Latin Class Goes Underground

WE’VE ARRIVED IN FRANCE!!!! It’s Interim Week for MVPS which means that groups of high schoolers and faculty are off to different places around the world for a week of learning while immersed in cultural experiences. Personally I’m on the France trip where we will be spending 7 days in Paris and Normandy this week.

IMG_2351.JPGWe landed at 5:30am and have been going non stop ever since, so I’m exhausted and jet lagged like everyone else; therefore this post will be short. I’d also like to preface this post by saying that like most of my posts, I wasn’t required by any teacher to write this as a form of assessment, but I will be reflecting on my learning adventures throughout the week.

First off, it goes without saying that the food was AMAZING!!! I’ve had a lot of oddly timed meals since getting to the airport at 2pm on Friday, but ever since arriving in France we’ve been eating some amazing breads, cheeses, and meats as expected.

IMG_6771.JPGHowever, my favorite part of the day was exploring the catacombs. Even though we had to wait in line for about 3 hours in fairly chilly weather (we did take turns leaving the line for another pastry thankfully), the catacombs of Paris were entirely worth the wait. It was incredible to see the walls of bones still perfectly stacked up after hundreds of years. And also, being 1 of 3 AP Latin student and having 2 of us plus our teacher on this trip, I actually really enjoyed getting to translate some of the written pieces in the tunnels.
IMG_6772.JPGNo one really speaks Latin anymore, and people constantly say it’s a pointless language to take, but I enjoy the stories, culture, and history we get to learn from reading ancient works. However, there aren’t many chances we have to actually practice Latin in the “real world,” so it was really fun to get to be one of 3 people nerding out about being able to actually understand some of what was written on the walls. It was also really gratifying to know after taking Latin for 6 years that there’s clear evidence we’ve improved, because now we can somewhat translate on site things we’ve never seen before. A grade only tells you so much about your abilities, but being able to actually apply what you learn while out in the “real world” is so much more fun and proving of your knowledge growth over time.

Needless to say, the trip’s off to a great start and I know there’s more greatness to come!

Crossing Subjects: Engages and Entertains

images-1.jpgI love it when “class” stops being defined by what subject you are talking about.

Today in AP Lang Kat and I made an interesting choice. Rather than spending the period looking up old AP essays and spending a class analyzing and outlining one of them, we instead decided to join the Latin 3 class going on during the same period. But don’t get me wrong, I feel that we were still preparing for our exam next week in a very productive way.

We joined the Latin class because we knew that today they were giving speeches to defend Verres in a law suit where the great orator Cicero was the prosecutor. When the trial originally took place, Cicero’s speech was so amazing  that Verres’ lawyer, Quintus Hortensius who was one of the greatest lawyers of his time, told him to pleed guilty because there was no way they could win the case against Cicero and the defense speech was never given. Therefore, the Latin assignment was to write the unread speech to defend Verres.

The problem is, that Verres really did do some pretty awful things like crucifying Romans and stealing from sacred buildings, so writing a good speech comes entirely down to your use of rhetorical devices. (It’s at this point that a light bulb may be going off saying, “Oh here’s the connection back to AP Lang!”)

Yes, indeed, rather than looking up essays online, Kat and I listened in on about 5 different speeches and outlines/took notes on each of them as if we were going to write a rhetorical analysis essay about how the speaker used rhetorical devices to support their argument.

It was so much fun!!! We got to listen to some hysterical speeches while learning a little Latin and history, while participating in discussions with a larger group, while all the while practicing our rhetorical analysis skills. (Because like I said the case wasn’t one you’re meant to win, you are just meant to throw some crazy arguments together and try to make them sound good.)

Kat and I were even given a refresher on some devices that we had forgotten about because we hadn’t seen them used in a while. Plus I think joining the Latin class helped make us outline at a rapid fire pace because new people kept presenting, so I bet we had far more essay analysis done by the end then we would have otherwise; it’s just so easy to waste a little time here and there looking and deciding what to read or thinking about other big things coming up.

Overall today’s Latin-AP Lang mash up just reminded me how powerful learning can be when you cross disciplines and add a little layer of entertainment to your work.

