As I sat in a chair being interviewed, pushed there shortly after finding out my position as a Latin teacher was going extinct, I simply started talking about my passion for teaching Latin. It turned out, someone else listened and had the ability to do something about it. A chance encounter with a principal afforded me the opportunity to continue teaching and more proof that, once again, you never know where life is going to take you. I discovered that honesty and passion are two very important elements that will propel people to do things they normally would not set out to do. It is these two things I hope to convey when I speak about starting a Latin program.
This week, on April 23rd, I will be joining the folks at the NCEA 2014 conference in Pittsburgh to present on some of the trials and tribulations of starting a Latin program. I will be presenting alongside Zee Ann Poerio at our conference entitled, “Fluency in Geek: Building a Latin Program Across the Curriculum Using Technology”. There are several things to consider before starting a Latin program and in our talk I have broken these down into four “ingredients” that are necessary for building a successful program: vision, support, communication, and content and delivery.
Four Ingredients for Building a Successful Latin Program
In order to have a successful Latin program, there has to be a vision that is shared by the administration and the faculty. It is this shared vision that needs to be passed along to the students and parents so that this new, fragile learning community can grow. The vision has to be shaped first by considering the purpose and scope of the new Latin program – what will graduates from this program be able to do? With a clear vision, support becomes a lot easier as expectations are clearly defined and a roadmap for getting there is drawn up for all to see.
Support is a cornerstone because it will be the anchor that helps weather the storm. Students will struggle; Latin is not an easy subject to learn let alone master but if the message is clear and the expectations are well-defined then the support will not wain. The study of Latin is not supposed to be facile; it is intended as a mind-sharpening endeavor that takes years to take root and benefit students. Those that emerge from this tempered environment are forever changed and are appreciative of it. Yet there has to be “buy-in” from all interested parties and everyone needs to have a stake in the development of the program and there has to be multi-year support. Latin is not about instant gratification.
With vision and support comes a necessity for open communication. The vision must be shared and there should be attempts for reaching out to the community. The attempts should not just be hollow attempts either, but they should establish deep connections help underscore why the study of Latin is not only relevant but important in the academic and intellectual life of a given community. A critical realization I had was that awareness and visibility lead to the sustainability of a Latin program. There needs to be open communication about positive developments of the program and there also has to be great enthusiasm in those communications.
The fourth ingredient is arguably the one that is the most focused on but is really the easiest to manage once the other three ingredients (vision, support, communication) are in place: the content and delivery of your Latin program. This requires an understanding of who your students are and what they are capable of. Not to promote pedestrian study of Latin, but to understand what are realistic goals and expectations for your students. Again, it has to correspond to your vision. In regards to the content, will your students be taking a grammatical approach or a natural approach? Pedagogical issues aside, this is a decision that must be made by the stakeholders – the teachers, administration, parents and even students – that will reflect a given school’s mission and curriculum. I have taught in both environments and have found that I was more successful in my situation of using a natural methodology where students learned grammar and vocabulary through use of the language and not through theoretical approach. Students find discovery fascinating and are more inclined to develop a passion for something that they invest in – they discover the laws of the Latin language instead of being told what they are.
This of course is a pedagogical issue and outside the scope of our presentation, but definitely one that will continue to shape the future of Latin cheap generic cialis and classical studies in general. It will most likely be the subject of a future talk but for now should be tabled for the sake of trying to put the egg before the chicken. We need to embrace interests for starting Latin programs first and help solve potential obstacles upfront in the beginning in order to get to the theoretical and practical questions about how to teach the subject. We need Latin to be viable and then we can argue about how to teach it.
Hopefully I will see you there at the presentation on April 23rd. Stop on by and ask a question. Find me and talk my ear off – I am very passionate about spreading the study of Latin to all schools and in all situations and environments. Interestingly, I think we Latin teachers and aficionados can see that the future for Latin is actually very bright when one considers the coming Common Core standards as Latin not only teaches content but also skills that extend across the curriculum into other subjects. Join the discussion in the Colloquia over at the Amicitia to keep the conversation going!