Thursday, September 25, 2008

Learning in the Company of Friends

At 9:30 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, I start to feel a little nervous. I pack up my books and walk from my office in the LDC (Language and Dining Center) to Goodsell Observatory, passing the prairie plantings and the bur oaks outside and the display case full of meteorite fragments inside. Down in the basement classroom, H. and J. are already there, arranging the chair desks into a circle, making sure there's a left-handed chair desk for M. My nerves relax as the other students arrive and complete the circle, and we sit down together to translate Sophocles. The students ask hard and important questions, make interesting comments, and frequently laugh. The president of the college, Rob Oden, likes to talk about a college education, particularly a Carleton education, as "learning in the company of friends." When I'm in class with my eight Greek students, I understand what he means.

As I was reading over the assignment before class yesterday, I came across a word that I hadn't previously parsed. I realized that it was an unusual form, and I spent several minutes—in consultation with Clara and Smyth's Greek Grammar—making sure I had it firmly in my grasp.

"I just know that J. is going to ask me about this one," I told Clara.

And I was right. J. did ask me. The word, incidentally, was a Greek participle that means "rejoicing together."

These students constantly push me and hold me accountable. The work we do together in class is a collaboration, as much a part of my own education as it is of theirs. I feel so much potential in those students that I feel more connected to my own. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I always find two or three of my students in the classics library, digging into the lexicon together, helping each other through thickets of grammar. Often, I'll hear laughter. The sound of my students rejoicing together, learning in the company of friends.


Shan said...

How sweet. Super glad it's going well so far. Love the photo of your formerly toddler boys you left on my blog earlier: sweetest pic ever!

Jim H. said...

Dammit, Rob, you made me cry! Seriously, in the midst of the nasty political rhetoric, the crumbling economy, and a bunch of other crap going on, your beautiful story of passionate students with a lust for learning made my week.

(That and the Twins taking the first two games from Chicago).


Christopher Tassava said...

That sounds wonderful! If you ever walk further, to the library, stop by...

Penelope said...

"Learning in the company of friends" is a phrase strongly associated with Kenyon College, where of course Rob Oden was president before he came to Carleton. It is a pleasant concept, indeed.

New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .