As we head into the last week before classes begin at the CUNY Latin/Greek Institute, I am on an emotional roller coaster between freaking out and feeling fine about it all.
Why should I freak out, when I've been teaching Latin, on and off, for 25 years, have a doctorate in Classics for which I wrote a philologically rigorous dissertation about Roman satire, and just taught two sections of second-year Latin at the University of South Carolina last fall?
Well, teaching at the Latin Institute is not like other teaching. At the Institute, Monday, June 11, is not Monday, June 11, it is DAY 1, and certain things have to happen on DAY 1, certain things that must come off like clockwork, without fail. Sure, I know my Latin. Sure, I have lots of classroom experience. Sure, I taught from the Latin Institute text before (Latin: An Intensive Course, by Floyd Moreland and Rita Fleischer). But do I "have it all down"? Can I move my students through their drills quickly and efficiently, hitting all the phonological, morphological, and syntactic points I need to hit in the time allotted? There's no room for error, because when my 50-minute drill session is over, and my students come back from their 10-minute break, another teacher will be waiting in that room to take them through the next hour of drill, and he (it's an all-he summer for the Latin faculty) expects us to be where we were supposed to be, according to a schedule that has been in place for 39 previous summers, and must remain in place for this fortieth year of the Latin Institute.
So yes, I'm freaking out. In our fake-teaching sessions I'm still a little slow, still talking a little too much, still being just a bit too "Socratic," spending a lot of time eliciting answers, while my more experienced colleagues remind me that morning drill is not teaching, it's drilling. Mechanical. Robotic. Clockwork. Tic-toc, tic-toc. It goes against virtually all my instincts as a teacher, a critical thinker, and a compassionate human being. But it works. I know it works, because I was a student in this program 30 years ago, and I learned my Latin like gangbusters.
So I am not thinking, yeah, what do you know? I'm thinking, damn, I need to get my act together in the next week. Because DAY 1 is approaching, and those students have a lot of Latin to learn. And I am going to teach them.
Note: The opinions expressed in this blog entry are those of the blogger, and do not represent the opinions of the CUNY Latin/Greek Institute, its students, faculty, or administration.