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In 1997 a course on Latin Pedagogy began as our department’s alternative to “Language Pedagogy,” a course offered by the College of Humanities for GTAs in the modern languages. Our GTAs felt that the “Language Pedagogy,” with its emphasis on oral-aural skills, did not address their need to teach grammar and reading skills.

Originally, “Latin Pedagogy” was focused on classroom skills and discussion. The classroom skills included blackboard use, purpose of testing and how to write quizzes. The discussions were generated by problems or questions that individual GTAs had during any given week and included issues such as attendance, motivation, and problems with the explanations of grammatical concepts. In order to facilitate our formal discussions and to encourage informal discussions between GTAs outside of the course, we required classroom visitations not by authority figures (e.g. professors) but by peers, other GTAs teaching Latin at the same level. These basic elements of the initial course remain important to any version of Latin Pedagogy, as they utilize two general principles: one, good teaching requires that the instructor be engaged in helping students with their current problems, not offering prefabricated solutions; and two, good teaching requires many more resources than are actually being used at any given time. Being open to new solutions and different approaches and maintaining an attitude of flexible improvisation keeps teaching alive.

In keeping with these principles, we have added over the years several segments. Two of the most important are teaching and learning styles, and bibliography. In the first we use standardized tests to determine the “learning style” of each GTA, which then becomes the background for various discussions: the different learning styles one faces in the classroom, the way our field selects for specific learning styles which are not always shared by our students, and ways to engage as many styles as possible in teaching Latin. The point of this exercise is the counter-intuitive conclusion: being the absolute best teacher possible for yourself is to fail at your job, which is rather to be an adequate teacher for students very much not like you. The bibliography segment began by using Latin for the Twenty-First Century, now supplemented with materials found on the web. While there is no one solution out there that is right for every classroom and every GTA, these readings are valuable for their potential to stimulate discussion and disagreement. Readings did, however, lead to the switch from a grammar-based approach to a reading-based approach through adopting the Jones & Sidwell Cambridge course. The decision process illustrated to GTAs the problems and oversights of both approaches, and incorporated the goal of reconsidering supplements and alternative approaches for both methods. This outcome was, of course, fully in keeping with the general view of Latin pedagogy as a course that should encourage presence and improvisation, as well as variety in resources and in problem solving.