Saturday, October 14, 2006

Combined (and Uncombined) Classes

I am very excited this year because, for the first time in years, I am not teaching Latin IV students and Advanced Placement students in the same room at the same time. I have handled this situation well in the past but was never very happy with the idea. I have tried different approaches to this arrangement, including splitting the class and teaching each half separately with separate curricula, while the other half completes assignments, projects, or groupwork, and teaching both halves together, the same curriculum, but having different "levels" of expectations and requirements. I prefer the latter, and had the most success doing so.

Now that I have each level in separate classes, I don't have to make special requirements or divide myself or my attention: AP Latin is cruising through Vergil's Aeneid and there's no looking back at the dust we are leaving behind, and Latin IV is reviewing and handling items of grammar and syntax (some advanced) and cutting their teeth on authentic Latin literature. Happiness all around... almost... but more about that later.

In Latin IV this year we are reading and translating from Caesar's De Bello Gallico... an author and work that I am embarrassed to admit that I have ignored for more than a decade. I have plans to revisit Pliny and Cicero (returning to the much neglected prose authors) and then move on to Ovid's Ars Amatoria (after blowing the dust off of those textbooks as well). Basically I plan to revisit authors and works *I* haven't read for a while... Vergil, Catullus, Ovid, and Horace are great authors and I wouldn't ditch them for the world but I'll leave those for the APs and we IVs can snuggle up with the others.

Now for the downside... I am in the wonderful situation where numbers are not a problem -- I owe that to lots of hard work and interesting, challenging classes. Last year I was given a schedule which included two Latin IV/AP classes: one on "A" day and one on "B" day (we operate on an alternating day block schedule). This arrangement allowed two options for a student to fit Latin into his or her schedule. Essentially almost everyone was a happy customer. This year, though, we offer Latin IV on "A" day and AP Latin on "B" day. Due to several "singleton" classes (most of them APs) and band, some upper-level Latin students were not able to take the class of their choice, or (miserabile dictu!) did not take Latin at all!

I was not willing to take on any students in independent and/or individual instruction because I have four preparations (which sometimes morph into six when the classes on "A" and "B" get on different paces), an active Latin Club and certamen teams, department responsibilities as chair, professional activities outside of school, and a family with two active and busy children.

Which teaching situation do I prefer? I must honestly admit that the jury is still out.

No comments: