Res Novae, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today’s post continues our series from last week about Change on many different levels. If you’ve been a lēctor fidēlissimus for a while, you know that Change is a recurrent theme in these posts and in the Tres Columnae Project stories themselves. From time to time, we focus on

  • Changes in the small world of my face-to-face school and classroom;
  • Changes in the larger world of American education, and of teaching and learning in the 21st century more generally;
  • Changes that have taken place, over time, in the ways that Latin (and other subjects) are taught and learned; and, of course,
  • Changes in society, culture, and language over the past few millennia.

One of the great benefits of learning and teaching an ancient language and culture, meā quidem sententiā, is that it compels you to take a longer view. Especially in this time of rapid, systemic Change, it’s easy to get caught up in the Changes (and confusions and concerns) of the moment … and that sometimes makes us believe that current problems or concerns are universal and timeless even when they really aren’t. The perspective of a few centuries or millennia can be very helpful as a counterweight to this common tendency!

I’ve been reading an interesting new book called Waiting for “Superman”: How We Can Save America’s Failing Public Schools. It’s intended as a companion to the documentary film of the same name, which I haven’t seen yet (it’s supposed to open nationwide on September 24, though it’s apparently been shown – and won awards – at several film festivals already). I really hope it makes its way to my face-to-face world quite soon, or else I suppose I’ll have to find the DVD when that becomes available. If you’re not familiar with the film, it sets out to give both a big-picture look at the state of America’s schools and a small-picture, very human perspective through a focus on five families who are trying to get their children enrolled in charter schools or other alternatives to the unsatisfactory schools in their neighborhoods. I obviously can’t review a film I haven’t seen, but I’m really looking forward to this! I have seen the trailer, and it moved me deeply.

Anyway, having read about a third of the book, I came across a wonderful anecdote from a school leader who describes how she turned around a failing school by, among other things, inviting the students and families to suggest improvements that needed to be made. In our terms, she built a Learning Community (and it sounds like it was a pretty Joyful one, too) by offering Ownership to her students and families … and they responded with pleasure and with significantly increased academic achievement. And this was the kind of chronically unsuccessful neighborhood school, in a high-poverty urban school district, that many “enlightened” reformers would write off as “unfixable.” A leader who saw the school as “unfixable” would never have bothered to consult the community or to invite them to take Ownership … and, of course, the school most likely would have remained stuck in low performance and low expectations.

I realized as I was writing that “fixable” and “unfixable” are usually more in the eye of the beholder than they are inherent in an institution or situation. I’m reminded of a house I went to look at a few weeks ago … the one I menioned briefly as “Number 3” in this post last month. When it was previously listed for sale, the description began with the phrase, “Glorious ole lady needs rescue” … but, in fact, “glorious ole lady” needed to be completely gutted and rebuilt from the inside out. For my purposes, “glorious ole lady” was unfixable; that is, even at a bargain-basement price, I’m not willing to devote the time, money, and energy that would be needed for this “rescue.” But this recent New York Times article describes an equally troubled house that was “fixable” – and, in fact, was “rescued” and restored to beauty – by a buyer who did have the time, energy, and resources to devote to the job. Even in the world of physical objects, “fixable” and “unfixable” are mostly a matter of perspective.

There’s a wonderful quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” Personally, I usually choose to think I can do the thing … or at least possibly can improve a chronically negative situation … and more often than not, I’ve been able to make at least some impact. And, of course, on those occasions when I think I can’t make any meaningful changes, I don’t have the energy or motivation to put forth the effort that would help changes happen. Whether it was crotchety old Mr. Ford or the prolific Anonymous who first uttered this sentiment, it’s helped me greatly as I try to navigate a world of rapid Change … and as I try to decide for myself whether a given Change is worth my attention and energy or not.

And speaking of Change, I had promised you a Tres Columnae Project story about a character who faces overwhelming Change today … so here we go! As you may recall, the characters we come to know and love in the stories of Cursus Prīmus are all living (though they don’t know it) under the shadow of the impending eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which will destroy-and-preserve Herculaneum along with Pompeii, Stabiae, and Oplontis in late August of 79 CE. I have deliberately avoided sharing most of the eruption stories – in fact, most of them don’t even appear on the Version Alpha Wiki site yet – but we did learn the fate of Flavius Caeso and his (current) mustēla in this post from last March. As we continue to think about Change, though, I’ll share a few selections from that part of Cursus Prīmus, including this bit about the fate of Valerius and Caelia:

hodiē māne Valerius et Caelia ante hōram prīmam surrēxērunt et anxiī inter sē in hortō domūs colloquēbantur. “mī marīte,” inquit Caelia, “quid facere vīs? utrum nōs decet in urbe manēre an Neāpolim iter facere Valeriam nostram vīsitātum?”

Valerius, “Caelia mea,” respondit, “deōs et māiōrēs hoc diū precibus vōtīsque rogō, nūllum tamen responsum datur. incertus igitur sum. quid mihi suādēs, uxor mea?”

Caelia diū tacēbat. montem Vesuvium intentē spectābat, sonitūsque audiēbat, tremōrēsque sentiēbat. tandem, “rem tōtam intellegere haud possum, mī marīte,” respondit. “quid tamen nōbīs accidet, sī Neāpolim iter faciēmus?”

“sine dubiō Valeria et marītus nōs laetissimī accipient,” respondit Valerius. “paucōs diēs cum illīs mōrātī, domum tūtī regredī poterimus, sī nihil malī accidet.”

