Thursday, October 13, 2005

Magister for a Day

Well, in answer to Coke's query, teaching didn't go bad at all on Friday. But I suspect it's part of the reason I haven't posted anything in a few days.

I came away from the experience with a nasty cold or flu or something which I might have picked up from my girlfriend, but I think the collective germs a few hundred middle and high school students added to the soup and aggravated what my immune system had been holding at bay.

That said, the day was largely a success. Only one piece of paper was thrown my way, and it missed. Most of the students were so polite that they actually thanked me for being there. But the one thing that really surprised me was how different two classes in the same grade level could be so different. When the tests were finished, one class sat and drew pictures quietly, another erupted into a party, and the third passed notes and cast sly glances my way as if they were up to something but nothing came of it.

I'll let you guess which class threw the paper.

I was a little disappointed in how I handled one class, but I think some of that had to do with the assignment. Not that I'm second-guessing the teacher. I'm sure it works for her. Students were put into groups of 2 and asked to translate 2-3 sentences of a short mythic narrative. The problem was that the students were only concerned with the sentences they had been assigned and made a number of mistakes that they wouldn't have made had they known the context. When I went through the text with them it was clear that those who hadn't gone yet were so focused on re-reading their sentences that they took nothing away from what came before. When I had occasion to correct mistakes and explain why they were mistaken I was very often met with confusion or absolute disbelief, as when students insisted that a third declension dative was a genitive because it didn't end in -o.

Again, it may have had a lot to do with the fact that I wasn't their regular teacher. They know that I'm not coming back tomorrow, that I'm not giving them a grade. They can slack off for a day when the teacher's away, and maybe their teacher has a way of pulling this stuff out of them that I don't.

But I felt that if I were given a class of my own day in and day out I could make some real progress. It wasn't at all terrifying, so I've passed that test.

Another crazy thing is going back to middle school or high school and realizing just how young these kids are. I seemed so much older to myself when I was their age. It reminds me of my youth, and those memories are downright comical now.

I have a few more days lined up already and will be on call if anyone needs a sick day. The department head has offered to help me find a job in the area if I'm interested, and if that turns into anything I already have ideas.

Coke was talking about bringing in real Latin and I think I would like to try the Colloquia of Erasmus among other things.

But that's a long way away.


Coke said...

I love Erasmus. That makes me think... Maybe I'll pull out some Erasmus for tomorrow. Now you've got me excited.
I am glad to hear that the first experience went well for you. Keep me updated.

Coke said...

I was looking at Erasmus a few days ago. For a writer who was interested in teaching latin to youth, he certainly did not spare any of his students his wealth of knowledge. It is awfully hard to find texts that a level two or level three student can actually read without getting frustrated.