Easy Ways to Build Your Latin Program

Tossing out gold coins from your triumphal chariot probably is not going to be an option. So where do you turn first?

The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus (detail), by Carle Vernet (Metropolitan Museum of Art/Wikimedia Commons).

Unless Latin is a requirement at your school or your program is very-well established, your recruitment strategy determines the size of your program. I started teaching at my current school during the 2015–2016 school year. My first day, I was surprised to see that I had only seven students in my Latin I class. I realized very quickly that if I wanted to avoid a forced pivot to a career as an English or ESOL teacher, I would have to find more students. This school year, I have fifty students in three sections of Latin I. Here are a few of the strategies I used (and continue to use) to grow my program.

Let your school counselors know about the Latin program.

School counselors can be your program’s best friend since they usually handle course registration. Reach out to the school counselors at your school and let them know that you are trying to build your program. Sometimes school counselors assume that Latin is only for elite, college-bound students. Let counselors know that Latin is a good option for all students and cite the ways it can benefit them. You can also make flyers for counselors to give to students when they come to register for classes. Too often students simply aren’t presented with Latin as an option for a language or elective course.

You can also present your program as a solution to scheduling problems. Do you work in a school where popular electives are over-enrolled? You can also remind school counselors that your classes are usually relatively small and you are happy to have more students.

Let other modern-language and elective teachers know about the Latin program.

The teacher next door to me teaches Spanish. He often has classes of over thirty students. During the first week of the semester, students invariably submit requests for schedule modifications. Especially if your classes are still small, let your colleagues know that Latin is an option for students who don’t function well in a large class.

Reach out to teachers and counselors at your feeder schools.

I’ve reached out to math, history, and English teachers at our middle school to tell them about the Latin program and ask them to keep an eye out for students who might be a good fit for Latin.

Invite specific students to join your program.

Ask your World History I teacher which of their students seemed to enjoy the unit on ancient Greece and Rome. Talk to your school’s ESOL teachers to find out which students seem to have a knack for languages. Make contact with those students and let them know what your program is all about. If you teach a class other than Latin, you can also recruit out of there. If a students seems interested, send a letter home to his or her parent/guardian with information about the program and an invitation to join. When I do this, I enclose a schedule change form so that it would be easy for them to make the switch.

Collaborate with other teachers throughout the year.

Latin is very cross-curricular and our standards are usually very flexible. If you have a lesson that fits with another teacher’s standards, propose a joint lesson or presentation. This helps get the word out about your program to other teachers and students you might not normally encounter.

Start and promote a chapter of the Junior Classical League.

If your school does not have a JCL chapter, start one and open up membership to all students. Most students will assume that JCL is for students who are already enrolled in Latin, so simply including “You do not need to be enrolled in Latin to join” or “Open to all students” can increase the number of members you have. Once your membership season is over, consider opening up club parties and social events to friends of members. JCL is a great way to introduce students to your program in a fun, relaxed setting.

Make outreach activities a part of your Junior Classical League.

My school district does not have a middle school Latin program. Since students in our district can earn high school credit for world languages in middle school, Latin is at a big disadvantage. Students normally do not want to switch languages once they have started. You can still reach out to middle school students and other students in your community through outreach activities. We have gone to our local children’s museum with ancient Roman coins and prepared mini-lessons that JCL members implement at other schools in our division.

Your current students are one of your best tools for growing your program. Retaining these students will help your program sustain growth in higher levels. And, if they are enthusiastic about their experience, they will recommend the course to their friends, younger siblings, and others in the school community.