Saturday, August 28, 2010
I was recently informed that adorning the facade of the city hall building in downtown Fredericksburg were two caducei. I was so surprised I had to go look for myself, and there they were, each one flanking the sign identifying the building. Having lived in the area for 47 years and having passed this building countless times, I had never noticed these mythological adornments. Next time we mention this object in class, this will be one of the pictures I display.
Why is the city hall decorated with images of Mercury's staff, you may ask? Well, the building used to be the post office! Makes sense to me!
Thursday, August 26, 2010
"Look! In the picture is a Roman girl named Cornelia. Also in the picture is another girl named Flavia. The girls are sitting under a tree and they are eating snails."
The students are not allowed to use any books, notes, etc. -- just translate the passage in Latin. They, being eager to impress and please, set off with confidence because this is too easy... until they get to the end. Most remember the passage and translate it perfectly through "Flavia." There are occasional errors in adjective-noun agreement or spelling. Believe it or not, "The girls are sitting under the tree" is a little more challenging to translate cold; and then they get to the end. Some openly question whether we have had "snail" before, others think we must have because (certainly) the teacher would never ask them to translate "snails" (without notes!) unless we've talked about it before. Some think they must have forgotten it.
I then asked for four volunteers to put their Latin passages on the board. Some wave their hands frantically, trying to get my attention, so I oblige and send them up. After they have written their works on the board, I go over the English again and THEN talk about the point of the exercise: "This year in Latin II, we are going to build upon what we have learned before. Some things are going to be very simple, because they are second nature, like 'Look! In the picture is a Roman girl named Cornelia.' Other things will need some polishing and review, like '(there) is another girl.' Some things will need to be retaught, like 'under the tree' or 'they are eating' and some things are going to be brand new, like 'snails.'" Almost right away most are relieved that their teacher really didn't expect them to know 'snail' from Latin I. Hey, good illustration there of what we are going to do in Latin!
The interesting creations for "they are eating snails"?
and the best,
edunt (drawing of a snail)
Monday, August 09, 2010
The first order of business is to find the proper placement for the teacher's desk, the large table in the room, the students' desks, the shelves, filing cabinet, etc. Every year I call upon my inner sense of feng shui and try to find an arrangement that works. I think I have come up with a workable plan... for the moment!
While unpacking, I came across those things I have found indispensable (to me!) for running an organized and effective classroom and I want to pass along my suggestions to any newbies and veterans (in no particular order):
- A Good English Language Dictionary with etymological information. Believe it or not, this is the very first thing I purchased for my classroom 23 years ago. I have often referred to my Webster's Collegiate Dictionary when questions of word meaning, origin, usage, or the correct plurals, have come up in class. I often refer students to this necessary reference and even show them how to use it correctly.
- A Class Set of English-Latin/Latin-English Dictionaries. I use Traupman's lexicon and these have held up admirably. Not only do they come in handy when we are working on translations (both directions), but they are also good for comparing vocabulary items, finding correct principal parts, and teaching the students how to use a dictionary effectively.
- A Good Latin Grammar. This goes without saying, doesn't it? Actually I have an ancient, tattered paperback version Allen & Greenough's New Latin Grammar that has become almost unusable. It is held together with several rubber bands and I believe some pages are missing. It is definitely time to find another one of these most important references.
- As Many Maps of the Ancient World/Whole World as you can stand, or have space for. I have a fairly new set of overlapping maps which are mounted on the wall and roll up like a movie screen -- these are often in the unrolled mode. I also have mounted on my walls at least two maps of Italy, three maps of the Roman Empire, and one of the city of Rome. I love maps; I teach maps; and I use maps almost everyday.
- A Full Change of Clothes. This is not something I use very often, but you never know when you will make a spill, tear or snag an item, break up a fight, or run into any countless situations.
- A Cozy Sweater or Sweatshirt. This is necessary for those chilly days (usually in the winter) when the air system just isn't up to speed... and this happens enough to make this a nice-to-have item.
- Paper Towels and Cleanser in a spray bottle. This is useful for general classroom cleaning, but more useful for the students' desks, tables, and floor for food, drinks, doodling, and dirt from a variety of sources. Don't be hesitant to direct the student to the closet so that he can take care of his graffito or latte!
- Tissues. There is no way to function without them! There are allergies in the fall and the spring and colds (and worse) in the winter. I have found that if I offer extra credit at the beginning of the year for new boxes of tissues decorated by the student in a classical manner, I have more than enough for the school year. Hint: Don't put the box of tissues on your desk -- that way, the students bring the germs right to your nest. Instead, put the box in the front of the room, somewhere near the pencil sharpener.
- An Extension Cord -- the longer, the better. There will always be that mobile projector, overhead projector, CD player, (insert electronic or electric item of your choice here), whose cord just doesn't reach the nearest plug.
- Band-Aids. Keeping a supply of these on hand makes for a quick and easy solution to minor problems which always arise, and also cuts down on those lengthy student trips to the nurse's office. In a pinch, tissues and tape will work, and they come with a smile, snicker, or eye-roll!
- Antiseptic Wipes/Wet Wipes. It is always handy to be able to clean up messes and face other issues such as, "I still have ketchup on my hands, arms, face, knees, etc. from lunch, can I go to the bathroom?"
- A Good Set of Speakers for the computer, i-pod, CD player. Too often I have found a neat presentation online, only to have the students strain to hear it.
- Pencils and Paper. I know that the students are supposed to have these items on hand, but it is so much easier to direct them to the store in the front of the room than to argue with a student who knows better but just isn't prepared, for whatever reason. I buy a new pack of pencils at the beginning of the year but add to the supply everyday as I walk down the rows of desks or down the hallway. Also, paper can be had for free when the lockers are cleaned out at the end of the year.
- Arts and Crafts Supplies. After 23 years, I have quite a collection. My supply of crayons, markers, scissors, glue, ribbon, string, paper, etc., etc., etc., began in what I called (from the hit, children's TV show) "The Barney Bag," which then grew into "The Barney Box," and now exists as "The Barney Cart." Roll it out and let the students get to work!
Most of the items mentioned on this list are my own possessions, gathered from teaching for over two decades. My suggestions to the rookies out there is to beg, borrow, or buy these (and other items) over time. Most are for convenience, many for effectiveness, and some are absolute necessities.
Sunday, August 01, 2010
I want to take a good look at my syllabi (this plural also bothers me a bit... but "syllabuses" just doesn't work for me either) and make sure that what's on the page reflects what and how I want to teach. Many times in the past I have just updated the ones from the year before. It is very easy to just fall into a pattern and not make adjustments because it makes for more work. This bad habit brings to mind the image of an aged professor, being a fixture on campus, showing up for class with his yellowed and scribbled notes he cribbed together twenty-five years earlier. This class may have been interesting and effective a quarter-century before, but now it is old, tired, and a complete bear for the students to sit through. Teachers should/must make adjustments to their material, content, and delivery up to the moment of delivery and (often) moments afterwards.
The changes I will make will be based upon reflection and review of what worked and what didn't from the year before. I plan to take a look at final grades, the material we covered (and did not cover), and, at least for Latin III and above, the potential roster. I won't receive the actual lists until a day or two before the start of class, but I have an idea of who will be in those classes and what things they know and how they know them. Unfortunately, Latin I and, for the most part, Latin II are always unknown entities because most of the students are new. Moreover, I have found that I really can't get a feel for what type of language students I have for Latin I until later in October. Unfortunately, beginning students usually don't begin to show signs of floundering until that later date. I want to be able to catch signs of them struggling before then, though. This I must ponder.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Now that there is an entrance fee of 15.50 euros, where does the money collected from visitors go? There is the hope and expectation that a great majority goes toward repair and preservation after the requisite administrative costs are satisfied.
Now that corporate sponsorship is being sought, which has a precedent in the successful cleaning and restoration of the Sistine Chapel by the Sony Corporation, there is also the hope and expectation that a significant infusion of funds can be secured to help preserve the Colosseum and other monuments throughout Rome. What we do not want to see, though, is the sponsor's logo spread across the facade of the structure. Imagine the sight -- "Ancient Arches Preserved by the Golden Arches: I'm Lovin' It!"
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
In the news today, we learn that Catalonia has brought an end to the long tradition of bull fighting. The article cites that the government of this region of Spain has come to realize that this popular and iconic form of entertainment exhibits cruelty to animals.
Now let's travel back in time about 2,000 years and take another look. The games in any Roman arena would typically begin the day with a venatio, or a beast hunt. Specially-trained fighters called bestiarii would fight all sorts of wild animals - lions, tigers, bears, boars, and, oh, yes, bulls - for the purpose of warming up the crowd for more violence to come. Several sources say that, in some events, thousands of animals would die. According to Pliny the Elder, Julius Caesar was the first to bring the hunting of bulls to Rome:
If it was good enough for the Greeks, it must be good enough for the Romans, but around the same time, Cicero writes that he does not share the appeal of seeing animals die for entertainment and that others shared in his sentiments. In his Ad Familiares VII.1.1-3, he writes:
Reliquae sunt venationes binae per dies quinque, magnificae—nemo negat—, sed quae potest homini esse polito delectatio, cum aut homo imbecillus a valentissima bestia laniatur aut praeclara bestia venabulo transverberatur? quae tamen, si videnda sunt, saepe vidisti, neque nos, qui haec spectavimus, quidquam novi vidimus. Extremus elephantorum dies fuit: in quo admiratio magna vulgi atque turbae, delectatio nulla exstitit; quin etiam misericordia quaedam consecuta est atque opinio eiusmodi, esse quandam illi beluae cum genere humano societatem.
