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National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week: A Look Back
(Originally printed in the CAMWS Newsletter)
Last year was the inaugural year for National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week. How did it go? Only you can tell. Most importantly, we got the word out. It was an organized, national effort from K-18+ and it was noticed. You might ask, “Who noticed?” The answer is very simple: we did.
We have been talking about teacher shortages for years now, probably decades or more. For as long as I have been involved in the Texas Classical Association (and I’m sure long before I came along), the TCA has had a Friday session on the “Recruitment, Training, and Retention of Latin Teachers.” Recruitment, training and retention—these are the three big issues which are at the heart of keeping Latin alive and well in public schools. These Friday sessions, however, were never more than a simple report from our liaison at the Texas Education Agency on how many people took the ExCET (certification) test and who was currently listed as teaching in a public school. The news was always grim: we had more teachers approaching retirement than we had new teachers ready to take their places. Statistics even now reveal that most new teachers do not last much longer than 3-5 years before leaving the profession.
And with this news most of us departed feeling somewhat saddened and somewhat puzzled as to what to do next. The Junior Classical League does do its fair share of recruitment, as do those wonderful folks who run the National Latin Exam, but it still hasn’t been enough.
A new (or perhaps not so new) twist has been added: programs with teachers retiring are being closed when a new teacher cannot easily be found, or if the program has had little visibility and is not seen as worthwhile.
Our strength as classicists perhaps is in our ability to value different cultures, to understand different religions, and to respect different traditions. If we could not do these things, we could not possibly fall in love with the people of the ancient world. Our strength as teachers of Latin and Greek is that we understand the vibrancy of language and can connect it to our own to enrich and enhance our ability to communicate.
We know these things. But do the critical people involved in keeping Latin alive and well at the secondary level (and thus the university level) know? What does your principal, counselor, or superintendent know about the value of studying Latin? What do local employers know about the value of studying the classics?
Our original mission—recruitment, training and retention of Latin teachers—only goes so far. We need to add one more idea to our mission of preserving Latin’s important place in the curriculum: prevention. The first part of prevention in this case is our actively encouraging all of our students, not just our top JCL students, to consider teaching Latin. Mark the first week in March on your calendar now for National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week. Discuss with colleague possible activities for that week. Consult the NLTRW website at www.promotelatin.org/nltrw.htm for materials and ideas. We need to prevent a shortage of potential teachers to recruit and train.
The second part of prevention overlaps with retention. As a profession we need to actively support and mentor new teachers in the field. Take them to conferences, offer them materials, get them to join the Latinteach discussion group (for more information go to www.latinteach.com). Do not wait for new teachers to come to you to ask for help because they might be gone before they ever think to do so.
The third part of prevention addresses the issue of school closures. I have heard repeatedly the argument that school boards and administrators are uneducated about Latin; they think Latin is dead or that universities do not accept Latin for foreign language credit. If these individuals are uneducated, who should educate them? You should, each of you—and it could not be any easier.
On the CPL website (www.camwscpl.org) you can now download and print brochures and fliers at a moment’s notice. The two that I would recommend immediately for addressing administrators and school boards would be the “Why Study Latin?” brochure and the “TCA Survey of College Admissions Counselors.” The first brochure contains recent SAT stats and an abridged version of Conrad Barrett’s article, “Keys to Language and Cultural Awareness.” (This article can be found in full on the National Committee for Latin and Greek website at www.promotelatin.org.) The TCA Survey is actually three elegantly designed fliers: Why Study Latin? Should I Take Latin III & IV? College & University Admissions Personnel Respond to Latin.
Before your school year gets fully underway, consider taking some time to download materials to distribute to the decision makers at your school and district. Include a cover letter and perhaps thank them for valuing Latin as they obviously have done by leaving your program intact during a year of severe budget cuts! Notify these people about student awards and accomplishments. Remember: training, recruitment and retention supplemented with a healthy dose of prevention will help keep Latin programs strong.
Ginny Lindzey, Chair Committee for the Promotion of Latin Porter Middle School, Austin TX
copyright, Ginny Lindzey, 2003
June 8 , 2004
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