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JTB_5

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JTB_5 last won the day on March 23

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

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  1. JTB_5

    What Should We Read?

    No need to apologize! Diverging paths often make up part of a good conversation. I'll admit that I still often struggle to evoke wonder in the classes I teach (with ages ranging from 13-18). Often it is the questions I ask, and sometimes, even with a good question, it is a failure to set up the context in which the question will flourish. Speaking of good questions, that's one! Assessment is one of those words that means so many different things, and the meanings are not all equal, or all good. I'll elaborate below, but my short answer is that most activities need a form of assessment, but the form must match the purpose of the activity. I am reminded of an anecdote from David I. Smith's lecture on Teaching and Christian Practices, where he talks about his son's theology assessment. The unit was something like the ten most important theological words in the New Testament. David was asking his son questions like, "What does Justification mean? How is it different from Sanctification?" and his son, after growing frustrated, exclaimed, "but we don't have to know it that deeply, we just need to be able to match them" (or something to that effect). A matching list for an assessment obviously retards wonder or contemplation by its very nature--Smith even showed how you could change the font to Wingdings, memorize the patterns, and still score perfectly on a matching assessment. Assessment like that certainly impedes wonder. On the other hand, I think that a certain kind of assessment gets naturally evoked from the right line of questioning. In the same lecture, Smith talks about a lecture he used to give to his German language classes about German culture. If I recall correctly, what caused him to formulate the lecture was his frustration with German language textbooks, which used phrases and situations that were mainly consumerist and tourist in nature. They did not invite the students to understand the German people through their language, and thereby have a chance to love their neighbor in any particular way. So he had the students come into class silently, with some quiet music playing (I think) and, in a darkened room, spend a few minutes looking at a picture of several people projected on the board. He then began to ask them questions about what they saw. When they would get hasty, he would slow them down and cause them to think again. By having them attend carefully to the picture, he allowed their curiosity to build so that they became naturally interested in what was going on, who the people were, and so on. He then told them something about the people, who turned out to be German students who had formed a resistance against the Nazi party in Germany during WWII. I think that sort of lecture invites self-reflection (a kind of assessment) that can then be returned to in a more formal way (a reflection paper, a journal entry, a research project, etc.) that goes deeper into that original experience of reflection and can be assessed both in terms of the skill (writing, research, etc.) and the virtue (growth in perspective/charity toward others).
  2. JTB_5

    What Should We Read?

    You misunderstand me. Invoking Socrates as an example of using rhetoric isn't an advocation for employing rhetorical techniques or becoming polished rhetoricians. Insofar as Socrates understood the souls of his interlocutors, the difficulties of the subject of inquiry, and the context of the exchange--to that extent he is understanding rhetorically by his own definition (enchanting the soul by means of words). The question I was responding to, as I understood it, was what sort of questioning can provoke wonder rather than create defensiveness or fear. Your response to me identifies something else, which is what sort of questions that wondering asks--this is different! Cheryl's conundrum with her friend illustrates the problem I was trying to address--Cheryl was pursuing questions that characterize wonder (your response to me), but her friend took it as suspicious interrogation. How does one use questions that inspire wonder rather than defensiveness/fear? To that I still maintain that thinking rhetorically is helpful, because it accepts the possibility that a soul may need something other than "the questions wonder asks" in order to be provoked to wonder. Sometimes a display of wonder in one persons sparks it in another. Sometimes a rebuke can spark wonder (I can imagine this as the response of the Rich Young Ruler to Jesus's line of inquiry--he goes away sad, but perhaps wondering about himself as he has never done). And the difference between sparking wonder in a 2-year-old and a 45-year-old will look very different.
  3. JTB_5

    What Should We Read?