"The rest are hunts twice a day for five days, magnificent -- no one denies it --, but what pleasure is there able to be for a refined man, when either a feeble man is torn to pieces by a very strong beast or a beautiful beast is pierced through by a hunting spear? However you have seen these things often, if they must be seen, and what new have we seen, we who have watched these things. The last day was for the elephants: on which day the crowd and mob had great wonder, but no delight came forth; on the contrary a certain pity and impression of this type followed, that there was a certain relationship for that beast with the human race." (The translation is my own.)
To be sure, the popularity of beast hunts in the arena did not suffer with the comments of Cicero. It is comforting to think, though, that there are some people who have always thought that there was something inherently wrong about watching animals die for entertainment.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I am intrigued, though, with the inclusion of being responsible for the content in English for Books 8 and 12. I have long enjoyed they the episode where Aeneas arrives at Pallanteum and Evander tells him the stories associated with archaic Rome. The presentation and description of the shield are also fascinating and seems to fit nicely with the themes of history, values, leadership, and the relationship between the human and the divine. The content of Book 12 provides a good cap for the story as Aeneas reaches his goal which seemed so out of his reach at the beginning of the story.
I am a bit stumped, though, with the inclusion of Book 7 in English for Caesar's De Bello Gallico. While it is true that this book handles in large part the conflict between Caesar and Vercingetorix, it has been added to the curriculum for its content and contribution to the story in English and not for its Latinity.
What we, as teachers, need to know from the College Board is how much importance will be given to knowing the content of the works as literature instead of knowing how to read, translate, and understand the assigned Latin passages? Although knowing the stories in English has always been important for the AP Vergil exam, now that we have (again) a combination exam, why has importance been given to what the students will read in translation? Not only will we have to provide translations (for loan or for purchase) for the Aeneid, but now also for Caesar. Are there good translations out there? I will have to find out.
Monday, July 26, 2010
In all, this was an outstanding read, and I declare that this should be on the required reading list for all who still teach Cicero. Furthermore, this work of historical fiction needs to be reviewed by all who teach (or soon will be teaching) about Julius Caesar in the upcoming AP curriculum. While the work strongly portrays Cicero's eagerness and commitment to working within the rules to preserve the state and the power of the Senate, it very effectively brings across the message that Julius Caesar was a rogue who purposely and willfully ignored the Roman constitution and tradition to further his own goals to rule to world.
I have heard it said that Julius Caesar was one of the biggest criminals in history. After reading Harris' Conspirata, this assertion is obviously true. It will be interesting to see how Latin teachers across the country dust off their notes on Caesar and present him in the classroom. Will he continue to be presented "as the most famous Roman of them all" or will there be mention made of his infamy?
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I remember that one late afternoon in October I was sitting against the base of a column in the ruins of the Basilica Iulia working on a translation of Ovid's Ars Amatoria for class. As I was working, a family soon appeared and was looking around at what remained of the basilica. They were speaking English and I easily identified them as Americans. They noticed me and deciding that I, too, was American, and after exchanging greetings, they asked me about what they were looking at. I briefly offered a description and purpose for the basilica, and they must have been impressed. From their inquiries I told them that I was a student studying in Rome for the semester.
Discovering that I was somewhat knowledgeable, they asked me about the Forum in general. I noticed that they did not have a guide book or map, but had just wandered in wanting to take a look around. Feeling a bit cocky, I volunteered to give them a tour. I started off trying to include as much as I could remember about every little rock and stone there, but soon came to realize (through glazed expressions?) that I was providing too much information and was probably acting as if I was showing off. I made a mental adjustment and quickly moved to cover the highlights of the site. I remember that they were most impressed with the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Curia, the Temple of Vesta, and the Arch of Titus. Of course these monuments would be the most impressive because they are the best preserved and offer the most to see. I ended our tour at the Arch of Titus and showed them the exit towards the Colosseum. They offered to pay me, but feeling charitable (and still cocky, I imagine), I refused and wished them a happy visit.
I remember this encounter because it was one of the first times that I was able to use and pass on my knowledge of something that was very important and dear to me. Even at that time I was sure that I was going to be a Latin teacher and this was one of my very first lessons. My impromptu tour made me feel useful and gave me the opportunity to try out my teaching skills. Realizing that I had to make adjustments to my presentation to keep the interest of my audience was a skill that I would certainly have to use again in the future.
I also remember this encounter as an example of how some tourists approach their visit to sites. This family had decided to visit Rome and explore on their own. Of course they were visiting the Colosseum and St. Peter's, but I was impressed that they took the detour and descended into the Forum. The Colosseum (at that time) and St. Peter's were free and open to the public, but they made the effort to pay and visit something off the beaten track. I was surprised that they did so without any real notion of why they were there or what they were looking at. To stumble across someone willing and able to give them a tour was pure chance.
