Life Intervenes?

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs!  I have a draft post for today that’s going to have to wait until tomorrow for several reason:

  1. A splitting sinus headache that had me laid up for most of the morning.
  2. A similar headache that’s currently afflicting Boy #1.
  3. A very exhausted Girl #1.
  4. A dear set of relatives enduring a crisis, who needed some help and support.

Of course, the life of a teacher is much like my not-as-expected day.  When you work with young people – and especially when you work with groups of young people – it’s predictable that there will be a crisis from time to time.  What’s not predictable, of course, is when the crisis will happen or what exactly it will look like.  One of the hardest lessons for a new teacher – and one that often has to be relearned over and over by us veterans – is how, when, and whether to lay aside the carefully crafted lesson plan to deal with the immediate crisis, the teachable moment.  In her remarkable books The Power of Their Ideas and In Schools We Trust, Deborah Meier talks about opportunities that she and her colleagues had, ranging from post-9/11 New York City to personal crises, illnesses, and deaths of students and family members.  Like all good teachers, they tried to do the best they could at the time, using the tools and information they had available.  Like all people, she felt on reflection that they’d succeeded sometimes, failed other times.  And like all good teachers, she remained committed to the struggle.

Tune in next time for our “regularly scheduled” post about using the Tres Columnae Project materials in a real-live classroom setting.  intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 5:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Freedom and Opportunity

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! In honor of Independence Day here in the United States, we’ll probably observe a holiday from blog posts on Monday, so I think we’ll begin our series of posts about Casina ancilla and her mysterious illness on Tuesday. Today, with a mixture of patriotic and nostalgic thoughts, I want to share some thoughts about the relationships between the Tres Columnae Project and the “all-American” ideas of Freedom and Opportunity. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and I suppose there are several reasons:

  • As the “all-American” holiday, the Fourth of July naturally brings Freedom and Opportunity to mind. I think of my own ancestors, who came from all over Europe (and over a lengthy period of time) seeking … different things, I’m sure, but Freedom and Opportunity were certainly on the minds of some of them.
  • Since I do think about historical issues a lot, I’m also aware of the sad ironies and contrasts that must have accompanied the initial proclamations about Freedom, Liberty, and Opportunity when the Declaration of Independence was signed. So many women, slaves, and men without property heard the proclamations, but where was the freedom for them? And where was the opportunity? Of course, as time has passed, more and more people in the U.S. have gained access to the Freedom and Opportunity they were promised – and I’m profoundly grateful for that! And, in addition to my gratitude, I also feel a strong commitment to provide access to Freedom and Opportunity through the Tres Columnae Project … more about that in a bit.
  • As I was writing the stories about poor Casina ancilla, the contrast affected me. Here I am, with so much freedom and so many opportunities, writing about a person who had almost none! As a female slave in the Roman world, Casina is about as un-free as it’s possible for a person to be! And yet, as you’ll see, some amazing opportunities still open up for her. It’s hard to imprison the human spirit forever, even if you do use whips and chains.

As I was thinking about these issues, I realized that Freedom and Opportunity are woven into the Tres Columnae Project itself. We actually offer opportunities for liberation to all sorts of people – even those within the factory-model system of education that I sometimes describe in unflattering terms. But, of course, even if the system is dysfunctional, most of the people within it are well-meaning and truly desire their students to learn and grow. (And I should add that I’ve spent 18 years working for that system myself! So I hear my mother’s voice talking about people who live in glass houses….)

What kinds of Freedom and Opportunity can the Tres Columnae Project offer?

  • For school administrators, we offer relief from the tyranny of scheduling Latin classes, at least to a degree. As long as there are sufficient computers available (and, let’s note, “TC” runs nicely on mobile devices too – I watched a colleague follow my ACL Institute presentation on an iPod Touch), it may be possible to have students working somewhat independently, but without burdens on a teacher. Also, down the road, I think we can offer freedom from the agonizing decision to eliminate a popular, well-enrolled program if a teacher leaves and no suitable replacement can be found.
  • For Latin teachers, one of my favorite groups of people, we offer all kinds of freedom!
    • to create their own materials, share them easily, and even gain some monetary benefits over time;
    • to escape the “tyranny” of a textbook that’s wedded to a single teaching approach – one that doesn’t work well with the teacher’s personality or the students’ needs, or even one that does work well for many but falls short for some;
    • to escape the paperwork “tyranny” that goes along with distributing, accounting for, collecting, and storing textbooks – not to mention the endless Battle of the Forgotten Textbook or the Misplaced Notebook;
    • to reach different types and levels of learners more easily, especially if those learners are in a multi-level or “combined” class situation; and
    • to engage students in discovery and creation rather than just comprehension and regurgitation; and
    • to help students build Understanding as well as Knowledge and Skill.
  • For learners of all kinds, in schools and out, Tres Columnae also offers many kinds of Freedom and Opportunity:
    • to excape the linear, two-dimensional, “dead” world of textbooks;
    • to progress at their own rate, escaping from the “assembly line” pacing of a factory-model approach even if they’re still in a factory-model school;
    • to work with material that’s intrinsically engaging and fascinating;
    • to escape the trap of “motivators” and “incentives,” a broken system that well-meaning teachers and administrators (including one named me!) have continued to use even though we know it’s broken, just because we can’t see another way;
    • to create and share their own learning materials, working together or by themselves; and
    • to bring the whole self – not just the language-learning centers of the brain, but the whole body, mind, and spirit – to learning, and to engage with Latin and the Romans as a whole person.

That’s my Independence Day wish for all of us – Freedom and Opportunity in the context of a Joyful Learning Community, and in all areas of your life!

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin to look at the story of Casina and her morbus novissimus. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Published in: on July 3, 2010 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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