Renovation and Communication, VI

salvēte, amīcī et sodalēs!  As I mentioned in our last post, yesterday was “Open House” day at school in my face-to-face teaching world.  For those lectōrēs fidēlissimī who aren’t familiar with that tradition, or whose “Open House” tradition might be a bit different from ours, this means in my world that

  • I had a very long day, since we’re “open” in the early evening (from 6:00 to 7:30-ish this year).
  • Teachers are absolutely convinced that they need to have a perfectly-decorated classroom (I try to resist, knowing that nothing will ever be “perfect,” but I still find myself obsessing over the perfect placement of a poster or bulletin board items from time to time).
  • It was a very hot day, since we began in our not-quite-air-conditioned gymnasium.
  • I saw large numbers of students and parents, since we usually have well over 50% participation.
  • Our students and parents theoretically “follow the schedule,” visiting each class for approximately 10 minutes.
  • All my incoming Latin I students – and their parents – who attended have now had a preview of the Tres Columnae Project and received the URL to the Version Alpha Wiki site.

We had some very positive preliminary responses, too!  In my brief presentation to the Latin I students and parents, I stressed the “21st century learner” ideas that I’ve mentioned several times in this space – the idea that our multimedia-loving, multitasking young people aren’t well served by static, linear textbooks, and that they learn best when they have opportunities to create and share.  I also mentioned that it’s a big step out of the comfort zone for me; I’ve spent years polishing and refining the “perfect” learning system (or at least I wanted it to be perfect – sort of like that “perfect” classroom that my colleagues were pursuing!) and now am letting go of that and stepping out in faith that my students and I – along with the rest of the Tres Columnae community – can build something even better together.  It was a great evening, and I’m looking forward to the start of the school year now.

It was also a very LONG evening, since I had another meeting right after the Open House.  So today’s post will be a bit short, and we’ll save the next Tres Columnae story for tomorrow’s post.  As I thought about the title of this week’s series of posts, though, I realize that the Open House was closely connected with it:

  • I’m obviously doing some major renovations to my “typical” teaching approach.
  • My students, in turn, will be making some renovations to their expectations about Latin class.
  • Communication is fundamental to the Tres Columnae model.
  • Communication – not just with you lectōrēs fidēlissimī, but among parents, students, other Tres Columnae participants, and me – will be critically important, even more so than usual, as we embark on this adventure … and it may take different forms from the linear “parent communications” I’ve grown used to.

quid respondētis, amīcī?  For those whose school year is beginning, or has recently begun, what changes or renovations have you been making?  And what changes would you like to see in the Tres Columnae Project materials?

Tune in next time, when (if all goes well) we’ll finally find out why Caelius and Vipsania reacted as they did to the Fronto brothers’ proposals for renovating their vīlla.  There was obviously some kind of issue with the Renovations, the Communications, or possibly both!  intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Renovation and Communication, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’re reading this post “live,” summer has officially ended in my face-to-face world, and I’ve returned to the first of six teacher workdays, as they’re called in my face-to-face teaching world, before students return next Wednesday. Most of today will be devoted to meetings, and tomorrow is that day-long professional development session I mentioned in last week’s posts; three of those eight hours are “mine” to introduce my face-to-face colleagues to the Tres Columnae Project.

Yesterday’s house-hunting trip, which I mentioned at the start of yesterday’s post, was a great way to celebrate the end of summer. Of the three houses we looked at, two were very interesting – in very different ways. (Number 3 was fascinating, but not exactly what I’d hoped it would be.)  They’re both beautiful old houses; both have been in the same family “forever” (70 years in one case, over 100 in the other); and both had a lot – but not all – of the features I’d been hoping for. There’s no hurry, which is the great thing about this process, and no pressure to move at all. I also haven’t entirely ruled out the house I mentioned in this post earlier this month, either … and of course we might decide not to move at all. Lots to think about at a time of the year that many people associate with endings, but which I’ve always associated with new beginnings.

I have always enjoyed the agricultural rhythm of the “typical” American school year – the sense of a definite beginning and a definite ending, seed-time and harvest … even though the seasons are obviously reversed from the natural ones. I hope that all of our lectōrēs fidēlissimī who are on such a calendar will truly enjoy the upcoming year, and that your students will have a very happy, successful, enjoyable time with you.

One of the primary purposes for meetings like these is, of course, to make sure that “everyone is on the same page” – that the whole faculty of a school agree at least about the meanings of basic terminology and, let’s hope, about their overall mission and vision for the institution. It’s critically important to make sure that we agree (or at least agree to disagree) about meanings of words. So often, when there are disputes and disagreements, they turn out to involve semantic differences. For example, when I first read this recent post on the CambridgeLatin listserv, I was taken aback by what turned out to be a perfectly reasonable, simple request for a list of topics covered in each textbook in that series. Why? Because “curriculum map,” in my teaching world, refers to the lengthy, seven-step process described in this Education World article, not to the simple document my colleague needed to turn in. Fortunately, I realized this in time … and I also realized I had a hard copy of the document my colleague was looking for, in case it couldn’t be found online. Good thing I consulted with some colleagues and got a good night’s sleep before I tried to respond!

