Strategies

I have few enough students that I can deal with them individually, and I try to. Two in particular are paying off.

One wants to be an artist when she grows up, and when I asked them to come up with a Latin preposition landscape, she came up with a creative explosion truly admirable. I’m having her try to do something now with Latin words, the way David Jones did inscriptions in his books. She’s already said she isn’t taking a third year of Latin, she got stuck because of a schedule conflict in a semi-first year class, and was going through the motions. But now I’m hoping to hook her on Latin: how lapidary it can be, particularly. The strategy is to put inside her the suggestion that it is useful and valuable for artistic endeavor, and a source in many ways. Because if she gets that idea, she will carry on on her own whether she ever studies Latin in a classroom again or not.

The other one is a Harry Potter fan. She wants to be an English teacher when she grows up, and is an exemplary intermediate Latin student. So we’re doing Harry Potter, and she’s getting the idea: looking up verbs, finding uncommon words, starting slowly but gathering speed in the translation, observing peculiarities of idiom that do not translate. I saw in her eyes the dawning sense of how this tentative essay into Harry Potter is going to work, and I predict she will finish the book before she gets to third year Latin. We’ll see, of course, but I think she’s hooked.

You wish you could figure that out for all of them, and maybe there is a way; I keep at it. But for now I have the special satisfaction of these two students who gave me a rough beginning in January and most of February; now the effort of coming to terms with them is paying off. These are brighter students and have had a very experienced teacher and a very well-trained one, and now they have me: I who desperately lack experience and am not as bright as this other young lady teaching them was, and remains. But I have my tricks, I’ve read Augustine and Edwards and C.S. Lewis and I know a bit about the heart. And I have acquired along the way certain unconventionalities.

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