A visit to the Forum today is a different experience. Admission is free and the site, which used to have only the occasional visitor or group, now has hundreds of pairs of feet and eyes wander through every day. Excavations have enlarged the site as it grows toward the imperial fora, work continues to reveal the remains of structures at the base of the Palatine Hill, and the paved road leading up to the Capitoline has been removed, but the increase of visitors has caused curators to put up barriers which direct the flow of traffic to a meandering and very limiting path around the Forum, all in an effort (I suppose) to promote safety and protect the individual monuments.
Sad to say, the opportunity to lounge quietly among the ruins of Rome's glorious past is no longer available.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Soon after I began reading Lindsey Davis, I discovered Steven Saylor and his books dedicated to Gordianus the Finder in his Roma Sub Rosa series. He, too, has been quite prolific in producing twelve volumes, as well as the clever tome Roma, which recounts a huge sweep of Roman history, and soon to be joined by its follow-up volume Empire to be released at the end of August 2010. I can hardly wait.
In keeping with the genre of sleuthing in an ancient Roman setting, quite by accident I tumbled upon Ruth Downie and her three works featuring Gaius Petrius Ruso, a doctor assigned to the Roman legion in Britain, who becomes a reluctant investigator of murders on the island as the Romans seek to gain control of the province. These stories are well-written and have captured by attention and imagination. I await her next release as well.
Who would have thought that books set in an ancient Roman setting and featuring charming, down-to-earth, believable investigators of murder would be so appealing? I am thrilled that there is a market for this genre so that these authors continue to create the ancient Roman world in their version. It is exciting to read stories set in Rome and elsewhere around the empire where I can say, "I've been there! I've seen that!" or "Is that really what they envision that site tyo look like?"
What I enjoy most about these stories is the opportunity to create my own vision of the ancient world by sharing the visions of others, who are certainly much more creative than I.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The new requirements for Vergil's Aeneid (rather, the pared-down list) are:
- Book 1: lines 1-209, 418-440, 494-578
- Book 2: lines 40-56, 201-249, 268-297, 559-620
- Book 4: lines 160-218, 259-361, 659-705
- Book 6: lines 295-332, 384-425, 450-476, 847-899
The mention was made that this selection of lines was made with much soul-searching, tears, and regret. More regrettable, though, is the announcement that the student is required to read only Books 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12. Why not the whole Aeneid? I may still require that the student read the entire work in order to completely appreciate this important piece of literature. I'm intrigued by the inclusion of Book 8.
The required lines for Caesar's Bellum Gallicum are:
- Book 1: chapters 1-7
- Book 4: chapters 24-35 and the first sentence of chapter 36
- Book 5: chapters 24-48
- Book 6: chapters 13-20
The required reading in English is the entirety of Books 1, 6, and 7.
I plan to take a much closer look at these lines later in the summer.
I am pleased, though, with the suggestion of themes for this new combination of authors. I was initially disappointed, maybe even let down, with the announcement of Caesar as the author who would be paired with the vates, but these suggestions are exciting:
- literary genre and style
- war and empire
- view of non-Romans
- history and memory
- Roman values
- human beings and the divine
I am most interested in the last four items of the list, particularly Roman values and the relationship between humans and the gods. As I become more familiar with these lines, I will be able to make a better stab of their application.
I am hoping that there are good textbooks produced to make this combination of authors interesting and exciting. I'd write my own, bu there are other things to do.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
To win this award for the eighth year has become an unquestionable expectation, a self-imposed requirement, if you will. Planning for this event began back in February, and the details have been revisited, on occasion, every month since. The frenzy of preparation began this week at the inaugural "Spirit Castra" held at our Riverbend High School here in Fredericksburg. For four days out of their summer slumber, a few Latin students from around the state, some coming more than an hour away, have gathered to draw, paint, cut, glue, shout, jump, and cheer... all in the name of Virginia, but more impressively, in the name of Latin and the classics!
These students who choose to attend the annual Latin convention, and those who plot and plan to cheer on the name of Latin, are unabashed lovers of the Latin and the ancient world, and our students here in Virginia want to shout it out louder than all others!
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
I particularly enjoyed the presentations on Vergil and using technology in the Latin classroom. It was good to hear about the new AP Latin syllabus (a future blog entry on that), the NJCL National Classics Exams, and the status of Latin in this "age of accountability."
Of course, the best part of attending is the opportunity to learn, share with colleagues, and network with those who love the same things you do. If you are a Latin teacher, you MUST join the American Classical League, an organization whose sole purpose is to support the teaching of Latin, Greek, and the Classics.
Next year ACL will be held in Minneapolis!
Monday, July 05, 2010
Labor est etiam ipsa voluptas.