Making Latin Art

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(Sorry about my sticker being in yellow, I know it makes it hard to see in the picture.) 

The Makers Movement is spreading; are you on board?

This story requires a bit of a backstory.

A week or so ago one of my mentors, Tedwards as we call him, walked by during my Latin class and stuck a vinyl sticker on the glass wall. It said “et tu Baroody” and had a picture of the colosseum. My entire class thought it was great, but our marvelously OCD class got frustrated with the fact that it was slightly crooked on the glass. Our natural conclusion was that we needed more, so that it looked like it was purposefully crooked.

Then, earlier this week, Tedwards came to take down the sticker and a few of my friends said no we wanted it and wanted more! So we set up a time for Tedwards to come work with my Latin class, so we could make more Latin stickers!

This Friday was that day!

We were given the challenge to help Tedwards with a Guerrilla Art idea he’s been wanting to start up for a while.

Guerilla art is a fun and insidious way of sharing your vision with the world. It is a method of art making which entails leaving anonymous art pieces in public places. It can be done for a variety of reasons, to make a statement, to share your ideas, to send out good karma, or just for fun. –Keri Smith

So each of us was tasked with picking another high school teacher and creating a sticker for them that connected their class to something about Latin.

While some may think that this day was just a pure day of fun, I think the mixture of Latin and Makers proved to be a great day of learning, which also happened to be fun! I mean just think about everything we accomplished:

  1. We learned how to use a new tool– the vinyl printer.
  2. We worked on Latin prose composition when writing our Latin phrases.
  3. We learned some History while picking what Latin images best conveyed our message to the other teacher.
  4. We promoted the use of art and technology as a learning tool in the classroom by tagging other teachers with our stickers. (Most haven’t been tagged yet because most of us hadn’t finished Friday so we worked over the weekend on finishing.)
  5. We got students excited about learning and talking about their experience with other kids that aren’t in the class.

Sounds like a pretty  productive, successful, and fun day to me! I love it when things that start as a little joke turn into a great learning experience. 🙂

Start of Something New

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Last night was the 10th year anniversary of High School Musical, and you bet I watched the movie with the cast commentary last night on Disney Channel! It’s crazy to think that movie first played 10 years ago. It feels like it was only yesterday…

That movie, while extremely cheesy, makes me so happy. I mean it was a part of my child hood. (Even though technically I only started to like it after a little while of it being out.) I still know just about all of the words and several of the dances too.

One song that has been stuck in my head all day is “The Start of Something New”  (which is slightly ironic because I missed that part of the movie last night).

The song has seemed fitting today though because many new things have happened. I got my new piccolo!! (I had never played one before today and that was interesting, but I’m excited to learn!) Our ReSpIn team in ID worked with the laser cutter and made huge progress in terms of design concepts and connects. Kat and I have been working on planning a big discussion around the “American Dream” and success, which we made a lot of great progress on today in AP Lang.  And tomorrow is my first meeting with the MViFi team now that we’ve actually announced that I’m the first MViFi Fellow, and I’m so excited! (I finally put my shirt on today that we joke about being a bowling team shirt, and it’s kind of giant on me considering there are only guy sizes, but it makes me laugh in a happy way anyway.)

I don’t know why exactly, but it just feels like a lot of “new” is coming soon to my life. It hasn’t quite hit yet, but there’s something in the wondering air…

(I feel the need to explain the term “wondering air,” it basically means “breeze” but it became a joke in Latin today because when we translated a piece literally it said “wondering air” which we all found funny and I thought it was fit in this situation for some reason.)

The Wisdom of Justice

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So I honestly don’t know where this 20/20 on Plato’s Book 1 of The Republic will go because to be honest, philosophy is hard to capture in words sometimes.

Book 1 ends in an “agree to disagree” situation between Socrates and several others while trying to decide on a definition of justice, and a “just man”. This conversation begins with a discussion about old age, and how someone makes the claim of old men being wise.

I like how Socrates describes that you can’t just become old and then instantaneously become wise, but instead your character as a person throughout your life time influences what you are like in old age.

But what makes someone wise?

