The number one thing to know about me professionally is – I love speaking other languages, especially French!
My dad was in the Army when we moved to Belgium the middle of my 8th grade year. I entered the French 1 class in the American school in January with no French background. Did I learn any French? I don’t know. All I remember was the teacher’s claim to be one of the original Beach Boys!
That fall, at my parents’ suggestion and my eager embrace of the idea, I started ‘cold’ in a local school. Everything was in French, obviously, and it took about 6 months of listening, translating text books and many tears while washing dishes in the evening with my mom, (“But when will I actually SPEAK French, Mom????”) before the language did indeed start to emerge from my mouth.
Then my Dad transferred to Frankfurt for my sophomore year and I stepped back into the American system and focused on German.
A ROTC scholarship to the University of Virginia allowed me to spend some of my Dad’s savings to travel in Europe during my college years. One summer I worked in a Swiss hotel as a maid/waitress and strengthened my French. Another summer I spent a month in Germany at the Army’s Russian Institute (coupling my major in Russian studies and ROTC enrichment training).
After graduation from ‘The University’ in Charlottesville, I served 5 years in Military Intelligence. Michael, my husband who was also an Army Intel officer, and I were stationed together in Germany where we both enjoyed using our German. From that phase of our life, we moved on to business ventures. But wherever we landed, I would find groups of people and practice French and German. After another few years in Europe as civilians we settled in Virginia and raised our two sons, Graham and Wes. While living in Newport News I returned to a local college and earned Virginia state certification in French and German. This is now my 24th consecutive year of teaching. The first 3 years as a novice teacher I earned my stripes in public schools. Since then I have taught 12 years in an independent school similar to CDS and 6 years in classical Christian school where I also molded 7th and 8th-graders into logical teens through courses in both informal and formal logic.
I have been blessed to lead students to both Québec and France on numerous trips. Personal travel, many polyglot friends, reading in French all help to round out my interactions in another tongue.
Now having embarked on my fourth year at Carolina Day School, I am delighted to share my passion for French with middle school students. The method I employ is similar to how we all learned our mother tongue. Our parents successfully taught us to speak by the age of three, right? They used, ‘Mommy Talk’ because it is natural, easy and intuitive.
TPRS or Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling is similar. Although we don’t have the 365 days x 10 hours x 3 years (10,950 hours) that parents have, I do try to maximize the minutes with students to give them comprehensible, repetitive and HIGHLY interesting/compelling input.
Three other aspects about this methodology that I keep me teaching this way are the following:
- It sparks my creativity and feeds my enjoyment of French
- It centers on the students and their interests
- I keep finding new ways to reach students best
So what’s NOT to like about my profession? I get to speak and learn French every day with enthusiastic kids!