Posted in CI Mission

ALL KINDS of Learners–Part 3

This is the last of a 3 part series offered this week.

Recently I was talking with a colleague and friend in the math department of my school about what  I’ve written in this blog series.  He remarked at one point:  “Oh, sure.  It’s like teaching math these days as if STILL only 1% of the student population is going to show up in our classes KNOWING that 100% of them have to take the math we are teaching.  And still that’s exactly what many do.” We are not alone in this struggle to teach for ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS.

There’s another force to contend with: the snare of local and state laws that require certain things of us in the way of testing that make some in our number feel that they cannot do anything but the traditional program. Here’s what we know: You simply cannot plan language acquisition on a calendar, e.g. will master the first two declensions and conjugations by the second week of October. Instead, what we typically do is write “will have been introduced to the first two declensions and conjugations by the second week of October” where “introduced to” becomes “I covered” and “you didn’t study hard enough.”  In these cases, the difficulty of what we can do becomes only more difficult, but I maintain that with enough collaboration and creativity, we can may ways to work around these institutional obstacles so that we fulfill the law but maintain good language acquisition practices.  I also readily acknowledge that there are some districts where the legal clamps in place will simply kill programs despite what the teacher may want to do.  That’s a justice issue of another kind.

We CAN teach Latin in a way that focuses on acquiring the language first.  When we do that, ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS will make progress.  All can be rather easily successful.  Down the road, we can teach them some grammar rules that will help them in their writing.  If we want them to read better, understand better, write better and speak better Latin, we can give them Latin that they can easily understand.  It’s that simple, and it’s that demanding.

Why is it demanding?  Our own reality stands in the way–besides the previously mentioned obstacles:

1. Most of us have not ever actually acquired the language that we “teach.” That’s not an accusation.  It’s an observation of fact. Most of us, because we are elite learners, did acquire the language to some minimal degree just by forcing ourselves to stick with the grammar program.  Even Stephen Krashen acknowledges that for the self-driven learner, a grammar program will yield up the occasional comprehensible input. When that happens, acquisition takes place.  But it’s not enough to make us feel confident in our use of Latin as a language of communication.  A well educated enthusiastic teacher told me once:  “I know how to form the imperative, but I have no idea what to do with it in the classroom.”  Making these changes can be personally terrifying.  It’s not what we thought we were signing up for.

2. We are learning to speak Latin years after we learned the grammar rules, and so we suffer under our own processes.  For us, the affective filter will always be a little too high, and our language monitors will always be on overkill.  I watch with sadness how we treat each other at times with the otherwise new, highly creative and incredibly fun wave of novellas that are coming out at our own hands.  The rush of Latin teachers to criticize the “Latinitas” they find or don’t find in these novellas is a painful demonstration of what “learning all your grammar first” can do to us. (NB I am not saying that Latinitas is something to be rejected.  I am noting how a concern for it diminishes creative efforts, creates animosity and obscures what could be collaboration–which is what happens when one’s monitor is over-developed.) Latin teachers have monitors on steroids, and it’s not healthy for us as a teaching community.

3. The Latin speaking immersion programs that have proliferated over the years (in which I have participated and from which I have benefited), actually work on a grammar-translation base and appeal to elite learners. That’s such an enigma.  We go to these events to become better hearers, readers and speakers of Latin (maybe better writers, too), and yet every immersion Latin program that I know of requires that participants “know all their grammar” as a pre-requisite for the program (though there are signs that some of that is beginning to change).  The implication is that you cannot understand, read, speak or write Latin unless you know all your grammar.  We KNOW that this is not how languages are acquired by normal human beings.

Here’s what we can do that will make a difference–invite all kinds of learners into our programs and help them be successful:

1. Make the delivery of understandable Latin–what we say to them, and the reading we put in front of them–our main focus.
2. Make sure that the content of that understandable Latin is compelling to them.  We must work hard to know our audiences.
3. Keep vocabulary for the four years or five years we teach them well contained, high frequency vocabulary, and use whatever grammar we need to create interesting conversations and readings.
4. Teach them the grammar they need when it arises in the early years, and more directly in the later years.
5. Never test them on the grammar that we are teaching them.  Grammar is only retained when used often, and that is the test.  Help them use grammar that they need to prepare their own writing and formal speaking.  If you are not having them do formal writing and speaking, then grammar is not much of an issue as long as we, the teachers and Latin experts in the room, are using good grammar.

