A note: Please use these practices with the best intentions. Students can see through us when we lie or foster practices that do not include compassion. If we aren't coming from a good place we (at best) foster a distant relationship with students and (at worst) cause trauma and harm to our students.
I have long been on a journey towards a compassionate classroom and while I do my best to always answer with compassion I don't know that's it is a journey without an end. Each year, each month, week, and day provide new opportunities for me to re-establish compassionate norms and choose compassion for myself, my colleagues, and my students. To be clear, answering with compassion (much like gentle parenting) is not without boundaries or consequences, but it works with natural consequences and clear understanding of boundaries.
There are a lot of posts on these topics, but I want to highlight a few:
Today I want to touch on a practice I've been subconsciously cultivating the past few years: Listen First. It sounds simple, but I think there is a push in the teacher/student relationship (especially with all that we have to do) to skip this step and move on to the action piece of whatever situation arises. Ultimately, however, I think this sets us and our students up for failure.
I've been watching a lot of gentle parenting TikToks after they started showing up on my FYP and I quickly realised how in line they were with my own thinking. My parents did a form of this when I was a child, but it didn't have a name and it wasn't as popular as it is now. One thing that stood out to me is something I've been as vocal as I can be about since earning my Special Education degree. Behaviour is an attempt at communication. When students behave in certain ways they are trying to tell us what they need and they are using coping mechanisms that they've learned work through the various situations in their lives. Note: I am NOT trying to dig at any single person who is a teacher or parent. Once we understand that concept, we realise that in order to do anything, we must understand the need that is being communicated.
The longer I teach the more I realise that listening is always the first step with students. I have a policy that if a student is in crisis and needs me, I will do my best to help them as I can. This does put added pressure on me, but it also doesn't put me in a place where I have to fix everything. Here are some general examples of what this might look like. This is not exhaustive and not every option fits every instance
When we listen first, we can learn the unmet need and respond appropriately. Here are some questions I either consider myself or I ask students directly when listening first. N.B. Always make sure your students know that (1) you are imperfect and do the best you can (2) are coming from a compassionate place, and (3) are a mandatory reporter and that you have to report some things. If you do need to report something, please please please tell the student who experienced it before you report it so they aren't caught off guard.
Trigger Warning: This post has mentions of r*p*, s**c*d*, sl*v*ry, and r*c*sm. While vowels are not included here, they are in the text for clarity.
Firstly, I teach in a program that is untextbooked. While we regularly reference textbooks and look at resources for ideas and supports, we do not use a textbook in our classes. This has been the case for many years. Secondly, I got a copy of this textbook because it seemed very promising and I'd heard reports of the amount of work and research that went into it and that it was multicultural and made progress in terms of equity. I was very excited to have it as a resource and potentially use it where appropriate.
I am breaking this review into parts. I was planning on writing one review, but as I looked through the chapters, it became clear that this was not possible. So, I will link subsequent and previous reviews as I go, but here is what I'm planning:
I will not be reviewing the grammar pieces, nor will I be reviewing the teaching philosophy, methods, or strategies provided because (a) that is not my point in these reviews and (b) I am still waiting for a textbook built on Comprehensible Input and Second Language Acquisition Research.
Lastly, while my writing is my own, a number of things that have been shared here were voiced to me by friends and trusted colleagues. Credit is given always, but is only named where appropriate. I could not write these posts without their valued input and discussions they had with me. Where I can I am providing links to online discussions (nothing from private groups, only from public Twitter feeds) and references as I am able. Please bear in mind that I am not perfect and am a full time teacher who is also in grad school, so if I miss something or did not reference something, please put it in the comments and I will get to it as soon as I can.
Lastly, in the interest of copyright, I am not going to be posting pictures of what I see. I will do my best to describe the issues.
Opening Pages + Chapter 1
Chapter 2 and 3
This post has been ruminating in my mind for years. In some way, I've been an activist for many years and, unlike what you may see in articles, on TV, or from friends, activism is not a one way road, a single path, or a set of steps and actions everyone must take. Activism changes with the seasons, the causes, and each person and... it can change FOR each person. I am an example of that. There is, additionally, no one authority on how to be an activist and, I would challenge, that if someone suggests that to you... you push back.
