Letter to the Editor: Managing the Latin Program with Post-Concussion Syndrome

The wall outside of the language department office. Photo by Ellie Kessler.

I’m writing to express my deep concern about the article “Substitutes Teach Latin As Sole Teacher Steps Away From Classroom,” published on April 17.

To frame my students’ experience this year in the Latin program as a direct result of me “step[ping] away from [the] classroom,” as if it were a simple choice I made, without regard for my students and program, is sadly misleading. Leaving my students, my job and my community for six weeks when I was injured was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a teacher. The article also makes it sound like I am still now simply “away,” despite being at school the majority of the day, nearly every day for the past six months. 

The article shared part of my medical diagnosis: that I suffered a severe concussion in September. I am choosing to share more in this letter because it is necessary for understanding the full picture of this nuanced situation. I must leave school on occasion to attend appointments, including occupational therapy to help my eyes relearn how to track side-to-side movements; physical therapy to help my heart rate stabilize and to practice vestibular movement; speech therapy to support my recovering cognition; and neuropsychology to help me process life with an invisible injury. I am also actively managing the entire Latin program. I consistently coordinate with my substitutes, who are part of my documented need for workplace accommodations, to keep students on track. The article is not an honest reflection of the current state of the Latin program, nor is it representative of the work I’ve put in since my return in October.

The article’s interviews and quotes are outdated. A Foundations I student shared that his class was in chapters 6 and 7; while that was true in January, his class is now in chapter 12. Another student refers to a teaching schedule for the week of Jan. 30, which seems obsolete, given this article’s publication in late April. All of my students have feelings and experiences from this year that are absolutely valid, and I am so proud of them for the resilience and grace they’ve shown this year and for their honest feedback.

I understand the article is centered on the students’ experience this year in Latin, but surely there was a way to write this article without making light of brain injury, post-concussion syndrome and medical disability leave. This article shows no concern or empathy for those, like me, trying to heal from the significant physical, cognitive and emotional effects of a concussion. The click-bait headline, which doesn’t mention my concussion, and the article, which abandons all mention of it after the first paragraph, furthers the harmful public messaging that concussions are not a serious injury.

It’s often hard for outsiders to see the full impact of a concussion. I don’t look like I’m struggling, despite what I’m physically and mentally experiencing. There are many GDS community members who have experience with concussions, and who have faced the long road to recovery that I am currently on. They, and I, all deserve better.


Nicola McCutcheon

The writer is the GDS high school’s Latin teacher. Any reader may email augurbit@gds.org to submit a letter to the editor for publication.