Classics and retirement go very well together! Robert Tatam explains…

What might a Classics teacher do in his/her retirement? To my very pleasant surprise I find myself, having retired just over 3 years ago, training non-specialist teachers to teach Classics more confidently and competently, currently working in three N.E. London schools.

I started in Autumn 2014, giving assistance with language work (using the Cambridge Latin Course) to a P.E. teacher who, on the strength of her ‘O’ Level Latin, has been preparing students for WJEC Level 1 Certificate in Latin Language, then Level 2. From a Lunchtime Club in September 2008 to a current Year 10 GCSE class (of 18 pupils) on the timetable this P.E. teacher has used her “athletic skills to stay one step ahead of the students”. Latterly, I have helped her to translate the more difficult Unseens, elucidating tricky grammatical points and offered her suitable supplementary material for the new Eduqas Roman Civilisation topic (‘Entertainment and Leisure’). We are just about to embark upon the enterprising selection of Literature on the theme of ‘A Day at the Races’.

Last academic year (2016-2017) I took on another school, as a Classics for All trainer. This school decided to introduce Latin about five years ago. At first the school held a lunchtime club; then, one by one teachers were initiated into the teaching of Latin. They now teach the subject to GCSE, using John Taylor’s course books.

Recently, my main focus recently has been to ensure that the teacher of the GCSE group and two other members of staff, who took the GCSE themselves only last summer, have the knowledge and confidence to teach the literature. We have had some enthralling and enriching discussions on the selection of Catullus poems in particular. This term we are exploring Tacitus on the decline of education (Dialogus), Pliny on Arria (the elder) and Minicia Marcella, and a short extract from Cicero’s Pro Milone on the ‘bitter hatred’ between Milo and Clodius as the Prose Set Text to be examined in 2018 and 2019. After monthly sessions on beginners’ Greek, led by myself and attended by up to eight members of staff, this term the school, enterprising as ever has set up a lunchtime Greek Club for students.

I have now started training non-specialist staff in a third school to teach AS Latin from September 2018 (GCSE Latin is already well established). This seems to be the most challenging ‘assignment’, as we tackle the historical, prosopographical and literary complexities of the opening chapters of Tacitus’ Histories Book 1 (the other set text is Vergil’s Aeneid Book XI lines 1-224) and go beyond the GCSE range of accidence and syntax. In short, a very satisfying way to spend some of one’s time in retirement.