Is Latin Different?
"Latin is different." If you teach Latin, you've heard this phrase or even used it yourself hundreds of times. The phrase offers some protection from the over-standardization of education. It's the reason that I don't have to be on the "Food Chapter" at the same time as my modern language colleagues or tediously plot out the questions on the final exam. For some, it's fighting words - as in "Latin is NOT a real language." Then there is the Latin is NOT different movement - it can and should be taught like any modern language. And there is some truth to this as well.
But still, Latin is different - perhaps not linguistically but our subject is different nonetheless. The Spanish teachers in my school tell me that their curriculum is "All About Me" in which students discuss what they like to eat, what they like to wear, what sports they like to play etc. I see the appeal. But as a seventh grader, I didn't play sports. My clothes were second-hand, and I didn't want to talk about things I might say at a party since it seemed fairly unlikely that I was ever going to go to one. I was much more comfortable with topics "Not About Me" - monsters, heroes, and powerful people making terrible decisions, battles won and lost. I wanted a vocabulary for my imagination, not a vocabulary for a TV version of my life. My students seem to want the same. The fact that our beginning vocabulary consists mainly of weapons and farm animals delights them. They ask me questions about gods and monsters. They tell me about the comic book, video game or fantasy novel heroes and heroines they admire. They are escaping too- perhaps not for the same reasons, but I understand the need and I am glad to supply the outlet. Next week, the Spanish class is moving onto "clothing." We will a read a version of Mucius Scaevola and act it out. There will undoubtedly be debate regarding who gets to stick their hand defiantly in the yellow and red tissue "fire." Latin is different. I am glad.
Play-doh monsters created for our winter break "arena." Working in teams, students moved their creations from tile to tile, answering questions, pulling off each others arms and eventually smushing each other based upon a set of overly complicated rules. This game needs some tweaking before it makes it to the blog.