“et quid nōbīs accidet,” inquit uxor, “sī hīc manēbimus?”

“nihil malī, sī tremōrēs nihil significant. sī autem tremōrēs pestem perniciemque significant …” Valerius tacēbat, quod vox dēficiēbat.

tandem Caelia “mī marīte,” respondit, “nōnne prūdentissimus es?”

et Valerius, “prūdentissimus? prūdēns certē! mihi placet cum tōtā familiā Neāpolim iter facere.”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time for more about Change … and sometime this week, we might just learn the fate of the family of Rīdiculus mūs. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on September 13, 2010 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Res Novae, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, our current series will focus on various kinds of Change, both in my face-to-face teaching world and in the stories of the Tres Columnae Project. We’ll get to the Tres Columnae Project stories about Change on Friday or Saturday, but today I want to focus on Change in my face-to-face teaching world.

The biggest Change there, of course, is that the design of the Tres Columnae Project has led me to rethink (and sometimes adapt or even abandon) strategies I’d used for years with my classes. In particular, I’ve become increasingly aware of how much students need to see connections between the activities we do in class and the learning goals of the lesson. I’ve always been a planner, a goal-oriented person, and a designer of activities that meet the goals I set for myself and my students, but I realized this summer that I haven’t always made the connections between the goals and the activities clear enough for my students. Just a few words can make a big difference: “Remember, the purpose of this activity is …” or “So we need to focus on ….”

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, revisiting those learning goals – and flat-out asking students if they feel we’ve met them – has been amazingly helpful for me as well as for my students. Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks – perhaps even a dog as old and set in his ways as our friends Trux, Ferox, and Medusa in the Tres Columnae stories! (I’m not sure, though, whether it would ever be possible to persuade Rīdiculus mūs that he lives in cavō, nōn cēnāculō!)

Another exciting change has come in the response of my Latin III students to the “Big Three” reading-method textbook that’s still our primary learning resource. This is the textbook that they all (or almost all) loved as Latin I and II students … and they still like it, but they’ve begun to make comments to me about some of its shortcomings, and the comments sound oddly like my own feelings about the book. Of course, they all did experience at least the early Lectiōnēs of the Tres Columnae Project as part of their optional-but-encouraged summer review – but it’s amazing to hear some of the things they’ve said this week. Yesterday, for example, we officially learned about the supine, and today we did a brief review of deponent verbs. I had briefly mentioned (and a number of them remembered) that we introduce the supine much earlier in the Tres Columnae sequence, mainly because it’s so useful as a way to express purpose without “complicated” constructions like subjunctive clauses or gerundive phrases.

That class happens to be with me for an hour before lunch, break for lunch, and return for another half hour. As we were leaving for lunch, one of my extremely bright students mentioned that she really thought it would make more sense to learn the supine much earlier, and that Latin I would have been a good time to do it. I just smiled … and was glad to see that my students are approaching their learning materials in a more critical, thoughtful way. That’s a big, but very positive Change for them.

We didn’t directly address the introduction of deponent verbs in class today, but you long-time lectōrēs fidēlissimī probably recall my opinions from previous posts: in essence, I think we confuse students needlessly by introducing deponents after rather than before passives. In fact, the more I think about “hard” grammatical concepts, the more I question whether they’re actually “hard” at all. Sometimes the difficulty comes from our “traditional” approach to introducing the concept; sometimes the difficulty arises from our grammar-translation insistence on relating everything to “our” native language; and sometimes the difficulty stems from introducing the concept too soon … or too late, or in an order that’s “logical” (because it goes “down the chart” in a formal grammar book) but not natural or sensible (given the order in which linguistic features seem to have developed, or the order they’re best acquired by a language learner).

Of course, any alteration in the “traditional” or “expected” order is a Change, too, and Change, as we’ve noticed, can be scary.  It’s even scary for the agents who make change happen!  I’m not sure what’s most frightening, though: the Change itself, or the fear that no one else will Change with you.

That may be why I’ve been reading a lot about Change and Leadership in the last few months.  If you’re interested in some excellent current research about Change, I’d highly recommend a book by Chip and Dan Heath called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I’ve also mentioned the Heath brothers’ book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die on several occasions. Both books are amazingly helpful – and well-written, and memorable too. But don’t take my word for it, and don’t depend on my poor summary; buy them! And read them! And see what you think!

I’m especially curious to know what you think of the Heaths’ metaphors of the Elephant and the Rider in Switch. It changed my views (or helped to solidify my new views) about a whole lot of things, including classroom management and student motivation. Another huge influence, of course, has been Ross Greene’s remarkable book Lost at School – I’d love to know what you think of his idea that chronic behavior problems, like chronic academic problems, are usually caused by skill deficits rather than “attitude problems” or “not knowing better.” (In terms that we often use to describe the Tres Columnae Project, Dr. Greene’s point is that it’s not a knowledge problem or an understanding problem when students repeatedly misbehave in a particular setting; it’s a skill problem. Skills can be taught, of course, but they’re not taught very well by punishments or negative reinforcements … and yet those are the very techniques that teachers and schools often resort to when faced with chronic misbehavior.)