In my time as a teacher, an adult, and an activist, I have written letters, made phone calls, sent emails, and faxes. I have also attended marches, protests, participated in boycotts, supported organisations/individuals/causes financially, served in leadership for change, and, where need be, been blunt in my relationships and interactions. In my early years teaching, I hand wrote a 7-page letter to my governor. His response, as you see in my post update, the response was less than adequate.
My intention with this post is to explore many ways of being an activist, via my own experiences, and those of others. There are some things on this list that I do not do. The reasons I do not may be varied and many. I am neurodiverse and have chronic conditions that limit what I am able to physically and mentally do. Despite what some say, these are adequate reasons to say no to an action item. I am a teacher with limited salary. I cannot always give financially. My point is this: there are MANY ways to be a good activist. Find ways that work for you.
There are other ways to be an activist as well. I've listed 10 that I feel have been most productive or received a better response. Other ways to be an activist include: speaking at meetings, engaging in a boycott of goods and businesses, doing active research, and making statements via clothing, pins, etc.
I have engaged in all of these. I have spoken at a board meeting and, while it was important for me, did not enact any change that I was hoping for. I regularly boycott goods and businesses. Again, my business isn't enough to upend the system, but it is important for me and those I interact with. I am currently engaging in research on pedagogy and special/disability education and I regularly support causes via clothing and pins. These are steps that are important for me. They are also activism.
So, here's my call to action. If you want to be an activist. If you want to "do your part" (as they say), find a way that works for you and the cause you want to support. Go for it. It will make a difference even if in a small circle of people.
Lastly... what other ways of activism can we add to this list?
It is no secret that I create our team's Black History Month lessons. Incorporating black history into my lessons is something I strive for year round, but honouring it during February is equally important right now as well. You can see where I've discussed this matter before: here. I wanted to share what I've done this year because it is different than what I've done in the past, incorporates brand new material, includes history you may not be aware of, and considers how we do this during the time of Covid. I hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: These materials were created using free and fair use resources and are not for sale, but are available as I have shared them below. I have credited everyone I can in the Resources portion of this post. Additionally, you may find some errors in my writing. Please let me know by emailing me. Unless otherwise specified all video, audio, and stories are written by me.
This year's theme was ancient connections to Africa. I wanted to look at history and include things many students may not learn in their history courses or, potentially, ever.
I also wanted to make sure this was accessible for my students. I am teaching concurrently in person and digitally, so I needed a resource that would work for both and I also wanted to encourage exploration. I've also included a section at the bottom of this post about how I adapted it for my vision student.
So, I decided to make digital/bitmoji classrooms for each lesson. They are made for students to explore as a group or on their own, whichever the teacher decides and they are made to, hopefully, inspire questions and thoughts about why we only hear one side of the story and see how our world connects to ancient Africa.
Below I've detailed each week. I am in the process of making some, so this post will be updated as I do that. What you will find in each is a brief introduction, a list of materials included and what to click on to access them, and then a link to the digital classroom.
If you decide to use these lessons with your students, please give credit to mater monstrorum or Miriam Patrick. Additionally, let me know how it goes :)
Week 01 - Carthago
Another not so secret secret is that I love Carthage. So, it should come as no surprise that we started here. The question was, how do I fit so much awesome into one day?!? Carthage is a good starting place because it is something that many students learn about in Latin or in their world history classes. I also felt comfortable starting here as I am familiar with Carthage and the other topics were all relatively new.
Week 02 - The Ivory Bangle Lady
CW: mention of wh*t* s*pr*m*c*sts
While searching for notable people from Africa that appear in Roman history, an article on the archeological find of the Ivory Bangle Lady came up. Up until this point (AKA January 2021), I had never heard of her, seen anything about her on the various Latin groups I'm in, etc. Her story, while incomplete, is fascinating and turns what has long been the Classic line about the Classical world on its head - so much so that wh*t* s*pr*m*c*sts are incredibly angered by this find and its importance in the ancient Roman world.
Week 03 - The Garamantes
I chose the Garamantes because I wanted to find a group that had power and an empire that riveled Rome that may be unknown to many. Enter: The Garamantes. They are mentioned a few times in Roman literature: Pliny the Elder and Livy both mention them briefly. Lucan also mentioned them. Their empire lasted about as long as Rome's did and fell in the same century. The Garamantes maintained relationships with (if tumultuous) Rome, Aethiopia (enemies), and Carthage.
Week 04 - The Beachy Head Lady
Another amazing archeological find, the Beachy Head Lady (found in Essex, England) was a Sub-Saharan African woman about whom little is known. What has been discovered is that her body/bones were in very good and well kept condition, suggesting a comfortable life in some aspects. She provides context to the ancient world of Africa that is often missing from the world of Classics.
Accommodations for Vision Students
This year we have vision students in our Latin I program. Some of our students are in person and some are digital, so we've worked out ways we'll get these materials to our students. Here are some accommodations I made:
A Broad Abroad (2013). Ancient Carthage, resort towns, foreign investment & media: The first few days in Tunisia. Retrieved from: https://abroadabroadtravel.com/2013/01/15/ancient-carthage-resort-towns-foreign-investment-media-the-first-few-days-in-tunisia/
Aleksangel. Big comfy armchair. Retrieved from: https://www.canstockphoto.com/big-leather-armchair-vector-illustration-48772565.html
BBC (2014). Centuries old beachy head lady's face revealed. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-sussex-25962183
Leach, S., Eckardt, H., Chenery, C., Muldner, D., & Lewis, M. (2009). A lady of York: Migration, ethnicity, and identity in Roman Britain. Retrieved from: https://www.academia.edu/230134/A_Lady_of_York_migration_ethnicity
Millenial Boss. (2019). 17 inspirational quotes to motivate you to achieve your goals. Retrieved from: https://millennialboss.com/inspirational-quotes-to-motivate-you-to-achieve-your-goals/
Pinterest. Mosaic with hunting scenes: Garmantes. Retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/300474606373887849/
Otus (2021). Retrieved from: https://otus.com/
Quain, J. M.D. (1854). A series of anatomical plates bone plate. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jones_Quain#/media/File:A_Series_of_Anatomical_Plates_Bones_Plate_24.jpg
Susannp4. Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/window-wooden-windows-open-1202902/
Washington, J. (2018). Did you know Hannibal was black? retrieved from: https://urbanintellectuals.com/know-hannibal-carthage-black/
Wikipedia (2010). Book3. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Book3.svg
Yorkshire Museums and Gallery Trust (2021). Ivory Bangle Lady. Retrieved from: https://www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk/collections/collections-highlights/ivory-bangle-lady/
Content Warning: this post talks about slavery and human trafficking and the language with which these things are discussed. There is also mention of rape.
There's an important post on FB making the rounds again about how when we change the language we use to talk about slavery the very nature of the conversation changes and the way we naturally respond to these conversations changes. I cannot duplicate the post here (nor should as someone else did amazing work, but I will try and link it later), but I will provide a similar example to the ones they gave.
original: John and his wife Mary were not remarkably wealthy. They lived on a small farm with their two children, three slaves, and one horse. Having come into a recent inheritance, John went to the market and purchased a new slave to help Mary with the housework.
Updated: John and his wife Mary were not remarkably wealthy. They live on a small farm with their two children, a horse, and three people they had human trafficked and enslaved. Having come into a recent inheritance, John went to the market and human trafficked a person and enslaved them to do housework.
If your reaction to the above (or to the post) is anything similar to things like:
This post is for you.
I recently engaged in a conversation with two people and the Latin terms dominus and servus came up. As we began to speak in English I used the words enslaver and enslaved person respectively. The question came up, "but couldn't we just use master and slave". I discussed that we should be speaking about history and its reality. There is no such thing as a nice "master" or a nice coloniser.
