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ginlindzey

August 2017

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There was a big twitter discussion about Latin pronunciation today, to use macrons or not to use macrons, whether to teach pronunciation to students or let them pick it up by listening to you and other input (trusting the quality you provide), etc. I felt the discussion beginning to spiral in its usual fashion of pros and cons. Back when the Latinteach list was active, this discussion came up numerous times. And often if I replied, I also posted a copy of my reply on this blog. I just read through them, and in some I was quite passionate--one, even a bit out of line. If you would like to read those older posts just click on the PRONUNCIATION tag in the right margin.

So in many ways, there's no need for me to repeat what I've said before, except for the fact that we have a couple more issues now that we didn't really have then. First, there are a LOT of people (well, a room full of 50 at ACL--that's 1/6 of the participents) who are interested in trying to use more techniques to make their class a Comprehensible Input classroom. That requires a LOT of oral work. It is the idea that you can get in more repetitions and in a more engaging and compelling way orally. Yes, reading still plays a strong role but there is a LOT of emphasis on the oral part.

Second, it is less likely that a new teacher will have had formal instruction in accentuation and syllabification if they learned Latin in high school using a reading based text like the Cambridge Latin Course (which I do love) because it does not include a pronunciation guide. From this point, as I've stated elsewhere, the discussion begins to go round and round on who to blame--that is, who should have taught pronunciation (high school teacher/first teacher) or who should have polished pronunciation (professors/person in charge of methods of teaching Latin course)? And that's all mute. Finger pointing never got anything done.

In 2005 I even had proposed initially via the CAMWS Newsletter something called "Fluent Latin 101". The title of the article was "Teacher Prep: New Ideas, New Approach" (page 9). This was way before the Comprehensible Input surge in Latin circles, but at a time when I was really frustrated by the lack of quality pronunciation among fellow teachers at Certamen events. I was also trying to address in the article issues that some teachers had brought up about not having studied AP authors during their undergraduate career and thus not being properly prepared to teach.  But that's another story. I published this article in the CAMWS Newsletter because I was hoping to reach the professors who could have some influence on addressing these problems which future teachers faced. Naturally it fell on deaf ears.

Last year I discovered on a blog post entitled Driving with Dido on the Indwelling Language blog. It is mainly a post--and a good one--on reading extensively in Latin, and how the author, Justin Sloacum Bailey, went on a quest to develop fluency in Latin, even though he began with a grammar first text book (Wheelock's). Anyway, at some point in the post, he gives a list of things to help with fluency, and one of them is to "record yourself reading Latin and listen to your recordings in the car, while doing chores, while shopping, etc."

This has stuck with me even though admittedly I have yet to do it. The idea was to record yourself reading a passage that you have interpreted/translated so you know what it's about, and then work on developing your own listening skills.  As I see it, the way to ensure this works well is to be extremely conscientious about your pronunciation as you read that Latin. This is not only about making sure you are pronouncing long and short vowels correctly, but that you are dividing and accenting words correctly. You are creating your source of INPUT. That is the key.

To develop your sense of quality pronunciation you need lots of INPUT, but if you aren't around speakers of Latin, you don't get the input you need. In addition, if your own teacher/instructor was apathetic with regards to the pronunciation of Latin, you need enough quality input to unteach incorrect pronunciation.

So... I guess the first thing you need to do is to decide that you need to improve your pronunciation if you know you need to. If you cannot write sentences/vocabulary from the textbook you use (assuming you are using a textbook) complete with macrons without double checking 98% of the time, then you probably need to work on pronunciation. Because, really, what we are talking about is not "pronunciation" but whether you have internalized the SOUND of the words, whether you truly OWN the words.

Why is this so important? If you are going to be telling stories orally, you have to OWN your own Latin. And if you want your students to pick up their pronunciation mainly through input, your OUTPUT must be excellent.

OK, so now maybe you realize you need to "learn" your macrons.  Really, you are working on "owning" your Latin vocab by SOUND because the macrons merely represent sounds. First make sure you know your basic rules of dividing and accenting words (see the front of a Latin dictionary or my pronunciation guide for CLC), and then practicing dividing and accenting words that are three syllables or more, followed by saying those words aloud several times. You may find words you thought you knew are really pronounced differently. You may discover you are sloppy with o's and i's. You may discover which words are mispronounced due to related words in English. (Off the top of my head, novem, 9, is a SHORT o, not a long o like in November; toga is a short o as well, not long as it is in English.)

Once you feel like you can divide and accent anything, find a passage you like (could be from your textbook series or AP or whatever), divide & accent all the words in it just to make sure you really are saying all of the words correctly, and then record yourself reading it. Now put away the text away and get a clean sheet of paper. Use your recording for dictation and see whether you can write exactly what you read previously--macrons and all. If your pronunciation is clear and accurate, you should have little problem doing this. TRUST the sound that you hear. If you hear long, write it that way. Likewise, think about where the accent is on the word; sometimes that can help you with a short a versus a long a. Practice this a bit.

Now, try finding something that does NOT have macrons. If you were to trust your "ear", could you add macrons to most of the words? Try it to see. Do any of the missed macrons change the placement of the accent on the word? Or does where you KNOW the accent of the word goes help you with deciding whether you have a long or short vowel? I know, for instance, that I pronounce "they heard" as au-di-VE-runt, so that e has to be long.

The truth is that there is no magic fix. You have to work at it. You have to realize the importance not just to your own learning but to that of your students. You have to see the bigger picture of language acquisition. And you will find that the more you work at it, the more you realize you do know, and the easier it becomes. But it all starts with you having a crystal clear idea of pronunciation.

I often think about Spanish students who will complain that one of the Spanish teachers has lousy pronunciation. Students notice.  Students care.  Students will think less of you and your expertise if they see this deficiency. Your colleagues will think less of your expertise as well. (Yes, I have thought less of professors and teachers....)  And maybe that seems arrogant... But I'm also going to pick the Shakespeare instructor who tries to do restored pronunciation over the one that recites with a heavy Texan accent.

And finally, I do believe we need to teach our students the rules for dividing and accenting words. I've always made it extra credit on one of the types of quizzes I've used in the past. I reiterate the importance of knowing the rules so you can decide how a new word sounds without my being there, but I do not punish students for having difficulties with the concept. I do grade oral recitations which we practices because that is based on hearing/speaking and not artificial rules of dividing and accenting. Nevertheless, I want my students to be armed to read extensively, and to hear the Latin in their heads or to be able to say it aloud.

It's about the input. I can provide a lot of it, but some of it will need to be experienced on their own--and I just want it to be the best experience possible.

So, next year will mean changes for me one way or another.  My high school is going on block scheduling and I'm hoping to have the Latin 1s back... or... I'm hoping to be teaching exploratory Latin full time to 5th graders in a totally different school district.  Either way, I want to start moving into doing more Comprehensible Input. It's a tricky thing if I stay because I feel like it will also mean dismantling all I have built for the last 10 years--16 years if you count the 6 years I taught middle school Latin.  That was when I began my adventures with the Cambridge Latin Course, began building quia.com materials of detail and quality, and began developing my reading methodology. And if I begin using Comprehensible Input more than the textbook at my high school, it may mean going it alone... I'm not sure my colleague has any interest in it.

And maybe that will be a moot point because maybe I will get this other job teaching exploratory Latin.  And either way, I can continue to study everything I can about Comprehensible Input so that I will be ready.

So I've been listening to the Tea with BVP podcast http://www.teawithbvp.com/.  I only discovered it a couple of episodes before the end of the season, so now I'm starting over. This morning I listened to episodes 1 and 2.  At some point, I believe in episode 1, there was a question about whether to teach pronunciation. The basic answer was no because your students should be able to pick it up by hearing you speak or other native speakers, etc, in a natural way.

I, however, have always said that I can't just ask Cicero how to pronounce a word I have never come across before because he's dead. No one local to me seems interested in speaking Latin conversationally. (I have had to go off to SALVI events like Rusticatio to have quality exposure to spoken Latin in a large quantity--that is 24/7.) The authentic communication I have is in reading what the dead wrote in great measure. We do know how golden age Latin was pronounced (see Vox Latina), so that is not at issue. I have always felt it important to teach pronunciation, syllabification, and accentuation in Latin (but only to count it as extra credit on quizzes--not for a real grade) because students will at some point need to be able to read and hear words (at least in their heads) that no one has pronounced for them before. Perhaps I'm influenced by my phonetics education as a child. Perhaps this is just my own neurotic need that I shouldn't force on others. (Here is a pronunciation guide I created to go with the Cambridge Latin Course.)

In teaching high school, one of my goals with expressly teaching the dividing and accenting of words is so that when we hit poetry meter will be easy and not challenging. Another goal is simply that they can decide how to say a word without my having to say it for them.  And yet...  Have I been wasting a lot of time?

It's not that there aren't other ways in which my students are picking up good pronunciation.  First and foremost, I read everything aloud to them.  With gusto! With dramatics! Students read with me in unison as well.  We also have recitation passages--short snippets from an important story in the chapter/stage which we then use to practice pronunciation. (These are also used to target new grammar in the chapter/stage.) Later each student recites/reads this passage for a pronunciation grade. I would say 98% of students do this really well.

We also have "jobs" at the beginning of class that include reading the agenda which is mostly written in Latin, reading the date (which includes yesterday, today, and tomorrow), as well as being the daily weather person.



(I can't recall why it was foggy and dirty at the time I took this picture, but I believe there was either dust or ash from a fire in the air at that time for some reason that was making the fog weird in the mornings. And yes, it probably should have read decimo sexto for the date and not sedecimo!)

I don't correct too often when students are doing jobs; many self correct or just improve as the year goes on. Many are conscientious of macrons and the role they play in pronunciation, a few admittedly lack interest and are just getting through their job for the day. Most, however, really like doing the jobs. At an awards banquet the other night I overheard one student, when asked to say something in Latin, rattle off, "salvete omnes! vaticinatrix hodierna sum. mihi nomen est Octavia. sol lucet!"

I think... I think if I teach pronunciation in the future maybe I'll just let the students discuss and figure out from previous input and exposure what the difference is between short and long for each vowel, and maybe even accentuation rules. And syllabification is really only necessary for teaching poetry in all honesty, right? And even then, only if you have to expressly teach meter because of AP or IB.  The truth of the matter is that my expressly teaching the rules for pronunciation, syllabification, & accentuation aren't the real reasons why my students have good pronunciation and aren't afraid of reading Latin aloud.  They can do that because we read aloud all the time, because I make my class a place where Latin is heard. They get extra credit points on dividing and accenting words on stage quizzes because I expressly taught the rules.  Big whoop.

I'm not going to give up my personal obsession for macrons on all materials because I want to learn how to say a word the right way from my first encounter with it if possible. Can I read Latin well without macrons? Yes of course. I like picking up my copy of Harrius Potter and rattling on at a natural speed as if I'm reading English and not Latin. There are no macrons; there are often a lot of new vocabulary for words Caesar never new (he never had an automobile after all) and I can guess from experience what is the most likely pronunciation--but I can only do that because I put the demand on myself for careful pronunciation with macrons at all other times.

Perhaps that seems a bit much--but as I said before, Cicero is not here.  I can't just say to someone in the next room, "hey, how do you pronounce nihilominus?" So for Latin, especially when you get to a point when you are in total control of your input (which is often just print material), pronunciation is important. Understanding how it works is important. But maybe as a teacher--especially as a teacher of beginning students--it really isn't a critical topic.  Surely I can use that time better than spending the better part of a class going through my pronunciation sheet (see above)?!

Just another thing to consider when planning for next year.
I just sent the following to our new superintendent. Not sure what inspired me really to take the time, but I guess watching "The Emperor's Club" has put me in a more thoughtful mood with regard to my profession.

***

I was just reading the district newsletter and your article.  I do agree that we should aim high and defy those who think we should limit ourselves.  I think we should celebrate and showcase our triumphs, both among our students and our teachers.  I think this is especially important at a time when education is facing cutbacks and challenges--we must recognize those that go above and beyond.  But could I make a suggestion?

First let me say that this is not a case of sour grapes but just an objective observation.  As a teacher of an elective, and a dead language at that, I know that there are more teachers that impact a larger proportion of the student body than I do.  I never expect to get teacher of the year (and have, in fact, already had some of the highest awards in the classics profession and have more important aims now, if you know what I mean).  But our teacher of the year selection seemed, as so often they are, like a popularity contest.  There was a final list of names and voting.  I admittedly didn't vote.  What was I to vote on?  I don't know what goes on in those teachers' classrooms.  There were no portfolios to look at, letters of support from students and colleagues who work closely with them, or even descriptions of creative projects.  A colleague down the hall who teaches biology has wonderful projects (I am very fond of the biospheres that they make), works with students to repeat college level experiments to validate experiments, to work with UT faculty, etc.  He wasn't on the list.  He is also one of the only teachers I know who has been to other teachers' classrooms to actually see their teaching style and interaction with students.  He, for instance, can tell me what my student engagement looks like compared to another teacher.  

I have no issue with the teacher who won.  I know she inspires her students (esp those in track).  And we *each* have a role to play in the school and in our students' lives.  No one of us could round out a whole student.  It is together that we (hopefully) shape and mold our students to strive for the best and to want more out of life and of themselves.  But if we are going to spotlight teachers, let's be serious about it.  Let's see what their pedagogical philosophy is, what their classes are like, how their students respond to them, what they do with their summers to prepare for the next year.  Let's really spotlight what makes a teacher great.  

Otherwise, it's just a popularity contest.  And the reaction to the popularity contest is "big deal, what's next?"

Why do we offer a dead language in Dripping?  Why not? --especially if it means higher scores on verbal portions of all of these mandatory tests, especially if it means that students are exposed to some of the greatest works of western literature in the actual words of those who spoke and wrote them, especially it it means that students who thought they were too stupid to learn a language can find a little success with a teacher willing to try to discover a better way to get the material across in a meaningful way.

My morning classes have had very few students this week while the freshmen were testing.  I have been showing the movie "The Emperor's Club" with Kevin Kline. It came out in 2002 or 2003.  It's about a boys school and their teacher, and is filled with a lot of ancient philosophy, actually.  At the end the teacher is presented with a plaque which reads:

"A great teacher has little external history to record. His life goes over into other lives. These men are pillars in the intimate structure of our schools. They are more essential than its stones or beams, and they will continue to be a kindling force and a revealing power in our lives."

This is what keeps me here.  This is why I will teach 4 preps and split level classes and independent study.  This is why instead of just using a worksheet from last year I will spend time creating something new that perhaps gets the concept across in a clearer, more accessible way.  This is why I will listen to 2 hours worth of oral recitations, grade endless quizzes, and enthusiastically dance around my room reading Latin with my students. This is why at least four weeks of my summer are already devoted almost entirely to Latin in one form or fashion. In my mind's eye it's not enough to be considered good now.  I must continue to strive for better ways to teach not only for the benefit of the students but for my own education as well.  A professor friend of mine at UT is kindly allowing me to audit his Caesar class this summer as I prepare for a change in the AP syllabus for Latin next year.  He knows that after a divorce that I cannot begin to afford tuition.  And in turn I will share that knowledge with those in my charge.

For me, it's a great game of Pay It Forward.  Why not?
Tags:
> Hi Paul, to me the márking of mácrons in Latin looks wrong - in the same way
> that márking strésses in Énglish makes a fúnny impréssion. Yes, of course we
> stress words in Énglish; it is an esséntial lánguage feáture - but it is NOT
> part of our wríting sýstem; so too in Látin - there are vowel length
> distínctions, but it is NOT part of the wríting sýstem. There are mány
> feátures in ány lánguage which are not part of the wríting sýstem.
>
> Now we'll see if the LatinTeach list software copes with those accent marks.

While I do respect Laura's opinion, I think to the contrary.

When learning new words, I really, really want to see the macrons, and the best way to learn new words is in context. I do NOT want to have to stop to look in a dictionary to find out what the proper macrons should be on the word. I want to fix the word in my head RIGHT THEN AND THERE. I want to see it and hear it and taste it on my tongue and enjoy the way it flows from my lips. (ok, sorry, not enough sleep last night... but I digress.)

To me, macrons are like having a Roman reading to me. The macrons let me know how a Roman would have pronounced a word, where the accent goes, etc. I still feel like a child learning Latin, but unlike a child learning English, I cannot say, "Mom, how do you pronounce this word?" When a child is in elementary school, he/she is supposed to read WITH A PARENT--why? to make sure he/she is learning to associate what's on the page with the way words sound. And even as kids get older, in middle school or high school, they will still ask you have to pronounce an unknown word because they are still *learning* and meet new words all the time in their literature classes.

I don't need macrons for the grammar. I've internalized those. To me it's not about the grammar--I can tell from phrasing and usage the difference between a 1st declension nominative or a 1st declension ablative. It's about the root word. I see the macrons and it's like I have my very own personal Roman tutor hovering over my shoulder whispering the correct vowel quantity and accent, encouraging me to continue my declamation. And as for whether we use accents in English, I dare say if you open a volume of Shakespeare that you can find a number of cases where accents are used because our ears are not attuned to Elizabethan pronunciation and no Elizabethans are around whispering over our shoulders. (Think of all the -ed words where there is an accent on the -ed.)

I don't know numbers (or whether data even exist for this), but surely Latin students learn significantly less vocabulary (active vocabulary as well as passive) than their modern language counterparts? And too often only a very small part of our education is conducted orally/aurally. Thus knowing the proper pronunciation for a word may not be something picked up during the course of education or use, especially is use is typically silent reading. However, it doesn't mean we have to be stuck with an insufficient knowledge of spoken Latin; we can have macrons.

Although I know not everyone reads the way I do, many of us "hear" when we read, even silently. (I know some people don't.) I have an array of voices for Falco and Helena Justina and the cast of characters in Lindsey Davis's novels; likewise I "hear" voices for Caecilius and Clemens and Grumio. So to me, macrons count because I want to hear everything I read, and, well, I want to read all the Latin in front of me out loud. (It's been a day of fun, dramatic readings in my room!)

So, here's my two denarii on the subject.
I sent this to Latin Best Practices earlier today.  And, yes, the purse has been found, so no worries there.  I felt the need to vent.  If I ever quit teaching I want to get on with a publisher precisely to be the one to include the damned macrons!  This is so stupid when it is so easy to typeset with macrons in this day and age!  ARG!

***

Ok, I know I'm warped about this, but I'm grading tests, depressed over my missing/stolen purse, and had a random idea about writing a Latin story, looked up to my bookshelf, and grabbed a new text off the shelf to look at/consult regarding the idea.  I won't go into what new text this is. And it probably is really good. 
 
I opened it and immediately put it down.  No macrons.  There's lots of new vocab on the page, words I won't know how to pronounce naturally because my mommy wasn't an ancient Roman so I have never heard these words before.  Oh, sure, there are macrons in the back in the glossary, but that would mean actually LOOKING UP every single new word if I want to be sure.
 
I *want* to learn new vocab in context.  I want to learn new vocab by NOT looking up every damn word.  I want to read it and HEAR IT and FIX it in my head.  I WANT TO *ENJOY* THIS.
 
But there are no macrons.
 
Having macrons is like having an ancient Roman read to you.  It's immersion.  I don't need them on a test.  I don't need them to scan lines.  I don't need them to tell short -is from long -is.  I need them for the new vocab.
 
And I am soooo tired of most new books NOT having macrons (do any of them?).  But my time is limited--what few spare minutes I might be able to give to pleasurable reading of Latin shouldn't be work looking up words.  It should be pleasure.
 
PLEASURE.
 
Or is it too much to hope that one could read a little Latin for pleasure?
 
And, yeah, I know that I should be talking to the publisher.  And I have tried in the past.  Frankly, I'm sure it's a lot of nitpicky editing.  But I know it can be done.  (Maybe they should hire me as an editor?  I could quit teaching...might do me good to quit teaching and be an editor...)  Rick LaFleur wouldn't publish a text without them.  It can be done.  WHY DON'T OTHERS DO THIS?
 
And surely I'm not alone in this?  Don't some of you read out loud?  Don't you want to be able to fix a new word in your head at a glance?  Sheesh....
I'm reading a book called _A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future_ by Daniel H. Pink.  My former h.s. theatre teacher suggested it and while I'm not too far into it, I'm finding it really good.  Ok, admittedly there's something about the writer's style that bothers me (can't say what--possibly that it's too "light"? who knows), but I'm past that.

It has been discussing how abundance, Asia (cheaper outsourcing), and automation have made it so that knowledge workers (those driven by left-brained activities) no longer can corner the market on salaries; that the future will be governed by those that can offer more than just mastery of left-brained activities: those that are creators and empathizers.  I'm waiting, frankly, for him to talk about how apple has realized already that beauty with functionality can steal the market.  (In other words, I love my iPod and admire iPhones, and I think my son now has an iTouch). 

And what does this have to do with Latin?  Well, next week is National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week--the week where I stand up in front of my classroom, sleep-deprived and stressed, and (foolishly?) try to convince students that teaching is a worthwhile job, and that there is something magical about teaching Latin.

And here I am, on a morning where the house actually is quiet (ok, but it wasn't a couple of hours ago), a morning where I could sleep in (perhaps if I didn't wake with muscle aches and a mind full of to-do's), and here I am writing on my blog.  I was, at least, trying to force myself to accept some relaxation time by reading but it drew me back here.  Why?

There's so many why's here....  why do I love Latin?  I do.  I'm constantly thinking of Latin-related projects.  I don't remember when I thought of a project not related to Latin in some way--even the "I wish I had time for this" projects, like wanting to design and make a mosaic.  I love mosaics.  I cannot even begin to tell you why... or can I?  Maybe it's the same as why I like Latin, something that just came to me while reading this book.

