|1st place-winning Latin II Team|
|Latin I Team|
|Latin II Team|
|Latin III/IV Team|
|1st place-winning Latin II Team|
|Latin I Team|
|Latin II Team|
|Latin III/IV Team|
I teach in a coat and tie. Never in my career have I been required to do so, nor am I making a fashion statement. As far as that goes, my sartorial selections are quite traditional, e.g. navy jacket with tan or grey slacks, blue tie with grey jacket and navy slacks, and so forth. My reason for how I dress to teach each day is rooted in one of the most fundamental aspects of my teaching philosophy, the importance of modeling. If anyone is having visions of me as a runway model, please stop. That is not what I mean.
I am speaking of what the historian Livy meant in the preface to his Ab Urbe Condita. He begins his 142-book history of Rome from its founding to the death of Drusus in 9 A.D. by stating his desire that his readers pay close attention to quae vita, qui mores fuerint, the life and habits of life that once were. Cicero had earlier said something similar in his speech Pro Archia, an ostensibly defense oration that was more of an encomium on learning. He asks rhetorically, "Quam multas nobis imagines--non solum ad intuendum, verum etiam ad imitandum--fortissimorum virorum expressas scriptores et Graeci et Latini reliquerunt?" "How many images have both Greek and Latin authors left us, not only for gazing at, but also for imitating?" (Pro Archia, 14)
What do an ancient Roman historian and statesman-cum-philosopher have to do with how I dress to teach high school students? They both speak to the importance of models of behavior. I dress as I do because that is how my dad dressed. He had been an elementary teacher before I was born, but as I grew up I knew him as an elementary school principal.
|Norman Perkins, Principal of Galena Elementary School, 1968-1991l|
This picture, which was converted into a painting and hung in his school when he retired, represents the image of my dad that I saw every day when he came home from work. It was a professional look, one that conveyed respect for his job as an educator and the people with whom he worked. When I began teaching at a middle school in Kansas City, his was the model for my own apparel. In fact, it was not until years later that I realized why I had made the dress decisions that I had. At the time it was simply the natural thing to do.
Surely, you must be thinking, this cannot be the point of this blog post. There must be a more significant purpose to this, and indeed there is. Cicero and Livy were right. Imitation is far more than a form of flattery, sincere or otherwise. It is a foundational principle of learning, and this is part of why Cato the Elder's definition of an orator, quoted by Quintillian in Institutio Oratoria 12.1.1, was "Vir bonus dicendi peritus." For both Cato and Quintillian, the ideal orator was not merely a person skilled in speaking, but a good person skilled in speaking. It was not enough to learn phrasing and breath control and all manner of rhetorical devices. These cannot exist in a vacuum but must be used by particular human beings, and what kind of people they are matters as much as the abilities they express. The Stoic philosopher Seneca gave voice to this in his Epistle 88 when he suggested that rather than spending a great deal of time to earn the title o hominem litteratum, o well read man, "Simus hoc titulo rusticiore contenti: O virum bonum!" "Let us," he argues, "be content with a more rustic title: O good man!"
Perhaps this is the reason that imitation of the true, the good, and the beautiful is rarely discussed in schools of education or in professional development conferences. We have always, even in Seneca's time, distanced ourselves from that which smacked of the rustic because of an urban prejudice that values the supposed sophistication of the city over anything else. It is helpful, as with any prejudice, to forego judgment until one has examined all sides fully, and once this is done regarding imitation of the good person, it will become clear why this should be a foundational educational principle and not merely a quaint rustic notion best forgotten.
Simply put, we do not like hypocrites. We are unlikely to take seriously the advice to quit cigarettes if it is given by our chain-smoking doctor. Once again, it is Seneca who speaks to this in Epistle 52 and summarizes the idea by admonishing his readers, "Eum elige adiutorem quem magis admireris cum videris quam cum audieris." "Choose a guide whom you admire more when you see him than when you listen to him."
