Friday, August 29, 2014

When Teachers Talk About Students

Driving to school in the morning is one of my favorite times.  I get to listen to my favorite hair metal and classic rock CDs.  Call it a some me time with the sound turned up to 11.  This morning, however, I chose to turn off the music and call my wife to share with her a couple of stories from our Latin III class.

This class meets the last period of the day, so it would be natural to expect less than enthusiastic engagement with the material.  It is a large class, so no one would be surprised if only a few really participated well.  Neither is the case with this group of young scholars.  They daily come in well prepared and with some of the most brilliant questions I have had the opportunity to hear.

For example, we have been reviewing some basic grammar at the start of the year.  This is hardly the most exciting thing in the world, but recently one young lady asked why the present subjunctive almost sounded like the future.  Her question stunned me in my tracks.  She had moved from mere decoding of the language to picking up on its nuances and developing a feel for it.  This led us to discuss the inherently fuzzy nature of the subjunctive mood, the reason why it contains no genuine future tense as the indicative mood does, and the sense of the very near future that the present carries with it.

As we explored conditional sentences yesterday, another student said that to her the passive voice in English reminded her of an adjective and wondered why.  I was again rendered motionless and speechless for a moment by the depth her comment.  We explored as a class the nature of the English passive system and how it is constructed by the copulative verb and a participle, which is, of course, part verb and part adjective, giving us essentially parallel sentences like The boy was defeated and The boy was tall.

So on my way to school today, I turned my rock 'n' roll down from 11 to 0 and called my wife.  I had not had the chance to tell her these stories, and as we discussed the depth of inquiry and insight of which students are capable, the morning darkness gave way with the first hints of light, and I arrived at school charged up and excited, which is not a bad thing for a Friday.

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