A Doorway to New Beginnings
January was named for the Greek god Jãnus, who was hailed as the keeper of doorways and beginnings, as well as the rising and the setting of the sun. January is the month that marks the beginning of a new year that, with it, often opens new doors, rolls out new opportunities, and presents new goals.The month’s name derives from the Latin word ianua and translates as gate, door, or doorway – a fitting word for this time of new beginnings. It was among my favorite words to watch students learn in Latin class, as was fenestra, which translates as window. Many of my favorites came with great stories to help students connect the word to its translation. Perhaps you know a logic/rhetoric student who will remember some of the foundational stories! Interestingly, the derivation of the English word janitor/custodian also traces back to this Latin word, ianua. This, too, makes sense when you think of janitorial work – work that often lends itself towards something new, fresh, complete, or clean. Often times in a school, this is work done after the setting of the sun. Each day, as the sun rises, we then enter the doors of the school and the work of the evening before greets us; the air smells fresh, the space looks tidy, and we start a new day. Likewise, when anything technological fails in our classroom, a quick, panicked call to our faithful custodian, Jay, provides us a fresh start!
Fifth Grade: The Doorway to the Logic StageSo, you see ianua allows us to take a deep breath and start afresh. Ahhhh…the sound of it is heavenly. How does this fresh start trickle into the fifth-grade classroom, you may wonder? The fifth-grade year is a time of transition and movement within the trivium model of classical education. All throughout the year, the evidence of growing, vibrant thinkers is becoming increasingly pronounced. Students begin a slow but apparent movement from grammar stage memorization that builds a great foundation to beginning to feel that they know enough to “argue” what they think, or at the least to share in great depth what they are becoming passionate about. While some students remain more absorbing thinkers for much of the year, they continue to build a solid foundation to glean from. Many students are beginning the developmental transition of taking the grammar knowledge they have absorbed, wanting to know more, and beginning to invest extra time into what they have heard, seen, or done. They become the students who love to share their own knowledge and build upon the foundational lessons of the teacher. They are the students who just cannot stop talking about the things they are learning. They are the students whose eyes light up when a certain topic comes around in the text or literature. And they are the students who without realizing it begin adding to the beauty of the lessons being taught and the information being learned when they conquer the ability to share purposefully. The wonder in it is that these students also quietly urge other classmates to invest in learning and often are the students who happily “tutor” their friends along the way. There is such splendor in watching students encourage students and seeing them begin to light up with a desire to know more. January is also a time in the classroom when we begin to purposefully build up more confidence and yes—independence! At the fifth-grade level we hasten the steps to prepare young learners to transition to the school of logic, where they will be required to be much more independent, organized, and responsible. Of course, much grace and a good deal of encouragement continue along the way. However, with the correct amount of “You can do it!”— confidence, and “You did it!”—independence, a student will happily rely on themselves more often, which in turn boosts their growing self-confidence and supports their interest in learning and growing. While all of this has been going on bit-by-bit since September, January is a time when a fifth-grade grammar teacher feels the urgency to continue the work of teaching curriculum as well as expediate the preparation of students who are eager, responsible, independent, and organized—students who are ready to move on to a new level. How does this happen, you might ask? We simply encourage more. The first half of the year is spent encouraging students to manage themselves, their time, their friendships, their conversations, their work, their deadlines, and their space with less and less direct reminders from the teacher. It requires purposeful training on the teacher’s part. The fruit that will grow from this encouragement is planted in a teacher’s firm expectations, a good amount of patience, and the occasional sprinklings of grace. Mix this with the student’s growing maturity and pride in work well done, and that allows the student to develop a spirit of knowing they can do great things and they can be a part of something that is lovely. As a fifth-grade teacher at the Academy, I have two great advantages. The classical teaching model aligns with (because it is based on) a student’s brain development. The trivium is structured in such a way that when students are developmentally ready to ask questions, our teaching becomes more directed toward teaching them how to use those questions to learn. This shift happens between the grammar and logic stages of learning. I am able to help encourage a shift in learning that is already happening in the way their brain is starting to process. The second, more outstanding, gift as a Classical Christian educator, is that we can teach students in the knowledge of God our Father. We can teach them to know that our God is a God of organization. This lesson of orderliness provides the understanding that they can complete an assignment on their own, on time, and hand it in. We can demonstrate Christ’s compassion and love for one another and with that example they can initiate reconciliation with a friend or compassion to a fellow classmate that is struggling. And finally teaching students that Christ leads by example and using the Bible as an illustration of that leadership, they can also imitate Him and be leaders. So, while January will roll out new opportunities to mature and grow, we are guaranteed that in the knowledge and love of Christ this lovely ASA fifth-grade class is well on their way to being beautiful logic students.