According to the Harvard-Westlake website, this Vergilian quotation is translated, “They can because they think they can.” The literal translation is, “They are able because they seem to be able.” I spent the day at their middle school today, a school of 727 students in grades seven to nine. In the morning, I had the pleasure of observing an orchestra rehearsal, a coaching of a French horn-tuba duet, and touring the impressive performing arts facilities. While listening to the rehearsal of the Grieg Piano Concerto, I realized they were speaking my language – not Latin of course, but the language of musical rehearsal. I ache to be back in that environment. The students here have such incredible opportunities. Mercedes indicated to me that a number of the students in the orchestra, including the horn player, would be in her classes later in the day.
Following the mini-tour of the performing arts facilities, Mercedes led me to the World Languages department office. What an amazing space! Each department has a similar space. Here, taking up the middle of the room was a table for collaborative work, and around the perimeter of the room were individual desks and spaces for each teacher in the department. I particularly enjoyed the rounded ends of each space which facilitated student-teacher conferencing.
Perhaps the saddest part of the day was seeing that Mercedes and her one Latin colleague haven’t yet found a way to collaborate. They have different goals for their students. In a field where many of us are trying to alter the image, this creates a frustrating obstacle. It is hard to be a vox clamantis in deserto. Collaboration, both for learning and teaching, is essential. Mercedes modeled this practice both with other colleagues in the school as well as in her classes.
I observed three classes, two 1B classes, in which 8th graders complete their second year of Latin study, and one III H, which is created for those ninth graders who place into the 1B class in their first year at HW. What I loved included:
- A Latin agenda run by student volunteers
- A Latin discussion of the calendar projected at the front of class
- The use of the WAYK (Where Are Your Keys?) copycat hand gesture, clearly understood by the class
- The use of the acronym NPR, another WAYK technique called a no pressure refresher
- Giving the III H students artwork to label with words from the text they are reading
- References to grammatical explanations as grammar scaffolding and tangential linguistic points of interest
I will add video clips after I have had a chance to edit them. Thank you, Mercedes!