Prior to having a family, my husband and I were both high school teachers. We spent countless hours trying to bring the world into our classrooms. As a Special Education teacher, Ron would wander the school with his students looking for any opportunity to give his kids lessons that would matter. He would often be seen landscaping, cooking in the cafeteria during off hours, and taking over the auto shop with his students shadowing his every move.
As an English and History teacher, I was forever recruiting actors, doctors, politicians and relatives to come into my room and bring the world with them. My international food tastings and bohemian poetry nights were a feverish attempt to break down the walls of our rural high school with few resources and an abundance of passion. I remember Ron and I dreaming, even then, of using the world as our classroom.
In the past 46 days so many dreams have come true, but the real learning has been in the in-between moments. We have seen Buckingham Palace to Pompeii there was so much history and so many tourists. We spent a good deal of energy keeping track of the kids and not connecting with the spaces. We had prepared packets for the kids to learn about the historic site as pre-work and pulled reading material that would be interesting and educational. Most of it was lost in the crowds.
One balmy Tuesday, after arriving in the Molise Region, we packed a picnic and headed out with the intent to get lost in nature. We found Seapinum! Our own Roman city completed and busting by the 2nd Century B.C.. Something truly magical happened within its crumbling walls. There were no tour buses, no tickets, no assigned pre-work, and the kids could not stop asking questions:
- What were public baths?
- What does B.C. and A.D. represent?
- What would people do in these forums?
- What kinds of shows would be in this amphitheater?
Not only were they asking the questions, they were seeking the answers. They read all they could find in English. They looked things up when we got home. They touched the floors and ceilings and hugged each column. We were stunned. All of our teaching methods could not have prepared us for this day. We were alone with 2500 year old structures that we were free to experience our way. We heard all the space had to teach us and it was effortless.
A week later, on a trip to a mountain village called Frosolone, we stumbled into a knife shop to buy some nail scissors and ended up driving up to the knife makers’ hillside workshop and spending the afternoon learning his craft. He is a 5th generation knife maker and he showed us how he has blended an ancient craft with modern technology in a way that preserves the art, and honors the past, but also insures a future. Again, there were no tickets, or tour guides, just time together as a family that landed us in an unforgettable moment.
What we have learned as teachers and parents in the last month is best captured in the words of Robert Frost:
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.