Dr. Greene and the Heaths have led me to some significant Changes in the ways I approach “problem” behaviors with my students this year, and I’ve already started to see amazingly positive results. More on those, too, as our series about Change continues.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at some more Changes … probably including a Tres Columnae Project story in which at least one character must deal with a significant Change in his or her life. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Res Novae, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today’s post is the first in a series about the scary (but necessary) idea of Change … as it applies to the Tres Columnae Project, to teaching and learning more generally, and to the characters we come to know and love as part of the Tres Columnae Metastory. This is an interesting time to be involved with teaching and learning! Just in the past few days, as I worked on drafts of this post, I came across two seemingly random New York Times Online articles about huge (potential) changes in our conceptions of learning … and in our ideas about the structure and functions of schools:

  • This article, after mentioning some research that challenges the ideas of learning styles and teaching styles, has some utterly counter-intuitive suggestions about study techniques that increase retention. I was especially fascinated by the idea of studying the same concept in different physical environments!
  • This one describes the growing numbers of teacher-led schools, which are organized along the lines of a legal or medical practice rather than a hierarchical factory. I’ve done a bit of reading about these in the past, but their numbers are apparently growing … and in some areas where you wouldn’t necessarily expect them. The comments on the article are, if anything, more interesting than the article itself … especially the ones from veteran teachers who are excited and energized by the idea.

Of course there are all kinds of other new things afoot, too.

Tres Columnae Version Beta will be here soon, and it represents a significant improvement over the Version Alpha Wiki. It also required me to Let Go of some of the control I’d maintained over the site; I’m no longer the Primary Person for technical matters, which is a welcome development but also, of course, a bit scary.

In my face-to-face teaching world, I’m experimenting with a number of New Things besides, of course, Tres Columnae materials themselves. I’ve (gasp!) slightly reorganized the classroom – a bit step for a strongly kinesthetic learner like myself. I’ve (louder gasp!) re-thought when my students should be introduced to certain concepts – a big change for the former Mr. Predictable, who used to gaze with utter satisfaction at his beautifully organized file cabinet. And I’ve completely rethought – and significantly improved – lesson closure, especially in my Latin I classes. It’s a simple little system: near the beginning of the class, we look at the specific learning goals for the lesson, which I’ve taken to phrasing as questions in the form of “Can I … ?” So, at the end of class, I now ask, “Can we, in fact, … ?”

Scores on the first Latin I test are usually pretty good, but they were dramatically better than usual this time – and even my one completely-lost student seems to have found herself, or at least found her way closer to the path. (Plus, there’s only one completely lost Latin I student out of 62, and in a “typical” year there would probably be two or even three in each class at this point.) Change can be very, very good, but it’s still hard, even in a culture that claims, as most 21st-century Western cultures do, to embrace change as a good – or at least a necessary – thing.

Just imagine how scary the thought of change must have been for Romans, for whom (as I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post) the very term rēs novae implied a violent political or military upheaval. And yet, of course, Romans did sometimes try new things; in many ways Roman culture was very progressive and open to change, especially when you compare it with some of its violently xenophobic neighbors. The Roman attitude toward change and newness obviously wasn’t monolithic, any more than the “21st-century Western culture” attitude toward change or even my own attitude toward change … or toward anything else, for that matter.

One important goal for the Tres Columnae Project will be to help our learners (and teachers) deal with the complexity of Roman attitudes and perspectives – to undermine the kind of stereotypic thinking that, all too often, we language teachers unwittingly encourage in our beginning students when talk about “the Romans” or “the Roman attitude” or “Roman” whatever, as if “Romans” were a monolithic group with a single attitude. If you’ve looked at the Framework for 21st-century Learning, you probably noticed that the idea of handling complexity appears over and over again, in strand after strand. So I hope the Tres Columnae materials will help our 21st-century learners come to terms with their own complex world as well as with the complex Roman world they’ll be studying with us.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • How do you feel about Change … or should I say, about different Changes that are happening in your face-to-face world?
  • What evidence of the changes in teaching and learning I’ve mentioned here have you seen? How are those affecting you – and how do you feel about the effects?
  • How do you feel about the changing learners (and teachers!) you’ve encountered recently?
  • What role for the Tres Columnae Project materials do you see in a complex, changing world?

Tune in next time, when (if all goes well) we’ll finally see that long-promised story in which several of our characters have to confront an uncomfortable change. I hope that “next time” will be tomorrow, but Wednesdays are often crazy days in my world, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get the post completely drafted. We’ll have to go with the flow … and the complexity and the change!

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Thanks again for sticking with us through all the complexity, change, and uncertainty of the past few weeks!

Published in: on September 8, 2010 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Making Contributions, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’re reading this post “live,” today is the first “real” day of school in my face-to-face teaching world … our first day with students. Even though it’s the nineteenth “first real day” for me as a teacher, it feels like a new beginning. I suppose there are several reasons for this:

Of course, I always feel as though the first day of school is a new beginning! If I ever stop feeling that way, I’ll know it’s time for me to go and do something else. After all, it’s the first day of Latin for my Latin I students, and the first day of their new level of Latin for my returning students … and it’s the first day of their current grade for everybody. If I lose touch with that excitement (and the apprehension that often accompanies it), I won’t be giving my students what they need and deserve from me.

This first day is the first one on which my Latin I students will (most likely) be using Tres Columnae Project materials as well as a conventional textbook. That’s obviously exciting for me! I keep hearing from lectōrēs fidēlissimī who are planning to use the project materials in different ways with their classes this year, and that’s very exciting. I also keep hearing from folks who would like to use the material (for example, Elizabeth, who commented on yesterday’s post) but don’t think their schools are quite ready. Of course, you could always ask … or I suppose you could “ask forgiveness later” if that’s your personality type. But perhaps you want to offer the TC materials to your students as an option for outside work – it’s unlikely that anyone would object to an option, after all, and once your students and their families get a feel for the materials, they might have more influence on your “unready” schools than you ever could. Of course that’s completely up to you; after all, you know your situation, your school, and your community much better than an outsider like me!

This first day also feels like a watershed for me. When I started teaching, I spent nine years at one school before making the move to my current school in the fall of 2001 – I wasn’t sure whether the timing was auspicious or not in mid-September of that year! So last school year was my ninth at the current school, and I’ve now spent more of my teaching career there than anywhere else. I’m very fond of the school and the community, and I treasure the opportunities I’ve had to work with siblings, family friends, cousins, and all the other connections that happen when you spend a long time in a place. It’s a bit disturbing, though, to realize that my (senior) homeroom students were second-graders when I started teaching at the current school! At least I’ve moved from one classroom to another a few times!

Anyway, in the spirit of new beginnings and watersheds, I want to return to the idea of Contributing Editors that I mentioned in yesterday’s post, and I also want to revisit the idea of Ownership as it applies to the Tres Columnae Project. One of our lectōrēs fidēlissimī recently sent me some great suggestions for simple supplementary stories to accompany the first few Lectiōnēs – for example, one would introduce the idea of adjectives with sentences that described the various characters: Caelius obēsus est, Vipsānia pulchra est, etc. When I suggested the Contributing Editor idea to her, she was interested but felt she didn’t have time to do that properly; in fact, she said she’d be glad to create the stories and give them to the project without retaining any Ownership of them.

And that made me realize that my commitment to Ownership isn’t as universal as I’d thought. It’s funny, because over the course of those 19 years, I’ve given away a whole lot of materials: supplemental worksheets, project ideas, “extra” stories, tests and quizzes – all the things that desperate young teachers request on the Latinteach, Latin-BestPractices, and other listservs that many of you read regularly. And yet, despite all this giving, I had the idea that folks would be more willing to share their materials if they did retain some Ownership of their creations … even though I freely share things myself and don’t have any concerns about Ownership issues.

So I suppose I should ask you all this: How important is Ownership to you? To be more specific, imagine a system in which you, the Tres Columnae participant, had a choice when creating stories and other Submissions for the site. You could pay an editing fee and retain Ownership of the content, or you could submit for free, but grant “TC” Ownership (i.e., the intellectual property rights) to the content you created. And you could make that decision on a submission-by-submission basis. Would that appeal to you?

And, perhaps more important, would it appeal to your students? I know the iGeneration pretty well – after all, my favorite-and-only daughter is a member of it – but I don’t think I’ve ever really asked them how they feel about intellectual property issues. I’ll do that with my face-to-face students this week or next, but I’d love to know what your students think – or what you yourself think if you’re a member of that exciting and innovative generation.

Tune in next time, when we’ll explore more implications of these ideas and consider some places where supplemental stories might be a good fit with the existing project. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 8:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Making Contributions, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! While there haven’t been many blog comments recently, I’ve really enjoyed the private email conversations I’ve been having with some of our long-time lectōrēs fidēlissimī. It’s particularly exciting when people make great suggestions about additional stories they’d like to see, or backstory about characters they’d like to know, or additional ways to practice and reinforce grammatical concepts or vocabulary. Of course, you should know that if you want to do something like this, you can! You be able to make formal Submissions as soon as Version Beta of the project is ready, but even before then, please feel free to work on stories, exercises, explanations, or other things you’d like to Submit one day.

And for those of us who are concerned about financial issues, I’d like to announce a possible solution. You’re probably familiar with our proposed financial structure for access to the project materials:

  • Free subscriptions allow you to read stories, listen to audio, see images, watch videos, and make comments.
  • Basic subscriptions allow you to use the exercises and quizzes.
  • Standard and Premium subscriptions allow you to make Submissions to the project.
  • Single Submissions allow you to make Submissions on a pay-as-you-go basis.

In addition, we’ll also be inviting some subscribers (and potential subscribers) to become what we’ll call Contributing Editors to the project. Someday, we may have a vast staff of well-paid editors 🙂 … but pretty soon, as our Submission rate goes up, we’ll be in the awkward position of needing additional Editors but not being able to afford them. As a Contributing Editor, you’ll be able to make a certain number of Submissions to the project for free in exchange for editing and commenting on other contributors’ Submissions. We haven’t worked out all the details yet, but if you’d be interested, please let me know – either leave a comment here, leave one on the Version Alpha Wiki site, or send me an email if you have that address. As you may remember if you’re a long-time reader, Jeff Howe’s book about Crowdsourcing was a major influence on the Tres Columnae model; if you’re familiar with crowdsourced editing projects, you’ll probably see the influence even more clearly. Some crowdsourced projects allow everybody to make edits, but we’ll be a bit selective; we want to see your best Latin writing before we invite you to edit other people’s writings! You will, of course, retain almost all rights to what you write, though you’ll grant us a limited right to publish it … and you’ll grant other participants certain rights to use and remix it. But if anyone wants a physically published version of your writings or illustrations – or if they want a physical product with your writings, illustrations, audio, or video – you’ll be entitled to royalties as part of our commitment to Ownership.

So if you’d like to be considered as a potential Contributing Editor for the project, please get in touch! I’ll send you a private message with the details of what we’re looking for.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of the Contributing Editor model?
  • Do you think crowdsourced editing is a great idea or a terrible one?
  • Where are some places that you think we need supplementary stories? And what would you want those to focus on?

Tune in next time for more. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Published in: on August 24, 2010 at 9:02 am  Comments (2)  
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More Renovations and Communications

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I do apologize that there wasn’t a post on Saturday. I had expected to be able to write one … and then life intervened with some sort of brief, but intensely exhausting illness Friday evening and early Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon brought that long-awaited trip to the Apple Store that I mentioned earlier in the week. It turned out that the needed part hadn’t arrived, but they were miraculously able to resuscitate the iPod for a few days; it’s been working pretty well and we were able to perform a full backup. Everyone was also very apologetic about the confusion, and we got a further discount on the repair, and my favorite-and-only little boy got to spend some time at the brand-new Lego Store in the mall. So it was a good day, but a very full one … not one that could be spent writing blog posts!

Of course, since the themes of our recent stories have revolved around construction, I suppose that delays should probably be expected! Have you ever known of a construction project that was finished on time and on budget? 🙂

On Thursday and Friday, I had promised the next story in the sequence about the possible renovation of Caelius and Vipsania’s house. You may recall that we started out with this story, in which Frontō the architect was asked to prepare a plan for the renovations. Then we saw this story, in which he invites his brother the contractor to be involved with the project. Last Monday brought this story, in which Fronto’s brother was not exactly eager to be involved. Tuesday we saw this one, in which Fronto and his brother had a rather awkward conversation about the project. Then on Wednesday, we looked at this one, in which Caelius and Vipsania saw the plans for the first time – and did not react with the overwhelming approval Fronto had been hoping for, to put it mildly! In today’s featured story, which you can now find here on the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like, we find out some of their objections:

Caelius Frontōnī “ō mī Frontō!” exclāmat, “sine dubiō iocus optimus est hic liber! ecce turrēs maximī! ecce fenestrae! ecce tria ātria et vīgintī cubicula! num urbs antīquissima Troia tanta et tam mīrābilis erat?”

Frontō attonitus, “mī domine,” respondet, “quid dīcis? nōnne parva et sordida est vīlla tua? nōnne antīquae et vīlēs pictūrae, quās pictor minimae artis ōlim in hīs mūrīs pīnxit? nōnne tē, senātōrem maximae dignitātis, decet in vīllā splendidā habitāre?”

tum Caelius, “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne māior est vīlla splendida tua quam urbs Herculāneum tōtum?”

et Frontō, “fortasse, mī domine, sī–”

Caelius tamen haec interpellat: “haud mē decet vīllam māiōrem quam urbem aedificāre! num īnsānīs?mē decet pietātem et dignitātem, nōn īnsāniam praestāre!”

Frontō attonitus, “sed domine,” respondet, “quid dīcis? sine dubiō haec vīlla mea–”

Caelius tamen īrātus, “num Imperātor ipse tālem vīllam habet? haud mē decet vīllam māiōrem quam Imperātōris ipsīus exstruere! praetereā, sī quis tālem vīllam purgāre vult, nōnne mīlle servōrum, mīlle ancillārum opus est?”

Caelius paulīsper tacet, et “fortasse mīlle ancillārum pulchrārum?” sēcum susurrat. Vipsānia tamen haec addit: “mī architecte, fortasse verba marītī meī nōn intellegēbās. tē enim arcessīvit vīllam renovātum, nōn dēlētum. hanc vīllam reficere in animō habēbat; novam exstruere nōlēbat. paulō enim minor est vīlla; parva sunt cubicula; antīquae sunt pictūrae. nōn tamen opus est vīgintī cubiculōrum, vel trium ātriōrum, vel quattuor porticuum. ecce thermae quās pīnxistī! ecce hippodrōmē! et hoc quid est? num amphitheātrum? marītus enim meus senātor est, nōn Imperātor. nēmō, nē deus Iuppiter quidem, in tantā vīllā habitāre dēbet.”

Frontō attonitus, “mea domina Vipsānia,” incipit. Caelius tamen haec interpellat: “mī Frontō, quaesō, ignōsce mihi – sine dubiō et ego et tū in hāc rē errāvimus. hoc tamen certum est: tālem vīllam exstruere nec volō nec possum. tē igitur decet librōs tuōs tollere et ēgredī. fortasse vel Imperātorī ipsī vel dīs omnibus vīlla tālis placet; mihi tamen valdē displicet. tē igitur librōs tuōs tollere et ēgredī iubeō.”

Frontō cum frātre tacitus ē vīllā Caeliī ēgreditur. in viā Marcus Iūlius Frontō librum prēnsat et frātrem suum identidem verberat. “siste! siste!” clāmat architectus, “siste, mī frāter! cūr librō meō vapulō?”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I hope you’ve come to expect some unexpected twists in Tres Columnae Project stories by now … and I hope you enjoyed this one!
  • Wouldn’t you love to see Fronto’s drawings?!
  • Which of the many over-the-top details is your favorite?
  • And what do you think of Fronto’s brother’s response at the end?

Tune in next time, when we’ll go in a somewhat different direction and look at other aspects of the Tres Columnae Project. School, in my face-to-face teaching world, starts on Wednesday, so our next few posts may be a bit short and sketchy. If all goes well, though, I hope to have some significant good news about the progress of Version Beta in the next couple of weeks.

intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 23, 2010 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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Renovation and Communication, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I’m writing the draft of this post as beautiful early-evening thunderstorm is getting started – and I’m very thankful for laptops and their batteries! My own children, who’ve grown up in a wireless world, find it funny that I spent years not answering “the phone” in the house during storms because of the threat of electrocution if lightning happened to hit “the wires.” Now, safely unplugged, their only complaint is that they don’t have wireless Internet access if the power goes out. How things can change in a few short years! (I recently discovered that my alma mater has stopped installing telephones in dorm rooms because all their students have cell phones … but I remember how excited I was as a student, less than 25 years ago, when those phones were installed, replacing the one or two “hall phones” on each dormitory floor. Why did that make me feel old and young all at once?)

Anyway, Wednesday was the day I officially introduced my school-district colleagues to the Tres Columnae Project. There are four Latin teachers in the district – one at a middle school, and three of us at high schools. We’re a congenial group, but we’ve sometimes disagreed about textbooks and methodology, so I was a bit unsure about how they’d respond. And then I discovered that my most “traditionalist” colleague had decided that textbooks were useless and counterproductive for her students, so she’s been working on a story-based curriculum with an innovative order of grammatical presentation! As you might imagine, it was a wonderful day … they’re all excited and are quite eager for their students to start reading the Tres Columnae stories. I think we’ve all decided to use our existing textbook (which, despite my occasional rants, I’m still pretty fond of) as a supplementary reader and for some small-group and individual work. But there are now at least 5 schools in the world that will be using Tres Columnae Project materials regularly … and I’m sure there are more out there that I don’t know about, too!

Of course, if you just want to have your students read the stories and use the other free material, I guess I don’t exactly need to know … but it would still be nice! So please send us an email or leave a comment here or on the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re planning to use Tres Columnae with your classes this year. I’d also love to know how you’re planning to use the project materials and whether you’d be interested in any of the paid subscription models.

If all goes well, those will be available by early September at the latest. Our biggest remaining hurdle was embedded audio, and our technological advisor has finally found a good solution for that. So Version Beta of the Tres Columnae Project should be available soon. All the stories and other content from the Version Alpha Wiki will still be there, of course (and we’ll maintain the Version Alpha Wiki “as is” after the move, too, for those who are fond of it). But, in addition to embedded audio, we should also be able to offer you

  • a much-improved interface for comments on stories;
  • a straightforward way to subscribe – and purchase paid subscriptions – online;
  • a very simple process for uploading and editing content (Free Trial subscribers who attempted to submit stories know that this was harder than it should have been with Version Alpha); and
  • some other behind-the-scenes features that will make our lives easier.

We’ll keep you posted on the developments, and we definitely want to know if you find any issues or problems with Version Beta once it’s been officially launched. And unlike the Frontō brothers’ cōnsilia in this week’s featured stories, we don’t think your response to Version Beta will be silence followed by horrified laughter! 🙂

Speaking of yesterday’s featured story, I know you’re probably dying to find out why Caelius and Vipsania responded as they did – and what those pictures looked like! And you will find out … but not today. We’ll pick up with that story in Friday’s post, or possibly Saturday’s. If you’re reading this post “live,” the school Open House is this evening, so it’s a long and late day in my face-to-face world.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What features would you like to see in Version Beta of the Tres Columnae Project?
  • Are there any features you’d like to see disappear forever?
  • What are some ways that you’re thinking about using the materials with your students (or with yourself, if you’re an independent learner) this school year?

If all goes well, though, I should be able to put the final touches on that story when I get home … or early Friday morning, if necessary. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 19, 2010 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Renovation and Communication, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’re reading this post “live,” today is the day I’m officially introducing my face-to-face teaching colleagues to the Tres Columnae Project, with a three-hour block of time set aside for Latin teachers during our district’s fall professional-development day. The time is divided into a 90-minute morning block and a two-hour block in the afternoon. Since I already had a roughly 90-minute introductory session for my presentation at the American Classical League Institute earlier this summer, I’ll be using a revised version of that for the morning session. Then, in the afternoon, we’ll actually try to build some stories, exercises, quizzes, and other elements together.

Letting go of the characters – and letting my colleagues play with them, and with the materials – is a hard but necessary step for me … of course, very soon there will be a lot more subscribers and other participants “playing with my toys,” so to speak, as they create their own Submissions. If you’ve seen the beautiful work done by our partner school in England, you know that I know, intellectually, that there’s nothing to be afraid of – no one is likely to break any toys (to continue our metaphor for a moment), and even if that happened accidentally, the beauty of a wiki is that the toy can always be restored to its previous, unbroken state. Still, like any child at the playground, I was feeling a bit possessive about those toys!

Speaking of playgrounds and toys reminded me of this New York Times blog post about parents who “obsessively” focus on their cell phones and other electronic devices when they’re at the playground with their children. Like several people who left comments there, I’m a bit puzzled by the whole thing … and by the amount of rage and energy that people seem to be devoting to the issue! Of course, my children have always been good at handling themselves on playgrounds; even when they were small, they were more likely to dismiss their hovering parents than to request assistance. And like a lot of those who left comments, I spent many happy unattended hours as a child … usually not on playgrounds, but running around in back yards, woods, and other unsafe places 🙂 with neighborhood friends. Perhaps that’s part of the reason I’ve tried to build a safe, but still intriguing and interesting “playground” for Tres Columnae participants!

Anyway, today’s featured story doesn’t have much to do with playgrounds, but it does have to do with safety and with the idea of letting go of favorite toys … and there’s an unexpected twist that I hope you’ll enjoy. You can also find the story here on the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like:

duōbus post diēbus, Q. Iūlius Frontō architectus cum frātre redēmptōre ad vīllam Caeliī regreditur. manū suā librum tenet, in quō pictūrās multās iam pīnxit. frātrēs vīllam ingrediuntur et per conclāvia ad tablīnum, in quō Caelius ipse anxius exspectat, celeriter prōcēdunt. Caelius “salvēte vōs ambō!” exclāmat. Frontō librum in mēnsā dēpōnit et, “ecce, domine!” inquit. “hīs enim pictūrīs speciem vīllae tuae renovātae dēmōnstrāre volō.” Caelius attonitus et tacitus pictūrās diū spectat. tandem, “heus!” inquit, “mē decet uxōrem meam vocāre.” Caelius ē tablīnō contendit Vipsāniam quaesītum.

Vipsānia in peristyliō sedet et lānam facit. duae ancillae prope dominam stant. altera librum legit, altera cibum vīnumque offert. Vipsānia sēcum carmen cantat. laetissima est Vipsānia quod hae ancillae, quās Caelius nūper Rōmae ēmit, labōribus dīligentissimae, corporibus haud formōsae sunt.

Caelius in peristylium currit et “heus! Vipsānia mea!” exclāmat, “sine dubiō iste architectus, quem ad vīllam nostram nūper arcessīvī, vel stultus vel īnsānus est! tē oportet pictūrās novissimās, quās pīnxit ille, spectāre! quās cum spectābam, lacrimāre et rīdēre simul volēbam!”

Vipsānia attonita, “num quae pictūra tam nova est?” rogat. Caelius tamen manum uxōrī prēnsat et, “tibi celerrimē veniendum est!” clāmat. “novissima quidem et turpissima!”

Vipsānia igitur ancillīs, “heus!” inquit, “mihi necesse est dominum nostrum comitārī, vōbīs hīc manēre dum regrediar.” domina lentē surgit, lentē marītum suum per conclāvia vīllae comitātur.

intereā Frontō architectus cum frātre redēmptōre in tablīnō vīllae manet. sollicitus est Marcus Frontō quod Caelius tam celeriter ē tablīnō exiit; laetus tamen est Quīntus Frontō quod liber pictūrārum plēnus etiam nunc in mēnsā est. “mī frāter,” inquit, “nōlī tē vexāre! sī enim odiō patrōnīs sunt pictūrae meae, illī semper librōs in caput meum iactant! ille tamen Caelius librum in mēnsā relīquit et uxōrem suam quaesīvit. sine dubiō igitur illī cordī, nōn odiō sunt pictūrae.”

Marcus tamen frātrī suō, “st!” respondet, “tibi tacendum est, quod Caelius etiam nunc cum uxōre regreditur!”

Caelius et Vipsānia tablīnum intrant. dominus uxōrem suam ad mēnsam dūcit librum spectātum. Vipsānia diū tacet; tandem rīsibus et cachinnīs sē trādit. Caelius quoque vehementer rīdet. architectus tamen et frāter tacitī et attonitī stant.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • You’re probably eager to know what the pictures actually look like! And I promise we’ll find out at some point … but not today. In fact, the story in which the pictures are described may be one that Tres Columnae subscribers are invited to write for themselves.
  • Where do you see the themes of play and safety at work in this story?
  • What new insights do you have into the relationship between Caelius and Vipsania? What about the relationship between the brothers Fronto?

Tune in next time, when we’ll find out what – if any – renovations will actually be done to the vīlla. I’ll also plan to describe our face-to-face day, with my colleagues’ first real introduction to the Tres Columnae Project. We’ll see how that relates to the themes of play and safety too. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 18, 2010 at 10:45 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.

Floors and Ceilings, VI

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’re reading this post “live,” I’m probably on a brief trip to the nearest Apple Store to see about a battery-charging issue with my favorite-and-only daughter’s iPod. As I made my appointment (so painlessly! so quickly!) online yesterday, I was reminded of a lot of things I’ve read recently about enduringly great companies and the unique ways they find to retain and energize their customers. Even if, by some chance, the repair is more expensive than the simple battery replacement we expect, I’ll probably leave the store impressed and pleased with the service and support. In the same way, I look forward to seeing the genuinely happy server at a local restaurant who always wishes me a blessed day. It’s so important for businesses – and all other organizations that deal with people, including schools – to make customers feel valued and appreciated.

And yet so many organizations don’t even bother! We recently had an issue with our Internet service; it suddenly disappeared one evening last week, and no amount of restarting the modem would help. Next morning, it equally mysteriously had reappeared, and everything was fine. During the outage, I tried to call the company and see what was going on; after 15-20 minutes on hold each time, I had to do other things. Evidently they knew about the problem and were working on it – but they never told me. Earlier this year, I’d gone through a similar issue involving bad service by a professional firm I had used for years; that one seems to have ended much more happily, but it required a direct appeal to one of the managing partners, an appeal that many people probably wouldn’t have bothered to make.

And speaking of value … check out this remarkable blog post at Education Week, by a master music teacher in Michigan! And check out this blog from Edutopia for some low-cost suggestions to add technology to your classroom. (In all fairness to her, I must say that my face-to-face school district is utterly opposed to using donated computers in class, for reasons of security, but they do a great job of distributing donated computers to students who need one, but don’t have one at home.)

