Life Intervenes Again

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs!  I apologize that there wasn’t a post on Saturday.  I had hoped to wrap up the themes of last week’s posts that day and to preview some exciting changes, but circumstances intervened again.  I was more tired than I’d expected to be after my first week of school (really just three days), and then it was time for yet another trip to the Apple Store.  The continuing saga of my daughter’s iPod has now finally reached its conclusion: the new one arrived, the old one was surrendered, and she’s enjoying her (backed-up and restored) music collection once again.  I also took my favorite computer, our one and only Apple product, in for service: it had started having an odd issue with the screen backlight, which turned out to require some service.  So I’ve been making do with a different machine for the past day or so … I don’t want to speak ill of it, especially since I’m writing this post on it, but it’s Not The Same.  Everyone will be happy when the little Macbook returns safely! 🙂

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ideas of Joy, Learning, Community, and Ownership this weekend, and not just about how they apply to the Tres Columnae Project.  I spent part of the day Saturday providing some long-distance mentoring to a young colleague, a brand-new Latin teacher at a brand-new school.  Like many of us, she’s been struggling with making the connection with her students so that they can all be successful.  I was especially impressed by her self-awareness … the Ownership she has of her own life, if you will.  She could see that a lot of the issues she was having stemmed from a difference in learning and teaching styles between her and her students: they’re mostly visual-kinesthetic learners, and she’s mainly an auditory learner and teacher.  Good thing we talked on the phone!  Anyway, the good news is that she developed some great ideas to work with her students’ learning preferences, and I look forward to hearing the next update.  I also found that it was a joyful thing for me to be able to help her (and for her to receive the help she needed); that we both learned a lot in our conversation; and that we formed a community of support for each other.  I had some other experiences of joy, learning, and community this weekend, too … but I’ll save those for another post.

Thinking about Ownership, though, I realize that no one actually owns anything permanently … in a hundred years, or certainly in a thousand, the things I “own” (if they even still exist) will belong to someone else.  Of course we do own things for a time … but even when we own them, it’s really more like holding them in trust, or in stewardship, or something like that, isn’t it?   Our participants will own the stories they create for the Tres Columnae Project, but if all goes well, those stories will take on a life of their own … and they’ll still be around, to be cherished and enjoyed by countless new learners and teachers, long after their owners have moved on to other things.  That makes me happy, but it also makes me feel pretty small and insignificant in some ways … and yet, at the same time, it underscores the importance of what we’re doing here.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of this idea of Ownership as Trust or Stewardship?
  • What do you think of the idea of Tres Columnae Project stories as a continuing legacy?
  • What great examples of joy, learning, or community have you experienced in the past few weeks?

Tune in next time, when we should be able to start a new series of posts about plans for Version Beta of the project.  intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on August 30, 2010 at 8:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Making Contributions, IV

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.

Published in: on August 27, 2010 at 10:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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