Opinion
Education Opinion

Training Tales: Carpe Diem

By Paul Oechslin — January 01, 2001 1 min read

Thirty-eight years ago, in 7th grade, I took Latin and failed. I went on to a successful career in music and teaching, but that humiliating experience would haunt me for years. Then, last fall, I was offered a chance at redemption. Steve Mincin, a colleague at the school where I teach, invited me to join one of his Latin classes. I agreed and, at age 49, squeezed into a chair in Steve’s class of 8th graders.

“What are you doing here?” my students asked, with puzzled looks. Soon, however, the questions stopped, and I was transformed from Mr. Oechslin, music teacher, into Paulus...Latin student. I attended class, struggled with homework, and memorized vocabulary lists. I sweated over every test. During pre- dawn jogs, when I passed by a seminary near my home, I must have sounded like a novice priest as I worked on my noun declensions: pater, patris, patri, patrem, patre, pater.

By becoming a student with my students, I worked outside the traditional school hierarchy, and my relationships with the kids changed. Thoreau wrote, “We should learn of our students as well as with them.” Each day, I saw my music students in a setting different from the music room, and they saw me in a different way, too. According to Steve, class work occasionally bounced unabsorbed off my forehead— something the kids surely noticed.

Still, my students helped me. Each was supportive: “Do you want to review second declension noun cases, Paulus?” Helpful: “Remember, we have a Chapter 9 quiz today.” Even competitive: “You only got an 86 percent? Ha! I got 100.”

The year in Steve’s class helped me in many ways, some expected, others not. I experienced the satisfaction of learning something completely different. I broadened my horizon and dusted off 50-year-old neurons. I learned some new teaching techniques. And I got to watch a master teacher bring a so-called “dead language” back to life. But most important, when I became a student with my students, I became a better teacher, as well.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

7796 - Director of EAL (K-12) - August '21
Dubai, UAE
GEMS Education
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read