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.!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Vacation and Vocation


 Today I progressed with the family entourage to the Outer Banks.  Along the way we stopped at Cowling BBQ (a tradition), and I had a piece of the coconut custard pie that I wait all year for! 

     On the side, I also asked our server about the local schools (Suffolk County, Va.) and she praised the communication that was offered by teachers to parents from her personal experience.  That’s always nice to hear-go fellow teachers!

     On the way down read a few good articles, one on Evernote stood out.   The tweet from ETC made me pay attention and follow it further.   I’m looking for ways to gather data as I show growth on student learning objectives through the next year.  Hopefully I’ll have some good suggestions to share with other teachers since this is tied to evaluation

Here is my to-do for the next few days:

  • 1  Begin reading The Iron Lady:  Margaret Thatcher, from    Grocer’s Daughter to Prime Minister
  • 2  Organize notes from Gallup strengths finder 2.0 (they haven’t changed much from the 1.0-I dropped "input" and gained "achiever".  Hmmmm. 
  • 3  Synthesize #2 with a personal core values assessment
  • 4  Write a draft of my personal leadership assessment

And lastly, figure out how to get myself to watch a movie.  A WHOLE movie.  I don’t like movies.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summer Break-Great to have the summer off!

It's Summer so I'm doing what teachers do!
Whenever I'm in a social situation and I'm asked about what I do, I hesitate for a second.  I think, be proud, you know how important your impact is, then I answer, "I'm an educator."  The follow up is usually, what do you teach, where do you teach? And in this short-term, limited exchange, the person often says, "It must be nice to have your summers off."  Or, they may say, "It must be nice to be home with your children in the afternoon."  I've always been polite.  I've always made the small talk and ended the evening with good wishes.  But I am bitter concerning the subject.  

                   For me there's a lure to answer rudely.
The temptation is to answer physicians who made such a statement with, "Yeah!  And it must be nice to be able to hit the links whenever you want!", or to respond sarcastically to an attorney with "Yeah!  And if I could charge hourly so I could bill for the hours I spend to get each child to meet standardized goals, it would be great."

Of course, I know that these are negative stereotypes, and do not reflect the truth about the professions, but it's curious how it's acceptable to make such a statement to a teacher, yet rude to convey a commonly held attitude to a person in a career considered more noble.  Sure, one should understand such generalizations are insulting, and reveal that one's understanding of a career is limited to trite statements, but after many years it's hard not to lower oneself to the level of ignorance of the interlocutor.

I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt to the person, allowing for the fact that they simply might not understand what is entailed in the profession of education.  Answering with "Why do you think that I have my summers off?", might clear up the reason for the statement and give me a chance to explain that, "Yes, I work during summers, and do you have any questions about what teachers do to prepare for time in the classroom that is similar to what professionals do before they meet their clients face-to-face?"

Perhaps I’ll get to the point where I don’t take the statements so personally and can diplomatically enrich the conversation.  For now, I’m declining the invitations with a polite, “I regret that I will not be attending. . .”

Friday, July 13, 2012

Row hard. . . double time!-Teaching Teachers

     The goal:  how much do you share and how fast do you share it?  On a teaching team if you give the big overview first, it can overwhelm and the oarsmen will either not row or row with one oar.  That's always fun because the boat spins.  If you don't share enough and people row to the first target and stop, then you have to regroup and aim for the next target and get things going again.
     Balance, right?  Differentiation, right?  How do we get the right crew on each boat and help them make the run a good one, and even more important, how do we coordinate all the boats in the school so that we're synchronized to be in range at the same time?
    I'm thinking through how to facilitate moving to the new evaluation instrument at our school, which isn't really that different from the old, but the stakes are higher for the teachers.  We're going to need these boats going in the right direction, hitting the targets, and not stopping, but rowing through to the next target.
    I hope we have enough teacher leaders to show everyone the correct way to handle the oars!

   In the meantime, I'm securing flotation devices for a few people in advance.

Disclaimer:  this will only help in the event of an emergency in which passengers must abandon ship, not when the ship has crashed.

Easy way to do the right thing!

