What have the Romans ever done for us?
One of the great privileges of working in a school is the delight of children rushing up to share something they have learnt. Even then, while preparing and delivering a lesson, or helping children with some problem or other, one is often seeing a different view on something, learning something new or remembering something forgotten.
Nowhere is this more true for me than Latin. Having dropped it aged 14, with the familiar cry ‘how is this useful?’, it is now little more than a blur for me.
No originality here. The challenge ‘why study a dead language?’ recurs like a returning verruca but gets very short shrift at Beeston. That we have a Latin teacher who has more than a passing resemblance to Aeneas, or one of the countless other classical figures, is helpful for the cause. The lessons are busy with children taking on teaching roles; he has a toy train on his desk to illustrate the grammatical link up between subject, verb and object. Even if there were no Latin learnt at all, the children’s understanding of English grammar gets a boost.
In June some of our children participated in the Aylsham Roman Project (an archaeological dig) and found themselves looking for – and finding - remnants of clay pipe and brick work; they loved it. I think the exquisite Detectorists BBC series can’t have hurt either. The involvement is complete, the time set aside so that we have been able to start a course for Year 5 children. They are thrilled with the relevance of the subject, as they join the dots and begin to see the context and impact of Roman culture, not just language, both nationally and locally. The famous Monty Python phrase of my headline resonates hugely and it is tempting to share this classic too. Maybe the language of Life of Brian is a bit too fruity for 10-year-olds, but let’s stick to Latin: docendo discimus – by teaching, we learn!
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