About Me

Jarrid Looney is a member of the Department of Languages at Uwharrie Charter Academy.  He joined the school after completing his Doctorate of Philosophy in classics at Royal Holloway, University of London.  Throughout his educational training, both at Berea College in central Kentucky and RHUL, Jarrid has been actively involved with reaching out to the greater community, but his focus has always remained on education.  

In 2012, he developed a programme for the Sheffield Festival of Ancient Drama, which focused on raising awareness of the classical Greek dramatic culture and practices for high school students in northern England.  Jarrid also spent three years teaching Latin and comparative literature to university students while working on a variety of side projects that have been dedicated to making theatre and Greco-Roman cultures exciting and accessible to people of all ages.  He believes that if a teacher is excited about the subject matter, then students will be interested and engaged.

In order to be active in youth culture, Dr. Looney has been actively involved with numerous troops of the Boy Scouts of America serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster, and has traveled extensively in the UK with interactive theatre workshops.  In his spare time, Jarrid enjoys reading comic books, going to the theatre, watching films, and trying to find glimpses into how ancient Greece and Rome are still affecting our society today.  He has a number of other side projects and books with which he is currently engaged.  

Teaching Philosophy

In his Commentaries on the Civil War, Julius Caesar, upon reflection of the constant evolution toward perfection of defensive towers constructed by legionaries, remarks, ‘Ut est rerum omnium magister usus’ (Lat. Experience is the teacher of all things).  This observation, while being in specific reference to the construction of militaristic units, is very useful for would-be or neophyte teachers.  I find that I have turned to this anecdotal excerpt repeatedly in my teaching career because I have learnt that although there is a great multitude of pedagogical and andragogical theories in existence, each of which is coupled with well-researched essays and practice-based testimonials, all of them are ultimately rooted in experience.  The modern academy, akin to Caesar’s pre-Christian battleground, is an arena where well-devised and seemingly universal theories are put to the test of practicality as they come into contact with humanity.  

Before undertaking my first independent teaching experience at Royal Holloway in the form of Beginners’ Latin, I had already amassed quite a bit of teaching experience, or so I had thought.  In my native Virginia, I was often invited into schools to familiarise pupils with theatrical exercises, dramatic theories, and techniques of literary analysis, and during the first year of my Ph.D., Edith Hall had requested my aid in co-lecturing with her a third-year module entitled Adventures with Iphigenia.  Naturally, when the Classics Department sent me an e-mail offering a position teaching Latin to students with no experience, I was simultaneously petrified with excitement and dread:  though I had experience in familiarising children with theatre, assisting finalists in understanding the importance of the classical tradition, and preparing non-English-speaking Mexicans to communicate in my native language, I had never been asked to amalgamate each of these specialised skill-sets into one course.  Before either stepping into this specific classroom setting or being offered the tools of the inSTIL Programme, I had developed a strategy for teaching Latin:  I would hearken back to my own learning experience, and would imitate those who had instilled within me a passion for the language.  For this plan to succeed, I readied myself to be a fiercely professional and dominating force in the classroom environment.  Effectively, my decided plan was to teach as I was taught rather than how I would have preferred to have been taught, and hope that my students emulated me in academic zeal.  Within one day of actual teaching at the university level, I quickly realised that this style was not ideal for my personality, and was, most likely, not one that was suited to the learning style of most students.  

This is not to suggest that as a teacher I should not maintain a level of professionalism nor should I present myself as oblivious on the topic, but, rather, that I should find a balance between my superior knowledge on the subject and a level of approachableness for the students.  According to a study conducted and published by Schönwetter, Clifton, and Perry in 2002, more than 70% of university instructors rely on lecturing as their principal teaching method.  The study continues by explaining, at length, why the organized lecture, the very manner by which I would be teaching, remains so effective:  

Instructor organization comprises various lower inference behaviors (Murray, 1997).  Good organization of subject matter and planning of course content are important to student learning (Kallison, 1986).  Organization can, in fact, provide specific cues that alert students to attend to certain material presented.  This is accomplished through the organization of course material, as exemplified by well-structured presentations, lecture-outlines, headings, and subheadings, topic transitions, syllabi, and seriation to relevant points (Feldman, 1989; Murray, 1991).  Each of these attributes is thought to affect differentially student information processing and learning behaviors.  For instance, lecture material presented in well-organized ways has a higher probability of being recorded as class notes, a factor that significantly improves student achievement (Kiewra, 1997; Perry, 1997b; Schönwetter, 1996).  Inact outlines serve to guide note taking, depicting the organization of the main ideas of a presentation.       

This study continues by addressing the other major concern of mine prior to teaching besides the direct method that would be employed:  an acceptable and effective level of approachability.  R.P. Perry, by way of Schönwetter et al., argues that ‘expressive instruction is also associated with student learning’, and suggests that a more expressive teacher enhances the scholastic behaviours of students.  In essence, this section of this cumulative study encouraged me to employ a great deal of eye contact with my students, utilise appropriate physical movement and audible nuances throughout my lectures, make use of suitable humour, and nurture personal relationships with those who I was meant to be teaching.  In short, this essay made it clear that while I should maintain a certain degree of academic professionalism, I should not neglect the human aspect of teaching because if I did just that, I would render myself obsolete as I could easily be replaced by a video recording or computer programme.

Though I still employ the lecture as the central format of some of my teaching, I have learned that this may not be the best manner by which to always instruct.  Not only can lectures become tedious and stagnant in format, but they do so doubly when the lecture covers material that the students were meant to read for the lesson.  I have decided to borrow from Kolb’s Experimental Learning Cycle in order to optimise the student learning.  I began to spend one hour per week having the students work in groups of two or three on various translations, both Latin to English and vice versa.  Initially, the students were reluctant to do this, and when asked why, it became evident that they felt more vulnerable in the classroom when they were required to actually do the work around other people.  I assured them that, in the academic setting, their peers would be criticising their work for the entirety of their careers, and that it can be equally constructive and destructive.  After a couple of weeks which focused on the constructive aspects of peer-review, the students settled into this experiment, and eventually began corroborating with other groups upon hearing a mistake that they had noticed.  At last, they were learning for themselves, and I was there to make the process run a bit more smoothly.  From this point on, I never gave straight answers in the classroom if it could be avoided, but, rather, turned to my students expecting them to be able to analyse the situation independently so that a conclusion could be drawn.  They could not, of course, give an explanation or answer for every question that was asked, and if I knew that they had not yet been exposed to the material, I would do my duty as the instructor, and guide them forward.  

This group work exercise which had become a staple of my teaching urged me to further experiment with another classroom activity that hearkened back to my days as an undergraduate:  turning language learning into a game.  Carefully, I designed a game called Bellum Verbi (Lat. Word War), reminiscent of John Carlevale’s Logomachy, in which the students would be shown a Latin word or phrase, and would be expected not only to translate it, but also to fully parse it.  The students had been divided into two clear teams with captains, and individuals in turn were expected to provide an answer for their team which could be overridden by the captain if s/he felt it necessary.  Within moments, it became clear that this system would not work for this specific class as it had for my cohorts in university because my class were still rather young and non-confrontational.  In response, the rules quickly changed so that the captain had to respond, but was able and encouraged to seek assistance from his/her team; everyone livened up, and the game became what it was intended to be:  instructional, enjoyable, and competitive.  Over the remainder of the module, Bellum Verbi continued to evolve to fit the needs of the students, and I am quite confident now that I have a system which will be employed next year in my new Beginners’ Latin course, but I am prepared to change it again if the need arises.   

Always, I plan to utilise more frequently student evaluations of my work in order to have qualitative feedback on their learning while continuing to utilise in-class tests to provide quantitative reports.  I also strive to develop a relationship of trust amongst my students and myself earlier than I had in my previous course so that in-class translations can remain a staple of my teaching because I feel that they are effective.  I have yet to determine how this will occur, and will, therefore, be working it into my syllabi early in the courses.  Above all, one method that I plan to engage is protean behaviour:  if I am too rigid to change my teaching style, my students will learn less actively.  Experience, the greatest of instructors, has taught me how best to teach, and I plan to reenrol into his courses at each opportunity that I am presented.