Further, I posit that master isn't an appropriate word anyways. In every other situation that I can think of, master is used as someone who is greatly skilled (e.g. a master baker or a master chef). If we go back even further, master is related to the Latin magister/magistra. If we look at magister in Lewis and Short we find it associated with leadership, teaching, advising, etc. I would argue that our use of this word as a "synonym" for someone who engages in human trafficking and enslavement is a bastardisation of the original word and meaning. Does that change, however, that the word master is now used in such a way? No. It does, in my mind, however, help explain why people feel okay with using "master" but that enslaver is an exaggeration.
The realisation I came to in the conversation was that (and I can only speak for Americans) have been trained that master and slave are acceptable terms to talk about the horrors of slavery while still seeming "positive". We have been trained to completely disconnect ourselves from the actual horrors of human trafficking by using these terms. Generally speaking master isn't even related to human trafficking (and it wasn't used in this way until the mid 14th century in regards to serfs and women and subsequently the trans Atlantic slave trade). It is a term that tries to make human trafficking "okay". It makes white people feel better about the atrocities being carried out directly in front of them.
Further, "slave" is an active term the way teacher, mother, and doctor are. It is something we "are" and a position we are "active" in. People are enslaved. They are kidnapped. They are stolen from their homes and forced against their will. This is not an active position or job. It is not an identity. It is a forced term, again, to make people in power and authority feel better about the atrocities they commit or are being committed in front of them.
Call to Action
So here's what we do as people and as teachers.
There is more we can do, but I am going to stop here and direct you to my page on action steps for social justice for that. There are far more important voices than mine when it comes to those kinds of steps and I want to give them focus and credit. I will, however, continue to speak out and take action as a teacher and white woman who has benefited from privilege, particularly today of being educated in a system that prioritises my comfort over actual history.
Please note these are not in APA formatting at this time. I plan to update this later.
If you see me around this year, you'll notice that I now have water bottles with stickers. It is a way for me to express myself and make drinking water more interesting. One sticker I am very happy to have is the rainbow infinity symbol. If you teach at my school, you'll also notice that I have a lanyard with the same symbol. I have this symbol to represent neurodiversity and, in particular, as an ally for those autistic individuals I teach, know, and encounter. If you are thinking, "but doesn't the puzzle piece already represent that?" You wouldn't be alone. However, the more that #actuallyautistic voices are raised, lifted, and heard, the more obvious it becomes that this symbol is not the one to use. Doodle Beth's work, shared above, is a great point of view on this topic and I've shared some more links below that go into much more detail than I will here, but here are some points that we allistic individuals (especially teachers) need to be aware of.
So, long story short, it isn't clear cut. From conversations I've seen and things I've read, the puzzle piece is, at best, outdated. It is also not my symbol, as an allistic, to use. So, I will not use it. I did, however, reach out to a community I am part of and friends I know who are #actuallyautistic and asked how I can show that I am an ally. The rainbow infinity symbol was proposed. When it comes to words, symbols, etc. that are used to identify or discuss communities and individuals, those of us who are not part of it have no say in how those things are used. It is up to each individual and the community to make those decisions. So, I defer to and listen to their voices. I am still learning. If you use the puzzle piece and you are not #actuallyautistic, it is time to look deeper, listen, and learn.
Further Reading and Resources
During our Comprehensible, Compelling, and Caring conference, Chris B was presenting and we decided to start a padlet of voices for Latin teacher. Check it out and add to it if you can!
This is the final piece of this 6 part series. If you haven't, please go and read parts 1-5 first. They are on the first five principles of the Comprehension Hypothesis: Acquisition and Learning, the Natural Order Hypothesis, the monitor principle, the input hypothesis, the affective filter, and their role in social justice in the classroom.
The Compelling Hypothesis
Ideally we all want our students to be interested in what we are saying, but just like we all have different tastes in foods, books, and music, so will the reaction vary as to how our students react to us. For a long time, teachers have relied on the idea of "motivation" as to how well students react to information. I hear a lot of times that "if students were just motivated.... X would happen", but that's not how things work. While "compelling" is not necessarily required to acquire language (simply put), it is required for fully successful SLA (Krashen, 2011; Patrick, 2019). When input is compelling, there is not need for "motivation" because one is so drawn in that they "forget" they are actually acquiring language and enter what Krashen (2011) calls a state of flow (Krashen, 2011). You don't have to want to improve, it will just happen because you find the material so compelling; the resulting progress may even be completely unexpected (Krashen, 2011). Patrick (2019) notes the immediate connection between this hypothesis and the affective filter, "choice may be one way of lowering the affective filter and inviting students into the understandable input that we have planned for them - if our planning has taken [student choices] into consideration" (Patrick, 2019, p. 42). This is why I said yesterday that the compelling input and affective filter principles are the most important, in my opinion, when it comes to being a teacher who truly understands and employs CI principles. Everything we do must be run through a CI filter. Every decision we make must be comprehensible, allow natural order, avoid the monitor until they are ready, provide input, lower the affective filter, and be compelling.
