September 22, 2006

Pisces natare doces.

In English: You're teaching fish how to swim.

In other words, you are wasting your time - fish already know how to swim! This is an equal and opposite foolishness in comparison to yesterday's proverb about teaching a camel to dance. It is foolish to teach a camel to dance (camels don't dance) and it is foolish to teach fish to swim (they already know how).

If you put these two proverbs together, you realize how hard it is to be a teacher! When I was teaching in a traditional classroom setting, I felt desperately constrained by both of these possibilities. I would see, in one room, camels and fish. The range of interests and abilities in the classroom, and the requirement that I teach the students simultaneously, in the same place and at the same time, was beyond my abilities as a teacher.

Now, however, I teach online - and it is so much more satisfying. Teaching online, I can build learning activities that suit the individual students. Camels, fish - the more the merrier! The flexibility of an online class allows me to anticipate and accommodate an incredible range of student interests and abilities, without trying to come up with a "one-size-fits-all" classroom performance three times per week. The camels maybe are not learning how to dance, but they are learning things that camels want to learn, such as... hmmm... desert navigation! The fish, meanwhile, are learning not just to swim, but how to detect and evade the predators that are chasing after them as they skitter about the sea.

Although all classroom-based courses at my school are officially required to give a final exam, the online courses are exempt from this requirement. So, I am no longer required to give midterms and final examinations, but can instead base my grading on student projects, where the students choose their own topics, and publish their projects online so that they can learn from and admire the work of other students in the class, while developing a sense of pride and ownership in their own work.

So I can say: hurray for online learning! Hurray for camels and fish! If you are curious about how these online courses work, please feel free to browse around. Since the courses are online, you are welcome to come visit anytime. Here are links to the course websites: Mythology-Folklore, Indian Epics and World Literature.

And here is today's proverb read out loud:

1547. Pisces natare doces.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The Flash audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio. You can also hear this saying read aloud at a Polish website: Wladyslawa Kopalinskiego Slownik wyraz?w obcych i zwrot?w obcojezycznych (weblink); this version is about a fish, singular, as opposed to fish (plural).

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