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Archive for December, 2009

This week the Reading Public Schools has lost the leadership of Superintendent Patrick Schettini after a battle with cancer. He will be missed for many reasons, among them his commitment to excellence and his dedication to leading our district to become the best example of what public education should be. Pat worked the majority of his career in the Reading Public Schools, first as a math teacher, later as an assistant principal and ultimately as superintendent for the past 6 years. During his tenure as superintendent, six of our schools have been honored as Blue Ribbon Lighthouse Schools by Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.

Awards are only one way to measure the success of our schools and Pat’s leadership. When I had the opportunity to return to the Reading Public Schools, I jumped at the opportunity to come back to work with an outstanding group of colleagues. Over the past four years, my teaching has been transformed by the opportunities that I have had here. I have participated in and led professional development workshops and trainings in technology and foreign language. With the new high school construction, completed during Pat’s tenure as superintendent, our classrooms and language lab have enabled every teacher in the FL department to expand our strategies to better connect, collaborate, and reach our students. The laptop I use (a component of a graduate course offered to RPS teachers and administrators) has allowed me to better communicate with my students and their families, to better plan and design lessons, and to better connect with other educators from around the world.

The opportunities that I have here in the Reading Public Schools are the result of Pat’s vision and dedication. I will miss seeing him walk through the halls and look in on our classes. Our entire community will miss his influence and leadership.

Photo: courtesy of Reading Public Schools

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An off day

Today my Latin 1 class didn’t go very well. It wasn’t a bad class, nothing dramatic happened. But nothing really clicked either.

This year our school has switched to a rotating schedule with 7 classes that drops one class each day. So today my Latin 1 class met for the first time since last Thursday, a 3 day break.  Since the beginning of the second marking period, this class has met for 5 straight days only one week; between holidays, a parent conference day, and the rotation of the schedule this class has very little consistency. We also enjoyed our annual Saturnalia celebration two weeks ago, which is one of my favorite days of the year, but certainly turns our focus away from Latin grammar for more than a few days.

So now I find myself trying to review case endings and reviewing prepositional phrases that take either the ablative or accusative case in the last few days before vacation. I have a fun activity planned for tomorrow, kind of a cross between Simon Says and Dodge Ball using a Nerf football to keep everyone on their toes. But today was all about reviewing nouns, prepositions, case endings and vocabulary.

I’m finding that the biggest challenge (drawback?) to this schedule is the absolute lack of consistency. So often when I used to be able to find a groove with my class and logically end a unit with a quiz or activity, I’m now scrambling to fit the quiz in a day early because I won’t see them for a day or two or three. When students are out for a field trip, illness, or college visit – and then their class doesn’t meet the next day –  they easily can be away from Latin learning for nearly a week. No matter how many resources a teacher provides (on-line notes, posting homework on Edline, offering on-line “office hours”) the lack of routine makes language learning a real challenge. Gifted language learners seem to be getting along okay, since they can basically teach themselves. But the majority of my students have to work hard to master the vocabulary and grammar. Not hearing the language, not reading the words, not reviewing the grammar five days each week means that each day in class requires more time reviewing and less time moving forward.

So class didn’t go very well. And the study hall that met in our room the period before left the window open on a cold December day.  And 5 students came to class late. And 4 more students needed to use the bathroom.

Today was not a great day for learning Latin. I did the best I could. I hope that my students learned a little. Tomorrow will be a better day.  I’ve got my Nerf football ready to go!

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Some thoughts for my students during cold and flu season:

Please do your part to stay healthy and be in school.

If you aren’t in class, for any reason, you should know by now that every homework assignment is posted on Edline. Often the handouts are uploaded, links are provided. I know you might not be feeling great. But if you’re well enough to be back in school, please do me (and your classmates) the courtesy of finding out what you’ve missed. If your internet is down, most work is also posted in my classroom. Or you could always contact a classmate. I’m happy to help each of you get caught up, but with so many of you absent over the past few weeks, it is impossible for me to repeat all of the lessons from each day that you were out.

When you ask me to come in early or stay after school to go over missed work or make up quizzes, please be respectful of my time and show up when you say you will. If you can’t come when you intended, it is polite to send an e-mail or leave me a note.

Whenever you have a planned absence – a college visit, a sports competition, a music performance, a doctor’s appointment, a driving test – remember that you are responsible for staying on track with all of your classes. You must go to Edline, you must contact a classmate. The library is open before and after school if you need to get on-line at school. You should be ready to jump right back in the day you return.

If you are absent, don’t lie about the reason. I care about you and I want you to be successful. If you are really sick, I want to be understanding and supportive. When you invent an excuse for your absence when one doesn’t really exist, you are wasting both your time and mine. My goal is to help you learn Latin, not to catch you in a lie.

I understand how many commitments you have, how much you need to do each day. When you are healthy, it is your job to be in school. If you are absent 10 or 15 days in a semester, you have missed all of those opportunities to learn and to contribute to the learning of your classmates. Attendance is not the only key to success, but showing up is half the battle.

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Saturnalia 2009

It’s been so long since I’ve written, but I feel like I’ve neglected writing about my Latin classes. So much of my students’ work over the past year has involved integrating technology into our projects and learning. But one activity that comes around each December and has barely changed over the years is our Saturnalia celebration. Saturnalia was a celebration in honor of the founding of the Roman temple of Saturn that was marked by feasting, reversal of social roles, and the giving of gifts. The Romans would have celebrated the holiday beginning on December 17 (A.D. XVI Kal. Ianuarii). We reduce our celebration to one school day. This is the culminating activity for a unit on Mythology or Roman Culture (depending on course level). Every student comes to class in Roman or Greek dress, representing a god, goddess or historic figure.  Each student has researched his/her persona and brings symbols that best represent that figure. In addition to the costumes, students bring Roman-style food and drink to celebrate the day. Although they are not required to wear their costume outside of their Latin class, many students wear there togas all day long. This year our celebration will be this Friday. It is a big undertaking to organize so many students and all of the details. I look forward to sharing pictures and stories of our celebration this year after the party is done. Io Saturnalia!

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