So often, of course, we don’t have – or don’t take – time to reflect before we respond, and the results can be tragic. I’m afraid that a lot of fights and disputes in our profession – and probably a good many in other parts of our lives – happen when we assume the other person defines a key term the same way that we do. We then react to what we thought the other person meant, rather than to what they actually meant … and they, in turn, react to our anger, or our apparent attack, or to what they thought we meant, and on and on! How many times have we teachers asked students to “start working” or “get busy” or “stay on task,” only to meet the response that “I am working!” Of course, sometimes that response is pure self-justification (we can see the personal note the child has been “working” on instead of the assignment!), but sometimes there’s a real difference in how we’ve defined the task. For example, in my own face-to-face teaching world, I sometimes have small-group activities where one person is assigned to be the Writer for a particular item while the other person is the Checker. I have to remember to show the Checker the appropriate behaviors involved in Checking and explain why this is important to the activity; otherwise, it’s perfectly reasonable for students to assume that “Checker” might mean “person who sits and does other stuff for a while.”

Well, maybe not reasonable, but probably understandable, especially if the student comes from a school background where a lot of time is typically wasted. I was appalled to see a statistic, in a book that I browsed through last Saturday, that something like 60% of instructional time is often wasted on non-instructional tasks in poorly run schools! And if you look at the comments on this randomly-chosen news story, you’ll see some disturbing real-life examples. I gasped with amazement as I read the first comment: 5 minutes to “get settled” at the start of every class? And 5 minutes for “packing up”? That’s almost an hour a week lost unnecessarily … a whole class period per week on many schools’ schedules! Of course, there’s such a thing as an obsessive focus on time, or on procedures for their own sake. But it sounds like the commenter’s school and classroom could probably benefit from some well-designed procedures for the start and end of each class, doesn’t it?

Miscommunication and a lack of procedures will also play important roles in today’s featured Tres Columnae Project story, as Q. Iulius Fronto the architectus and his brother Marcus the redēmptor have a rather uneasy conversation about possibly collaborating on the renovation of Caelius’ vīlla. As you may remember from yesterday’s featured story, it seems that Marcus is not exactly on the best of terms with his brother anyway, and things don’t seem to be improving. You can also find the story here on the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like:

Mārcus Iūlius Frontō redēmptor per officīnam suam īrātus contendit. frātrem suum, Quīntum Iūlium Frontōnem architectum, in sellā suā sedentem cōnspicātur. redēmptor “heus! mī frāter!” exclāmat, “cūr ades? quid vīs? num plūs dēnāriōrum meōrum?”

architectus “heu!” frātrī suō respondet, “cūr mē tam contemptam habēs? nōnne plūrimōs amīcōs habeō, quī mihi libenter dēnāriōs commodāvērunt? adsum autem, quod ille Cāius Caelius, vir maximae pecūniae, nūper mē ad vīllam suam arcessīvit. architectum redēmptōremque quaerit ille, quod vīllam suam renovāre vult.”

et redēmptor, “num ille Cāius Caelius, quī fundum maximum in monte Vesuviō tenet? tibi haud crēdō!”

tum architectus, “mī frāter, fortasse mihi nōn crēdis, sed tē oportet Caeliō ipsī crēdere. ille enim nōs crās māne in vīllā exspectat. vīllam quam celerrimē renovāre vult, quod et Caelium et uxōrem taedet vīllae. ‘vīlla,’ inquit ille, ‘vīlis et parva est, pauca cubicula, antīquae turpēsque pictūrae.’ nōnne dea Fortūna nōbīs favet?”

redēmptor tamen cautus, “nōnne tamen,” respondet, “ille Caelius multōs annōs avārissimum sē praestitit? cūr vīllam renovāre vult?”

architectus tamen, “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne ancilla Caeliī mihi rem tōtam nārrāvit? anxius est Caelius, quod uxor vīllam contemptam habet. nōnne frāter Vipsāniae Caeliī est senātor? nōnne illī est manus?”

frātrēs ambō rīsibus et cachinnīs sē trādunt. per tōtam officīnam diū cachinnātur et rīdētur. tandem Marcus Iūlius sē colligit et, “ō mī frāter,” inquit, “diū tē culpābam, diū plōrābam, nunc iam valdē laudō. sine dubiō dea Fortūna nōbīs dīvitiās opēsque praebet! nōs oportet tōtam vīllam Caeliī renovāre; nē tēgula quidem manēre dēbet!”

Quīntus Iūlius frātrem suum amplectitur. tum ex officīnā ad domum suam festīnat. “mē oportet,” inquit, “cōnsilium splendidissimum et pretiōsissimum parāre.”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

In the interests of time, I’ll save my questions … and your comments … for tomorrow, when we’ll also find out how Caelius reacts to the cōnsilium that his architectus plans to parāre. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.