Wednesday, October 10, 2018

3 First-Year Teachers Tell Their Stories: Meet M.

(For an introduction to this blog series, see our first post. To read our first two teacher profiles, click here and here.)

Memento mori! M. has enhanced her classroom
door with skeletons for Halloween.

Meet M., a first-year Latin teacher at a small private K–9 school in the metropolitan New York area. M. teaches fourth through eighth grade; her class sizes tend to be small, fewer than ten students each.

Classroom setup: M. has her own classroom; while small, it accommodates her classes well. Her tables are arranged in a square so that everyone can see one another. Because her students are younger, she wants to make sure the room seems “fun”—she has hung up posters showing Pompeii, Roman monuments, and classical art. She also has posted key Latin vocabulary for students to reference during class, including a days of the week poster illustrated using Lego scenes.

Goals: M.’s goals for the year center on organization and communication:
1. Stay organized—there are so many different things to remember in all aspects of teaching!
2. Implement effective communication with parents.
3. Learn how to use movie talks to engage students while preteaching vocabulary and target structures.

Like K., M. also hopes to maintain her work-life balance as she learns all the requirements of her new school, develops curricula for multiple grade levels, and creates a classroom community.

Methodologies and Approaches to Teaching: M. has already begun using comprehensible input (CI)
methods with her younger students. While fourth grade is more of an exploratory class featuring plenty of games and introductory activities, she is experimenting with different active Latin techniques in her fifth and sixth grade classes. Because her seventh and eighth grade students are already accustomed to a grammar-translation approach, she is maintaining a more traditional teaching style in order to avoid derailing them.

Tips and Tricks: M. highly recommends using the Facebook forum Latin Teacher Idea Exchange for inspiration when planning classes. She notes that collaboration is essential; while she is the only Latin teacher at her school, she has a group of Latin teacher friends across the country who can offer support and suggestions when needed.

Most Looking Forward To: M. is most excited about building good relationships with her new students. She is looking forward to the time when her classes know each other well enough to have inside jokes and when her students feel like they can trust and confide in her.

First Day Hook: M. didn’t have a specific means of “hooking” students on the first day of class, but rather focused on getting to know her students and using her energy—and her experience with techniques from the theater—to engage her students.

M.’s first week of school went by in a blur, challenging yet satisfying. She explains:

The first day felt like a whole week. I was utterly exhausted. The spoken Latin with the fifth and sixth graders is a blast, and they are awesome. Hearing students speaking Latin in the halls makes my day—and they aren’t doing it to impress me, I hear it off in the distance! I want to keep this up with them and improve my own spoken Latin abilities.

M.’s enthusiasm and passion for teaching is readily apparent. Good luck during the upcoming school year, M.!

—Amelia Wallace, Editor

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