salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As the first week of school in my face-to-face teaching world comes to a close, I’ve been realizing once again how valuable the Tres Columnae Project materials will be for so many teachers and learners. Unfortunately life has intervened a bit in our timeline for migrating to Version Beta, but that should still happen before too long. When it does, I hope the improved look and feel of the site, the ease of registration, the enhanced security functions, and the other new features will be worth the wait – not just for me, but for all of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī. Without you, and without your comments and encouragement, there would be no Tres Columnae Project. (I suppose I might have written a few stories to share with my students, but I probably would not have taken all the time and effort to develop the Metastory, the Continuing Virtual Seminar idea, and the ever-evolving system of users’ contributions “just” for myself and a few hundred learners. Anyway, please know that I really appreciate you!
I’ve had interesting conversations with my face-to-face colleagues this week: it seems that we’re all stepping out of our comfort zones and trying new things. For some, it’s new technology; for others, new teaching techniques; for still others, new ways of engaging and relating to students and their families. I guess the Tres Columnae Project involves all of these areas, but the most important one for me is the issue of student engagement. Even in these first few days, I’ve seen that some of my new Latin I students (especially those who are new to the school) are wary. They’d like to believe in the idea of a Joyful Learning Community – and my face-to-face school really does try to be one – but they’ve never really experienced that before, and they’re not sure whether to trust us or not. And trust, of course, is the foundation on which a Joyful Learning Community has to be built.
Those first few days of school can certainly help to build trust, but they can also make trust-building difficult. Sometimes schedule adjustments have to be made; sometimes classes have to be extended or shortened for logistical reasons; and sometimes busy teachers and administrators forget to keep our students “in the loop” about what’s happening. Even when we tell them what’s happening, we sometimes forget to explain why it happens … and that can take a toll on a fragile sense of trust. I realized yesterday that I needed to be absolutely, utterly clear about transitions between small-group and large-group activities – apparently some of my newer students, and even some of my “veterans” in Latin III, were having trouble with a signal that used to work beautifully. So we adapted … and adopted a much clearer signal, which seems to be working well. We also took the time to talk about why … and I think that contributed to one of the best seminars about “Knowing Vocabulary” that I’ve ever had with a Latin III class.
If you recall, I talked briefly about the plan for that in yesterday’s post, but I was a bit apprehensive: some of these students really struggled with the seminar process when they were in Latin I and II. In the end, though, I was delighted because most of the critical issues came up in students’ conversations – I didn’t have to ask questions about them. My III’s have really taken Ownership of their learning, and I’m eager to see how that new-found sense of Ownership will play out as we continue through the semester.
But why did I begin this post with a claim that the Tres Columnae Project materials will be so useful and valuable?
- Partly because I’ve seen, once again, how much my students need learning materials other than traditional textbooks.
- Partly because the budgetary realities of schools in the current economic conditions have left me with significantly larger classes (a good thing!) and insufficient numbers of textbooks … and we’re a well-run school district that so far has avoided severe budgetary issues.
- Partly because I can see how much better it is for students to have individually responsive learning materials … and things that offer them immediate feedback when they’re struggling.
- Partly because I can imagine how hard all this would be for a new teacher, when it continues to tax my imagination and energy even after almost two decades in the classroom.
quid respondētis, amīcī?
Tune in next time, when we’ll wrap up the themes of this week’s posts and have a short preview of what’s coming next. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.