The National Latin Exam - Last week, a number of my students took the National Latin Exam (NLE). I do not require my students to take the NLE, so it is purely voluntary. Nor do I make it a cornerstone of my curriculum, as I do not prep my students for it. If students want to prep for it, then they can do it on their own. Anyhow, when those students who took the NLE came back to class, the first thing they said to me was "Wow, there was so much grammar on it that I did not know."
I hate hearing students say that about their NLE experience. Even though they took the exam in good faith and understood what to expect, I cannot help at first feel like I somehow failed my students, because I did not teach them explicit grammar. I hate feeling like that, because if you read my post on reasons for rejecting a grammar syllabus, you know my views on the topic. After having a pity party for a bit, I have to remind myself of the following regarding the NLE:
- First off, the NLE is a CONTEST (as I have heard Sherwin Little, executive director of the American Classical League, himself say MANY times). It is not a prescribed curriculum, nor is it an accurate indicator of my students' acquisition of Latin.
- Secondly, results on the NLE do not demonstrate student proficiency with the language (and was never meant to) but rather student performance.
My students comparing themselves with students at other schools - I hate it when my students sometimes hear from students from other schools what they are learning in traditional textbooks, because they will usually come to me, saying, "How come you haven't taught us cases and things like subjunctives?" My response is always, "I have. You do know cases and subjunctives. You have been reading them and using them, but I just haven't told you about them." Now to me, that is absolutely correct, but to them, it sounds like I am trying to cover my @$$. Undoubtedly, I will question myself, saying "Am I a bad teacher, because I am not teaching my students as I was taught? Do my students think this of me?" Then I remind myself of what my students are able to do that I could NEVER have done when I was learning Latin under a traditional textbook. They are MILES ahead of me where I wa at their stage of learning Latin in terms of reading, writing, speaking, and communicating in Latin itself. Whenever I do a drawing dictation, Freeze Frame activity, or a free write in Latin with my students and I see how easily they are able to accomplish it since these skills are both embedded and supported in a communicative CI curriculum, I always say to them, "You have no idea of just what you are able to accomplish. The majority of college students taking Latin cannot do this. I NEVER did anything like this when I was learning Latin!"
So i write this post to say that all of us at times struggle with feeling inferior as teachers, but that there are so many things which are going right in our classrooms.