How are wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, and education related and yet different?

Well here are my thoughts.

Knowledge is knowing facts. Intelligence though, is being able to interpret and analyze these facts to make conclusions and actually put the knowledge you have to use in your life situation. Wisdom then, is the ability to learn from the experiences that occur in your life and to be able to teach the intelligence you’ve gained to others. Education finally, is the actual process of learning and teaching facts.

So you may notice that education leads back to knowledge once again, thus forming a lovely circle. (Because we all know life is full of circular thinking, and circles are pretty cool.)

But Plato is writing about justice, so how does wisdom connect to justice?

This is the question I am left still pondering, but I’m thinking that in order to be just you must use your wisdom. When you reach the point of being able to teach something to someone else, then you must know that thing well enough to help influence decisions that need to be made around a debate around that thing. (I feel that I may be getting a little “up in the clouds” as we say in Chemistry when we start speaking more conceptually, but again, philosophy is hard to articulate without some extent of confusion and with things left for interpretation.)

So I’m not going to attempt to define justice yet, but I am starting to conceptualize the relations between education, knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, and justice. So hopefully, like the periodic table, once I have more background information I will be able to predict the future better and therefore better understand justice itself.

Justice is not a simple thing, it is a concept, defined by the definer, used to settle debates, created to shape governments. A just man is one that must try and decide that which is the just decision. This task is difficult and requires much wisdom.

Venturing Back to the Prison Cave

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Today was another 20/20 Day: Allegory of the Cave part 2. 

Today Kat and I discussed Plato’s Allegory of the Cave again, because this is one of those pieces that you just have to reread since new insights come from it each time.

From the combination of multiple discussions, I think I am starting to have a more refined definition of “truth”. Truth is the agreed upon facts that a group decides upon. There are always multiple truths, and that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a “right” or “wrong” truth, it simply means they are different. This makes the line between truth and belief hard to define.

In the terms of the allegory, Plato says, “[Socrates] To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.”Which seems to argue that the prisoners do not know the truth because they only see the shadows. However, later he says, “[Socrates] But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.” This new statement eludes to the idea that knowledge must build upon itself. After all, you can not do calculus without first understanding basic principles of geometry.

Therefore, if knowledge builds upon itself, and truth is built upon knowledge, then the prisoners must have some sort of known truth. Plato uses light as a metaphor for knowledge and understanding, so I find it interesting then that shadows can only be seen if there is some light. While the prisoners may not be able to full see the light source, they do have some knowledge and understanding; they just are not yet exposed to the full truth.

The prisoners know that there is more out there: “At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains.” While their curiosity pained them, Plato does not deny that the prisoners were curious and knowledgeable enough to know there must be something they can not see. This is a truth that the prisoners understand.

They might not know what is out there where they can’t see, but they hypothesize that there is something.

If the prisoners are ever expected to understand the truth, Plato claims that their guardians must venture back into the cave themselves: “[Socrates] I mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not be allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the cave, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are worth having or not.” The guardians, if they wish to become teachers, must join their students, the prisoners, to understand what truths they understand in order to help guide them to a fuller understanding of the truth.

Teachers must invest themselves in the world of students, if they wish to truly challenge and grow their perspectives, beliefs, and understanding of the truth.

Life = Humanities “and” STEM not “or”

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MVPS is on fall break currently so we have a long weekend with no school today. It was such a great day!!!

And I spent half my day at school by choice. 🙂

While the students had today off, teachers had a planning day. While I haven’t been to a planning day before, I do know that this was not the normal planning day because it was run by MViFi and set up like a conference. Teachers seemed to really enjoy being able to have the choice of what sessions they attended and also being able to do a lot of hands on work.

The reason I was at the planning day was because I was offered the opportunity to co-facilitate one of the sessions, specifically the recycling session. This was a great and fun opportunity to lead and share our work in ID with teachers from across divisions. After years of talking about recycling problems that need to be solved for, I’m excited with the conversations that have been started and can’t wait to see how things continue. It’s also always nice when people get excited about your prototype. (Which is officially done and in place in a middle school classroom collecting data!!!!)

