Our thirteen-year-old son Ethan studies Latin. He loves Latin. I suspect a big reason for his affection for the subject is that he loves his teacher, Dwane Thomas. Actually, Ethan has never met his teacher, at least not personally. Master Thomas comes to him only over the Internet, via VisualLatin. Matters not – Master Thomas is not only an amazing, inspiring teacher, he is hilarious.
Today Master Thomas sent a letter home to Ethan’s mom. Actually, it was a form letter personalized using a database and email program. Matters not – the letter reminds us of why we love Master Thomas as our son does:
I vividly remember my mom crying at the kitchen table one day. I was about 12 or 13 years old, I think.
My sister and I had just taken some standard test or another a few weeks before. Mom had the results on the table in front of her. I assume this was what was causing her distress, but I will never know for sure.
A few weeks before, Mom and Dad had taken me to Wales for academic testing. We were living near Oxford, England at the time. Afterwards, Dad took the family to the stony beach in nearby Cardiff. The next day, we visited the Roman amphitheater in Caerleon, then drove into Snowdonia National Park before heading home.
I think about that trip often. It was in the amphitheater in Caerleon that my love for the history of Rome began. It was in the mountains of Snowdonia that my love for the mountains was reignited. It was in Cardiff that my hatred of English grammar deepened.
I still love studying Roman history. I still love the mountains. I have grown to love grammar.
I watch my wife with my own children. I think she wants to cry at the table sometimes.
My kids love to read. They love history. They love the beach and the outdoors. They hate grammar. I don’t think they would do so well in the grammar section on a standard test. They are a lot like me. They even have warped senses of humor.
All I can do is encourage my wife to take the long view. Seems to me that I was just a kid a few days ago. Next year, I will be forty.
How did that happen?
Your kids, and mine, are growing up fast. Time is running out. There is so much you want to give them, to teach them, to pass onto them. You will never feel you have done all you can. You will feel like a failure often. You will want to cry at the table.
Don’t give up. Keep reading to them. Keep teaching them. Keep pouring into them. Above all, keep hugging them. Do not be weary in well doing. In due season you will reap if you do not faint.
Many things make me hopeful about the future, but none more so than the online revolution in education. Dwane Thomas reaches far more kids online than he ever could through a physical classroom. An unlimited number of people can now learn Latin, and history, from a terrific teacher, thanks to all of the good people who made and continue to make the Internet possible.
That makes me smile as much as Dwane Thomas does.