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  • Writer's pictureSkye Shirley

Conference for the Archaeological Institute of America and Society of Classical Studies (BEF Grant!)

Updated: Jan 22, 2019

This year, I was able to attend the Society for Classical Studies Annual Conference in San Diego, California thanks to a generous grant from the Brookline Education Foundation! I was thrilled to participate in a conference that I gained so much from when it was in Boston last year.

Over the past few months, students in my Latin II classes have been providing ideas and feedback for a paper I presented at the conference. This paper, "A Day in the Life of an Active Latin Teacher," was accepted for the panel "What Can 'Active' Latin Accomplish," organized by Ronnie Ancona and facilitated by Justin Slocum Bailey of Indwelling Language. I asked students the questions about our class, and solicited their own reflections on why active (which, for the most part, usually means spoken) Latin instruction works for them. These personal quotes added so much to the paper, and kept always in sight the reasons why I teach using these methods. Yes, I teach actively because the research into Second Language Acquisition comes out strongly in favor of comprehensible input, and there is not one research article or study supporting the traditional grammar-translation method-- but ultimately, I would only do it if it also worked with my students. I loved hearing their own interpretations of learning methods we use in class, and it was special to get feedback on my work the way I give feedback on theirs.

Thursday was a day full of registration, attending the book fair, and running into friends from ancient studies institutes from all over the world! It gave the huge conference a personal connection for me, and I made many new acquaintances as well. At the book fair, I managed to snag the last copy of a book on the empress Sabina (Hadrian's wife), and can't wait to learn more about her.

On Friday I visited myriad lectures, presentations, and workshops. I was especially interested in Alexandria and Britain because of the course content we cover in the Cambridge Latin Series at Brookline High School, and kept my eye out for connections to our curriculum.

Always exciting to be on this side of the table for a panel discussion!

Saturday was the day of our panel. We had a huge group of about 50-60 people, and we all gratefully noted that almost no participants left, while many arrived as time went on. The group was immediately engaged; hands rose up quickly for questions and participants underlined handouts as we presented. I shared slides with pictures from my classroom at Brookline, and showcased examples of student work. Even though I was away from my students, I knew they added so much to the paper and were present in their own way. The panel discussion afterward was short, but still a wonderful chance to discuss issues such as race and gender, and the role of identity in active curricula. The participants were so engaged that although we had to vacate the room for the next event, the discussion continued right outside the room for a full hour after we had been scheduled to end!

The discussion continuing outside the conference room!

I learned so much from the participants about similar programs all over the country, and am delighted to stay in contact with this broad network of Latin teachers.

Saturday night was the event I have been waiting for for years-- a chance to see the classicist Mary Beard (my personal heroine and a featured scholar in the Cambridge documentary clips we show in class) present a keynote address.

Although the Marriott vastly underestimated her fandom--they had to enlarge the room with moving panels because we were crowded in as if for a rock concert-- we classicists know she is the real deal. Her speech garnered a lot of criticism, much of which I haven't delved into yet, but I really appreciated being in attendance for the live address, so that I could discuss it with my fellow attendees afterwards.

By Sunday, it was time to pack up. I was so grateful for the chance to attend this far-away but extremely informative conference, and to leave with new ideas for directions I can take in my curricula. Some resources I found are already integrated into my classes, whereas others I'll work in next year with units already behind us. I'm looking forward to putting this knowledge to use and sharing my experience with other Latin teachers!

Dea est Femina: I got a selfie with my role model!

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