This term I was used to seeing the girls leaving half way through the lesson. However, in the last few lessons they have been more reluctant to leave, which has been incredibly positive. In the most recent lesson, only one of the girls left. I have to admit that I did a double take when I saw the other girl still sitting, attentively listening to me. Interestingly, as I was quietening the rest of class after an interactive word search activity, she was looking at me, waiting for the next instruction. It was not unlike her to be paying attention, but this level of attentiveness was better than I had ever seen it. As a reward for staying and showing such attention, I allowed her to select the next activity we did, from a choice of three we had left. Once the pupils had settled into it, I went to speak to her and ask her whether she was happy with the work and see if she had a particular reason for staying. She said…
“Yes, I decided I wanted to stay for the lesson, if that is ok?”
I was thrilled that she wanted to stay, and interestingly she seemed to work better without her friend, the other pupil, who used to distract her with a countdown to 10am when they were allowed to leave. I looked over her worksheet as she made her way through it, and yet she didn’t ask for any extra help, although she usually does. I watched her get into a mind-set where she ignored the odd distraction from other pupils as she settled down to work through the entire sheet. This lesson was one of the more demanding ones because we were moving onto plurals and this required a bit more concentration from the pupils to make sure that they grasped the concept of new grammatical rules. As this particular girl was working through the exercises she reached a point where a word had been left out of the vocabulary. Instead of asking what should go there, she figured out what would be the correct word and wrote it in the gap.
When she had completed this she moved on to the next exercise which asked the pupils to continue the story of two Roman pupils’ day at school. This was meant to be done entirely in English; however this pupil decided to put Latin words in wherever she could. Regardless of whether they were correct or not this was a huge achievement for this pupil. When she handed the work to me I told her that I would be showing this to my Latin teacher and that she would be extremely impressed by her work. I was truly excited that something so special had happened in the lesson. Although it has been very rewarding to take the whole class on a journey into Latin, moments like this somehow seem particularly special and this is why I love the project: we can really change people and help them, and it is wonderful to see it so dramatically. I have been fortunate to have had quite a few moments where the pupils have astonished me with their learning and ability to retain information even after such a short amount of time. I have a lot to thank this project for, and I feel that one day these two girls will too.
As a footnote, my Latin teacher was kind enough to share my excitement. Evelien has been with us throughout the project, talking us through the hard situations and the moments of joy, and sharing this one with her was very rewarding. Through her guidance I have honed my patience and perseverance and really seen how wonderful teaching can be, and how important it is to keep working patiently with even the most seemingly intractable pupils.
And here is the pupil's work sheet: perhaps not grammatically correct, but a milestone anyway: