Friday, July 15, 2011

With Friends Like These...

Earlier this week, the principal of my school invited me to consider teaching one section of Latin I this upcoming term. Many years ago, I taught Spanish in a Buffalo-area Catholic grammar school (Our Lady of Black Rock) and really enjoyed it, so in light of my own study this summer I am really happy (1) to share my newfound passion for this language and (2) keep myself somewhat engaged with Latin: if you don't use it, you lose it!

I guess I am about enter a new phase in the evolution of my name: Ryan Gerard Duns (Christened Name) --> Duns (All Boys High School) --> Ryan (College/early Jesuit formation) --> Ryan G. Duns, SJ (Totally Pretentious authorial name) --> Mr. Duns (Start of Regency) --> Dunsy (Seniors' early nickname for me) --> Abba Duns (sophomore development during the third month of Regency, ongoing) --> "SJ" (Started among the Juniors, gaining ground with the Student Senate Officers) --> Magister Duns, my self-appointed title as a Latin teacher. It is amazing to me that I haven't had an identity crisis quite yet!

One of the blessings of this semester is that I have had Father Greg Carlson, SJ, as an instructor. He may actually be the best teacher I have ever had: he partitions a 3-hour class in such a way that I am seldom bored or restless, he has a great sense of humor, and he is boundlessly patient with students' difficulties and exuberant in his encouragement. Not only have I learned Latin from him, but I have also glimpsed a new way of running my own courses so that they are more engaging for the students. I realize how hard it is to take notes class after class, so some of the techniques I have seen Greg use this summer are certainly going to make an appearance beginning in August.

My friends and guides in times of distress.
One of these tactics - or, for the hard of heart, gimmicks - is that he has given us little gifts. We started the summer with an amicus or little friend who would be our companion in our study of Latin. I have a little metal Roman soldier. After two weeks, my amicus was joined by a plastic minotaur. This week, on Wednesday, the god Neptune joined their ranks. During class they occupy a space on my desk, although I must say they spend most of their time zipped up in my book bag.

So with only one week left to go, I am grateful that I shall finally have a few weeks of summer vacation, but I'm sad in a way to leave this course: as intense as it is, and as hard as I have to work to do well, I really enjoy it. It's been sort of a retreat for the mind, having the time and opportunity to dedicate to learning something totally new. Not for a second have I failed to be grateful to the Society of Jesus who has given me this extraordinary opportunity to acquire a new skill and I only hope that I am able to use my growing interest in Latin to help the Kingdom.

I have a ticket to see the final Harry Potter movie tonight: a group of us will celebrate the Eucharist at 5:15 then head off to an IMAX theater for the 7:30 showing. I also need to start looking for a supply of amici for my incoming students. I have to balance my own desire to give out cool toys (because I like them) with my sensibilities as a teacher in an all-boys school: which of these might be turned into a projectile to be used against me at a moment's notice!


Nan said...

I like Magister Duns. Now I wonder what creature will be added to your pack at the end of the week?

Barbara said...

I recall one of the education profs at my college used to warn her students that their students will have names for them and they won't even know it. The prof's nickname was Mother Magoo because she was a deadringer for the cartoon character. I wonder if she knew.

My own favourite nicknames for me were Wonder Woman and DJ Moly Cule. [I taught chem to undergrads.]