As a teacher I am called to a certain nobility of character. Since I am a Latin teacher, that character should reflect the nobility and beauty of thought and creation expressed by the best of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Teaching involves incarnation. It is not enough that I dictate facts that students could just as easily and possibly better glean from a text or online source. I must embody what I teach, for it is the witness of my life that will produce the most memorable lesson. For a fuller discussion of this, read George Steiner's Lessons of the Masters, one of the finest books on what truly transpires between teachers and students.
Yet I am not a teacher first but rather a follower of Jesus Christ. As a Christian I am called to follow my Father's example in far more significant ways than I did in patterning my professional dress after that of my earthly father. This, of course, would be impossible if God were merely an abstract deity, an idea, a notion developed in the collective human mind over centuries. Our Father is real and in the most basic, etymological sense of that word. Those questioning this with the challenge that they have never seen Him join the ranks of Philip, the disciple of Jesus, and Christ's response to him applies today.
Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Hw can you say, "Show us the Father?" (John 14:8-9, ESV)
I hope, at the end of the day, I have done more than just dress as Norman Perkins once did as the principal of an elementary school in southern Indiana. My goal as a Christian teacher is to model, however imperfectly, my life on that of my Father in heaven, and this each of us can do by looking to the fullest representation of Him the world has seen, Jesus Christ.
The 1995 film Mr. Holland's Opus tells the story of Glenn Holland, an aspiring musician and composer whose dream is to create one memorable work of music. To pay his bills, however, he takes a job as a high school band teacher, never considering that to be his true vocation and spending his evenings laboring over his composition. As Emilio Estevez says to his father, Martin Sheen, in The Way, you don't choose a life, you live one, and the one that Mr. Holland lives seems far from the one he would have chosen. As the film develops, both he and the audience discover that his true composition, the opus for which he will be known, is the work he has accomplished with his students.
For many years I have wanted to publish a translation of Vergil's Aeneid. I have played with a half dozen or more metrical schemes in which to do it and have considered prose as well. Since 1533 and the Scots translation by Gavin Douglas, there has been a nearly unbroken succession of English renderings up to and including the one by Shadi Bartsch in 2021. However the concept of need is defined, there can hardly be one for yet another English Aeneid. Why, then, I have been lured by the Siren's call of this notoriously difficult task for so many years?
|The opening of Aeneid, Book 1, by Gavin Douglas|
When I was a boy, I played dentist when I came home from the dentist's office, barber after having my hair cut, and teacher following a day of Kindergarten. The latter was enacted with my grandmother as my student and largely for the gleeful pleasure of putting a big, red F on her papers, regardless of her actual achievement. The mimetic impulse is in all of us. As children we role play and act out the lives of those around us in preparation for our adult callings, but even adults still feel the pull of mimesis as we wear jerseys bearing the names of a favorite athlete, display posters of a beloved band or album in the garage, or even try keeping up with the Joneses as we rush to purchase the latest technology.
For me, I want to go ever deeper into the amazing, beautiful, moving, haunting, inspiring, magnificent work that Vergil crafted two millennia ago. So taken am I with it that at times I can only nod in mute agreement with Tennyson's eulogy for the nineteenth centenary of the Roman poet's death.
I salute thee, Mantovano,
I that loved thee since my day began,
Wielder of the stateliest measure
Ever moulded by the lips of man.
|Statue of Vergil in the Piazza Virgiliana in Mantua|
What that means, in practical terms, is that I have always wanted to translate this poem. I want to get as deep into its words and artistry and story as I possibly can, and this means giving my own performance of it in translation. This desire is not to satisfy any glaring need in the literary world, for there are many perfectly good translations, although none can, given the nature and limitations of language, completely capture all of Vergil, and that is one of the reasons why I think I have decided to abandon the project. Every translation into any language of a work like this can only result in one seeing through a glass darkly, and in the particular case of the Aeneid, many of the translations are deeply tinted windows indeed. The best one can hope for is to produce a lens with the faintest color possible through which to glimpse the original, but try as one may, there will always be that hint of hue to lend a perspective not present in the model.
