Monday, May 25, 2009

The Tatters of the Year

It is Memorial Day and tomorrow we will enter what I have come to call the tatters of the year. The AP and state exams are over. The weather is warm. The finish line is in sight. I try to tell my students that, even though you can see the end of the course, the race is not yet finished. Too many, though, have set their goal well short of that chalk line ahead.

Even though there are still three weeks left in the school year (time enough to learn some new things!) instruction is effectively over. The seniors, who will graduate a week before the end of school and (most of whom) are grade-exempt from final exams, have already stopped coming to school. This has a profound impact on the motication of the rest of the student body who also want to check out early. There are also fieldtrips, assemblies, and other activities to distract them from their studies. Oh yeah, there are still second semester exams to be given...

OK, what to do?

In the words of the Borg (from Star Trek: The Next Generation), "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated." I have learned that I can beat my head against the wall and drag the students kicking and screaming (or, worse, chatting or snoring) through a lesson on the ablative absolute or I can change things up and work toward application of the material learned in an earlier, more focused period of their education.

In AP Latin, we dutifully said our farewells to the Latin Literature syllabus and didn't look back. We are now learning the Greek alphabet and will try to cover the first chapter or two of Athenaze. I am surprised at how excited the students are to start something brand new. They tell me that it is like going all the way back to starting Latin I, when everything was fresh, new, and exciting. Ah, but our time in Greek will be too short... just a taste for now and encouragement to take it in college.

In my other classes we are moving toward reading and translating. To teach the uses of the subjunctive mood at this point would be a Herculean effort which would quickly turn, I fear, into a Sisyphean labor. These new things are best left for the next school year. Why not take everything we have done this year and apply it to readings and translations in their textbooks and a few outside items I bring in? We can polish these skills and reinforce the material taught this year as an effort of moving toward their finals. Application is to be stressed over acquisition.

It's a plan.

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