Latin. I’ve only been teaching Latin for a year and half, but let me tell you, there are some pretty crazy things I’ve been learning. We had an event at school where parents and potential-parents of students could learn about classical education and what the heck are you doing over there, anyway? So for twenty minutes, I gave a “Welcome to Latin” class to adults – because let’s face it, lots of people wonder…
Here’s the thing: you should see how uncomfortable grown, successful adults become when asked to read a sentence in a language they don’t know.
I started by talking about SATs and the benefits of learning Latin for vocabulary and how Latin helps you learn other languages.
Here, look at our textbook. It’s so cool – it’s all Latin! Even my third graders start right here, page one (or seven, technically). Go ahead, read the first sentence.
I had to volunteer the only parent I recognized in the room. Let me say that the sentence was anything but complicated:
Roma in Italiā est.
(Oh my gosh I can’t believe I figured out how to include macrons in a blogpost!)
What do you think it means?
Yep, Rome is in Italy.
But you should’ve seen the trepidation in their eyes, the slowness in their speech. They looked up at me when they encountered a new word, and they were even less inclined to take a risk than their nine-year-old child.
I was struck tonight by our inhibitions.
We spend so much time trying to hide things that we stunt ourselves. Or, maybe I should say, I do. Or I did. Or I still do, but I’m getting better.
If I walked into an art class right now, I would hardly remember how a piece of charcoal feels in my hand. I’d be embarrassed by my lack of art vocabulary; I’d fear my fellow students’ critiquing eye and vast knowledge.
I’d look up at my teacher with eyes filled with questions, but the biggest one would be:
Can I do this?
That’s what I encounter every day. I’m learning slowly that teaching Latin is so much more than teaching declensions and conjugations, derivatives and study skills.
Really, it’s about answering that question. And hopefully as it gets answered more and more, and each time I’m proven right, my students will be able to stop asking it.
I’d love for the day to come when I don’t need anyone to tell me I can pick up watercolors and paint. I’d love to take a pottery class and create beautiful and useful things. I wish that, in this one lifetime I’ve been given, I could grow enough to stop asking the question.
Maybe someday instead of Can I do this?, I’ll start asking, What will I learn if I try?
What I’m working on right now? Learning to spin wool with a drop spindle (this procedure deserves its very own post). It’s taking longer than I ever expected, and I’m terrible. But I persevere, if only because I want a nice skein of yarn at the end of it.
Tonight, a few unsuspecting parents and I read a whole paragraph in Latin. Not everyone can say that.
[And here’s a song I’ve been loving.]
[Photo: Johnny Grim]