Around this time last week, I was wrapping up my visit to this year’s CANE Summer Institute at Brown University. After a decade of teaching, this was the first time that I have attended this event. Truly, I will never forgive myself for not having participated earlier. Well… perhaps I will eventually forgive myself, after maybe another couple weeks of mild, though still bitter, regret. Nevertheless, I realize now that I have long been missing out on a marvelous opportunity to both hone my skills as a classicist and to make connections with colleagues from all corners.
The two courses in which I was enrolled at this year’s Institute were Epigraphic Moments in Roman Literature, taught by Teresa Ramsby, and Performing Permanence, taught by Robin McGill. In the former, we explored what Romans wished to express about themselves through their inscriptions, and what various authors hoped to communicate to their audience by making references to such inscriptions in their works. In the latter, we discussed how poets from all eras of antiquity — from Pindar to Fortunatus — created a powerful link between the past and the present in their works pertaining to public ceremonies. In both, our instructors provided us with engaging readings, which they made certain — as we do in our own classes — were accessible to students of all ability levels (e.g., by providing translations of the Latin and Greek). They facilitated lively and illuminating discussions of the texts, offering clarification where necessary but compelling us to develop our own interpretations.
For those of us in elementary or secondary education, I think it’s easy to get overly focused on pedagogy. Should my students be able to distinguish an ablative of means from an ablative of manner? Should I introduce new vocabulary by means of oral activities? Literal translations or a demonstration of comprehension? While it’s important to answer these questions for the benefit of your students, and to pursue professional development that reveals to you what will work best in your situation, our pedagogical methods are merely the means by which we ultimately deliver the content — Latin literature. At the Summer Institute, it was incredibly refreshing to strengthen my grasp of that content, either by looking at a familiar text from a fresh perspective, or by being introduced to a new text or new author. When I return to my classroom in the fall, I have more material that, with the help of all my pedagogical sleights, can use to hopefully lead students to an appreciation of Rome’s literature.
I’m thoroughly looking forward to next year’s gathering, and, if you’ve never attended, I entreat you to pay it a visit in 2016. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. I have appended below a few quotes from this year’s “students and faculty,” to support my unrestrained praise!
On the CANE Summer Institute:
“This is absolutely the best thing going all summer in Providence. Engage (or enlarge) your brain, hang with great people — we love it and won’t miss it!”
“I love the new location! I had the most wonderful time in my two classes — Shakespeare with Bill Morse and also in Roman Battlefields. What a great experience! I enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones!”
“It really is the ideal teaching environment, because the baseline education of everyone in the classics is high, especially knowledge of Latin and the ancient world, so naturally motivated and meaningful discussion evolves, and we have no grading and no assessments! I definitely want to be involved in joining this Institute again!”