True lovers of Latin are whole-brain users. 

The left side of the brain is the side that likes order, the side that loves all the endings and the secret-code aspect of Latin, the precision, the beauty of the mathematical equation perfectly solved and balanced.  There are people that cannot begin to enjoy textbooks like the Cambridge Latin Course because what they loved about Latin class was changing singulars to plurals, nominatives to accusatives.  There was something very satisfying in the mastering of forms.  These are often the same people/students who love the language, so they say, but hate translating stories.  And perhaps there was a time that I was part of that group.   I remember hating translation day.  Most of the chapters in my high school text involved the back and forth of transformations of the new grammar structure.  Putting it all together was difficult.  You ended up writing stupid sounding sentences but then, that was Latin for you, right? 

Last summer I was at a Vergil workshop for people who were about to teach Vergil AP for the first time.  I watched and listened while most ever single teacher there (or at least the ones who were working in groups and thus I could listen in to what they were doing) treated the beautiful words of Vergl *still* as an exercise of endings and decoding.  I'm not trying to be critical; this is just an observation.

What was I doing?  I was reading WHOLE PASSAGES in the Latin--or at least a complete sentence!--before beginning to make meaning.  My brain was already beginning to make meaning because it had seen the whole picture, it had seen not each and ever tree but had recognized the clusters of trees here and there and saw the beauty of the whole forest.  Things that the other teachers were struggling to see because they were merely looking at endings were flowing in my brain.  Oh, I wasn't perfect.  There were lines here and there I didn't quite get.  And instead of wasting time determined to solve the equation, I moved on because the whole picture was too beautiful to miss.  I read considerably faster than the other students. 

Do I think my Latin is better than theirs?  No.  I bet their command of conditional clauses and their ability to form future imperatives and other such things is better than mine.  But I was enjoying Latin as a LANGUAGE, a real, read-it-left-to-right language.  I credit my ability to do this to Dexter Hoyos and his book _Latin: How to Read it Fluently_.  I still think this is a MUST READ for anyone majoring in Latin.  If I had read it as a freshman in college, I might have a masters or PhD today.  But no matter... I'm doing good things with my little BA.

Right brain thinkers consider context, consider the big picture, have creative solutions, and can empathize.  What I wish this workshop had focused on now are things I understand to be right-brain issues, things I try to teach to my own students--how to teach/learn the right brain stuff. 

How do you get your mind to let go of not knowing what a word means and going for the big picture?  After all, Latin students like that precision.  They like knowing what every little thing means.  There's order in knowing everything, it's a puzzle to be solved.  But it isn't.  It's a LANGUAGE--expressive and beautiful.  There is absolutely no reason at all to keep Latin studies alive if we don't move past the morphology to the beauty of expression and the bigger context.  And we as teachers often wait too long to do this. 

I have heard far too many times in my life that "at some point it will all just start clicking."   Or, when I complained to a prof one time that I didn't know HOW to improve my reading and he just said that I needed to read more.....oh yeah, like that was a solution!

We *can* and must start teaching HOW to see the bigger picture, HOW to get beyond the word for word.  If we don't model reading whole passages to the students, if we don't model getting beyond unknown vocabulary to see the shape of the sentence (and thus figuring out the vocab without having to look it up), we will never move them beyond left-brain thinking.

And here's the thing--if they don't think they can get beyond the morphology to really reading, they won't sign up for AP classes. 

And I'm digressing.  I was going to tie this into National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week stuff.  When we talk to our students, we should point out how fortunate it is that teaching--truly good teaching--is a job that has demanding use of both sides of the brain for so long.  And right now, even if future teachers don't make it a life-long career, but teach to provide a service for this country--a few years service--it truly will prepare them for the kinds of jobs that will be out there, because those jobs are going to need people that can not only handle the data and the details but can provide creative solutions and can empathize with their clients.

I mouthed off in my Latin 2 class this week, muttering something like "you should try to teach this class."  They are actually a fun bunch of kids, but at the end of the day they are swinging from the ceiling.  One piped up and said, OK!  So, with National Latin Exam approaching (March 11th for us) and an odd week with TAKS testing in the middle, I decided they can teach some cultural topics.  Here's the thing:  I told them I didn't want crappy posters with crappy internet graphics cut and pasted together 20 minutes before class.  I pointed out that I rarely make displays (if ever!), but will often grab a book that has some good pictures and walk it around the room.  Or, perhaps, use some slides (YES, I still have slides and I love them).  Occasionally I'll even use PowerPoint.  We'll see what they do.  I told them it has to be an effective mini-lesson where more than half the class should be able to retain the information.  ha.  A little taste of teaching.  This will either be great or a bomb.

Sadly here is what I've found in the last few years of teaching: students aren't as creative as they used to be.  It's too easy to download pictures and make posters for class.  It's too easy to get a cool looking font off of the computer than to do your own lettering.  Even we teachers perhaps aren't modeling enough creativity.  I try....

And I suppose I should stop rambling.  I'm looking forward to this afternoon when I'm working on Aeneid stuff.  I'll just be putting together quia.com review material and grading some quizzes I've almost forgotten about, but I'll be looking at the WHOLE thing--the whole passage, the whole artistry, not just this word and that word.

And I get it now.  For me, it's whole brain stimulation.  Whole brain.
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Saw the doc today; he's seriously concerned about my sleep deprivation.  No joke; me too.  He kept asking how I could lighten my load.  He kept saying he knew other teachers that didn't work as hard, surely.

Yeah... well....

Would my tests be easier to grade if I made them all scantron? Sure.   Done in 5 minutes in the workroom with the scantron machine.  But is that truly best practices?  

How come living well means not teaching well if you have a full load?

Sure.  I could switch.  Might take some time to change over the tests but I could switch.  But....

How would all multiple choice prepare students for AP?
How would all multiple choice encourage students to reread their stories?
How would I really see true mastery of the material?

Because I can tell you what, just because a person can decline a noun doesn't mean he can read a sentence of Latin.  Just because a person can recognize the right answer doesn't mean he could have come up with that answer on his own.

Backwards design, right?  They say that's the best way to design what you are doing--thinking about where you want to be and design backwards.  OK, my end result is supposed to be, what, a 5 on the AP exam.  So what skills do you need?
  • an ability to translate accurately and literally a seen passage of Latin 
  • an ability to read and reread a large quantity of Latin, and then reread it again--because the exams requires that you have a serious grasp of all the literature read
  • an ability to comprehend an unfamiliar passage of Latin that is not related to Vergil
  • an expanded vocabulary keyed towards Vergil
  • a solid grammar base that would allow you to differentiate, for instance, tenses and cases quickly and easily
  • an ability to write essays (but frankly I let the English department develop those skills; I just fine-tune them for the needs of the exam)
I look at that list and can think of MORE things I need to be doing and not less.  MORE.  For instance, at the beginning of the year I really tried hard to make students use a reading log.  But I never had time to grade them or enter the grades.  I was too busy grading quizzes, tests, or making quizzes and tests for other classes, or quia.com material.  However, if I did have more time and did use those reading logs, for those that don't fake the log (yeah, yeah), it would be really beneficial.  Students won't do something unless they have to even if they know it would be good for them.  So the reading log, I feel, is necessary.  PLUS it would develop the HABIT of REREADING previous stories.

How wonderful it would be if all AP Vergil students, instead of freaking out at the number of lines in the current assignment and diving in, actually took the time to reread the previous selection before starting the current one?  It would certainly develop the bigger picture--plus Vergil seems to repeat specialized vocabulary relatively near each other.    But this habit is almost too late to form if you wait until the students are seniors.  Better to start it sooner.  

The other thing that I do to encourage rereading of stories is including seen passages on the tests.  I (foolishly?) provide a choice of 4 passages, so if they reread at least one or two stories they should be able to find something they are comfortable doing.  I always hope that the knowledge of those selections being on the test encourages students to continue to reread the stories, even if only the night before the test.

And it's this presentation of seen passages that helps me to see whether they can translate or not.  If they mess it up in class when it was homework, fine.  That's ok by me -- if they learn from it.  On the last test I gave to the Latin 3 class I included a passage we had a "pop" quiz on (that I didn't count--it was that bad!) that was over an extended indirect statement.  Two students chose that passage to demonstrate that if nothing else they HAD paid attention. Fine.  Great even.  They gave me the details they hadn't given me before, the kind of details and literal precision that AP is after.  

SO THAT'S ALL GOOD.  But if I could find a way to keep up with the reading log, that would be better.

The ability to read a sight passage and answer questions... well, I guess I could turn that into multiple choice/objective.  Currently I have short answer -- both Latin and English -- to make sure students truly are understanding the Latin and not just guessing randomly.  From the style of question I can see whether they get concepts of case or even subject/verb agreement, not to mention general comprehension.  On my last Latin one class I could easily tell who had general comprehension because they laughed at the story.  (I had written a great one, I admit.  Luck, most assuredly!)   Admittedly the sight passage will be multiple choice on the AP test, but I feel that I can determine a lot about how a student is doing by the kinds of answers the student writes down.  Did they get the write word for a Latin answer but just not put it in the right case?  Did they not understand the question altogether, or did they understand the question but not the passage?  All sorts of things. 

But I guess if something had to go, I could rewrite the tests to have multiple choice for those sections... that would save some time in grading.

As for developing an expanded vocabulary geared towards Vergil, well, there's still LOTS of room to go here.  I'm only beginning to ponder the situation.  The more Vergil I read with the AP girls this year, the more I realize that CLC really has LOTS of Vergil vocab built in.  Some scene we were reading in Latin 1--LATIN 1--had some words that were just in the Vergil we're read recently, words that the girls stumbled on.  

I'm starting in Latin 3 (but have been inconsistent--and this will all need redoing on quizzes next year) to have a section on the vocab quizzes for old vocab they should still know.  It's strictly a matching section, and I really only began this when we began Unit 4.  Perhaps a little late to be doing this.  Even the Latin 2's have noticed that they aren't retaining vocab.  So this is something that perhaps I need to start including on their vocab quizzes.  The question in my mind's eye is usually WHICH WORDS?

I have toyed with words that show up in the current story.  But would it be more efficient (surely it would?) to just simply state that there will be matching vocab that will pull from X stage and Y stage?  Yes, most likely.   I do have a master vocab list for Unit 1 and Unit 2, though I haven't handed them out in recent years.  But perhaps these would be good lists to give to Latin 2 and 3 students at the beginning of the year?  And I wish I had a list for Unit 3, one done like *I* would do it--with macrons and all.  (Hmmm.... I suppose this could always be a standby project for my aide when I don't have her typing up Vergil vocab....).   Ideally what I would do is mark all the vocabulary that is on the Vergil high frequency list and target those words, whether they showed up in the current reading or not.  And if I pulled on two stages, I could do one from a more recent stage for reinforcement and one from an old stage for review.  Yes?  Not a bad idea.

(Of course, I'm always full of good ideas that I can hardly find time to put into practice.  And this note was about how to cut back on what I do so I can get more sleep and find time for exercise before I literally kill myself from stress.)

(And now I'm thinking I have the topic for a paper for presentation next year regarding vocabulary acquisition, which is always a hot topic for conversations among Latin teachers.)

Grammar.  That's where I'm falling down, I think.  I don't do enough hardcore drill and kill.  I focus a lot on being able to see the phrasing and that seeing the phrasing is far more important than knowing all the words.  Clearly students don't believe me.   One girl, bless her because she tries hard but gets easily discouraged, had written vocab all over a sheet of the Latin story (printed out for marking phrasing with notes for vocab on the side), demonstrating that she had looked up ever single damn word.  She did.  She had worked HARD.  She was virtually in tears when she (as well as most everyone else) had bombed the little pop quiz that focused on the indirect statement because she couldn't make heads or tails of it.  She sees the trees but not the forest. Lots and lots of tall, scary trees.  And I do have a grammar section (multiple choice) on my standard tests at all levels; I have noticed that this is the section where people are dropping the ball, especially on things they really shouldn't be blowing.  I no longer drill the neverending noun song with the Latin 3's.  If they don't know their noun endings then they know what to do.  They have the link to the song, there are drills, etc.  They can practice on their own. 

I have conjugating and declining drills online.  I don't require declining and conjugating for homework because, honestly, WHEN would I have time to grade them?  But this is a problem I think I have to figure out.  I think that Latin 3--that stepping stone to AP Latin--must be where we refine all knowledge of declining and conjugating and such.  I tried to teach the Latin 3's (only 7 of them) how to do a synposis earlier this year but finally gave up because only 2 seemed to get it and in a split level class I started to think that it wasn't the best use of my time. But that was a cop-out.

I'm thinking that next year--and I have to find a way (find some more time?  ahahahahhaha) to grade these THE WHOLE YEAR--all vocab items must be declined, conjugated, or put in a synopsis (where applicable).  Little details keep slipping by the AP girls--and that's my fault for not having reinforced the detail work in the past.  But they've been in split-level Latin for 3 of four years.  All three with me, at least.  

So, not a place to cut, but one to expand.  One to find MORE time for.  

I know one thing that eats up a bunch of my time is the creation of the quia.com materials.  But I think they are critical for mastery in some cases, can act as a private tutor for students, is a resource that's available 24/7/365, and once made is still there.

I confess that there are times... times when I worry about ALL THE TIME I've invested in quia.com and what will eventually happen to it if something happens to it.  I've come to rely on it entirely too much in my teaching and my review of material for students.  It's probably why I have as many students move from level 1 to level 2 Latin.  We'll see how many Latin 2 go to Latin 3 next year.  And God Almighty what will I do next year?

They'll have to have a cut off.  3 Latin 1s, 2 Latin 2s, 1 Latin 3 split with AP again.  I doubt that they will be getting another Latin teacher, or if they do, will it be one I can convince to do things my way?   What levels to give?  Lower levels while I develop upper?  Give up upper and relax, so to speak, with lower?

And what about my doc?  HOW can I do less than I do now?  What's the result?  Will students learn the Latin if I didn't do what I do?  Wouldn't more fail?  Wouldn't my classes be smaller? 

I don't know how to not do what I do.  I can only think of more to do.  More that needs tweaking.  Today is an inservice day and I had no  one to meet with for vertical teaming this morning.  This, I suppose, is my vertical teaming.  With personal commentary.  Probably TMI. 

If I gave up anything it would be doing JCL.

In a heartbeat.





Ok, I just had a little rant on Latinteach. I"ll probably pay for it later but it really got me.  The original post went like this:

***
Low Level: memorizing the role of Hamlet, or the text of any other lead
actor in a serious play; memorizing - yes- irregular verbs, principal parts,
etc.; the Greek gods, the basic stories of mythology; Bible verses; a
Rhapsode memorizing the epic; etc.
High Level: synthesis - writing a poem

I really have no regard at all for Bloom's taxonomy. When I first saw it, I
showed it to a friend, a graduate of Yale who is a filmmaker. "Whose
criteria are these?!?" he shrieked in horror. I trust it is little known
outside of USA, and probably little known outside California. I do
understand, from a friend who studied with Bloom, that she was very
personable.
***

Here's my reply (which hasn't been posted yet):

Yes, I'll grant you, but that's not what Bloom was talking about.  And I think you know that.
 
How many people have students who can memorize vocab for a quiz?  Can decline puella?  But can't put it together to translate?
 
Memorizing lines of Shakespeare and ACTING THEM WELL/INTERPRETTING THEM are two different things.  Plenty of people our age (middle age) memorized the preamble to the constitution because of the School House Rock song, and even though plenty of kids can sing it, how many of them can take it apart and truly understand it or explain the grammar of it?
 
What people hate are educational theories because they think they are a waste of time.  But if they were a waste of time and if they have no bearing on why students who can memorize vocab and sing back the Endless Noun Ending song, what is your explanation for why little Johnny can't make heads or tales of a Latin sentence?
***

You know, you can find ANYTHING wrong with ANYTHING if you look hard enough.  Is memorizing Shakespeare difficult?  It can be, if the language is unfamiliar.  But I certainly have strands of Shakespeare floating through my head, mainly from Hamlet, that have lasted all these years. I also have tons of commercials and lyrics and other nonsense.  All memorized.   I'm sure at one time I could recited the periodic table.  And if you told me I had to memorize a passage of Greek for tomorrow I could do it.  But don't ask me to UNDERSTAND it.  I know some Greek Christmas carols that I've memorized that I couldn't tell you exactly what they mean.

But what Bloom was saying is that memorizing straight facts is easiest.  And if you think about what Latin teachers have been WHINING about their students for generation after generation is mainly along the lines of why can't these kids take what they know and translate?  They've got the vocab, they know their endings, why can't they take the time to apply everything and create MEANING?

Because it is a different kind of thinking.  All education stuff isn't crap.  A lot of it isn't in fact, it is just usually poorly presented in classes because it is't applied to anything.  And in our methods classes everything is crammed in to one semester when some of the stuff could be a class on its own.  There are theories and philosophies out there that I haven't begun to explore because I don't have the time--Krashen, Rassias, others who write about language acquisition.

To say, for instance, esp for a modern language, that immersion is the way to go is too general.  How is it supported?  What order is material presented?  How does it build upon what the learner has been exposed to?  Or is it sink or swim?

I know people who think immersion is utter crap.  I say that probably their teacher was utter crap and didn't know what they were doing.

I think that if you have students who can memorize vocabulary and can decline a noun who are still failing major concepts and can't translate that there's probably something your missing.  And, yes, some kids automatically do higher level thinking and can apply all the rules and generate, after treating Latin like a secret code, something close to a literate translation, albeit strained.  Translating Latin shouldn't be like having constipation.  It shouldn't be work.  (You know, I could continue with this metaphor but nothing good will come of it.)

I've been utterly exhausted lately, exhausted beyond my means and over the edge and looking at crazyville.  Too much to do both for classes and for home and other stuff.  And the one thing I keep thinking during my frustration is that I wish I had more time to devote to THINKING about the problems my Latin 2's are having as well as ADDRESSING them.  Because when they want to, they can all ace a vocab quiz (even one of mine in context) and they can decline the required noun or conjugate the required verb.  But they aren't applying the information when they need to and I need to figure out why.  What can I do to help build these skills?  It's not about whether they are lazy, though some are, or they spend too much time online, though some do, or even what previous teachers did or did not do to build skills that these kids should have.

They don't have them.

It would be like me looking to blame vaccinations or computer use or whatever for why my younger son has pervasive developmental delays.  IT DOESN'T MATTER WHY SKILLS ARE LACKING.  We are the teachers.  We need to address what's lacking so that all students can move on.

And until something better than Blooms can help me think about what's missing, I'm going to support understanding and using Blooms.  If you think it's utter crap, fine.  But don't expect you can just weed out your Latin  classes so that you only get the good kids.  Real life isn't like that.  ANd if you do weed out your classes, they will be small classes.  Your AP won't make.  You'll have to teach other subjects.  And then one day the school board will decide that Latin is unnecessary and being treated as an elitist subject anyway.  Then you'll be looking for a job.

If you don't like students as much as Latin if not, maybe, a little more even, this isn't the job for you.  Don't waste your time with student teaching.  Go look at editing positions or something.  Computer programming.  Marketing.  Good teaching isn't easy.  This isn't a fallback position if you don't have what it takes to finish your PhD.

I better end my rant there.  I'm sorry if I offended people.  I don't know why the comment on Blooms taxonomy so pissed me off.  Then again I don't believe anyone on Latinteach even made a comment about my suggestions to the problems of group work that teacher was having.  Is it because, quite honestly, the grammar teacher really only wanted a certain type of answer?  Was that it?  And mine wasn't that kind of answer?  They wanted to hear how someone else parsed information? You know, whatever.  I have a lot of work to do, time to go do it and stop my ranting.
Every now and then a Latin program will be under the threat of a budget cut.    I was taken to task recently for implying that our teaching jobs are usually untouched by the economy.  Teaching is a safer job than high tech at present and probably other things (car industry?), but yeah our jobs come under theat.

HELLO-- we teach an ELECTIVE.  You know, from elego, elegere, elegi electus.  To pick, choose.    Just because we think what we teach is important or even critical and certainly darn useful in a multitude of ways doesn't give us a permanent seat at the table.

To paraphrase Ovid, if you want to be valued, be valuable!

Programs don't grow just because you tell people that Latin is good for them.  Programs don't grow because you can show on paper that Latin produces higher SAT verbal scores.

It's marketing and salesmanship.

Can you SELL your product?  Once sold, do customers keep coming back for more?  Do you make sure as many of your customers as possible can get the most out of your product?

Or do you sit there with a box full of your product, unopened, because you can't sell it or your customers don't understand how to get the most out of your product?

If you think I'm simplifying the matter, I think you're wrong.  Loving Latin will never be enough to be a good teacher.  It's not a bad place to start, but if you can't sell it/teach it, it won't matter.

I gave Latin 2 students back their tests today.  Some A's and B's; too many C's and F's (more than usual).  It's that time of year; everyone's burned out and lazy.  But I told them that even with this knowledge, when I saw that virtually everyone missed a certain set of questions, my first thought was whether *I* had screwed up.  (Actually, I had coded two of them wrong!)  The NEXT thought wasn't "lazy students" or "not my best crop of students" but HOW can I get them to do this type of question better?  (It was a grammar ID section following a sight passage.)  So we went through these 10 particular questions and we talked about different ways to understand/see the right answer.

I am constantly thinking about HOW can I help struggler X & Y understand the material.   That is, whether I mean to or not, my teaching is student centered.  DOCEO takes two accusatives, you know.  I'm constantly  repackaging Latin, creating clearer instructions, better applications, etc etc.

Baby, I can sell it!

And because of that, students notice and parents notice.

I knocked myself out last night, getting very little sleep, determined to finish grading the Latin 2 tests.  Part is multiple choice, part short-answer Latin and English questions, and part a short translation (of a seen passage).  A kid said the magic phrase today... wish I could say which one it was now but I don't remember.  But he said he REALLY liked how I graded tests because the feedback actually MEANT something.   Other classes, he said, merely used scantrons.  The teachers didn't care about what you put, only whether it was right or wrong.

Does this mean I'm working myself to death?  Perhaps.  But part of what I'm going through these first few years at Dripping is about the struggles in building a program and having it grow so quickly.

I can't tell you how many parents have told in just the last few weeks HOW  VERY GLAD they are that their child has me as a teacher (or HAD me as a teacher!). 

Do I think I've got job security?  Yeah, I suppose arrogantly I think I do.    But it's not because I teach something so important like Latin.  It's because I make myself VALUABLE as a teacher.

So the question I'm asking you is, have you made yourself truly valuable?  Or do you just have a job?
So, if you've been monitorying Latinteach or the AP list (or any list, it seems) lately you've seen discussion on AP and the revisions to the test.  I've tried to get some productive talk going, but there's been a lot of negativity.  I find it very disappointing because we are talking about our future.

It seems to me no different than elections.  I've faithfully voted certainly every year since I've been married (15 going on 16), and felt my efforts have been wasted.  But to give up on voting is NOT the answer (especially with some frightening prospects on the horizon, including a possible vice president who believes in book banning and acts like my former principal....).  We have to believe that we can effect change.  We have to.  We have to think that each of us can make a difference.

I feel the same about AP.  We can make a difference IF WE SPEAK UP.

And, admittedly, I still get fairly frustrated by people who think they need two tests to make their AP programs work.  I mean, I don't DOUBT that.  I'm sure they've adapted to that and it's made their program work.  But why--especially at really large schools--why are their AP programs small?  Why aren't they getting MORE students up to AP? 

Reading the AP annual report is eye-opening.  They REALLY want more students who are NOT typical AP students.  They want a more diverse crowd.  But if we are weeding these kids out, how can we have large programs?

Perhaps I'm too generous a teacher.  Maybe I'm not hard enough in some respects.  Maybe I should weed out students, giving enough homework to get rid of slackers or to make sure that every single person can conjugate and decline perfectly any odd thing I throw at them.  But I want to READ the Latin, and spend more time on that, spot checking conjugating and declining on quizzes, leaving the drill and kill for quia stuff.

And maybe my students (all two of them) in AP are really feeling like they've bitten off more than they can chew.  THEN AGAIN, I really enjoyed their essays on their first test, and there was evidence that they are *getting* the Aeneid.  HOW COOL IS THAT?

So, while I'd like to think that by April I'll have them equipped to make 5's on the AP exam, what if they only make 3's?  Or less? (Not that I expect that!)  Does that negate the experience? 

We spend sooooo much time talking about grades.  We think that our worth is measured by numbers--whether it's grades or evaluations or the number of kids who actually made gold medals on the National Latin Exam.  I would rather my students leave here talking about Vergil and Aeneas than their grades.

And if other teachers at big schools still have small AP programs, perhaps they should consider how to increase those numbers instead of using two AP tests....
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I'm currently at Austin College at the Richardson Summer Language Institute.  This is an extraordinary opportunity for Texans (the grant is local) to go study free.  We are reading books 10 and 12 of Vergil, and I am enjoying the readings and discussions tremendously.

I have made some observations, though, which some people will find too critical.  I am NOT trying to be critical, only to observe and ponder what I know about teaching and reading Latin.  We all, most assuredly, go through periods of doubt regarding our own skills, whether we have bitten off more then we can chew, etc etc.  At least I know I do.  I know I have always been a worrier, or at least I was as a child.  I remember my mom calling me that frequently, though I have no idea what I worried about. I must ask her.  ANYWAY, now I turn it to a more productive aspect in contemplating what I do, whether it works or not, how to tweak it, etc.

I have long since gotten out of the habit of writing translations.  I was taught in college NEVER to write out translations, even though that was the main way we did assignments my last year of high school.  In college we were taught to keep running lists of problem vocabulary, etc etc.  I would also, for instance, draw arches over words and phrases that belonged together, and maybe write words in the margins.  

Now after being a strong supporter of reading methodologies, using Dexter Hoyos' book/beliefs combined with metaphrasing and such, I find that I work totally differently than other teachers.  Mind you, all of us here have not read Vergil in a long time.  It has been 20 years for me, easily, and similar for others.  Some came to teach Latin after teaching other things; some have a strong background in Greek, others know French.  So we all have our weaknesses.  

I was invited to join in a group of three others to work on "translating" our assignment that was due today. I had already missed the first part but was happy to join in.  I probably made a nuisance of myself by just jumping in and reading out loud.  In fact, before I had gone back to get my book (I had stuck my head in their room because I heard loud laughter), I had asked whether they were reading out loud.  The reply was, "No, we'll do that tomorrow."  

But this is VERGIL.   It should be read out loud, and not everyone taking a line but whole long bits at a go!!!  This has perhaps been the one most frustrating thing for me here, because I think we should be teaching better reading skills--not only to the other teachers but in turn to our students.  (I am a junior presenter here.)  But I'm jumping ahead.

So I joined this happy lot of translators.  I wanted to read the equivalent to a paragraph at a time in Latin to get a brief preview of what's happening--skimming, in a sense, to pick up a few things here and there, whether it's vocabulary or the order of words/cases and such.   Someone freaked and said let's just do 3 lines or so at a time.  So ok, I didn't want to upset anyone.  Our discussions were fairly good and I was by no means right every time about stuff, but was frustrated because they were not reading in word order.  

This is so important.  This is just SO VERY IMPORTANT.  Word pictures are created this way, the story unfolds this way on purpose.  Translating into English should be the last THE VERY VERY LAST thing you do.  Understanding comes first, understanding the Latin, in order, is first.  And things usually unfold more easily this way.

Phrases also jump out this way, as well as if you read more than just a line or two at a time.  Things just don't work that way.  THIS IS LITERATURE.

And for Vergil's sake READ OUTLOUD!  

And when you have figured out what a section is, REREAD it.  REREAD IT OFTEN, adding more lines from before and after in order to fix the bigger picture in your head.

OF COURSE students balk at studying for the Vergil AP exam--especially if they read through it once to DECIPHER, write down that translation, correct the translation NEVER looking at the Latin, and then moving on to the next lines, NEVER rereading.

OF COURSE.

<sigh>

One person here has extraordinary listening skills, being fluent in Spanish and French.  Another clearly works her students hard with translations and essays, most likely buidling really solid skills.  I can't tell you what I do yet.  I know that perhaps the way I have structured Latin 3 for the last couple of years hasn't been ideal, using Ecce Romani and doing it split level. I'm not criticizing Ecce, only that I use CLC with the other classes and Ecce was on its way out so I wasn't totally invested.  I was also teaching English and trying to keep up with research papers, essays and whatnot.  I have my excuses, such as they are, which I fall back on uncomfortably.

BUT I constantly modeled reading whole sections of Latin so that it sounded like A LANGUAGE.  I was picky about pronunciation (at least as I modeled it).  I constantly did metaphrasing to reinforce READING Latin as it comes.

And I did something I'm going to call spiraling.  Maybe that's the right thing to call it, I dunno.  I'm sure you can find the first time I did this with real Latin if you look in the archives back to spring of 07.  We were reading some Catullus--cenabis bene, I think it started.  I read the whole poem to the class first, and asked what they got of it.  Very little, and that was ok.  Then we translated the first line.  After that was understood by everyone, WE ALL READ THAT LINE TOGETHER IN THE LATIN.  Then we translated line 2. After that was understood by everyone, WE ALL READ LINES 1 AND 2 TOGETHER IN THE LATIN.  Then we translated line 3, then read ALL THREE LINES TOGETHER IN THE LATIN.  

And so on until the last line.  I think the poem was around 15 lines or so.  Therefore we only dealt with the English once per line, but we dealt with the Latin  MULTIPLE TIMES PER LINE, depending upon the line.

By the end, I made them read the whole thing WITH FEELING.  Then again with MORE FEELING.

WE FOCUSED ON THE LATIN not the damned English.  We fixed the vocabulary in our minds that way, in the context of the poem and not in some dumb list to be memorized.

We are sitting here at this workshop--which has many other things to be praised on offer--but we're doing old school read a line and translate going around the room.  There is no FEEL for the Latin, no dramatizing, no playing Vergil at a recitation.

Jupiter, no wonder there are kids out there in AP Latin who end up hating Vergil.  What drudgery if this is what "reading" Latin means to them.

Last night I did lead a little section on reading theory.  I gave out my reading bookmarkers based in Dexter's rules for reading Latin.  Bob Cape talked a bit about reading with expectation, Glen Knudsvig style.  I then followed up with a handout on different types of metaphrasing I do as warm-ups.  Finally we handed out and went over the different rules for disambiguation from an article Dan McCaffrey wrote for TCA back when I was editor.

I'm not in enough of a leadership role to really help these teachers make the transition to reading in word order.  I made up reading cards, as I agreed to do last night, this morning even though I overslept.  I could have been rereading my Latin for class.  I had them ready to go, handed them over to one of the profs, but then they were never used with this morning's readings, even though I suggested we use them after the break with the beginning of our readings in book 12.  That's ok.  We can bring these things up later.

Sometimes some of us on Latinteach are accused of being too, I dunno, evangelical about our views.  But I am cruising through Vergil, not without stops and starts in places, but in comparison to what doing 50+ lines was like for me in college, I am cruising through with time to spare for reading and rereading.  I am making myself read out loud, which some may find odd, but it makes SUCH A BIG DIFFERENCE.  

This gives me a dimension of fluency in reading and I'm better at reading elisions (most of the time) and even sight reading!  This morning, as I said, I woke up late, 2 hours later than planned.  No rollerblading around campus for me like yesterday.  No breakfast even, but then I have fresh peaches in my room.  I made the reading cards and looked over the book 10 readings.  I had failed to remember that we were supposed to read in book 12!!!  I discovered that while we were sitting in the lounge where we meet, slowly pouring over the lines.  When I noticed on the agenda that there was book 12 lines to read, I quickly noted what passage we were currently on and remembered that I felt solid on reading that section.  So I skipped to the 20 or so lines that I hadn't read, and read through them two or three lines, getting only stuck in one place that was difficult.  I didn't sweat it; I knew we'd go over it.  And if I ended up reading those lines, so be it if I wasn't perfect.

If nothign else this was a demonstration that these techniques which I have been teaching and working on using myself do make me a better reader, less panicked at sight.  In fact, all of this is sight reading, really, except I can look up words if I need to.

