Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why I Love Teaching Latin

I won't pretend there is a lot going on in my life right now. I had my second critique of my work in progress tonight and by all accounts it is being well received. It is going to require a time commitment on my part and some parts of it are going to be hard to write, but I think I am actually going to finish it. And then we'll see what happens.

This week is a holiday, of sorts, but I'm mostly concerned with getting as much done as humanly possible because next weekend I am going camping with Bryan and the following week is when some pretty big stuff is due so I feel the need to get cracking and make some progress as quickly as I can. I will probably go check out the fireworks tomorrow with the gals but I'm kind of waiting and seeing how much free time actually materializes in my week.

But the title of this post is what I really want to talk about. I was trained to be an English teacher. I went to college for five years (blast you, Duke!) and studied English the entire time. I never switched majors or had any doubts that I would be anything but an English teacher upon graduation. I took Latin to fulfill my own foreign language requirement and that was that.

When I was asked to take on a few Latin classes by the Garner High administration, I said yes because I am a sucker for any kind of challenge and, to be honest, I kind of thought I had to. English teachers are in abundance in Wake County and I thought I might lose my spot if I didn't seem flexible. What seemed like a pretty bizarre turn of events has blossomed into a completely new career path for me and I will become a full-time Latin teacher this fall for the first time in my teaching career.

Yesterday, I presented a picture book (only text) on the ABCs of Roman mythology/history/culture. For the first time in that class I felt that I was in my element. I knew that material backwards and forwards and I enjoyed sharing a few little tangents with my classmates. My perfect job will combine my love for that subject with what I teach each day to my students.

And those students... They are truly why I teach Latin at all. I wouldn't be as interested in the subject if I didn't feel like I was making a connection with my audience. Unlike when I talk about the beauty of the end of the Catcher in the Rye and see blank faces in front of me, I can see my students' amusement over Romulus killing his brother because he jumped over his trench. I can hear the click in their brains when I explain to them the parts of a sentence and why Latin has all those endings. I can see them making connections from the past to the present when I teach them about Saturnalia.

My students are delightfully quirky and I, despite the fact that I am financially shooting myself in the foot by teaching the subject (no National Boards possible and my master's won't be relevant), I don't think I'll ever be able to let go. I know too much now. I've had too much fun planning lessons for it. I love that people don't know what to make of it.

Despite the fact that I love literature and love discussing it, I don't think I'll stop being a Latin teacher anytime soon. I can't give up on Aeneas and Lupercalia and the Forum. I need puella, the 3rd declension and the perfect passive subjunctive. Latina est mea vita.


Jenny said...

That last paragraph made my head hurt.... =)

And thank you for clarifying the picture-less picture book again. I caught it this time. =)

Robin Rudd said...

Michele, it's really nice to read your thoughts about teaching. It helps to see it all written out. What you've said is what makes you lovely - you're caring and passionate and intelligent. Thanks for sharing...