Monday, July 30, 2012

Gold Medal in Latin!

In the Olympics of Latin, the 1st place team award on the Novice Level was won by. . . . . OHIO!

  The picture is before the final round, on the stage.  Please notice the young man who is sitting second from the right and has his game face on.  He's important.  Not more important than any other player on the team, but important to me.  The moderator is checking each player's i.d. number to make sure that they are who they say they are. The audience is waiting:

 Now, I'll quote Larry Dean's recap:

It was truly a team effort.  All 4 players contributed to the victory by winning toss-ups.  Adam, fulfilling his role as captain, led the way with 3; Will really shined on the Big Stage with 2; and Dustin & Alex each took 1.
The tide seemed to turn in OH’s favor after a review of a missed question.  They had initially rejected parco as an antonym of neglego (agst OH), but this ruling was later overturned (for OH).  That took pts away from MA and added pts to OH.  OH then went on a roll and had an insurmountable 25 pt lead going into the final question (which OH also got).  The OH fans mobbed the stage at the conclusion of the match.
As I said in yesterday’s post, it was a victory for the whole OH certamen group.  I think the happiest people in the group were the older players.  go ohio go
You can read more from Larry here:

And the individual gold medal for best certamen competitor in the Nation was won by
Adam Sichel of Indian Hill!  Remember how I said to look for the discipulus with the game face?  That is the young man who took it upon himself to go beyond the basics of Latin and devote himself to knowing and understanding as much as humanly possible about Latin.  And he made me a better teacher in the process.  Adam was flexible enough to work with not only me, but was trained daily during the school year by my fantastic colleague K.C. Kless, then moved on to train at the summer Castra with Mr. Dean, Chris Lapp, and the upper level deities from across the state.  Adam never missed an opportunity to hone his talent.
The question asked of Adam, "You were a state champion before, what are you now, Adam?"
Response:  "A national champion."
You bet he is!
 Finally, let's not forget that behind it all are Adam's parents!  Gratias vobis, Parentes Optimi!  I know I speak for Latin teachers across the nation when I say that we are so appreciative of your sharing Adam with us and giving us the honor of handing him the torch!

The hours and hours and hours paid off, amici!  The Ohio Latin teachers (especially the SW Ohio Latin-in-laws) are beaming with pride.  Congratulations!

Now I am going to try to stop crying with joy and pride and happiness.  Yes, Burgess, that's prappyoy.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

NJCL and Olympic Wear

Have you heard?  The National Latin Convention is happening right NOW at Wake Forest University.  If you'd like to get all the info on what is happening with the Ohio delegation, check out the daily blogs here:,  Go Ohio JCL Go!

Ah, yes, the Olympics!  Instead of commenting on something like the handing of the torch of ancient civilization to modern blah blah blah, I'm going to share this site with you:

And why is it so good?  Oh, boy, just look!
The entire blog is in Latin and is commenting upon the national garb worn to the opening ceremonies.  Are you looking at the Latin for the picture above?  It means, 'but what about the women's footwear?" I can't wait to show this to my students in the fall and have them use the Latin that they know.

But why wait?  I think I'll add this to my Google student circles and share it with them right now.  Look out, teachers are in your circles. . . circulatin'.  But don't worry about it, we have Vergil with us.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Music in Context-Take it!

Jimmy Stafford: “People are saying that we resemble the old-fashioned classic rock bands. It was nothing intentional. It is just all about the music for us and that’s where our roots are and that was our idea: write good songs and play shows and do the old-fashioned rock-band thing.”

My son:  I don’t think Train sounds old-fashioned at all.  They sound like they are trying to be as good as the old-fashioned bands.  Maybe they should listen to more bluegrass, they need to strip it down.

Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour is a musical education and pure entertainment. If you've never heard these shows, you should check them out. N.B. You don't need to be a fan of Dylan's music to thoroughly enjoy these beauties.

   My brother-in-law, Eddie Dean, introduced us to the program a few years ago and my two children (11 and 13) are now reaping the rewards of the musical education they've received.  Eddie may have intended the results that we are seeing, you never know what strategy he has in mind.  Side note about Eddie, he's a writer and could sell a glass of water to a drowning man with his turn of phrase. He's been published in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington, D.C. City Paper, in Best Music Essays of 2000, and wrote Man of Constant Sorrow.

    Here is the story of how my children learned about hundreds of songs which I consider crucial to literacy.

 My husband is the one who drives the children to school and takes them on road trips, etc. Every time they were in the car he would pop in one of the Theme Time shows. He's the one who delivered the material, replayed songs, explained lyrics, parsed the vocabulary used, ad nauseam.

Year 1:  They had favorites and were quoting the remarks that Dylan made to give context (hence the  
            title, "theme" time)
Year 2:  They were singing the songs in the shower, recognizing them in T.V. shows and movies.
Year 3:  They recognized the bass lines of songs that were remixed into new songs and were talking
            about how the music was being used to make something new.

     Now, in our fourth year, they have the songs on their mp3 players, share them with friends and work them into conversations and book studies.  My son was reading a book this summer that mentioned a song playing in the story line, and was able to use that information to determine the year for the novel's setting.  The magic curriculum had worked.  Wish I'd planned it!

     It all happened under my nose.  Sure, I was listening when it was playing at home, and I have my favorites like the dog theme show from season 2.  It contains the song "Dog" by Bob Dorough which my kids quote when they signal they are leaving the house by saying, "the dog trots freely in the street".  Sure I added to conversations-but it wasn't until a few days ago that I realized what enrichment had transpired.  ("The home is a classroom."-Dylan and my daughter agree.)

