Tamara Kantzes: Reports on her first year with CI

Tamara (Tammy) Kantzes was in both the ACL Pre-Institute that I taught last summer on creating a CI Latin Classroom as well as the Pedagogy Rusticatio sponsored by SALVI.  Tammy has written a response to Keith Toda’s recent blog on end of the year things. Please read his post, and this one from Tammy.  They offer real reports from what teachers are doing learning, feeling, thinking and reflecting on as they make these transitions from traditional Latin classrooms to CI classrooms.  Much thanks to Tammy for allowing us to post her report here.  Bob Patrick



I have been reading your blog since day 1!  Each time I needed inspiration, it seemed that you had posted something new and I tried it.  I have 10 instructional days left, and I am proud to say that I have also made it through an entire year of teaching using CI techniques.  I am so incredibly burned out and exhausted.  I remember you telling me that you had tried teaching this way before and only made it for about 6-9 weeks before reverting to familiarity because TCI was challenging and exhausting.  I am definitely exhausted and plagued with self-doubt, but I’m already making plans to implement this style into the next level of Latin and how to improve what I did this year.

I have failed in all those ways which you have listed.  In addition, I have the self-talk, self-doubt happening: What have I done to these students?  Have I really taught them anything?  Most of them don’t use endings to make themselves clear, but they are aware of the endings.  What should they know and be able to do?  (I have started looking at ACTFL’s “I can” statements, but that is entirely overwhelming.)  Have I “dumbed down” the curriculum?  How can I take away the textbook which, I think, forces me to be more vocabulary centered while sheltering the grammar?  If I don’t have a textbook, then what do I do?  At this point, I really need structure to help guide me, which the textbook gives me; I need more help in how to plan for this approach.  This year was “flying by the seat of my pants” on a daily basis – exhausting.  To make matters worse, the National Latin Exam made me feel like a huge failure.  I have never taught to the test, but in the past we have always had lots of Latin I awards including medals.  This year we had two.  O me miseram!  We won’t even talk about AP.

On the other hand, I had a similar experience as you when an observer came to my Latin Literature classroom.  Granted, these are students that I have taught for either four or five years; they are not all four percenters, but close.  While we have always used questioning techniques with reading passages in Ecce Romani, we never really did much in the way of oral Latin when we moved to authentic Latin.  I love my Latin Literature class because we have no AP test at the end, and we can just enjoy Latin Literature at a leisurely pace.  They also let me practice on them.  Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  We were reading Ovid’s Daphne and Apollo. The observer is situated in the back of the room.  We quickly moved from English into Latin and began talking about the passage that they had prepared the night before.

Once I stated “tantum Latine,” we were entirely in Latin guided by questions that I had prepared the night before.  I did not know how this was going to go!  It went beautifully; we had remained in Latin for the better part of the class period talking about the literature, laughing at Cupid shooting his arrow (i.e. one of the student’s demonstration and sound effects), describing various students as “lascivus,” and making fun of Apollo’s proud self. My observer said, “I always love watching your class and your interactions with your students.  You have a great rapport with them; they really respond to you.”  They really respond to me?  I was speaking in Latin, and they were not tuning me out!

I know teaching CI is the way to go; I’ve always wanted to teach this way since grad school where I was the only Classics major in methodology courses populated with modern language students.  This desire was further fueled by another degree in TESOL where Krashen’s Language Acquisition theory was a focal point.  I attended two conventicula hoping that would get me started.  Twenty-two years later,Rusticatio and the Pedogogy workshop taught me how to use CI with my minimal Latin speaking abilities and gave me confidence to try it. That same feeling I had with my Latin Literature students during that particular class (because I had some validation), I want in all levels.  I’m just not entirely sure how to get there.  I had glimmers of it throughout the year in level one when we worked on stories.  On the other hand, looking at the textbook we are using, we have “covered” only half the chapters we usually do; and I don’t feel like most of my students use any of those grammatical concepts well.  Then Krashen’s Language Acquisition theory pops into my head: so it’s okay if they don’t use an accusative ending where they should, I understand them, right? ugh!  Here is where I start down the rabbit hole of self-doubt again.  I’ll end this post now, but I will not give up!

Looking forward to the summer…15 more days.  I can do this.