 An Ohio school needs to keep its Latin program, but it's on the chopping block for Monday, July 16, 2012.  What can you do? Contact superintendent, Mr. Joseph Chaddock, at: 

Here is my letter, feel free to elaborate:  

Dear Mr. Chaddock,
     I am writing in response to the news that you are considering dropping Latin from your schedule of courses.  I have taught Latin at Indian Hill Middle School for 18 years, and have the benefit of perspective.  Students who were in my classes in 1993-4 are now attorneys, medical researchers, writers and college professors.  They write to me telling me how pivotal Latin was, and is, in their success in life.   
       Yes, I’ve looked at your five year forecast at , and yes, I understand that the loss of income in tax revenues (and other funding sources) is deeply cutting into school budgets.  The pressure districts in Ohio are feeling is causing decisions to be made based upon business strategies and not on sound educational strategies.  I’m hoping that the educator in you is going to be fighting to keep Latin because it benefits the student and increases student achievement.  When you have a strong teacher and a valuable program, dropping it does not make sense. 
     If your treasurer and board need statistics, then we can supply them with studies, through the National Junior Classical League and the American Classical League, showing  that the study of Latin increases a student’s ability to think critically, increasing performance on the S.A.T.  If you need other statistics addressing subgroups, closing literacy gaps or data addressing how Latin helps students develop 21st century skills, we can give you that too.  Tell me what you need to save this program, and I’ll give you the research. 
     In closing, it is my belief that I would be committing educational malpractice if I did not give every student the best opportunity to achieve her/his full potential.  Latin is a route to that achievement, and I cannot sit back and allow a program to be eliminated when I know how valuable it is to even one student’s future.  And if you have more than one, perhaps 40, it’s a community that is impacted by that value.

Sincerely in the service of classical education,

Andrea J. Weis

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blue Highways (Viae Caeruleae)

Blue highways are great most of the time. And there is something about letting go and just taking to the open road that is so scary it's exciting.  Flying without a net. Triple-A might not find you out here.

I'm going it alone.  No school-supported technology for me, I've decided to work without the limits and see what happens.

Just like a "Bring your own Technology" philosophy for schools, I'm trying out the teacher version. I had to weigh the pro's and con's before I handed in my tablet and walked away.

I can download anything I want without guilt or retribution.  (things like “fences” and “Jing”)
If I mess something up on this computer, the school I.T. facilitators won’t be there to help me clean up. 
When I fix things on my own I get the credit and no grief.
I can really be a transparent teacher and show how the Latin never stops when I’m out of the classroom
The “academic year” doesn’t control my access to technology.

I can go beyond the basic expectations in order to make progress. 
I have to stay on top of all the updates that are necessary to meet the expectations of my school district-there is no one who will complete this task for me. 

So here I go!  Nothing bad yet. . . hmmm.  Maybe it will succeed?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cooperation (it depends. . . )

Interesting article about why we cooperate (rather important if a school is to be successful with coordinating many teachers for the success of the students.)

Here's a quote from a researcher in the article:  

"people do not make their decisions based on the rewards obtained (by them or by their neighbors), but rather based on how many people have recently cooperated with them, as well as on their own mood at the time"

For my trusted teammates, I suppose I get myself into a cooperative mood when the request is made.  And when I know it's going to improve student learning, I'm going to do it even if I'm in a "meh" mood, and I don't feel compelled by personal connections to cooperate.  But upon reflection, yep, I am more likely to jump to it simply if I'm in a good state of mind.

Now, how to get a staff of teachers into a state where they are more likely to collaborate.  First, take the irritating jangly stuff off their necks.  Second,  oh, wait, we must wear the jangly things? Nevermind.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

In the Summer we dream of Staplers

I was busy.  Very busy.  Like most schools in Ohio, we've been scrambling with HB 153 and its contents.  It comes down to new evaluations, and new compensation systems (yet to be determined).  At Indian Hill, we'll be using the Danielson Framework, and change the headings to Ohio's required Basic, Developing, Proficient, Accomplished. The 22 components and 76 smaller elements are clustered into four domains. Rest assured, we're not throwing out Marzano's domains and its 60 elements, since writing Student Learning Objectives (SLO's) will be based on his research and our professional learning community work that has been ongoing for 4 years in our buildings.

Curriculum?  Well, that's changed too.  Common Core.

I'm very much enjoying my summer off as are other teachers!  Can't wait to be back in the classroom and try to find a stapler.   If I had a stapler, I could get much more work done.