Rocky Top?
We were sitting in a diner, our car had broken down (different story, not ready to talk about it yet), and the song "I'm Walkin'" by Fats Domino was playing. I looked down the counter to my son and he was mouthing the words as he scarfed fries, my daughter was tapping the percussion as the cheese in her mozzarella sticks turned to rubber, and my husband was clicking his fork on his iced tea glass. My kids know so much music that gives context to modern life! How in the world would I have shared all this music and history without those shows, my husband's determination not to listen to pop radio, and Eddie? They wouldn't. They'd be missing out on the depth of sound around them and the references in the books they read. Even worse, they wouldn't recognize the parodies of the songs, or think that a cover was an original never questioning a melody's provenance.

     A smart teacher would write some sort of curriculum using the shows.  Here's a link to the lists of songs in season two.  You'll see the titles and know why a curriculum can hook into these easily. Now, like the Smothers Brothers say,  "Take it!"

     And hey, send me a copy of that curriculum when you write it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nihil facile est

Nothing is easy.

I'm taking a class online at the moment, and guess what, kids?  I'm using Blackboard as a student.  It's as bad as I knew it would be.

As a teacher, I understand that it's hard to navigate the dashboard, post materials, and make everything work smoothly.  Now, as a student, I see that even when an experienced teacher is doing a great job, Blackboard still is a crushing barrier to conveying content.  The charts do not line up and the layout looks like a crumpled and scanned Wall Street Journal page.  Nothing is intuitive and navigation is limited by having to go breadcrumb by breadcrumb to the destination.  

Yes, nothing is easy, but some things make it even harder, like platforms that hit the mainstream and force us to suffer at their mercy.  

During the 2012-13 school year, therefore, I resolve to find alternatives that will save my students from the pit of Blackboard!  There will be more Google docs, there will be more Edmodo, there will be more Testmoz, there will be more Wordchamp!

And it will get easier.  Because we'll make it easier!

Friday, July 20, 2012


The "Dead Parrot Speech by Margaret Thatcher", based upon the famous Monty Python Sketch illustrates an interesting point about staying in touch with pop culture and using it to connect with one's audience.  Simon Hoggart of The Guardian gives a wonderful account of her simply  not having the foggiest idea of what this sketch was, and what a touchstone of absurd humor it would be for her listeners.  Yes, it went over famously but it's curious that she was so disengaged from Monty Python's  entertainment.  

As a teacher of middle schoolers I get to keep up with random memes, viral videos and crazy, inappropriate material from shows such as Tosh.0.  But these entertainment items are the students' context, and if I'm not in on the joke, I won't be able to effectively communicate with them.  Carefully choosing a hook and then making an analogy to the objective of our lesson, or having them describe (on an exit slip/google doc/discussion board) how they think it related can go a long way.  And it ups the level of critical thinking.

For example, I begin a class with the picture on the left and ask students, "Why can we relate to this?  What is its meaning?"  Then after making a list, we move through the related Latin activities, texts, of the lesson and finally I present  the last picture, and I ask, "How did the Romans relate to this sculpture?  What does it tell us about them and their views?"  Getting the interesting responses and moving students from the (sometimes) shallow 21st century one-liner to a lasting, reflective moment can happen.


So Margaret Thatcher had some good advice from her speech-writers.  And context is powerful stuff.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Carpe Diem aut Hortos Antiquos

Hey Latin people, you may not have used it lately, so remember that you can use the Walter's online resources for Roman art from the Empire.  The figurine at the left is one of my favorites, since Plautus still cracks me up!

Happened into the Wall Street Journal (in print form) this morning, left by Big Daddio on the table, and in the Leisure and Arts section, found a gem.  A review entitled, "Heaven and Earth" by Melik Kaylan gives a savory peek into an exhibition at the Walters in Baltimore.  Love the Walters Museum, its manuscripts are amazing to take in.  

This installation, focused on the garden in the Islamic and Christian world seems brilliant from its description.  27 pieces in 8 themes.  Here are some of the themes:  The Structure and Composition of Gardens, The Garden and Regal Authority, The Garden Where Lovers meet and the Garden in Religious Texts.

Best line from the review was "the eye feels intoxicated, beguiled and intensely cultivated", which appealed to my interest in chaos vs. structure in art and literature, and she also mentions that viewing the items repeatedly may be like "absorb(ing) a dense sonata over time", which is how highly detailed art like this must be examined.  

The piece that I would love to see is the Rubens Vase, certainly deserves a place in this exhibition. Note the dimensions, height 7.3", width 7.3", depth 4.7", and made from a single block of agate.

cf. the Waddeson Vase from the British Museum, which is of late Roman origin:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Festina Lente (Make haste slowly)

Lots to do in a short time, and it needs to be done deliberately.

The beginning of Iron Lady is going well.  Margaret Thatcher is quite the interesting character to read about.  Since I was a teen when she and Reagan were ruling, I have vivid memories of discussions from classes and in my home about her. I am enjoying getting to know her as a young woman, her years in Grantham, and what made her who she would become.  Perhaps it's the "context" in me that's making it resonate.

Personal mission statement is slow going.  I have lots of notes, but getting it into a coherent whole is a challenge.  That's okay, it will be worth it.

Going my own on technology, that I administer remedies to myself, is actually going well!  After an hour of working around a glitch at 2:30 AM last night, had a breakthrough and celebrated by dancing on the beach.  And it's my victory.  (Well, I have to give credit to all the people who taught me along the way, but hey, my little victory, right?)  Thanks to the people who taught me to fish instead of just serving me fish.  (like tech guy and K.G. and K.D.)

Finally, being with family (all 24 of us) at the beach for the annual vacation is same as ever-reaffirming!  Shout out to one member of the family who couldn't make it because he's in Afghanistan.  Go, S.Z.!