Response to A Latin Story – 1

Here, in two parts, is an anonymous response to the story about that Latin teacher published here a few days ago. The responder is also a Latin teacher.
This is part 1:

I wanted to respond here to this post as it resonates so clearly with me. While I don’t know who this teacher is, I know that she is suffering because I too am suffering. This post describes what has been happening to me for the past 3 years. 3 years of certain kids and parents refusing to get on board to what I was doing. It all came to a head last week. One of my traditionally trained kids decided to drop my class. She didn’t communicate that she was dropping nor had she tried to be a part of my class. She went to the principal and complained and because she is a “good” kid, the principal believed her. She bemoaned that she wasn’t learning anything new in the class and that it was beneath her. The reality is that she didn’t want to engage with CI. She is interested in linguistics and the analytic aspects of language. I know because that’s the way I a taught her in her first 3 years.
These group of kids like the teacher above describes can never be convinced. Their goal is to lord themselves over the other kids. Their goal is to show how much better there are than the others. It reminds me so much of Agamemnon in the Iliad when he tells Achilles that he is taking his prize so that Achilles will understand how much better he (Agamemnon) is than Achilles. Many of these kids pride themselves on this idea. Moreover, they think that conscious knowledge of rules and exceptions and meaning of vocabulary is what language is. They don’t realize that even Latin is the negotiation between two humans. Whether it is between two Latin speakers or with those who have penned the their ancient wisdom. This dialogue is what makes language learning so important. Without this communicative aspect, we have nothing but bits of knowledge that we can use to separate the haves from the have-nots.
These kids and their parents brought out the ultimate trump card last week. They paraded out the well-worn, haggard word RIGOR. They insisted that my class wasn’t rigorous enough. They put forward as evidence the SAT II test in Latin as evidence that my class was failing to teach the students what they needed to know. FYI, one of these kids indicated that she wanted to take said test and I told her that we would have to do some work outside of class if she wanted to score well. This kind of test prep isn’t what we do in class. She never came.
I told my admin that we have never used the SAT II test as a litmus for our program nor have we even vetted it as a good measure of our program. Furthermore, the test is not a reading or language proficiency test. It is based on learned knowledge of grammar rules and their exceptions. It is mired in conscious knowledge about the language. I was happy to help my students succeed on this test, but none of them was ready to come to do the extra work.
Enough other classes are test prep, we don’t need to add Latin to that mix. My goal is that they gain true ability in reading, writing, speaking and listening to Latin. I want them to come away with a true language experience. I also want everyone to have the opportunity to experience the right to acquire another language just as the human mind was meant to do. However, the smartest, fastest processing kids don’t want to show up and be real. They want to get their worksheets and do their work so that they can get easy A’s. They want to take tests and win contests so that it looks good for their transcripts.

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5 thoughts on “Response to A Latin Story – 1”

  1. …the reality is that she didn’t want to engage with CI. She is interested in linguistics and the analytic aspects of language….
    Bingo.
    …the smartest, fastest processing kids don’t want to show up and be real. They want to get their worksheets and do their work so that they can get easy A’s. They want to take tests and win contests so that it looks good for their transcripts….
    Double Bingo.

  2. This post breaks my heart. When I began TCI, I switched all four of my classes. They were actually relieved to be out of the grammar book, but with this type of class, perhaps a gradual transition with incoming level one students could help avoid situations like this. Maybe not. They would know nothing else. With that said, the problem of “showing up” is a difficult one to overcome especially when the admin accepts the criticism of adolescents – that they would even entertain their complaints is mind boggling. Very disheartening. If the admin has a shred of academic honesty and or intellectual curiosity, they will listen to this well intentioned and informed Latin teacher.

  3. Carol when I clicked on this to read what you said, before the comment opened, I first said to myself that you were going to say that this post breaks your heart. I knew it would be the first sentence. Because it broke my heart too and we have been through some tough days years ago with this work. So I read your mind.
    I don’t want to be maudlin, but we are in some incredible times. Just this morning I got an email from a Spanish teacher that proves that this Latin teacher is not alone in being surrounded by people who just don’t get it. Here is part of it:
    …sometimes I wonder if this particular population of students is capable of receiving what I have to give them. This is virtually an entire town full of kids who are fed a steady diet of McDonald’s and other worse prepared foods, TV, internet, and video games. The parents are all in their early 30’s and don’t know that they are adults, they text their kids during class, and are friends with all of their kids’ friends on Facebook. Today I was doing a Matava story with a first year class, circling, going slow, pausing and pointing, making eye contact, checking for understanding, firing on every single cylinder plus a few I didn’t even know I had. To me it feels like I am giving them gold, pure gold, just giving it to them with all of the love and integrity and power that has grown in me since discovering this way of teaching four years ago, and most of them are just looking at me with dull stares, or looking out the window, or fidgeting in their seats….
    And then he apologized for the rant!
    What is going on?

    1. The broken heart is bad enough, but there are also days that I can honestly say that I am glad that I am I am closer to the end of my teaching career than the beginning. This thing with the PEDs – cell phones, etc resonates with me too. Our admin got tired of disciplining the cell phone policy a few years ago and gave the responsibility to the individual teacher to formulate and enforce his or her own PED policy. The result has been a library that looks more like a student lounge than a library. The powers that be are spending a fortune to change to the Library of Congress system from the Dewey Decimal – they could have “made” some money by just installing a Sbarro Pizza and a Starbucks. They get lost in their electronics – they play games remotely – they text from the front of the library to the back – they organize flash mobs. They cheat. Is it a wonder that they cannot show up in class? The lack of intellectual curiosity is alarming. I love it when I hear a student say class was boring. I always come back with, “Well what did you do to make it more interesting?” It takes the class to make a class. Then there are other days that make everything okay – wish they could be more frequent. It can be a tough sled when the heart piece is missing.

  4. “What is going on here?”
    We live in an increasingly instant gratification type of world (McDonald’s, video games, internet, fill in the blank_________). Most students have been exposed to so much task-based learning that they have been brain-washed into believing that they will learn from us by completing a task. In some cases this may be true, however, ultimately as we know it is through CCCCI (not sure how many C’s need to be there).
    After hours of CI have them do some serious tasks and see how they respond. I do it to keep them honest in the marathon of CI provided in my classes.
    Another thing we face is that perception is reality. In order to control perception of what others think we have to control it an manipulate it.
    Manipulate the reality by sharing rubrics, classroom work, evidence of learning, positive feedback, how TCI meets and exceeds standards, and by directly communicating with parties that don’t get it (graciously of course).
    Yup… we have to treat our craft and art of teaching as an object or propaganda and use sensationalism or whatever you want to call it to protect it. It is politics!
    It sucks but TPRS/TCI is a campaign up for re-election every year. The lucky ones that teach in small schools with supportive admin, colleagues, parents, and students live the good life. I have seen such teachers and I am jealous. What is baby’s first lesson? “Nothing worth doing is easy.” People here are courageous trailblazers doing phenomenal and righteous work.
    Hang in there everyone…spring break is just around the corner!

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