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JTB_5 last won the day on November 15

JTB_5 had the most liked content!

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Personal Information

  • Location
    Pensacola, FL
  • Interests and Hobbies
    Reading, roasting coffee, collecting and sharpening knives
  • Favorite Authors
    Augustine, Calvin, Milton, Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton
  • Occupation
  • School Name
    Trinitas Christian School

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  1. That's great! I hope you see much fruit from your efforts.
  2. JTB_5

    How do you keep school at school?

    Year one = survival Year two = tweaking elements of the course, or of my own teaching Year three = the class or course is finally becoming "my own" -- its rhythms, assignments, pedagogy Hang in there! In my experience year two is as difficult as year one, but in different ways. Year two builds on the experience of year one, but there hasn't been enough experience to have seen all of the areas of improvement (particularly to the assessments and content of a class) because everything is new at every margin. In year two some margins are routine, which allows other margins to get attention, but that attention means time thinking, time creating, time trying out--all of which takes up the same energy (maybe more!) that 1st year did. So, there is hope for the future in terms of just the way experience will build upon itself. On the other hand, I sympathize with your desire to make changes now that will bless your family. Perhaps taking an inventory of where your time is being spent will help you identify places where you can sacrifice a school thing for a family thing? Another thing, which one of my colleagues helped me to see, was taking the Lord's word seriously about Sabbath rest--I should strive to work in such a way that Sunday is not a "cram" day for grading, prepping, etc.; and instead allow Sunday to be restful time with Church and family. Such simple obedience has made a big difference in my own attitude toward "school" (less anxiety, less temptation toward resentment) as well as "family."
  3. Our younger age grammar teachers spend at least two weeks (sometimes more with difficult classes) just training the routines and transitions of a normal day/week. The early effort to set those parameters or guide rails for little people really make the year go much more smoothly. Frustration due to lack of understanding cannot foster piety, nor is it pious for a teacher to ignore the students' need for those things. Parents fall into the same category, of course. So much of my own parenting has been learning to see my children's needs for structures and procedures that I take for granted (or haven't mastered myself). I suppose we might call such things the "formal" aspects of piety, since they set the stage for pious action to flourish. New vocabulary can help us see old things afresh, or create confusion. The key is, I think, to see what kind of environment and activity the policies and rules are attempting to create and foster. As teachers we don't have a lot of say (in many cases, no say at all) about the policies and rules, but we have great control over the atmosphere in which the rules are implemented, the manner in which they are implemented, and our own embodiment of the virtues and practices the rules and policies seek to promote. Personally, my mind has more difficulty piecing out each moment and detail so as to meet a rule or accomplish a task (which is much more necessary for younger age students), but some of the teachers I work with have mastered the ability to do small things (a way of saying something, a small change in procedure) to eliminate selfish choices or remove selfish actions without it creating confrontation or stress upon the students or parents. It's beautiful, really.
  4. JTB_5