So, I suppose I'm rambling.  And it's time to go to the computer lab.  

Maybe one day I can team up with some profs to do a workship similar to this, but one that also includes up front better ways to teach and approach reading that actively makes the "students" practice these techniques even if they feel comfortable with their more painstaking decode and translate on paper method.

 I'm sorry.  I'm confused.

WHY should we Latin teachers think we are above other teachers in being able to have a varied curriculum?

The debate continues regarding whether Vergil will remain as is, whether there will be other authors added to it, etc.  If so, what authros would we like to see? Etc.  Then someone exclaimed that they couldn't stand to teach Vergil and only Vergil until the end of time.  (Well, something like that.)  

Think about all the other teachers on campus.  They don't have choices and opportunities for  variety.  Everyone else has their own AP curriculum at the pinnacle of their field.  

And even if we weren't teaching AP, MOST school districts and schools have set curricula.  There are certain novels that are read in English, there are certain things that must be covered in science and in math.  Some districts require the use of the same 6 wk tests!

Why should teaching Vergil each year be any worse than teaching from the same beginning textbook?  HEck, the more I teach from CLC, the more I like the little things that were put in by the original author(s). The repetition isn't necessarily bad.   Anyway, we aren't professors.  We aren't in colleges offering a wide variety of courses.  We offer the basics--heeeellllllloooooo!  We are high school.

And I still think it's funny that people do not want to do prose.  I still say people are intimidated by prose.

And what's to say that we can't still stick our favorite things here and there in AP?  Aren't we supposed to prepare students to sight read ANYTHING, including PROSE????

Oh, but what do I know?  I haven't taught AP yet so I know I'm just speaking from what I imagine.  But surely if we are teaching real reading skills and teaching students to read the texts and not just cover the lines, then we should be able to interest them in other authors to read on their own.  Yes, it could happen.  Students WILL read on their own if they think they are able and feel successful at it.  And they will only feel successful if we are NOT covering lines but are teaching READING skills, true READING skills.

Or, hell, introduce them to Loebs.

But back to my point.  We as a profession sometimes act like we deserve special treatment--we deserve our 3rd or 4th year classes to make, even if the numbers are too small.  We deserve to choose what we teach, even when our other colleagues are having their curriculum prescribed for them. We deserve to have 2 AP courses even when all of the other foreign languages are geing cut back to one pinnacle course.  

Has anyone stepped back and thought of what we sound like?  

I dunno.  Maybe I'm just being a pain in the ass.
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This was in a reply to a note of dismay on Latinteach when a teacher found out that her Latin 3 class of 11 students wasn't going to make:

***
I confess that I am almost surprised by the number of people who think this is almost conspiracy level, who think the principal hired a coach, or is indifferent to 3rd year of a foreign language, or just thinks very little of Latin.
 
It's about numbers and costs!
 
In fact, I'm surprised that you didn't see this coming, no offense, truly.  This is not an uncommon problem--not having the numbers.  And it's not just Latin.  The French AP class didn't make for next year at my school, because she didn't have the numbers--and she has no interest in doing split level.  (Apparently I'm the only foreign language teacher crazy enough to do that.)
 
With only 11 students signed up, and no guarantee that all 11 will stay, the class can't make.  So teach it split level.  Show your principal YOU ARE DEDICATED to the students and to their needing 3 years or more of a foreign language.  I've taught split level for 2 years now and will be doing it at least 1 more year if not 2.  It's doable if you are prepared and have routines that you have taught the students so that they can be more independent.  It's not ideal, but it's doable.  Heck, I took 2 of 3 years of Latin myself independent study. 
 
The next step is to consider what you can do to prevent this happening again.  In my case, I have been busting my butt to build up the program.  The students that are in split level are the ones I inherited when I came to Dripping Springs.  MY GOAL, though, is that this past year's Latin 1 class will be my first group to not need split level anything.  They will be my first level 3 pre-AP class, they will be my first full AP class!  I AM SO PUMPED.
 
And, yes, I have worked myself silly with the split-level classes.  BUt quia.com helps, and having a good conference period, preferably right before that class, helps, and remembering that NOTHING will be ideal.  Just go with the flow and do your best.
 
Just because we teach a foreign language, just because we teach Latin, just because we teach a course that students "need" to graduate, does not guarantee us anything.  (And who said something about tenure?  WHAT'S TENURE?  Sorry, we don't have it down here....) 
 
For the new teachers on the list or future teachers, remember this: healthy numbers don't just happen--you have to make them happen.  And A GREAT PART of that is your teaching style.  It's your willingness to work with students--ANY KIND OF STUDENT.  For me, it's about finding a way to make Latin accessible to all my Latin 1 students, even the strugglers, so that I can get them into Latin 2.  Then with Latin 2 it's about getting as many as possible into Latin 3, not weeding out the strugglers so I can just teach the bright ones (and, no, I am not accusing anyone on this list of doing this, but I have seen it done).  AND LET ME ADD that all through Latin 1, esp this spring, I was saying things like, "when ALL OF YOU are in AP Latin, we'll be reading Vergil and you'll see why we really need to understand ___." 
 
One of the Spanish teachers commented last week that eventually I would be draining off all the smart kids into Latin.  How absurd, I thought, because I don't teach that way.  If anything, I may drain off the students that are bombing Spanish because the teacher doesn't have time to figure out ANOTHER way to reach that particular student.  I have even heard at CAMWS the GRADUATE student committee advising future PhD's that TEACHING IS IMPORTANT and to learn to be GOOD AT IT.
 
We have a product that we are selling.  We are not gasoline; nobody HAS TO HAVE US.  We need to make people WANT IT, NEED IT, *CRAVE* IT.  Spanish is needed more than we are as a practicality, but we are FAR MORE PRACTICAL than French (no offense, teachers of French)--well, certainly this far south.  (If you live up in Minnesota or something, near French-speaking Canada, I take it all back!) 
 
Yes, we should promote and talk up vocab building test scores, as well as strengthening grammar concepts, etc.  I had an Asian student this year who put on his end of the year evaluation that he learned a lot about English grammar through my class which was very helpful to him (he's new to speaking English).  Case and point.
 
In other words, our product is a good one.  All that's left is how we SELL it and how we DELIVER it.  And these may not be things discussed during teacher training, but they are critical if you want Latin 3 and 4 classes to make.
 
One last thing, if you need some printed material about 3 years or more of a foreign language, the TCA Survey of College Admissions Counselors has good information:
http://www.txclassics.org/surveyresults.pdf

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Of course, I may have been too rough on the person in question.  But this is like those teachers who have thin numbers and suddenly discover that their program is being cut!  OHMIGOSH!  HELP ME SAVE MY PROGRAM!  And so people start writing letters and whatnot.  But I have learned to stop and ask a few questions:  1) How long have you been at that school?  2) What have you done to grow your program?  3) What kind of relationship have you established with your students and perhaps more importantly with their parents?   If the teacher has been there for a while, has done nothing to promote their program, and has no relationship with parents because he/she chose not to do JCL competitions (outside activities is where you really meet parents), chose not to go to conferences to learn the latest in best practices and pedagogy and thus continue learning--AS ALL TEACHERS IN ALL DISCIPLINES ARE EXPECTED AND REQUIRED TO DO, and chose to coast.... well, then, I'm sorry, but WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

Is that harsh?  Is that mean?  WHY GET INTO TEACHING IN THE FIRST PLACE IF TEACHING WELL DOESN'T INTEREST YOU?   If you have no interest in the students or their parents?  In the whole aspect as school as a community?

You know what?  All of you new teachers or future teachers of Latin listen up:  teaching is HARD WORK.  If you just show up, do your thing, and go home, you may or may not keep a program.  I know a lot of middle school teachers get caught in this trap: they like the lighter work load of teaching level 1 Latin (hey, I definitely did, but I had family issues of my own to deal with at the time) and they relax and coast.  That's when the programs get closed.    You HAVE TO INVEST YOURSELF in your program.  We are electives.  We aren't core courses and there are no guarantees in life.  BUT, if you do invest yourself in your program and your students and their parents, you can control your destiny far more than if you just coast.  I'd rather have a kayak and be paddling myself than a sailboat because some days the wind just doesn't blow.  If you are the one doing the work, you will at least know that you will get to your goal.

Teaching is a pretty safe profession--we don't have issues that computer programmers have or other tech companies.  But we can never be complacent.  

Right. <sigh> rant over, I guess.

So I'm about to get down to some serious grading but got distracted by the thought of searching quia.com for Vergil vocab lists.  I'm starting to think about Vergil stuff for next year for the Latin 4's.  And I'm going to start with a little Vergil with the Latin 3's pretty soon anyway, as soon as I figure out what I'm doing this bizarre TAKS week...

ANYWAY, I found a few lists but no one had macrons.

And I sat there staring at these lists, arrogantly demanding in my head that people start using macrons, asking why others don't use macrons, etc etc.

I need to get a life.  

Ok, I do think they are important.  I do think that the right way to learn vocab is OUTLOUD, said correctly, and that the only way we can possibly do this is by always having macrons on vocab and passages so that we always hear the word right, say it right, etc.  Then, when we've truly LEARNED it right, when we next meet it we will hear it/say it right and no longer need macrons.  But we need them when we are learning them.  We really do.

Or so I think.

*sigh*  So, well, yeah I guess I could just use someone else's lists on quia.com but I know what will happen to me.  I'm going to want the macrons.  

I'm starting to feel a bit like Monk.

Right now I'm supposed to be revising a test for English.  But my thoughts float to things Latin.

I personally think everyone should get away during the spring semester to a conference, if for no other reason than to refresh yourself and THINK.

I've done a lot of thinking.  After lengthy discussions about AP Latin and its fate, I've thought about how to structure my pre-AP Latin 3 class year after next, as well as my future AP course, which I still have faith will make.

I've been having discussions with a professor friend of mine regarding the whole debate of grammar/translation vs reading, and this misconception that you don't get readers of Latin out of grammar translation.  Of course, after she left for a meeting that I would usually attend (but I needed to pack and write this test that you can all see I'm working on so hard right now, ha ha), that it's not about whether you can produce good readers at the end of either--that is, OF COURSE both methods will get you there.  The real question or perhaps the real answer, I feel but didn't think to say, is that you can often get MORE to that point of reading real Latin through the reading approach if only because it starts out more gently and not with a ton of grammar up front.

Is "how many" that important?  Sure it is.  Because if you can't keep your numbers up, you will forever have split level classes or no chance of having enough kids left to take AP.  And you can incorporate formal grammar in a reading based course.  As a teacher you can do any damn thing you like, really, it is all a matter of how well you can communicate with your students.

If I had counselors weed out my classes and only let students with a certain GPA in, then I would have the best and brightest and be able to move along at a decent rate if not faster than now, knowing that everyone will grasp concepts as I toss them out.  Some people don't want to spend time of the strugglers or have no idea that the struggles can be good at language but in a different way.

