Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Latin Student Who Shines

I love all my Latin students but there is one in particular who has captured my heart. He says Latin is his favorite subject.
Latin?! Who could possibly pick Latin to be a favorite subject? The answer is "just about no one"! I teach Latin in a private setting with 3rd - 8th grade students. One of them is a darling 4th grade boy. He is very quiet and mostly sits drawing or doodling with his head down. He always is tracking with the class, however. If I call on him he may take a minute to respond but he knows the answer and gives it after a very short pause. He always comes to school wearing a neatly pressed long-sleeved shirt and tie looking very professional and grown up. Technically drawing and doodling is verboten. But this particular student needs to draw or doodle to help him learn. You see, he has Tourette's Syndrome. Tourette's exacerbates with stress. I'm willing to bend "the rules" in his case for the greater good of allowing him to shine as he finds peace and comfort in my Latin class.
Last year he was also in my Latin class. At the beginning of school I noticed that he had several tics. And then, a few weeks after school started I realized one day that the tics were gone in my class. Now the only time he tics - and only a bit - is when I push him a little outside his comfort zone. Yesterday I asked him to go to the board and fill in part of a chart conjugating a verb in Latin. I was thrilled when he jumped right up and strode confidently to the board!
He has Tourette's Syndrome which causes tics and other symptoms. He also has a great mom and dad who are very special special needs parents. They know and understand his disease and also know their child and want him to be all he can be. It is obvious they work with him at home on his assignments and on processing vocabulary and grammar concepts we study in class.
One week last year our vocabulary list was words having to do with the house: window, door, wall, etc. His mom let him make labels on sticky notes and put them all over the house. She laughingly told me that they were all learning the Latin vocabulary.
When we do a class activity with teams of two to drill on vocabulary, he gets "run over" by a more aggressive student. It's not that he's less smart; it's just that he marches to his own drummer.
This year there is a very shy girl in the class - probably just as smart as he is but very tentative. She too could be very intimidated by a more aggressive student if they are paired together. One day I paired these two. Both of them smiled and quickly moved to work together. It was a beautiful thing to watch! They both "bloomed" as they worked together - each in his and her quiet way - to drill vocabulary words.
It's not that I'm such a great Latin teacher but I do love the kids and I love helping them learn! I have been so blessed to watch this particular student grow and stretch and find a measure of peace and comfort inside the walls of my classroom! What an awesome privilege to be able to participate in this young man's life and learning! It is exciting and very rewarding to my teacher heart to watch him shine!

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