There is another reason why I suspect I shall never complete a written translation, and it takes us back to the film Mr. Holland's Opus. I have, in fact, translated the Aeneid countless times as a work of performance art in my high school advanced Latin classes. There, my students and I have explored shades and nuances and subtleties. We have played with synonyms in an attempt to capture the right essence of a word. We have compared and contrasted bits of plot with storylines in other works and have explored artistic expressions in Vergil's poetry alongside not only other works of literature but other genres of art, including music, film, and painting. Every year I read it with students, I read it anew and discover some wonderful gem that had escaped notice. Seen this way, my translation of the Aeneid is not entirely my own, but is a crowdsourced work of living art, not to be read in the paper-and-board books that line a shelf, but to be expressed in the lives of Vergil's audience, those auditores who still hear his stately measures echoing across the millennia.
After writing this post more than a month ago, I delayed publishing it until I had finished another project that it had inspired. I could find nowhere on the Internet a complete listing of all the English translations of the Aeneid, much less direct links to them, and so I decided to fill that need. As nearly as I can tell, there have been ninety-seven translations into English of Vergil's poem from 1533 to 2021. I created the website Aeneid Translator to list every English translation in chronological order. Where online or print texts are available, I have provided links. Please be sure to check out the About page on the site where I talk about a former teacher of mine who was in no small measure the muse for this project.
Finally, I have two requests. PLEASE contact me if you know of other translations that I have missed, online or print editions that I am unaware of, corrections to any dates that are wrong, or if you have a print translation that I do not own (see the color-coded legend on the website). I may be interested in purchasing it from you. I would also ask that you share the website with teachers, scholars, students, and friends who have any interest. I want this to be a helpful resource. It is not fancy, but I hope it will fill a need.
My classroom is small, measuring about 23' x 13'. For this reason, most of my Latin classes meet in other classrooms. As I have written elsewhere, and borrowing Hamlet's expression, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself the king of infinite space, and because this is true, I do not mind at all sharing my small classroom with many, many other teachers. Both in this classroom, which is really more of an office, and in any place where I teach, I do not teach alone but am engaged in a most collaborative enterprise, for I have the pleasure of working alongside some of the greatest teachers the world has ever known.
There are Socrates and Plato and Alexander Pope, to say nothing of Catullus, Cicero, Horace, Ovid, and Vergil. The history teachers have their say thanks to Livy and Tacitus, and of course Homer holds a mighty sway.
|Texts and commentaries|
|Oxford and Loeb texts|
Sometimes they speak their native Greek or Latin, and sometimes they speak in English, but always they are there, guiding the conversations I have with my students. Even when their voices cannot be heard directly, they are teaching nonetheless, for they are like the waters described by William Butler Yeats in "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
Although the majority of my fellow teachers speak their wisdom from across the centuries, there are more modern educators as well, speaking to matters of linguistics and philosophy and the natural sciences.
|A few of my colleagues who teach philosophy and science|
|The 3-D printed bust of Christ, courtesy of my son|
|Just a few of the students who filled our media center for Prof. Wickkiser's talk|
|One of our GCJCL leaders introduces our speaker and opens with prayer|
|A student prepares to ask Prof. Wickkiser a question|
|Much ancient art depicts various aspects of the healing arts|
|Professor Wickkiser discussing various medical implements that have survived from antiquity|
|Bronwen Wickkiser and Steve Perkins (Guerin Latin Teacher)|
|Former grad school office mates clowning around|
|Click here for Prof. Wickkiser's full presentation|
When you enter our school, you see this sign on the wall to the right. It reads, "Be it known to all who enter here that Christ is the reason for this school. He is the unseen but ever present teacher in its classes. He is the model of its faculty and the inspiration of its students." If this is true, then there should be some proof of it, and this post offers just a fraction of the ample evidence that can be seen on any day at Guerin Catholic High School.
