As it seems to me, college is a place where students expect to learn something, and as a result those who presume to teach something are not only expected to have something to teach but obligated. I have been placed in a position where I am expected and obligated to teach something, that something being the Latin language, its use, and any and all attendant or relevant information. This is a serious task in and of itself, stripped of all importance or the subject’s potential later relevance in a student’s life, if there is truly any of either to be found in the instruction of Latin in 2016. On its own merits and terms, instruction of anything is so primal–and thus base–and sacred–and thus valuable–that it seems almost unnecessary to point out that value, yet the practicality of what is being instructed often confuses the meaning of the act of being instructed at all. Latin is a serious matter, a language written by serious men, whose actions still have relevance today, but beyond stating this there is no way to convince students to understand that for themselves, especially while they are young and unencumbered. The true value of studying Latin in 2016 is that it is hard, and takes time, and effort, and it teaches you to struggle through difficulty with purpose and grow through conflict, and as is true of all arts if you work very hard and finally reach comprehension and capability there is an entirely new world available to you. Practice and Success in a pursuit like this changes a person in how they think and who they are. And the responsibility is mine to do all that I can to facilitate and encourage this pursuit. It is a never-ending task.
With respect to my relationship to course material, I have primarily instructed Latin, and therefore I may speak specifically about Latin instruction. I do the best I can to teach under three categories: composition, usage, verbal arrangement. Composition: I make it a point to teach the formulae for building each nominal and verbal form, while breaking apart each piece of composition and explaining each category of morpheme used to create a complete word. I found in my own language-learning process that incorporating linguistics into memorizing conjugations, declensions, dictionary entries, and noun forms was immensely helpful, and it also brought me closer to each language to which I applied the method. Usage: I take my students through several different manners of translation, be it colloquial, standard, formal, poetic, etc. so that they are aware of the different ways to transfer thought between languages. I remind them to be aware and observant of the mood of every individual word and passage as a whole so they understand methods of diction and tone. Verbal Arrangement: Word order is where Latin, poetry specifically, finds most of its character. I bring my students’ attention to the placement of the words of each sentence, how each sense-group is ordered and arranged, and ensure that they familiarize themselves with the possibilities and tendencies of Latin syntax.
With respect to the teacher-student relationship, I have learned that students will have a very easy time asking questions about things which they do not understand if they feel that their teacher genuinely wants to talk to them and enjoys the process of teaching individually. It is difficult to go to the same person for help over and over again if every time a student feels like it is as bothersome for the teacher as it is worrisome for the student. I make it my goal to develop a relationship with my students wherein none will question whether or not I enjoy discussing the material with them. My focus as a teacher is entirely directed toward ensuring that my students absorb, know, and retain the information and understand language in ways they might never have before. I make it a priority that my students enjoy the subject and the material by bringing in fun and various readings from ancient authors, which hopefully lends itself to them enjoying the class. The transference of information from teacher to student is a sacred act to me, and one that I am honored to have the opportunity to conduct.