I know that that last item will be difficult for many to swallow.  Passing a grammar test for any language proves nothing except that the test taker is good at cramming material before a test.  This is not a certamen contest.  This is not a contest at all.  This is about acquiring a language that is on the verge of disappearing from our schools entirely.  We don’t have time to play around with what works and what doesn’t.  We know that a grammar translation approach does not work to help ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS acquire the language.  The real justice issue, then, is how to move on from what we know, to what we need to do for the survival of the language and inclusion of ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS in our program.  It comes down to this:  if we don’t turn our attention to the kinds of learners we have never appealed to, what we do will disappear.  What we have to offer is good for all student’s, isn’t it?  And their presence in our programs will breathe new life into the very existence of our programs.

A few years ago after I made a presentation at the then APA on CI and TPRS in the Latin classroom, a former mentor of mine approached me with real interest in this work.  I made the remark that I felt that if we didn’t make these kinds of changes in the way we teach Latin–across the board–that fifty years from now, Latin might disappear from our cultural and academic landscape. He stepped back with a surprised look on his face.  “Fifty years?  We don’t have fifty years.  We are lucky if we have twenty.”

Mine is a plebeian appeal.  We know how human beings acquire language.  It requires understandable messages in the language about things that are compelling.  We are sitting on a literary treasury unlike any other in the world.  We can die with it in our elite learning circles, or we can make it available to ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS.  The ones who are not like us.  In ways that work for them.  There are several justice issues here: what’s good for Latin; what’s good for our culture; what’s good for normal learners.  Pick one if you must.  I propose that the solutions are the same for all.

Bob Patrick

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Posted in CI Mission

ALL KINDS of Learners–Part 2

This is the second part of a 3 part series offered this week.

In yesterday’s post (which you can read here) I outlined what seems to me to be the perfect storm in our Latin teaching in the US.  Unwittingly, we do the very things that ensure Latin remains small and dying and prevent it from getting into the hands and minds of ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS.

In our current world of high tech and high stakes testing, even fewer of those elite learners are drawn to Latin and other languages.  In the 2016 report of the MLA, all languages taught in the US saw a drop in enrollments, but Latin and Ancient Greek were the highest losses.  We teachers, elite learners ourselves, no longer seem to be able to convince even other elite learners to follow us down the classics trail, and with our traditional methods, non-elite learners have “learned” that Latin is not for them. They learn that because our colleagues in our institutions all think that Latin is too hard for normal learners.  Even the cashiers at the grocery store, when they see my name tag comment with “oh, Latin is hard.”  They all know about the program we have helped perpetuate.  Latin is too hard for normal people, so normal students, much less students with learning disabilities, won’t consider Latin an option.

And yet, normal students, average learners, students who don’t love to read, who stop breathing at the mention of grammar, who come from a variety of home situations and an even larger variety of ethnic backgrounds are quite capable of acquiring a language, even Latin.  Latin is not different.  I am often amazed at the number of people who want to argue about that.  Once they’ve made their arguments, what they have actually argued is that Latin must be the focus of elite learning circles and that’s why it’s different.

Latin is a language.  It has a large body of literature which most of us agree (even when we agree on nothing else) is why learning Latin is worth the effort–to access that literature on its own terms.  If that is the case, do we not want ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS to access this rich literature?  If our answer is anything but yes, then we have to consider what it is that we are actually trying to protect.  I have never heard anyone admit that they don’t want all kinds of learners accessing Latin literature. I do often hear them resisting any change to how they understand teaching and learning Latin. As I listen to Latin teachers argue for not changing things, these are some of the things I hear them defending.

1)  The tradition of how we teach feels comfortable to us. The cadre of teachers who are ourselves elite learners is one that we enjoy belonging to. We don’t want to lose our membership in this comfortable and supportive circle of people who love what we love. I am very sympathetic to this need to belong and be supported. Taking the approaches that I have often have meant giving this up for myself, and that is painful.

2) It might be that we are hedging against the hard work we have to do to learn to teach Latin as a language in ways that work best.  There are best practices that work for Latin and for ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS.  A growing number of us have been sharing those for over a decade now, and we are clear that it’s hard work to make the shift from grammar-translation to comprehensible input.  Workshops are proliferating at various conferences in which we teach each others how to help ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS acquire Latin.  The result of that is a growing number of teachers stepping outside of the comfortable circle of elite learners, and they are all finding out how difficult this is.  Anyone who pretends that leaving grammar-translation behind for CI and other best practices is easy is not being honest.  It’s hard, and it can be scary.

3) It might be something more sinister–some notion that Latin belongs only to white, affluent people.  No one will admit that and way too many white people want to argue about this.  That very knee jerk reaction ought to give us pause, but it doesn’t yet. What if, in the recesses of our experiences, there is something of truth that needs the light of day shown on it? The truth is that NONE of us has escaped being infected and affected by the system of white supremacy. So, how do we bring that, unwittingly, to our classrooms?  I want to know.  I desperately need to know how I bring that infection and affect into my classroom because most of my students are of Color.  They suffer enough without having to suffer me in self-ignorance.

Part 3 will appear tomorrow.
Bob Patrick

 

Posted in CI Mission

ALL KINDS of Learners–Part 1

(This blog post will appear in 3 parts over the next three days)

I have found over the years in doing Comprehensible Input work, creating classrooms and a whole program based on CI, that there is a motivational feature that I simply cannot assume everyone understands or shares with me. That motivating factor is this:  to ensure that ALL KINDS OF LEARNERS are able to make progress in Latin.

In 2011, I made an address to a gathering at SALVI’s summer Rusticatio.  The title of my address was Latin is Not Different. For several years it was featured on the SALVI website (you can read it here if you wish). I tried to articulate publicly what had been a growing realization for me at the time. The Grammar-Translation approach which has dominated Latin teaching for decades if not centuries by now and which has been each of our experiences who teach has worked along some other realities to make sure that Latin belongs only to the realm of elite learners.  Consider these points which are incredibly short summaries of much longer discussions and research:

1. There is no evidence to support that human beings actually acquire languages through studying the grammar, memorizing vocabulary and translating the second language into the first language.  By “acquire” I mean the ability to read and hear the language with direct understanding without the interference of or mediation of the native language. There is plenty of research that shows just the opposite.

2. Latin teachers and classicists are those elite learners who have “learned Latin” this way.  I include several features in the categorization of “elite learners.”  They (we–I am one of them) are those students who demonstrate over time that they are good at academics.  They receive high marks in general, are acclaimed by their teachers and schools with awards for learning, high GPA’s and scholarships.  They often come from affluent or at least very stable homes where winning at the education game was a reinforced message.  They are often white.  I include this issue because white people have simply had more and uninterrupted access to those who teach, to books and libraries, and they (we–I am white) have over centuries created a culture that serves them first above others.  Look at any gathering of Latin teachers or classicists at the number of People of Color.  In my life time, I have been at many where there were NO People of Color.  Finally, I cannot prove it with data, but I guess that elite learners are also often people with higher than average IQ’s.  They routinely report loving to read, loving grammar, and loving languages–all linguistic and language practices that accompany higher than average IQ’s.

3. Latin teachers, then, go to work and put together lessons and build programs that look like what they have experienced.  In other words, without even having to think about it, Latin teachers create Latin programs for more elite learners.  Even in inner city “charter schools” where the targeted audience are children of Color who do not fit the description above of elite learners, I feel sometimes like they are attempting to create a new wave of elite learners.  Those who are admitted (whether by screening or by lottery) will go to school longer, all take Latin from day one, receive extra tutoring at lunch and after school, take the National Latin Exam, join the Certamen team, etc.  These are all features of elite learning circles.  If the Latin teacher is energetic and creative along with a dash of charisma, the Latin program will sustain itself with a flow of elite learners.  If not, or if the Latin teacher moves, or becomes burned out, or retires–often the difficulty of finding someone to maintain the elite learning circle is too much, and schools shut down Latin programs.

Systematically, over time this drive to recreate elite learning programs with Latin will result in the loss of Latin from our academic and cultural landscape.

See Part 2 tomorrow.
Bob Patrick

Posted in CI Mission

Growing a Latin Program (2)–The Working Parts

With the perennial reports of Latin programs that close–very often as a teacher retires–I remain hopeful and curious about the power that Comprehensible Input has especially when it is coupled with a social justice concern in any particular school.  Do our Latin programs look like the face of the school?  Whether yes or no, how do we know?  Who has crunched the data in order to answer that question?  What we have done in our school did not happen over night or one year.  It took experimenting with and becoming confident in our skills as Comprehensible Input teachers.  Dabbling won’t do in this regard. Mixing and matching CI with other approaches won’t work with all kinds of learners because the at-risk students we have been able to recruit simply cannot stand more instability in their lives.  They need to understand on some level that when they are in our rooms, they WILL be successful and they have teachers who know how to support that.