As the Joyful Learning Community of the Tres Columnae Project continues to grow, I want to make sure that we preserve that feeling of community – that sense that each member is important, valuable, even precious. We’ve been thinking about ways to enhance our community, and someone suggested a more private online space where Tres Columnae subscribers and supporters could interact with each other. Suggestions included

  • a private Ning, now that affordable, ad-free ones are available;
  • a Yahoo! group like the one that hosts Latin-BestPractices;
  • a special forum on the Version Alpha Wiki site, which would migrate over to Version Beta when that’s ready in a few weeks.

What would work best for you?

As I was writing yesterday’s post, I re-read a number of things I’ve written, here and elsewhere, about the uses and abuses of translation in our field. That got me thinking about the different things that the word “translation” can mean. Perhaps some of the conflicts about the practice of translation are actually conflicts (or disagreements) about the semantics – different, but unresolved, definitions of what the word “translation” means. As I think of my own life as a learner and teacher of Latin, I realize it’s meant very different things at different times:

  1. When I was a beginning student, it meant “a hand-written assignment in which I am to restate a Latin passage in something that approximates English, with “more literal” approximations in parentheses.”
  2. When I was an undergraduate, it meant “an oral restatement in English, for which you prepare by repeated reading of the Latin and by writing down dictionary listings of unknown words.”
  3. When I started teaching, it meant “I will never, ever have my students think or do #1, but we might do something like #2 chorally or individually.”
  4. For TPRS teachers, as David noted in the Latin-BestPractices post I referred to yesterday, it means “single-word L1 definitions of new L2 terms” and “choral L1 restatements of L2 passages that have been repeatedly heard or read.”
  5. On the AP® Examinations, it means “a rather artificial and formulaic use of English words that attempts to restate not only the thoughts, but the actual syntax of a Latin passage, scored by phrase groupings, which is an excellent predictor of students’ overall success on the exam.”

You can see why people fight about “translation!” There’s an obvious common core (restating things from one language in another language), but beyond that, the term can have vastly different meanings. When we don’t take time to clarify – or to try to understand how others are using the term – we open ourselves up to all kinds of unnecessary conflicts.

Speaking of unnecessary conflicts, poor Caelius and Vipsania will end up in an unfortunate one with Frontō, the architectus they’ve hired to design and supervise the renovation of their vīlla in Lectiō XXI. You probably saw that coming in yesterday’s featured story! For one thing, Caelius and Vipsania have agreed (or at least he’s decided to accept her complaints) about certain features of the house:

nōnne vīlis et parva est ista vīlla? nōnne pauca cubicula? nōnne antīquae turpēsque pictūrae, quās pictor patrī meō in mūrīs multōs ante annōs pīnxit?

But they haven’t necessarily agreed on how to correct the problem features. How pretiōsa et magna does the house need to be? quanta cubicula would be enough? Obviously they want novae et pulchrae pictūrae, and novae won’t be hard, but what exactly constitutes pulchrae in this context? Given their rather unsuccessful child-rearing and their disagreements about servī et ancillae, Caelius and Vipsania aren’t very likely to take the time and effort to communicate successfully with Frontō … and, as we’ll see, he might not be all that eager to listen in any case. See what you think of today’s featured story, which you can now find here on the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like:

Caelius cum architectō Frontōne per tōtam vīllam ambulat. ātrium, cubicula, tablīnum, triclīnium architectō ostendit. Frontō attonitus vīllam īnspicit. “sine dubiō,” sēcum colloquitur, “iste Caelius avārissimus est! quis enim vīllam tam sordidam, tam parvam, tam antīquam tenēre vult? sine dubiō istae pictūrae sunt centum annōrum!” Frontō manūs Caeliō prēnsat et, “mī domine, mī amīce,” inquit, “quam fortūnātus es, quod mē nunc iam vocās! sine dubiō vīlla tua nōn modo sordida et parva, sed perīculōsa est! nōnne enim rīma per tōtum mūrum prōcēdit? nōnne, cum pluit, aqua per tegulās usque ad pavimentum cadit? nōnne tōta vīlla in cumulum dēcidere potest?”

Caelius attonitus et perterritus, “heus!” exclāmat, “sine dubiō vīlla antīqua est … sed perīculōsa? nōnne iussū avī meī servī hanc vīllam exstrūxērunt. perīculōsa? in cumulum lāpsūra? heu! quid facere dēbeō?”

Frontō sēcum rīdet. tandem “mī Caelī,” respondet, “cōnfīde mihi! vīllam tuam renovāre et reficere possum. dea Fortūna tibi favet, quod redēmptōrem perītissimum, quī vīllās tālēs saepe reficit, bene nōvī. ille redēmptor, M. Iūlius Frontō nōmine, frāter meus ipse est! tibi vīllam reficere perītissimē et celerrimē potest. nōlī tē vexāre; mihi ad urbem reveniendum est frātrem meum cōnsultum. paucīs diēbus reventum nostrum exspectā!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you’ve ever embarked on a home-renovation project, you know how important it is to choose a good, ethical contractor. What do you think about Fronto? Would you hire him?
  • Whether you’d hire Fronto or not, what do you think of Caelius’ response? After all, he has been living in the house for quite some time; you’d think he would have noticed serious structural flaws if they were really there!
  • What do you think of Fronto’s, um, “unbiased” recommendation of his frāter the redēmptor?
  • And on another level, what do you think of the use of various verb tenses in this story?

Tune in on Monday, when we’ll meet Fronto’s frāter and discover a few things about the relationship between these two. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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