    Rhetoric with Substance

    Paul, Thank you for the reply. I've read Josh's blog post and agree that, where possible, testing students on character and openly using the resources they've received eliminates the tedium of many assessments, and allows students to grow from the assessment as opposed to simply regurgitate information. For essays and speaking assignments in rhetoric, I've tried to accomplish something similar by giving scenarios of deliberative or forensic cases, which the students must argue (sometimes on both sides). One of my favorites is to use the facts from Twelve Angry Men without telling the students, to see whether they can discern how many holes in the witness testimony and evidence there are, or whether they get caught up in the status of the boy and his relationship to his father. It proves a good lesson in seeking out justice. Thanks for responding Karen, and for the encouragement. I agree that results of education are often delayed, particularly with young men. Perhaps classical educators and parents should develop more consistent ways of telling the stories of students who have demonstrated and reaped the fruits of their education? I certainly hope my students have Shakespeare in their head. Maybe one day I'll also get Homer in their heads as well (not that Churchill shouldn't be there, too!). Better still, I hope students will be able to sense their need to choose a model or models for their own writing, believing that the model will inspire their own creativity, rather than stunting it.
  5. Regarding the effects of an individual teacher's theology and its impact upon student piety, the burden would be upon the institutional authorities--the Board of Governors in policy-making, the headmaster in setting those policies into the context of the school for the other administrators and teachers, and the other administrators and teachers holding one another accountable to the policies and standards codified in rules and institutional norms. Let me try to bring all of that abstraction down into the concrete. One school sees orderliness, respect for teacher, and love for neighbor best expressed in turn taking, so they make a rule requiring students to raise their hands and be called upon by the teacher before speaking. One or another teacher might care more or less for the rule, but institutionally, their duty is to submit to the policy and hold students accountable to it as well. Another school sees orderliness, respect for teacher, and love for neighbor best expressed in free exchange orchestrated by the teacher, so they make a rule requiring teachers to encourage free participation with the expectation that the teacher will ensure all the voices are heard, the lesson follows its plan, and the teacher summarizes the contributions at the end. Again, one or another teacher might prefer the rule or not, but piety will be expressed by everyone seeking to uphold the policy faithfully. Not all instances of piety reduce to policies and rules, of course, but there are so many of them that do in a school environment that it really is incumbent upon the administration and faculty to work together to be on the same page. At the school where I teach we've often had teachers change their own parenting approach based upon the policies and rules that the school has in place because they could see in their own and other teachers' enforcement that children learned and loved one another better than when left entirely to their own devices. To go to the original question, I think a lot of what piety looks like in the pre-grammar stages boils down to imitation of order and preferring others: sitting when it is time to sit; standing upright with clothing all in order; looking people in the eye when speaking or being spoken to; responding to commands right away, all the way, and with a good attitude; holding doors for classmates; cleaning up thoroughly and putting things back in the right place; etc., etc., etc.,--AND (here's the kicker), making sure that all of these activities are verbalized in terms of love: "let's love our neighbor by putting everything away neatly so they can find it easily the next time we use it," "We love people by looking them in the eye when listening and speaking," so that the motivation is being encouraged in addition to the behavior itself.
  6. Let's see if we can create a list of the best books teachers have read or can read on a variety of topics related to classical education. I'll begin by identifying a few categories and listing a book or two in the categories I've read good books in. Feel free to add a category and please populate the existing categories with books. You don't have to add a reason, but you are welcome to do that too. Some books probably fit into several categories. Books about Classical Education Norms and Nobility, David Hicks The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis History Books on Classical Period Education in Antiquity, H. I. Marrou History Books on Medieval Period The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, Charles Homer Haskins History Books on Modern Period English Society in the 18th Century, Roy Porter Historiography Books Historiography: Secular and Religious, Gordon H. Clark City of God, Augustine Literature/Poetry from or about Classical Period The Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer Sophocles: The Theban Plays Black Ships Before Troy, Rosemary Sutcliffe Literature/Poetry from or about Medieval Period The Confessions of St. Augustine The Divine Comedy, Dante The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco Literature/Poetry from or about Modern Period Novels of Jane Austen Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins Literary/Poetry Analysis/Composition Books The Anatomy of Prose & The Anatomy of Poetry, Marjorie Boulton Books that Concern the Trivium (Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric) The Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer The Complete Dialogues of Plato The Complete Works of Aristotle The Complete Works of Shakespeare Farnsworth's Classical Rhetoric & Farnsworth's Classical English Metaphor, Ward Farnsworth Books that Concern the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Astronomy) Introduction to Arithmetic, Nichomachus The Elements of Euclid Books that exhibit/teach the skills of a Philosopher The Complete Dialogues of Plato On the Teacher, Augustine Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius Books that exhibit/teach the skills of a Theologian Sermons of Augustine, Chrysostom Commentaries of John Calvin A House for My Name, Peter Leithart
  7. At our school we have taught two years of logic at least since I began teaching back in 2010. I've taught the first year course (8th grade), which covers categorical logic and informal fallacies, three times and this year I'm teaching the second year course (propositional logic, with a unit on digital logic). Our plan is to combine the two courses into one and teach it in the 9th grade. I'm curious to know how other schools and teachers have taught formal logic in their schools: Do you do it in one year or two, and what is the rationale? Do you teach categorical and propositional, or only one, or neither; and what is the rationale? To what age group do you teach formal logic and why?
  8. I've heard Andrew Kern say that a course in rhetoric could be taught using Homer exclusively. I believe it, since Laurent Pernot notes that, "I. J. F. de Jong has calculated that in the Iliad, speeches in direct discourse, by number of verses, represent 45 percent of the entire length of the poem," not to mention that the sheer variety of speech forms in Homer's works covers the spectrum of classical genres. Similarly, much of Shakespeare's work comprises speeches in direct discourse. Though I've not read it myself, Quentin Skinner wrote a book on Shakespeare's use of formal elements from forensic rhetoric. The Poet and The Bard display the full language of life rendered most apt and most beautiful (isn't that what we want to bring about in ourselves and our students?). Not all of the speeches in Homer and Shakespeare are imitable, thus some serve as negative examples to analyze and avoid. Good modeling includes examples on every level (good, bad, mediocre). What is notable for the purposes of teaching rhetoric is that both Homer and Shakespeare afford theory and imitation, which can be put into practice--and theory, imitation, and practice make up the whole program of rhetoric in the classical tradition. One of my long-term goals is to construct a one-year course of rhetoric that used Homer and Shakespeare exclusively. In the meantime I'm trying to incorporate more Homer and Shakespeare into the courses I already teach. What do you all think of the prospect of such a project? Any else tried using Homer and/or Shakespeare to teach rhetoric?
  9. I have a 5th grader and a 6th grader and I'd say the two biggest virtues we're working on with them are self-control (temperance) and resolution (a kind of fortitude?). I want my boys to have control over their appetites and emotions, and this age seems to be key insofar as they have growing self-awareness of their appetites and desires as such, and possess more capacity to control them apart from physical discipline or direct parental restraint. I also want my boys to finish the work they have been given or undertake for themselves, thus resolution means seeing something through to completion, having taken care to follow instruction, attend to details, and perform up to their current ability with zeal. Having taught girls in 7th grade, I'd say charity and justice: charity to seek the best for their female peers for their own sake (and not to preen their vanity) and to complement rather than dominate their male peers through criticism, indifference, or parading; and justice to discern the proper proportion for their words and actions (giving compliments or criticism, how much time to spend with one or another person in the class, how to receive praise and criticism, etc.).
  10. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) constitutes one of the fronts on which our school fights for the hearts of parents against the prevailing educational system. A number of our parents desire their child or children to pursue careers in a STEM field and worry that Classical Education focuses too heavily upon "humanities" to the neglect of STEM. We have plenty of test score data to prove that our students do equally well and often outperform students in STEM programs in the areas of mathematics and science. Good for classical educators, I say! On another front, however, it seems to me that the next bridge for the classical education movement to cross involves teaching mathematics and "hard" sciences more classically, which is to say, more "humanities-like," which is to say, more liberally (quadrivium!). Ravi Jain and Andrew Kern are two men who I know of who are leading the vanguard over that bridge. Here are my questions about this topic: What are the sources that will aid our mathematics and science teachers toward mathematics and science content that is classical? Who are the teachers who have begun crafting the pedagogy for teaching classical mathematics and science? What sort of training is available (or could be made available) to to provide our mathematics and science teachers the skills for teaching these things classically?
  11. JTB_5

    Logic across the Curriculum?

    Short answer: yes! Longer answer: I think it matters what counts as "dialectic." I've seen enough variety of expressions to have concern about what passes under that term (I'm lumping in "Socratic teaching" here). Even within Plato's dialogues dialectic can be more destructive or constructive, depending upon the interlocutors. The best teaching I've witnessed in others involves both kinds--destructive in those moments when a student's prejudice or self-assuredness is inhibiting their learning, and constructive when a student's thoughts are laboring, but need some midwifery to give birth to something living. Training that sort of teaching in teachers who don't have a natural inclination toward would seem to require a lot of imitation of skilled teachers, simple opportunities to practice, and one-on-one feedback with follow up opportunities to improve. It would be fun to see a conference or school conduct a few days for accomplishing that sort of training.
  12. JTB_5

    Where are you from?

    Although I teach Logic and Rhetoric level classes, my children are all Grammar age, so I try to keep up with what's going on with them. I teach at Trinitas Christian School in Pensacola, FL. I've been teaching there since 2010, which is also when I began my journey in Classical and Christian Education (although my parents homeschooled us from the time I was in middle school, so alternative forms of education wasn't entirely new to me).
  13. My family has five children, ages 2, 5, 7, 10, and 11. The youngest is a girl, but the rest are boys. All of our boys sleep in the same room, so for as long as I can remember we've made it a practice to read in the evenings while the boys were in bed. As the boys have grown older, the books we've chosen to read have matured as well. What began as condensed Bible stories and picture books has grown into reading the Bible and books by Brian Jaques, N.D. Wilson, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, as well as series like Imagination Station, I Survived, Magic Tree House, and Harry Potter. I had never been especially carful to filter what we read for the younger children, since the older boys never really reacted oddly to the books we read. However, my 5-year-old has been more sensitive to scarier moments, and I've tried to mitigate this by reading the Bible and younger-age-level books until he falls asleep and going to more advanced books afterward. We've also considered having one of us read to the two youngest in my daughter's room while the other read to the older boys in the boys' room. What family reading practices do you follow in your homes, and how have you navigated the variety of ages and responses to "heavier" or more difficult books?
  14. JTB_5

    Rhetoric with Substance

    Good reading and good writing/speaking often go together, though good reading is not always a necessary component in my experience (some folks have a gift for writing or speaking without being readers, though probably all of the good readers were capable writers and speakers). As I've thought about it more, I think attentiveness and selection make a difference. If one is attentive to people, one hears a lot of words--both wise and foolish. Being able to recognize the difference and select the wise seems like a gift or skill that can be cultivated.
  15. Memorization builds upon itself--the more one tries to memorize, the more one's capacity to memorize grows (though I'm sure there's a golden mean somewhere in there). I've had students memorize speeches from Shakespeare by reciting them once or twice per class period and most of them can get it down pretty well in a couple of weeks or so. That would mean about 10-15 days, so 10-15 weeks if you met once per week. If you are reciting the catechism daily, I'd say you could do a fair amount and still have it memorized by the end of a semester or year. I think the size matters less than the quality, though. If you have 10 great questions and 40 mediocre ones, better to do just ten. If you have 75 great questions, then you might have to pick and choose.

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