It just so happens that this kind of work is occurring at a time when Latin is slowly disappearing from our schools.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  I often imagine:  what if Latin teachers who are working with Comprehensible Input approaches looked around their schools and began to recruit those students that no one expects to be successful in Latin (or anything else, if we are honest).  In my earlier post on growing a Latin program, I listed the specific commitments that we have made which seem to be the hinges on which our program thrives.  I want to add some commentary to those things.

1. Total commitment to teaching with Comprehensible Input

What our team has come to see is that the only way for all kinds of learners to make progress in Latin and NOT FAIL is to ensure that on a daily basis, at all levels, three things are happening:  a) students receive comprehensible messages in Latin; b) students are invited to work (stories, readings, adventures, games, movie talks, et al) that is compelling to them; and c) students know on some level that they are cared for. With hats off to my colleague, Rachel Ash, these have become our local “Three C’s.”  Comprehensible, Compelling and Caring.  Simply because they work for all kinds of learners.  This does not mean that any of us still does not experience the nagging, the internal demand, the fear, the taunts of other colleagues that make us second guess what we are doing.  It happens often enough.  But teaching another way also makes promises that I lived out and through for many years:  that all kinds of learners would not be successful and that all kinds of learners would not think of Latin as something they would study.

2. In levels 2-4 student chosen themes of study

This is an important aspect of the compelling piece of what we do.  In the spring of each year, we give students in Latin 1, 2 and 3 a survey of topics that they might want to study for the next year.  These topics are areas of classical study and literature that we each feel competent in (otherwise, we would not offer it), and we allow students to vote on what the topics for next year will be.  We also know, for the most part, by then which levels each of us will be teaching.  Since we do not use a textbook for our curriculum, knowing in the spring what students want to focus on the next year allows us time to begin preparing–either from scratch or from collected materials.

3. No homework

I started this practice, and my colleagues who have joined me have agreed to it.  None of them argued with me, to be honest.  I made this move about 15 years ago as a result of two things.  a) My own observations were that those who did the homework I gave were the ones who least needed it and vice versa.  If I gave a grade, those who could least withstand bad grades received the most of them, and if I didnt give grades even fewer did the homework.  b) I read Alfie Kohn’s book The Homework Myth.  I never looked back.  My own, and now our own standard has become:  a commitment to work enthusiastically from bell to bell knowing that we can do what we need to do in that time, and then give students the freedom they need and want after school for other things.  Sadly, that often means endless homework from other subjects, but we cannot do anything about that.  Not having homework is an appeal to both take Latin and to work hard in the classroom.  Not our initial aim, but we enjoy the benefits of that effect.

4. Standards based grading with three important commitments

a) Assessments look like the teaching and learning.
This is fairly self explanatory.  Our assessments always list what standards we are assessing, and we ask student questions and to do activities on the assessment that look and feel like what we have done in class.

b) The 80/80 rule.
On any given assessment minor or major, at least 80% of the class must make an 80% or higher in order to
move on with the instruction.  This is my own self check as to whether I’ve done my job before I assess.  Because I don’t want to find myself having to go back and re-teach, I make very sure that when I give an assessment, everyone in the room is ready for it.

c) Relax, Recreate, and Remediate days.
We schedule regular opportunities to re-assess any standard that has fallen below 80 with total grade
replacement.  These are about every three week, RR&R days.  Students check their grades on the school portal accessed through their cell phones or other devices, and any grade they have that is less than an 80% MUST be remediated that class period.  In addition, any student who is unhappy with any grade (a 93, for example) can also remediate.  The remediated work totally replaces the previous grade.  With these days in place throughout the semester, we have virtually no failures in Latin.

5. The Big Three Questions, twice a year.
Routinely (at least twice a year) we survey students with three questions.  They write them as open ended response, with our without their names (many do sign them).  We ask them to tell us about what is helping, what is not, and what changes they would make to the way we teach and and they learn Latin.  While we always receive useful information about trends in a particular class, the highest ranking item on these surveys, time after time, is to change nothing.  We tell them that we will read each survey, tally the results and adjust our teaching as a result.  We are accountable to them, and they are responsive to us.

These are the things that I can point to that my colleagues and I do in common.  In and between them, there are many things that constitute the varied personalities and styles that we all have.  As it should be. These are also things that I can point to when other ask about our program, how it works and why we think it’s successful.
When we are looking for a new teacher to join us, as we are right now, I can also point those to these items and say:  how do you feel about these, because these are non-negotiable.  This is another way that we remain accountable to each other and to our students.  We make mistakes.  All of us will be quick to say that we are always and forever still learning how to do what we do, but we have these guideposts.

Bob Patrick

Posted in CI Mission, Standards

Growing a Latin Program (1)–A Story

Our Latin program at Parkview High School has grown from 130 to almost 700 in the last 12 years.  Those of us who teach in the program are clear that teaching with comprehensible input practices and a commitment to all kinds of learners has been key to this growth.  As I look back, I am fairly certain that while there were many turning points that led to this growth, there was one moment that tipped everything. Here’s what happened.

The program had grown enough for us to have a second full time teacher.  Caroline Miklosovic had joined me that year (2009-2010).  We now use Rachel Ash’s handy tag to talk about what we do:  Comprehensible, Compelling and Caring.  Caroline is the very embodiment of Caring in the classroom.  After our first year together, we realized that there was still a whole “class” of students who were never even considering Latin, and we were confident that they could be successful with us.  (NB. Confident does not mean absolutely sure, so there was some risk in what we then proceeded to do.)

I had several conversations with our Curriculum administrator and convinced her that we were looking for those students who routinely fall through the cracks.  They might or might not be the following: special ed,  thought of as successful, be students of color (I mention this because whether we recognize it or not, Latin programs have tended to be very white ), or be on free and reduced lunch program.  They very often are those students for whom no one is thinking about Latin as a course of study.  The curriculum administrator agreed to talk to school counselors about identifying and coaxing a group of 30 students into a Latin 1 class. Caroline would teach this class, and we would be trying something that not too many folks were confident would work.

That year, not one of those students failed, and most continued on with us for 3 or 4 years. We repeated the plan, and had success with the class again. Two years later, Rachel Ash joined us, and the intention was for her to teach that “special” Latin 1 class.  That year, something happened. For some reason, all of those students couldn’t be placed in the same class, and they were mixed into all of the other Latin 1 classes.  What I think actually happened was that by that third year, counselors, the special ed department and administrators were convinced that all kinds of learners were going to be successful in our program–because they were. We’ve really never looked back since then because our program now is made up of all kinds of learners across the full spectrum of our school.

I recently did a demographic study of our school and those who take foreign language in our school.  I can say with data to back me up now that our Latin program (in fact, our entire FL program) looks like the face of our school.  Of the 3000+ students in our school, just over 20% are taking Latin (by comparison, 30% take Spanish and 5% each in French and German).

This is what we now know works for all kinds of learners in a Latin program that is Comprehensible, Compelling and Caring.  I list these without explanation.  That will be a follow up article.

1. Total commitment to teaching with Comprehensible Input
2. In levels 2-4 student chosen themes of study
3. No homework
4. Standards based grading with three important commitments:
A. Assessments look like the teaching and learning.
B. The 80/80 rule: at least 80% of the class must make an 80% or higher in order to move on with the instruction.
C. Regular opportunities to re-assess any standard that fell below 80 with total grade replacement
5. Routine (at least twice a year) survey of students about what is helping, what is not, and
what changes they would make to the way we teach and learn Latin.  The highest ranking information, time after time, is to change nothing.

Moving our program into uncharted waters with the aim of including all kinds of learners in the Latin program was risky and scary when we first did it, and it continues to be risky and scary, though in a different way. That initial risk is probably self-explanatory.  The current and ongoing risk is that we are now committed to teaching Latin to a new group of students each year (in Latin 1) who bring a variety and non-conformity to the traditional Latin teacher expectation that all of us still carry around inside of us.  Every year, walking into a Latin 1 classroom requires us to try to really see the human beings who are in the room and re-calibrate what Comprehensible, Compelling and Caring language teaching looks like so that it meets this group, this year, in the ways that will work for them.  There are no lasting laurels to wear in this approach.  There are wonderful moments, and we do have this huge, diverse Latin program.  I think we would all agree that the risks involved are worth it.

Bob Patrick

Posted in CI Mission

School isn’t Exclusive

It used to be exclusive. Education was something for the elite and wealthy; schools were founded to provide, at a cost that necessarily excluded a large percentage of the population, elevated status and superiority to the uneducated masses. Even once free public education was established, a difference arose between the wealthier families who could afford for their children to continue their education and the poorer families who needed their children to work. And when education became compulsory (first in Massachusetts in 1852, last in Mississippi in 1917), it was still geared toward “weeding out” students who were not likely to be college-bound. So it was kept exclusive, difficult, and “rigorous,” and no one had to argue that Latin had a purpose in that setting.

