A Teacher’s Perspective

This month our guest blog is by Sarah Graham, English teacher and Talented and Interested Coordinator at Burnage Academy for Boys.

Working with Manchester Classics for All has proven to be one of the most rewarding and enriching tasks in my capacity as Gifted, Talented and Interested Coordinator at Burnage Academy for Boys. We are the essence of an inner-city school and our school data reflects this. When you think about the types of academic institutions that offer Latin or Classics as subjects of study, Burnage is perhaps not the sort of school that would come to mind. A lot of our boys come from socio-economically deprived areas, over one-in-three has a special educational need and most speak English as a second language. We have a steady influx of international new arrivals (INAs) arriving at different points in the year, wide eyed and overwhelmed. But it’s also because of these factors that it’s the perfect educational culture in which such a project can take root and flourish. We had 39 languages spoken within these walls at the start of the year, and it’s with immense pride that we can say that we’ve now added another.

The Cambridge Latin Course has provided a solid base in which to embed a growing knowledge of the language and also provides opportunities for some serious fun too. One of my favourite moments that has happened this year is recreating a court scene between a Greek and a Roman, about a boat, I think. Seeing the boys yell at each other in an ancient language with unabashed abandon was fantastic. They can also do a mean rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in Latin now too (but not in front of anyone from outside our bubble, though, as I think they would probably go puce from embarrassment). From an English teacher’s perspective, giving them such a solid understanding of many of our root words has given them a greater relationship with (and understanding of) our language and has massively enriched their own vernacular, thus ensuring tremendous benefits in their performance in a core subject.

David Langslow has been a joy to work with and we’ve been so fortunate to experience such knowledge and enthusiasm through his involvement with us. It has also been lovely having Mahnoor Javed with us, a second-year student at Manchester University and a tutor for MCfA. Speaking with her, she has said that it has made the idea of teaching something that she would seriously consider after her studies. As a practitioner, this is wonderful to see. I have also attended workshops to facilitate becoming a tutor in the coming academic year, something that I never thought I could do, having never previously studied Latin before. I think that this goes some way to highlighting how harmonious the project is; from the students to the facilitators, there is a symbiotic culture of enrichment where everyone can benefit from each other’s skill sets and experiences. I really cannot think of a better sort of environment to become a part of.

Latin has thrived here. We have a group of dedicated, bright and engaged Year 7 students who have grown in confidence, eloquence and knowledge, as well as into their rucksacks.  As the facilitator, it has been a joy to sit and learn along with them, watching them develop with every session. Reflecting on the academic year that is now nearly over, I can safely say that working with the MCfA has benefitted us tremendously, by not just looking at our students’ results, but their development as scholars. If you are thinking about getting involved with the project, at any level, I just could not recommend it enough.