What is the most rewarding part of your career as a language teacher?
I love getting to see those lightbulb moments and when kids can actually started comprehending an entire story written on a page or spoken aloud. When they can start playing with the language, that is when it gets really fun.
What is one personal or professional goal that you have for yourself, your school or your department?
We think it is really important to connect with kids and to make language come to life in our classrooms. We are lucky to have worked together for 17 years!
What is one of your favorite travel experiences?
One of MY personal favorites is when we decided to go horseback riding with a group of kids in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. First of all, we all had to get fitted with helmets and wear hairnets underneath. We were laughing so hard even before they got us onto the horses. Next, we had a large group and they didn’t have enough horses for all of us. They had to go to the back barn to pick up the JV squad of horses. The first group of horses that they had ready are all these beautiful white horses with long, flowing manes, and they were fairly well behaved. The next group had some of those white horses, native to the Camargue area, but there were also a mishmash of others, not so well behaved.
The lady who was our guide told me, “You just put leg here, and swing other leg over horse!” Soooo easy! My horse’s back was a good 6” higher than my shoulder. His name was “Filou.” I didn’t know at the time what that meant. I’d find out soon enough though. So we started our ride on this little dirt path. The guide was clearly bored and was biting her nails. Meanwhile, one of my students was in front of me. He’s about 6’2” and was riding what appeared to be slightly larger than a Shetland pony. His knees were up to his chest. It was a pretty funny picture. Pretty funny until Filou started biting this poor pony in the derriere. That pony did not like being bitten on the derriere and started kicking Filou in the face. I thought my student was going to tumble off the front of the Shetland pony and I was going to get bucked off of Filou, but the bored guide just leaned back and said, “Filou! Arrête!” (Filou! Stop!) She said it so many times throughout the ride that I thought it was his full name.
Not long after, our long line of horses and riders came to a marsh. We saw the wild black bulls and pink flamingos native to the Camargue. Pretty as a picture! Then the water started to get a little deeper until I thought maybe we were going for a little swim. That wasn’t the scariest part, though. All of a sudden, we heard shouting at the beginning of the line: “Oh non! Il est tombé! Il est tombé!” (He fell! He fell!) It turns out that one of our students toward the back of the group had not fallen, but had jumped off his horse just in time. The horse decided to lie down in the swamp and roll around like a dog on his back! Naughty, naughty horse. The student was laughing and was a very good sport. He got onto the guide’s horse with him and everything was fine. It’s just unsettling when the horse you are riding decides to do some frollicking unexpectedly.
After that close call, we were told to just stay in line and keep going. We were not supposed to let the horses eat, but I was not going to argue with good ol’ Filou. You do you, Filou. Anyway, then we looked out to the middle of the marsh where one of our students was on his horse, who appeared to be an enormous Belgian draft horse named...Robuste. We shouted, “Adam! Come on over here with your horse.” To which he replied, “No can do, Madame. Robuste do what Robuste do.”
By this time, it was all hysterical and it was almost time to take the horses back to the corral. As we rounded the corner, one of the “gardiens” (cowboys) came riding to the front of the group to help us out. It was the funniest part. It was like Fabio had just shown up to save all of his fair maidens. He had the traditional hat on, long hair, and his shirt was unbuttoned halfway. The girls were enthralled.
Filou continued to eat all of the forbidden grass and I was not going to be the one to tell him no. Needless to say, we were all pretty happy to get off our horses. I told the owner of the company that Filou seemed very...spirited. He told me that of course he was! Filou is the boss! That might have been nice to know beforehand. We had many fun stories to tell at dinner that night.
About a year later, I saw the word “Filou” in a poem about Poisson d’avril. As it turns out, “Filou” means prankster. It’s all so much clearer now. I would recommend the horseback riding to anyone. It was so much fun! http://www.camargue.fr/site/ballades-tamaris/
Do you have any advice for other world language teachers?
I think it’s important to remember to have fun with kids. If kids don’t have fun with you, they aren’t going to connect with you as much. I spent several years doing verb conjugation charts, etc. I still do some of that, but the real magic happens when language is spontaneous and we let them be kids, in the target language, for 53 minutes every day. I am so grateful to live in my corner of the universe, where kids are usually pretty happy to be there and are up to do whatever you need them to do. I am also very blessed to work with some of the best teachers in the world. Literally. I love that we can learn from each other even though we are all different.