However, what I think I enjoyed most about today actually was my second session on designing a humanities course that will be launched for freshman to take for 2016-2017. It was a great group and a great challenge that sparked great conversation!

One of the big take away thoughts that I had was around the idea of fun work versus meaningful work.

My table had a conversation about how the humanities are about humans, which also has a lot to do with struggle. (By the way also there was an important distinction with “humanities” not just meaning English and history classes, but also arts and language and being more about culture than just being a combo of subjects.) Both analyzing and communicating the struggles of others, and having to struggle yourself to get work done. The truth is that there is a lot of struggle in life. I might not have the years of experience to really be able to say this, but I’d like to think, while I may not be able to empathize, I can at least understand on some level.

Sometimes you will have work that you simply don’t want to do, but you still have to get it done. In life you don’t always get to do what you want. It’s not always fun. That’s ok thought.

We talked about how you can do really hard work, that might not be the most fun while you’re working on it, but afterwards it can feel so rewarding. Rewarding to the point where students even comment by saying, “This was really hard, but I loved it! I feel like I really learned something.” One of the teachers mentioned our past show “Beast on the Moon”, and how it obviously was not a very up lifting comedy kind of show. The show was very serious, with lots of emotions and moving pieces constantly changing, and in general it was a tough drama, not to mention the amount of lines to memorize. However, after the show, we were thrilled with what we had just pulled off. It was rewarding to know we went through all of the hard work and then could put on a show that truly moved people.

However, the interesting question/struggle comes with how to make the hard work then feel rewarding at the end. In my opinion, this requires for students to be given the opportunity to do meaningful work.

Meaningful work can be fun. Feeling happy about learning something I think is pretty meaningful– being happy is important to a healthy life.

However, meaningful work can also be hard. It can be tiring and stressful and time consuming and still be meaningful.

In AP Lang we’ve been working on our Creativity Crisis papers (in fact I was going to officially share mine today, but I was much too passionate about today’s adventures to not talk about them). Now while we were still writing a paper, and staying up late to meet deadlines, and getting specific feedback that wasn’t always positive, we have been ok with all of it because we know that we have to go through all of that hard work in order to share something valuable with a wider audience. That is how we are choosing to try and make the work we do meaningful in this situation.

Teachers can’t just make work meaningful because for work to be meaningful, students have to find that meaning. However, it is possible for the work to not be given the chance to be meaningful. When this happens, this is when work feels tedious on top of being tiring and stressful and time consuming.

I feel like there is a common assumption that students (especially those of us helping more significantly with shaping our own learning experience) think we should only do work we find to be fun work. Another assumption being that your typical “STEM student” (a bubble to which I find myself often included) thinks everything should be about brainstorming and creating a product.

I’d like to dispel these beliefs at least a little because I don’t believe either of these assumptions to be true.

In fact I don’t want to ever only be doing fun work because after a while it stops being fun if it isn’t also challenging. While “fun stuff” is needed to help relieve stress and keep high energy levels to be able to work on harder stuff, overcoming challenges often feels more rewarding then just doing the fun stuff.

Also I find it interesting, because while I do love STEM and will likely go into a STEM field, I have found myself in a lot of humanities conversations lately. Sometimes it is important to just have a conversation. To not be focused on trying to make an end product, but to just sit and have a deep talk. However, you can’t always just sit and talk because eventually it will start to feel like you are having an empty conversation because it’s the same type of conversation you’ve had before but nothing is changing.

STEM and the Humanities need each other. Humanities, understanding humans, is at the basis of any thing you are trying to design, and you need the STEM skills to then actually design it to help provoke change which then leads to new conversations.

I feel like my thoughts have been all over the place tonight. (Probably doesn’t help with it being so late and my flight to Ohio being such chaos tonight.) I think part of the disjointedness to this writing tonight is because I have so many thoughts about this idea of Humanities and STEM; it feels like they are always working in competition with one another rather than collaboration with one another.

My big thought I guess is that great learning is about overcoming challenges that leads to something where you are able to feel happy and proud about what you’ve accomplished at the end. If you aren’t happy and proud at the end, then why did you do it?