If that list overwhelmed you, I get it. It can be a lot and no one is perfect. We adjust. In the next two sections, I am going to reflect myself on the questions I posed yesterday and then show how I might consider the 6 principles of CI when looking at a topic often covered in Latin classes. I hope you can see how this principle and all 6, when fully understood and applied, provide a classroom where students are valued and respected for who they are and included as people who belong in the classroom with me.
Before I do. Thank you for coming with me on this journey. While my daily blogging pauses here for now, the conversation isn't over. I would love to consider a follow up post (or a few) addressing any specifics, questions, or ideas we share in our community. There has already been great discussion on various social medias about this. I'd like to see more.
Reflection - Discussion
A quick work through
Let's look at a common topic taught in Latin classes, and one I previously discussed: the house and home. Here are some quick suggestions for how I consider the three CCCs of CI and the six principles. This is not exhaustive. Please, if you'd like, reach out and let's talk more!
Krashen, S. (2011). The compelling (not just interesting) input hypothesis. The English Connection (KOTESOL), 15, (3). Retrieved from:
Patrick, R. (2019). Comprehensible Input and Krashen's theory. Journal of Classics Teaching, 20(39), 37-44. doi:10.1017/S2058631019000060
This is part 5 in a 6 part series. If you haven't, please go and read parts 1-4 first. They are on the first four principles of the Comprehension Hypothesis: Acquisition and Learning, the Natural Order Hypothesis, the monitor principle, the input hypothesis, and their role in social justice in the classroom.
The Affective Filter
Krashen (1983) really describes this well, "Performers with certain types of motivation, usually, but not always 'integrative' and with good self-images do better in second language acquisition" (Krashen, 1983, p. 38). Patrick (2019) goes on to say that without this principle, would create an environment with no link between the students and the teacher (Patrick, 2019).
This principle gets to the heart of every other principle. Without fully understanding the affective filter and the effect it has on our students, nothing else matters. Our affective filters are "made up of... motivation and lethargy, self-esteem and self-doubt, confidence and anxiety, calm and stress" (Patrick, 2019, p. 42). The lower the filter, the more open one is to receiving input and, thus, acquiring language (Krashen, 1983).
A lot of the argument against Comprehensible Input as an inherently more equitable set of principles than others does not take fully into account, particularly, how this principle affects all the other principles. Scattered throughout each of my posts are examples of how a whole and true understanding of the Comprehension Hypothesis requires an anti-racist, multicultural, and restorative approach to teaching and working with students. If you aren't applying this daily, hourly, moment by moment to your work, you are not providing comprehensible input and you are missing a major piece to understanding this work and its importance. Further, if you are, there is still and always will be work to do. I don't say this to call anyone a bad person or to say that anyone shouldn't do this work. I say this to say, "this IS the work." Full stop.
Tomorrow's post is on the last principle, the Compelling Input Hypothesis. It is, in my opinion, the second most important piece for CI, after this one. To quote my father (yes, the one who wrote one of the articles I keep referencing), "You have to love the kids more than the content". For the practical part of today, I want to give some reflective questions that I will, hopefully, provide some discussion of tomorrow. I'd love to see your thoughts on these questions.
Krashen, S. (1983). The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in the Classroom. Alemany Press.
Patrick, R. (2019). Comprehensible Input and Krashen's theory. Journal of Classics Teaching, 20(39), 37-44. doi:10.1017/S2058631019000060
This particular blog is dedicated to social justice workings in my professional and personal life.