I am personally glad that the rhetoric and drive of school has shifted towards inclusion. I believe that every student can learn and has a right to learn, and it is my job to make sure that learning happens. I have known too many people who gave up because they did not fit the elite mold that schools pushed students into–even as recently as the 1990s–usually because of learning disabilities or poverty. It’s shameful. It’s wasteful.

I work very hard in my classes to make sure that all students have a path to success. Sometimes they fight me, because they are used to being ignored or allowed to fail, and I keep pressing them to succeed. Luckily I am extraordinarily annoying. I almost always win these struggles.

This shift towards inclusion means change for Latin; I am no longer considered a sine qua non member of America’s teaching force. I have to campaign for the viability of my subject, and if students don’t buy in to my class or feel welcome there, my numbers will plummet and I’ll be out of a job.

That’s not why my classroom is inclusive, it’s why my classroom MUST be inclusive.

My classroom is inclusive because I always wanted an inclusive classroom. I have always read language acquisition research, I have always attended any and all conferences, workshops, and training opportunities I could afford, I have always tried new things and taken chances with my classes, and I have always worked with my students to make them feel valued, important, and successful in my classes. No matter their creed, race, special needs, or economic background.

Teaching inclusively is necessary; moreover teaching inclusively is rewarding.

Posted in CI Mission

Pro Quo?

The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself,
but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity. 
― Marcus Garvey

With this post we launch this new blog of reflections that boil down to what we would call “social justice in the Latin classroom.”  I am joined here by 9 colleagues and friends who share in this concern from varying vantage points with their own unique voices.  Our plan is to publish a new post each Monday.  We invite you into dialogue with us.

We have recently seen some tension erupt in social media dedicated to “second language acquisition” in Latin classrooms.  I share here some of my thoughts around the issues that have surfaced.

Delivering comprehensible input is what allows all kinds of learners to make progress in the language. Period. It’s like saying that human beings need water to survive. Who can argue? Each kind of student from the most elite academic to the so called “lazy troublemaker” can make progress in Latin in a classroom where understandable messages in Latin are constantly being delivered. I see it happen every day.

Teachers who encounter Comprehensible Input as Theory and Practice find themselves in varied circumstances (some real, some imagined, some a mix of both).  All of us have to navigate our way toward CI, and no teacher that I know of who has been doing CI for a while is doing it the same as when they started.  We navigate for a while doing a “little CI here and there,” stopping, starting over, trying again. That reality, at first, is a survival mode.  A new reality can develop where a teacher just mixes and matches some CI kinds of activities into more traditional modes. Wittingly or unwittingly we can reduce a whole approach to language to something like having just a few more things in our bag of tricks.  Before long, that mix is not working any better than the previous mix of tricks.

I’ve been at the work of Comprehensible Input long enough now to be able to say this:  this work keeps changing me.  The more I embrace the theory and work at putting it into practice, the more it requires me to change, the more of the stuff in my original bag of tricks is simply not useful anymore.  CI challenges just what it is that I think I’m doing in my classroom.  I have loved being able to stand and talk eloquently (!) about all manner of things because Roman culture and history deliver all manner of things to my doorstep.  But, no student ever advanced one step in Latin because I did that.  They were entertained.  My ego grew by leaps and bounds as they swooned over how much I know about so many things.  But, when I spend an entire class attempting to deliver simple, understandable and interesting Latin to them, that all changes.  And, it’s exhausting.  And, it works. And at times it bores me.  And every student in the room makes progress.  For years now, I and my colleagues doing this work have had virtually no failures in our Latin program.

We are at a place now where we have to speak at times a hard truth: no, teaching a grammar syllabus does not help all of your students, or strengthen your program.  It could be contributing to the ultimate demise of your program.  To say these things is not to accuse anyone of being a bad person.  It is to bear witness to what will actually work for all kinds of students.

As I write this I am planning for an IEP meeting (my 9th or 10th this semester) for a special ed student in my Latin 1 class. Latin is his highest grade. It always is at these things. Comprehensible Input is not about whatever works for me.  It’s not about having some extra tricks in the bag.  It’s about making a difference–such a difference–that our Special Ed Department is always eager to place students in our Latin program.  There is a direct link between the theory and practice of CI and equity in the academic institutions we teach in.

Bob Patrick