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!

www.bee­ston­hall.co.uk 01263 837324 West Run­ton, Cromer, Nor­folk NR27 9NQ G G

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