Keeping Latin relevant

April 14th, 2013 | Tags: , ,

One of the great emotional hurdles I’m discovering in a full classroom setting is the anxiety of sufficiency. I don’t mean just whether we’re engaging the material that Latin students ought to know. Though blending culture lessons evenhandedly into the grammar is a distinct challenge, we are not doing too terribly for my first real crack at this. No, my concern–dread, even–is that I’m not delivering it in an interesting enough way that will ensure retention and motivate students to pursue questions they have independently. We start by teaching as we have been taught, and because I learned Latin in college, I have been the recipient of the grand tradition of old, white scholastic privilege that has been handed down through the generations. It is simply assumed, in the standard curriculum, that students will thirst for the knowledge, so that when you dole it out, they will lap it up as pigs at a trough.

This new generation isn’t having any of that.

And why should they? Their weltanschauung, the scenery from their perch in the branches of this crazy tree, is the socioeconomic aftermath of the cataclysm known as the Internet. Communication is no longer limited to one-on-one interactions, but rather they are steeped in a sea of myriad voices, all competing for their attention. And like any tree grown in soil, they draw strength and nutrient from it. It is to them a given, a fact, an intrinsic part of their consciousness. We who have emigrated to this way of living, like the legendary foreigner king of Rome, Tarquin I, must honor their customs and woo them with instruction that speaks to their motivations, dreams, and goals. We must show them through the lens of modernity that ancient Rome, and the words these people produced, are every bit as relevant to them as how Kat was asked to prom by Johnny.We are swimming every bit as much in a sea of Latin as we are in the digital, interconnective mediaverse; it’s my job to show them how to swim better in both.

The key to all of this is that I go into the classroom with unextinguishable zeal and enthusiasm for the language. I don’t know how anyone would sign up to be a teacher who wasn’t driven forward almost against their will to share this passion. (But I see them.) Now I need to cap off that zeal with relevance. Because, frankly, just memorizing declension and verb endings isn’t intrinsically interesting to a broad swath of people. And even going the word-roots route is only so useful; appreciation for the beauty that is the Latin system of verbs and nouns must be cultivated through means other than brute force.

My mother, of all people, dug up a link for me that has a collection of useful Web sites that could be useful in doing so with the resources we now have at our fingertips. It is the rare student who does not have access to the Internet, either through their phone or tablet or PC, and so I post this here for myself as much as you:

50 Fun and Educational Websites Keeping Latin Alive

The blog post itself is three years old, but the list is extraordinarily comprehensive. My goal is to go through these items and incorporate what I can into my curriculum for next year. I want to encourage as much as I can the skill of self-study. Not just because it’s how one truly learns, but also because trying to just beat it into their skulls is a ridiculous amount of work! The sooner I can trick them into doing it for themselves, and to enjoy themselves to boot, the sooner I will retain the energy to develop truly excellent lesson plans ahead of time instead of jumping from fire to fire as I am right now. The graduate work that I am pursuing plays a role in my pedagogical tardiness, but I own my missteps. I know where I can and should do better. I hope to share my efforts in this direction here more frequently!

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