Thursday, February 23, 2006

Medice, cura te ipsum!

I have often put in my two cents in the great Latin textbook debate, but this posting is not directly about that. That is a thread all its own and will be addressed much later!

My comments have always been that a teacher teaches the language and not the textbook. No textbook is perfect and each one must be adapted to the teacher's philosophy, abilities, and interests, and the students' abilities and needs. All the while, I have made these adaptations to suit my situations, but remained steady in my forced march through the chapters: 24, 25, 26, etc. Don't make waves... Don't upset the natural order of the universe... Keep passing those mileposts...

Now I find myself in desperate straits. Students from three different middle schools with three different teachers feed into my program. Another teacher teaches the beginning class at my high school... so each year I find my Latin II students in different places in the textbook (sometimes markedly different) and with a wide variety of experiences.

I am very frustrated and WAY BEHIND where I know we should be in the textbook, so much so that this annual collage is beginning to impact in a very negative way my students' readiness for the advanced level classes. Some may end up moving into an Advanced Placement Latin class without ever having translated a word of authentic Latin literature. This is not right.

So... It's time for me to step back from the textbook and take a good look at what needs to be taught and what can be postponed. Rethink... regroup... reorganize! My plans are to teach the language, using my own examples and practice, and use the textbook for reference and as a reader. My biggest concern here is the loss of opportunites for acquiring vocabulary. All I can think is to have lots of practice work and sentences with lots of different words.

I am definitely stepping outside my comfort zone in this endeavor. I will stand in front of the classroom, keep my lip from quivering, and act like this is the most natural thing in the world! I'll keep you informed as we abandon this carriage in the ditch and strike out across the field on our own. Our goal is not the inn, but to fend off the wolves and make it to Rome!

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