Napping Latin Students
March 13, 2017 by Jason Farley
I recently had the pleasure of sitting in with Eric Indgjerd’s 10th grade Latin Class. His teaching methods are, at times, unexpected. Do not think this arises because he is an unorthodox character. Mr. Indgjerd has adopted principles learned from the 17th century Moravian theologian, pastor and educator, John Amos Comenius.
About language study, specifically, Comenius wrote,
"Words should not be learned apart from the objects to which they refer; since the objects do not exist separately and cannot be apprehended without words, but both exist and perform their functions together." (Comenius, The Great Didactic, pg 204)
Or, as Mr. Indgjerd put it, "Words without things are like shells without nuts, sheaths without swords; shadows without bodies; bodies without souls. How can anyone answer in Latin (or English) until they can first answer the question, 'what is this’?"
Thus, I heard one student say, “Mr. Indgjerd’s pockets are like Mary Poppin’s bag. You never know what is going to come out of them.” Rubber mice might jump from those pockets before a lesson. A plastic knife might be displayed to illustrate a lesson about Rome. The teacher himself might arise from the floor.
"When teaching," Mr. Indgjerd continued, "things must come alongside words. The more a student connects what they are learning with the world they live in, through the use of their five senses, the more they will remember and understand what they are learning."
To illustrate his point, Mr. Indgjerd held his nose. "How can I taste anything if I am holding my nose. That's what happens if we don't connect teaching with things that engage our bodies."
One should not be surprised to find even a student lying on a table and 'napping', so verbs a Roman family might have used at bed-time may serve as the subject of a twenty-first century lesson.
These convictions explain why Mr. Indgjerd might even be found shouting Latin, sometime, from the floor. This has nothing to do with showmanship and, in any case, Eric's friends know him to be rather an introvert.
Mr. Indgjerd dramatizes Latin so it may live again in the minds of Oaks students. Besides, the Romans became Italians when their descendants, centuries later, exchanged their glorious, native tongue for a rougher and cruder speech.
How, then, can anyone hope to read or speak Latin well without waving their arms?
Our students nap in Allegra Miller's seventh grade Latin class as well.
(Editor's Note: our headmaster bears special affection for Comenius's educational principles, so much so that he asked George Grant to come and introduce Comenius's life to _The Oaks_ community in 2015. You may read The Great Didactic online, here or purchase a copy for yourself. Consult this article for an introduction to his life and browse a website dedicated to his life-work.)