Conferences: Why We Need to Care 5

Last weekend, I attended SALVI’s Biduum Virginianum.  As we sat around dinner talking on Friday night, one of the participants mentioned that he was going to NECTFL in March.  Another participant looked at him incredulously.  “Do you teach another language too?” he asked.  The NECTFL-goer shook his head no.  “Then why,” asked the other participant, “would you go to a modern language conference?”
The truth is that Latin is not always accepted or even noticed by other foreign language teachers.  Yes, it is starting to get better, and already has at some schools, but we are still, mostly, in our own game.  Yes, it is important to go to the Classical conferences, such as CANE, but more Latin teachers need to start going to the Regional conferences, like NECTFL.  But why?  Why should we take time to go to a conference that doesn’t pertain directly to us, people ask.  Here is my response to that:
Last year, I attended ACTFL in Orlando, Florida.  Encouraged by the fact that Bob Patrick was the first ever Latin Teacher nominee for Language Teacher of the Year, Latin teachers turned out in force.  As a result, there were more sessions that pertained directly to Latin.  Teachers of other languages remarked over and over again, to each other, on Twitter, and to me directly, “Wow, there are a LOT of Latin teachers here.”  We were noticed.
There are techniques we can learn from the Modern languages and there are techniques they can learn from us.  TPRS, Whole Brain Teaching, Reading strategies, connecting across the languages, cool summer programs…the list goes on and on.
There are vendors who do not necessarily have products for Latin…yet.  If we want cool products for Latin, too, we must visit the vendor tables and talk to the vendors, and show them that there is a need and a market for these products and how their products could be adapted for Latin.
Latin may be a bit strange to other teachers, who believe it to be “dead.”  We need to make it come alive.  We can do this by speaking it, and learning the “Modern Language Strategies”  to demonstrate this to the Modern Language Teachers and our Administrations.  (HINT: Many administrations get very excited when a Latin teacher asks to go to a Foreign Language conference and makes the argument that they want to learn more about language teaching!  Often, you can score some money!)
Let me put this challenge to you:  Go to a Foreign Language Conference. (NECTFL is in BOSTON this year–March 27-30!!)  Take a serious look at the program and try, with an open mind, to attend one session about a teaching technique that is not specifically for Latin.  If you do not come away with something useful, try another one.  I can make this promise to you:  You will go home with something interesting–whether you needed a reminder or it is totally new to you.
We Latin and Classics teachers may be the “odd” bunch, but we are by no means the ugly stepchildren.  Getting everyone else to see that as well requires taking an interest in ALL language pedagogy and working with the other languages.  We can just keep talking about how no one notices Latin and that we don’t have interesting products for Latin, or we can do something about it.  It’s time to start changing everyone’s thoughts about Latin.  So, Sodales, take up the challenge!

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5 thoughts on “Conferences: Why We Need to Care

  • Kenneth Kitchell

    Couldn’t agree more. Remember that FL vendors often sell products that are not language specific and can readily be adapted to a Latin classroom. Common examples are: the poster with faces in various moods. You can make your own Latin tags describing the mood (great to use when asking a student “quid agis hodie”; dice can be used to teach numbers as can a blank clock with movable hands; picture books that have pictures (but no words) that tell a story. My favorite site, which I discovered at a MAFLA meeting, is Click especially on Teacher Resources.

  • Mark Pearsall

    I also agree fully. I have been the CANE delegate to ACTFL for a number of years and attend regularly. Classicists are welcomed with open arms by the modern language associations. We must learn to work with them more closely. As has been mentioned, there is a lot to be learned from modern language pedagogy. There is a political reason for us to be there as well. ACTFL and the modern languages make up the majority voice for language teaching in this country. If we are not actively involved, then policy will be dictated to us and not shaped by us. ACL and APA are both active members of ACTFL’s delegation. The more we are present at modern language conferences, the more of a voice we have and the less likely we are to be cut in times of tight budgets. We do not lose our identity as Classicists by attending modern language conferences, we strengthen and enhance it.

  • Emily

    Wow, Ken, George, Dawn, and Mark, thank you so much!
    You all are so right and I especially like Mark’s points about policy and strengthening our identity as Classicists by attending modern language conferences. Please encourage your Latin Friends to go to these conferences! 🙂