ANYWAY.

I took stock of what my Latin 2's suck at and what aspect of that is my fault or could be prevented.

I've been thinking about contracts for Latin 3 pre-AP in the future, and may even incorporate contracts next year with Latin 2s.  I'll flesh those out here another time, because I know I really need to get back to that English test.  I really shouldn't leave this room (until I have to check out) unless I've finished this English test.  I just wanted to say how important it is to take time to think about what's working and what's not, and to be around people with fresh ideas and different takes on how to approach things.

And I have my AP letter to write still.  The meeting/discussion we had on AP Thurs night was a good one; Andrew at eclassics.ning.com has posted minutes from it which are pretty accurate (I'm misquoted slightly but it's not a big deal).  What we need to do, I think, is to find that angle on why it would be valuable for them to keep the Latin Lit test.

And there are more thoughts spinning in my head, but that English test ain't gonna write itself, if you know what I mean.

There's been a, what, squabble on Latinteach, that ended in a bit of name-calling ("elitists" and "I don't care what they think"), which I did take offense at--but not because the person (I'm guessing it's a he because his handle ends with "jr") hit close to home, but because it just saddened me that a good conversation dropped down to name calling. Name calling...just one of those things that keeps people from actually looking at the discussion. Just one of those things that my children have to deal with in school from people who don't understand differences, who don't want to understand differences, or who are indifferent to them.

Yeah, I'm sensitive when someone mistakes my good intentions for malicious ones, which is probably why I still have a knee-jerk reaction to what happened at my former school. In trying to protect students and faculty from real safety threats I was accused of being a whiner who didn't like the new principal. Truth is, she had some good ideas, which I did support. Anyway, I know I'm rambling. But this is part of what came next on Latinteach:

> Ginny, while I apologize for whatever I may have done to offend you
> personally (even though my e-mail was NEVER directed toward you personally,
> so, again, why the ultra-personal response?), I don't appreciate other
> "Latinists" telling me that my teaching is ineffective because I'm not
> teaching my students how to "think in Latin".....whatever that means. My
> course is one of the most rigorous in the school....YET it is also one of
> the most popular. I think I am doing a fine job getting my students to
> think, and I take offense when anyone implies otherwise. (And yes, I realize
> no one made the implication directly towards me....However, I have seen the
> snobbery on here before, and I'm not going to sit back while others who
> practice methods similar to mine are told how "wrong" they are.)


I think the snobbery you've seen is imagined. I think if you had met a lot of the people that are vocal on this list, you would know they are very kind, helpful, not forceful, not elitist. We become overzealous, perhaps, when we see students achieving things that our previous students have not or that even we did not at their age. We are seeing groups of students that have not been among the achievers find different means to grasp the same concepts and rise to the top.

Go to an ACL conference and meet a lot of the people on this list. Listen to them, go to their sessions. You'll find that there are a lot of different but equally valid teaching techniques being utilized with success. You'll find some people doing incredible things with different authors, different time periods, different approaches. And you'll find some of the friendliest people on the planet.

Perhaps many of us have just fought with our own personal difficulties in our own school days with the traditional grammar first programs, feeling that there are sometimes glass ceilings that just don't need to be there if approached differently. I certainly found that for myself. No question that I knew my forms. No question I could decode with the best of them. But something was *missing*.

And no one is trying to say that you are doing an ineffective job because you aren't teaching your students to think in Latin--which means exactly what it says (staying in the Latin and not resorting to English to complete thoughts and express comprehension). What we are saying is that if you think you've gotten your students to a certain high level doing things the way you are doing them, why not try stretching them a little be more language-wise to see if they can surpass your reading skills? It might blow your mind!

There used to be a Latin teacher on this list, Jennie Clifton, whose son went to Davidson College. She was telling me that in his leisure time--once out of school and into high finance--he would read Latin for pleasure. He hit a level of fluency under his professors at Davidson (our own Jeanne N.) who teach in Latin, who require written responses in Latin, and assign significantly larger amounts of Latin than one can easily parse at a go. The end result? His fluency is more like that of someone taking a modern language. Even professors--like the late Glenn Knudsvig, former ACL president--understood the frustration that some undergrads felt when seeing their friends majoring in modern languages reading whole novels while they were doing X amount of lines of a chapter in a book, and not necessarily reading the whole Aeneid or Metamorphoses, etc. There is a glass ceiling that is struck where one can feel that one can't translate any faster or do any more than X lines at a go, and the dream of reading page by page seems just that--a dream.

What turned me around was corresponding with Dexter Hoyos down under, whose book, _Latin: How to Read it Fluently_, really changed how I viewed the number of lines I could get through. I wish--oh God how I wish--I had had that book as a freshman at UT. I would have been READING Latin, instead of just being an efficient decoder.

All we're saying is there's another level that may be attainable, a level of fluency taught in a way we weren't taught. This isn't snobbery. This is EXCITEMENT! This is us being STUDENTS ourselves, young and still with that incredible gift of WONDER! Reaching for the STARS! Seeing what's BEYOND our meager small solar system! Willing to take RISKS! Willing to make MISTAKES! Willing, even, to be laughed at... but not willing to pass over something that could make an incredible difference in our own lives and those of our students. In fact, for me, it's not about how good I get at Latin, it's all about how good I can make them--can I get them to surpass me?! that's all....

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Yeah, I suppose there are times when I am a snob, when I am frustrated by teaching that is hardly teaching; teaching that looks good on paper but the students walk away frustrated and feeling like they've learned nothing. I've known many students who have complained to me of that about their own Latin teacher, and it is a sad, frustrating thing. But that's not what we're talking about here, not at all.

This person has a strong program, no question by what he says. And no one was trying to say he was a lousy teacher. We were only saying that you think your students are doing well now, try this and see if they don't go even farther.

But someone always misinterprets the best intentions. Here, lists, & in life.

Such is life.
There was a missive on Latinteach that ranted on about how OF COURSE grammar must be the center of all that we do! That students learn English grammar from Latin grammar, that you can't do without it, etc etc.

The old arguments for learning Latin--NOT to learn Latin to read what people who lived 2000 years ago said and thought and felt, but to improve our own SAT scores and English compositions. Oh sure, no question, these are important benefits of Latin, but it's not the reason why you study the language.

The implication was also that if grammar isn't at the forefront of your program, then you don't know what you're doing. I could be reading more into it, but I'm sure she's just been dying to jump in and say so with all of us radical reading-based approach people on the list.

I want to ask her how many students enjoy Latin--and I don't mean enjoy it because Latin is fun or fluff. I mean enjoy learning it, all the aspects of learning. Just the grammar nerds? What about the strugglers? How big are her intermediate and advanced classes?

She also said point blank that she couldn't possibly see why anyone would bother with oral Latin--what's the point? Hey, you can't tell me that speaking Latin in class doesn't enhance comprehension. I've had observers who have been totally impressed to hear me questioning my MIDDLE SCHOOLERS in Latin and them replying CORRECTLY in Latin while we read a story. YOU CAN STAY IN THE LATIN! You don't have to use English, which is good for all the students who are not native English speakers--not just my Hispanic kids but my foreign exchange students and students who have moved to this country in recent years from Russia or some part of Asia.

I can't imagine how small my program would be if I were grammar-front. People ask me all the time how I went from 13 in Latin 1 last year to 75 this year. I know part of it is just personality and charisma. You know that's a factor in teaching--we are artists/performers and that just plays a part of it. But part of it is that I try to reach every student. I don't dumb down my classes so that I can have big classes. I've seen that done. My student teaching was in a school with a program like that--poor Latin grades were disguised with projects each six weeks. As near as I can tell, where my son took Latin last year in 7th grade that teacher only did vocabulary quizzes and a final exam. I don't believe he ever had a stage test, but her students did phenomenally at competition, and I take my hat off to her for that. The thing is, when all you test is vocabulary or even just conjugating and declining, you are only testing lower-level knowledge (rote memory) skills. Translating tests higher level skills like analysis and synthesis. Where's the in between?

And I wonder, how many of us are guilty of waiting to hit hard core stuff until 3rd year, because the 2 year foreign language students aren't up to it? It happens. There are things that I slack on too. God knows I'm not perfect, and I'm not trying to set myself up to be.

But there *IS* a happy medium between die-hard grammar and no grammar. I think I'm hitting that medium, but I think I'm hitting it because so much of what I do *IS* in context--it's WRITTEN in context, READ in context, SPOKEN in context. I don't talk about case, number, and gender until AFTER we've metaphrased some words, putting them in context. It appeals to more people that way anyhow--all those different style of learners. Morphology is nothing in a cold chart. Declining tests nothing more than rote memory. Morphology in context = MEANING. I want enough grammar to get MEANING, ya know?

I think the greatest challenges we face as Latin teachers are finding ways to support grammar in context, to reach as many students as possible, and to make sure that we meet our goals of teaching students to READ LATIN AS A REAL LANGUAGE and not perpetuate the decoding method of interpretting Latin.

There is NO DAMN REASON why we shouldn't be able to read pages of Latin at a go instead of lines. The only thing holding us back is our own mental blocks on the subject. People learning a second language don't always understand every word on the page, but they will read page after page and develop an overall understanding or sense about the piece.

Yes, we can still read for detail, we can still read to pick something apart word by word, phrase by phrase, to milk every creative, artistic detail out of a work. We do this with English sometimes too. But sometimes we just read.

If you teach grammar up front and make it the most important aspect of what you do, what are you communicating to students about why they are studying Latin?

I want mine to read. I want my students to read better than I do. I want my students to pick up Latin AFTER THEY HAVE LEFT THE STUDY OF LATIN and still read it. It can be with facing English, I don't care, as long as they sit there, as I do now, thinking not about the English but the incredible Latin--the words, the phrasing, every little bit of it.

I've been reading in Peter Green's Catullus off and on for a while now. His English is brilliant--clever, raunchy even, almost perfect. But I'm more interested in the Latin, I want to pour over those words, fix them in my mind and in my heart. I just don't want any student of mine in AP Latin in the future to quote me the ENGLISH of a particular Catullus (as if having the English memorized is the key to understanding the Latin and doing well onthe AP test). I want my students walking around muttering Latin, much like Rumpole of the Bailey (character by Sir John Mortimer) quotes Wordsworth and Shakespeare.
You'd have to look back a couple of years in the blog to read about the nightmare that happened at my former middle school, Porter, when the new administration let discipline go to hell and I desperately pleaded with the district to do something. I ended up breaking up a gang fight in a girls restroom (rather traumatic), wrote a lengthy email that I sent to district officials that I had already been in proper communication with plus copied that to the superintendent and school board. The principal hijacked my evaluation, marked me down in 6 areas, & screwed me over in numerous ways. My thanks for being concerned about the safety and welfare about students, colleagues and self.