    Questioning is rhetorical, and being rhetorical, questioning is particular, and being particular questioning requires a context. The context for questioning will either be assumed by the audience/interlocutor (which could be quite different than what the rhetor desires!) or orchestrated by the rhetor who carefully sets the context before the audience/interlocutor, or given by the occasion (e.g. interrogation in a court of law). The rhetor has to two-fold task: to analyze the audience/interlocutor in order to understand their frame of reference, their prejudices, their purposes, etc. and to craft an audience/interlocutor that is not necessarily the original, but which he hopes the original will aspire to identify with and/or imitate. If the rhetor wants to cultivate wonder in the audience/interlocutor, then she must take the subject matter, the context, and the audience into consideration in what kinds of questions to ask, when, and in what relation to other forms of address may be necessary in addition to questions (such as clarifying examples). There are a couple of Platonic dialogues that I've used with students to illustrate the differences in the way Socrates uses dialectic with different interlocutors. In The Gorgias, Socrates interacts with three different interlocutors: Gorgias, the Sophist; Polus, his young apprentice; and Callicles, a politician. Socrates says his main reason for coming to the house of Callicles is to question Gorgias about his profession (what is rhetoric?). He wants to have a philosophical discussion about Gorgias's expertise. His discourse is noticeably more courteous with Gorgias when compared to his exchange with Polus and Callicles--Polus shows himself an ignorant and an impatient thinker, while Callicles shows himself a man who puts his passions above reason. Then, compare Socrates's seemingly harsh treatment of Polus and Callicles with his statements about the soul in the myth of the charioteer in The Phaedrus: the Charioteer must curb the appetites of the bad steed and direct the good steed (the thumos or will) by the severest methods--perhaps the very same methods Socrates uses with Polus and Callicles, whose souls are more given to the appetite that to reason? Whether or not we want to treat people the way Socrates does, he illustrates the attentiveness the rhetor must have to his audience if he wishes to move the audience's soul in some direction. I could go on about how Socrates creates a context for his questioning in The Phaedrus, but I've already gone on too long in this response. To summarize: the art of questioning is part of rhetoric, which requires the questioner to be aware of the subject matter, audience, and context of the questions in order to bring about the desired result.
  4. That's Milton, not Donne. With whom did you study the poem?
  5. Yes, the school I teach at is in Pensacola. I've been here since the 2010-2011 school year (I think Josh started there in 2008-2009?). If you want to drop in for a chat and see the school, look us up! Trinitas Christian School.
  6. I had the privilege of teaching alongside Josh during the four years we were at the same school. Observing him teach revealed a unique and hard to replicate aspect of his skill: he has a profound ability to do two things--first, to place a book into the story of its author's life, which then, second, becomes a story within the intellectual and social climate of the author's time. Josh's ability to tell stories means that he is able to take very few, but rich secondary sources and from them craft his own narrative for the book he is teaching. Instead of being encyclopedic (lots of historical and cultural background, which can then be "spotted" and "analyzed" when the book is read), Josh's approach immerses the students the way a movie does: through a series of scenes (complete with setting, characters, and their interactions) that can then be understood as a whole rather than analyzed in pieces. I don't know if that makes much sense without watching him do it. I know it is even harder to replicate than to talk about. On the other hand, I've seen other teachers who use sources very differently than Josh and with excellent results. The key seems to be combining quality teacher resources (primary and secondary sources) with the teacher's immersion in them (study) and then embodying the knowledge gained in a way suited to the teacher's gifts (preparation, reflection, revision).
  7. JTB_5

    What Should We Read?

    I've been blazing my way through Alan Jacobs' book, How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds and have found it both pleasant and insightful. I think Jacobs chooses his examples very wisely in making his points, and he relies upon a variety of evidence. If I have the time, I'll post an independent thread for reviewing and discussing the book, but I wanted to mention it here and see if anyone else has read it. Anyone read (or planning to read) Jacobs' book?
  8. You might want to check again. I found an import copy for in very good condition for under $10 and ordered it. There were others in the same condition at approximately the same price.
  9. I've only read Teaching and Christian Practices and another one he's edited called Teaching and Christian Imagination, which is also helpful.
  10. I have Marrou's book and I've read sections of it when wanting to know more about a particular aspect of the periods about which he writes. It is very thorough, and has a good perspective from what I can tell.
  11. JTB_5

    What Should We Read?

    We have Adler's book on our shelves where I teach, but I've not read it.
  12. David I. Smith, during a lecture he did for the Alcuin retreat a few years back on Teaching and Christian Practices (he has a book by that name, but I don't recall the actual title of the lecture), mentioned that rooms have a "power spot" that teachers often use (consciously or unconsciously) to gain authority over a room of students. He talks about how one day a teacher was absent and another person (a teacher?) came into the room and it wasn't until the person stood at the head of the room that students quieted down and asked if the person was the substitute. I don't know if that fits with your children, but it speaks to the embodied nature of all learning activities.
  13. I don't have either or these, nor have I heard of them. I do have an book similar to the first that I bought over a year ago that I haven't gotten to yet, Killing the Spirit, by Page Smith. It is dated (1990) in dealing with contemporary developments in Higher Ed, but I think it was an early warning shot across the bow. I'm also currently reading a couple of books that pertain to education: The Gift of Failure, by Jessica Lahey, and Cicero, by Anthony Everett. Lahey is an educator who had to learn as both parent and educator how to allow children to grow confident and competent through responding to failures and learning from them. Overprotective or hasty parenting (doing it for the kids) causes children to think themselves incompetent or controlled (there is more, of course). It is a good book for parents and educators like me, who aren't patient and have a sinful fear of failure. The Cicero biography is a very accessible book so far, and I have been wanting to learn more about Cicero since I teach Rhetoric.
  14. JTB_5

    What Should We Read?

    This is a good word, Patrick. I especially think showing curiosity and humility are weighty. The couple of times I've been asked to teach a great books type course the students typically want to draw a conclusion or judgment about the good/bad or useful/worthless nature of something the book discusses (or the book itself). If a teacher doesn't handle those reactions carefully, we encourage students to stand in condemnation of what they study, rather than try to understand and learn from it (even if it is deeply flawed).
  15. JTB_5

    What Should We Read?

    I have read the translation of Inferno by Dorothy Sayers. The notes are wonderful, but for me it introduced me to numerous vocabulary words I'd never heard of before (which made for some difficulty in the flow of reading).
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