We are on a trimester system and just finished the final exams for our first trimester. Each week my Latin I and Latin II students had received a Bible verse in Latin, different for each of the two courses, that they copied into their notebooks. Each day we would practice pronunciation of Latin by reciting the verse together and then inviting one student to read it solo. We talked each day a bit about the given verse, often asking questions and exploring its theological and sometimes its grammatical depth. The last question on the final exam for each of these courses asked the students to identify one verse from the trimester, explain what it means, and discuss what it means to them. You do not need to hear any more from me. What follows are the words of some of my students. They prove without a shadow of a doubt that the sign hanging inside the entrance to our school speaks the truth.
Ed tech is hardly a new thing. We have sought physical tools to aid students in their learning and in the production of new ideas from what they have learned since the dawn of time. Do you think touch screen tablets in classrooms, a hallmark of 21st century classrooms about which school boards and administrators brag to the public, are evidence of our brilliance over past ages? They are but updated versions of the wax tablets used by the ancients, and often for similar educational purposes.
|Ancient Greek alphabet practice on wax tablet (teacher's version at top, student's at bottom)|
|Modern English alphabet on iPad|
|Ancient writing materials at University of Michigan|
|Slide show on papyrus making at University of Michigan|
|Examples of paleography and how to decipher it at University of Michigan|
|Whittling a Roman stylus from a dowel rod produces a lot of shavings!|
|Melting crayons to pour into wooden frames|
|Wooden frames that I had constructed awaiting their molten wax|
Modern writing and ancient Roman writing are similar but still different in their own ways. A lot of the letters are very different between the two, like the letter A. However, they also have very similar letters, like O. Ancient Roman writing was also different in the way that it was done. For example, some Romans used wax tablets and a wooden stylus. The Romans had to whittle down a stick in order to create a stylus so they could write, thus making them have it a bit harder. In modern writing, we use things like paper, pens, and technological devices to write. Jaysi
First we learned all the ways that the Romans made their writing materials, and none were as easy as going to Target and getting a 24 pack of pencils. The Romans had to really put in a lot of effort just to make a thing to write on which means that when they had to write something it was probably important. This project took me 2 classes to make an engraving with 9 words on it and it makes you think about how long it took them to hand print those Bibles and make all of those writing materials. James
I have now learned how delicate writing used to be for the ancient Romans. Roman paleography helped me understand that it is a privilege to have pen/paper let alone texting. Roman writing is significantly harder than modern English to write because of the complex letters. Ancient Roman writing is also a lot harder to decipher due to a lack of punctuation compared to modern English. Gavin
I picked this verse (Matthew 15:8) because I liked what it said and it was relatable. It said these people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. I feel like this a lot, I can go to church, pray, and others things but if my heart isn't honoring Him it doesn't matter. I think it is a good reminder to reflect on this verse and remember that honoring God is more than your actions, and going through the motions, it's just as much of importance to have a heart that honors him.
I chose this Bible verse (John 10:10), because it is a wonderful representation of why Christ came to save the world. When Jesus says, "I have come that they might have life and have it to the full," it shows his amazing love, and kindness. He did not want all human beings to live on earth, to suffer their whole life, then when they die they are still separated from God. Jesus wanted to give a purpose and a "fullness" of life for all eternity. I love this verse, and I still chant this in my head randomly around my house, since the day we learned it. It also makes me happy to know that following God gives us all the possibility of eternal life.
This (Matthew 11:28) is one of my favorite Bible verses. I love how it shows comfort in knowing that we can place all of our burdens in Christ. I have struggled in the past with feeling that I am alone and that no one is able to help me. This verse from the book of Matthew reminds me that I am not alone and I will always have Jesus Christ by my side no matter the circumstances.