She was awarded a brand new middle school to open this year. However, this has just appeared on the district website:

***
Administrative Changes Announced at Two Austin Middle Schools - Statement from Dr. Paul Cruz, Associate Superintendent for Middle Schools
Printable View

December 21, 2007 - Today I advised the faculty and staff of Garcia Middle School that their Principal, Ms. Judy Szilagyi, will leave the campus at the end of this semester, to accept another position with the Austin School District. Ms. Szilagyi is an experienced elementary and middle school principal, and her work to help launch the District's newest middle school campus last August is to be commended.

Also today I met with the faculty and staff of Fulmore Middle School, and advised them that their Principal, Lucio Calzada, will leave their campus at the end of this semester, to become Garcia's interim principal for the remainder of this academic year. Dr. Carol McKenzie, an experienced middle school principal who has served the Austin School District in the past, will become interim Principal at Fulmore.
***

It's all I can do to resist writing the superintendent and saying ABOUT TIME--NOW, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE IT UP TO ALL THE FAITHFUL TEACHERS YOU SCREWED OVER WHILE SUPPORTING THIS WOMAN?

I know, I know, let it go, Ginny. Let it go....
Tags:
Ok, I've calmed down. And I've been thinking.

Yeah, my own student teaching was a horrible experience in many ways. 1st, the woman I did it with (passed away a couple of years ago), was truly two-faced. She milked me for all I was worth before state competition, having me come to school early to train her certamen teams, stealing my materials and using with her late afternoon classes without my knowledge (until I walked into class one day to get something I left)... I mean, she could have asked permission.

My supervising professor, Gareth Morgan, was an amazing man who was really interested in teaching and helping me to become a good teacher. He asked to see what I was the worst at--and in this case it was reading/translating with students. My supervising teacher always divided the class into groups, gave each group a paragraph, so in essense students only did one or two students individually. We had talked about this in advance. Then on the day Gareth was to come, I got really sick. I had a fever. I skipped my morning classes with the understanding from the teacher that she please, please, please do the lesson with those kids the way I had planned so both classes would be at the same place. Did she do this? No.

I dragged my feverish ass up to school. Gareth came. Poor Gareth saw a horrible class, so horrible that he fell asleep--not that I noticed, but the students did. After class one particular stereotypical dumb blonde (no offense! and I have blonde children!) dance team girl type came up to apologize for how bad class was/how poorly they performed.

I was feverish, frustrated, and upset with the teacher for not doing the one thing I asked, AND THEN this teacher started to totally CHEW ME OUT for doing translation on a day that an EVALUATOR came! I mean she chewed me up one side and down the other, making it very clear that the last thing you ever do when an evaluator came was translation. I tried to explain that Gareth knew it would be a bad class, that he wanted to see it so we could discuss what to do to make it better. She didn't care. She didn't care at all.

And all of this was before things really got bad in her room.

At state JCL competition, the certamen teams I trained did well and placed. One of my old high school chums came up to congratulate me and my supervising teacher. The teacher took it as her praising me, a San Antonio trained JCLer, and no one else. Which wasn't true. Not at all. So the next day we're in the teacher's workroom/lunchroom and we were talking about competition in front of some English teachers and ALL OF A SUDDEN FROM OUT OF NOWHERE she totally tore into me about the San Antonio teachers running everything. MAN, it came out of left field. I don't know WHAT was going on in her warped mind, but I'm guessing in retrospect that she was somehow threatened by me. I dunno.

When I only had about 2 weeks left of my student teaching, she switched the seating arrangement in the room so that the two sides faced each other. Maybe it was only 1 week left. All I know is that things had gotten so bad by this time that one day when I was walking across the UT campus I debated stepping out in front of a car, wondering whether I might only break my leg or if I'd accidentally kill mysel--I was that miserable and depressed. THEN she switched the room, which made my classroom management problems a nightmare, and they were already bad.

It was before school when I had discovered the change in the seating arrangement, and for whatever reason I was so overwhelmed by this that I escaped to the teacher's workroom. No one was in there at first so I sat myself in a corner and admittedly started to cry. One of the English teachers that I observed came in and kindly asked what was wrong. I told her--I thought in confidence. I just didn't understand why my supervising teacher couldn't wait one more week until I was gone... Well, the English teacher mentioned it to my teacher. When class began and students started filing into the room and COMPLAINING about the seating arrangement, thinking I had done it, I calmly explained it wasn't me and that it wouldn't be a problem (as if it were no big deal). The teacher then spoke up, loudly, in front of all the students, that yes, she had done the change and that IT WASN'T FOR OTHER TEACHERS TO KNOW--that is, I shouldn't have gone crying to someone about it. Which is NOT what I had done!!! I had just given myself a time-out so I could cope with the change.

AND I SURVIVED. I survived and learned and all that.

So maybe I wasn't a good supervising teacher when it was my turn. I did try to let her do stuff her own way, or at least I believe I did. I tried not to micromanage. Did I have all the answers? No. I had never experienced students as badly behaved as the ones I had that year, and I freely admitted that my classroom management plan that I had used previously wasn't working with them. And even if mine didn't work well, I could see the gimmicks she was trying as just gimmicks. I could point out why they wouldn't work, or would only work temporarily. She didn't listen, or she just simply believed I was wrong.

The problem with a lot of those students that year was bottom of the barrel self esteem. Self-esteem that was so low that it was easier to blow off a test and fail because you didn't try, than to try and fail anyway. And if they've decided that they can't do it, they become horrible behavior problems. One of those kids repeated Latin 1, failed it again, and was upset that I wouldn't let him into Latin 1b. And I had had this kid in exploratory. I had already had him for 3 years. He had serious ADHD, extremely low self-esteem, and even though I worked hard to help him along, he just kept giving up on himself.

The class my student teacher had included 3-5 kids just like him, all feeding off each other, etc.

And maybe my own inability to have established a classroom management system that really worked BEFORE she arrived did set her up for failure in some ways. (But I didn't know I had problems with classroom management before that year!) But she also didn't try to understand the real problems with those students, esp those kids with low self-esteem. Or at least, that's what I thought. I could be wrong. I could be way, way off.

So does anyone have a GOOD student teaching experience? Well, they must. After all, even my student teacher did say she had a great experience at the school she went to. AND I AM GLAD SHE DID. I'M GLAD SHE KNEW SHE HAD TO FIND SOMEONE SHE CONNECTED WITH. I'm not so anal that I believe I should be everyone's cup of tea. I know I'm not. I fully realize that.

And what do we get from this rant? Maybe a better awareness of how difficult this aspect of teacher training is, how emotionally charged it is, how frustrating, how critical, etc. This is one of those things many people hate, many people want to skip, etc.

But as I sit with Scrubs and Greys Anatomy playing in the background, I am reminded that internships for doctors can be equally emotional and frustrating (of course if not more so!). But doctors understand that there is a pecking order, that there is a certain way you do things or you do jump when someone says jump because it is life or death. Teaching is a personal profession with so much at stake: you are training a future teacher AND risking your own students. The only person with nothing at stake is the supervising professor, frankly.

Is there a better alternative to student teaching? A necessary evil? Maybe just a lot more shadowing and mini-teaches without the stress of longterm teaching?

Well, I dunno... but if you are having, have had, or suspect you are about to have a horrible student teaching experience, you are not alone! And it doesn't mean the world has come to the end....
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I just sent this to the Cambridge list. It seemed to me that too many people were looking for "permission" to be sloppy about pronunciation....

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There's no reason why we can't strive for accurate pronunciation or certainly CONSISTENT pronunciation, no reason why we can't be truly focused about whether we're putting the accent on the right syllable of the word. I certainly have discovered over the last 8 years that there were plenty of words I've pronounced wrong for years. No reason for me to CONTINUE doing it though, just because my Latin teacher did it or I learned it wrong years ago.

There WILL BE and ORAL component to the next certification test for Latin in Texas. It's under development. It's not meant to be scary or authoritarian, but it will emphasize that you should take the time to work on pronunciation because that is such a critical part to classroom teaching.

Students who learn to pronounce Latin well and who learn that macrons aren't just little marks to memorize but indicate how a word should be pronounced and thus should be memorized with the word (or the word memorized with the right pronunciation so putting the macron on is a no brainer) end up doing better with poetry and scansion and reading large selections of Latin fluently in general. Why wouldn't we equip them with this skill if it is within our means to do so?

I learned pronunciation from a Texan with a heavy Amarillo accent--in English. He had no accent in Latin; his Latin was pure (so to speak). My Hispanic students had no problem with pronouncing Latin accurately, nor did any of my other students--BECAUSE I MADE AN EFFORT to be a good role model. AND I would tell them that every now and then I'd hit a word I learned wrong and had to work, myself, on pronouncing it correctly.

CLC is meant to be read out loud. We have no Romans around to model it and read to us, so the best we can do is follow the instructions left behind by grammarians and unearthed by specialists studying inscriptions and whatnot.

I'm sorry if this seems like a rant, but we need to aim for the stars, not give ourselves permission to be mediocre. AD ASTRA PER ASPERA. No excuses, guys. If you know deep down inside that your Latin pronunciation isn't what it should be, get the Wheelock Readings from Bolchazy-Carducci and listen to them while going to school.

Pronunciation issues are a Catch-22: professors will say that their students from the high schools have sloppy pronunciation and that they don't have time in the curriculum to reteach pronunciation, and teachers will say that professors never really taught them. Fine. Teach yourself.

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You know, I really am tired of people who say pronunciation doesn't matter. I really was a bit pissed at a local colleague who, at that TEA committee meeting, said I had given them this long list of words they pronounced wrong a few years ago at an in-service. That long list was a little quiz--short--on commonly mispronounced words meant to get them thinking about how careful they are with their own pronunciation. IT WASN'T MEANT TO BE A SLAP ON THE WRIST. But you know people will take it that way because they would rather defend their own sloppy practices than face that they do something less than adequately.

YOU KNOW WHAT? You canNOT be a good teacher unless you are CONSTANTLY EXAMINING what you do and reflecting on whether you are doing things well or not, and whether that it keeping students from your ultimate teaching goals.

I am CONSTANTLY thinking about what I do badly, NOT because I'm a perfectionist, NOT because I'm anal, but because I WANT TO DO BETTER. You can't be a superstar unless you aim for the stars.

I just hung 10 stars up in my room at school and put behind them on the wall AD ASTRA PER ASPERA/TO THE STARS THROUGH DIFFICULTIES (I teach English too so put both Latin and English). I intend to ask my students what are the difficulties keeping them from being stars; what's holding them back. I'm going to hang a star over my desk too, to remind myself not to settle, but to reach for the stars, to push aside those difficulties or find ways over them or under them and to ACHIEVE MY GOALS.

You can't do that by settling.

Sure, there are times you do need to have balance--you have to eat and sleep and rest!!! And sometimes you truly can't meet all your goals. But keep your goals and continue to aim for the stars. Don't give yourself permission to be mediocre.

Don't give yourself permission to be mediocre.

Don't be mediocre.