January is generally a time where people make lots of goals for the new year. But if you’re a teacher, or someone who works with teachers, the year doesn’t really start in January, it starts in August or September, just before the students come back. This is the time when teachers set goals both for their students, and for themselves – what do they want to accomplish both professionally and personally. For Latin teachers, in particular, making the transition to a Comprehensible Input based classroom, developing personal proficiency is high on that list of goals. After all, many think, if we as Latin teachers aren’t able to accurately and confidently produce the language that we teach, how can we provide students with sufficient input for them to acquire it?By now, one or two months into the school year (depending on where you teach), the energy and idealism of the beginning of the school year have started to wear off. Certain things have become routine – either new techniques that you’ve decided to implement this year, or reliable old habits that help you make it through the school day. This is a good time to pause and take stock of where you are, to give yourself a jump start where needed, but also to give yourself credit and praise where it’s due.
First of all, if you’ve fallen back on some old habits, or failed to keep up on some of the goals you’ve set for yourself, don’t worry about it. Let that psychological burden go. I suspect that the people who seem to have the most consistent discipline, whether it’s daily meditation, exercise, diet, writing, or maintaining a strong language learning regimen, did not get there in a single transformation. They slipped up just like the rest of us, and had to start over again. Over time, however, they’ve managed to cut-down on the length and frequency of these lapses. Even David Allen, the productivity guru behind Getting Things Done, says that he regularly gets off track with his organization. The key, however, is that he has a robust, reliable system, that he knows works, which he can use to quickly and efficiently get back on track. And he can do this without carrying around feelings of failure, because he is merely human like the rest of us.
It’s been almost a year since the last Latin Reading Challenge post, and the topic of reading habits has once again come up on the Teaching Latin for Acquisition Facebook group (alright, maybe I was the one who brought it up). [side note – if you’re not a member of the TLA group, I highly recommend you join. Whether you are a Latin teacher who has years of experience with CI-based teaching, or if you’re just taking your first steps in these very weeks, it is a fantastic community. I commend the group not only for providing another place for teachers to ask questions and get concrete, practical advice, but for the emotional support it provides for people who have chosen to step well outside their comfort zone.] We recently discussed reading habits on the Quomodo Dicitur? Podcast, and, in response to one of my posts on TLA, someone asked if we could start the Latin Reading Challenge back up. So, just like with our reading habit, let’s brush ourselves off and get started again.
For seven of the last eight days, I’ve been able to maintain my reading habit by reading one of Seneca’s letters every day (or, in the case of a longer/more difficult letter, splitting it up across two days). Eight days is a long way off from a robust, life-long practice, but I’m feeling good about things so far, and giving myself due credit for the achievement.
In other posts I’ll talk about limiting your reading, and other things that have been helpful, but for now, I’ll just encourage you to find some way to track your daily reading. The simpler and more basic the system, the better. I had initially signed up for HabitForge, but my use of that site lasted all of a day. I’ve been more successful with an app on my phone, called HabitBull. It’s based on Jerry Seinfeld’s technique for maintaining a daily writing practice, by putting a red ‘X’ on a calendar each day that he writes. The goal, once you have a few consecutive days marked down, is to not break the streak. The main advantage that HabitBull has over HabitForge is that I can use it on my phone (in fact, there isn’t a web-app, you have to use your phone), I don’t have to sit down at my computer to log my progress. It takes me just a second to open the app, click today’s date to confirm that I accomplished my goal, and then move on with my day. That said, I think there’s a lot of merit in doing as Seinfeld suggests, and having a physical, prominently visible record of your daily habit.
So, for now, find something to read (you can look through older LRC posts for advice on this), find a way to track it, and I’ll see you in the next post.