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!
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