For the past three year I have been an assistant in french classrooms.
The main requirement for the job was to have french as a first language.
I only have 1 year of university under my belt and even if I’ve done a few years of college, when it comes to certain jobs it doesn’t mount to much.
When I realized I could do this job in two nearby schools, one being where my kids went, I jumped on the occasion. I’d been self employed for a while and the prospect of a regular paycheck was rather incentive.
In three weeks I’ll be done my third year.
During these past three years I’ve had the chance to experience first hand what it is like to be in a classroom. From grade four to grade twelve I’ve spend time along side teachers going over the basics of the french language. Core french it’s called. During these years I have seen how in general the idea of speaking another language is, at first, for most, appealing. The little ones generally have fun with it. And they are quite good. They remember words and sentences, they have fun with it. But as the years go by, it doesn’t take too long, it seems like what was once fun becomes dull and unnecessary. By grade 8 or 9 the kids are done with it. Even though they are told how important it is to know another language, even though they could potentially get a better job (or a job at all), they are not interested any more and some seem to have lost the little they learned in previous grades.
Many times I’ve come across this attitude of “I’m not good at it” therefor let’s not even try and keep the door shut. I know better. I know better because I have been around those kids for a few years now. I can see the potential. I can see how smart they are. I have kids of my own. Been there. Open up little one, don’t do that to yourself.
It takes a lot of nurturing to convince a kid (or anyone maybe) that they should give themselves a chance. To keep that door open even if it is only a crack. To inspire them.
At the end of the day, after the first year, the important thing for me was not so much how much french they learned. It was that they had met someone from elsewhere who spoke a different language. It was that they could say that they knew someone from Quebec and that person was fine. It was to bring down barriers and let go of the fear. It was to create a relationship of trust and care.
I sometimes wonder how it goes for other subjects. Math, english, sciences. How are they doing there? How much of what we do, what is taught, is for keeps, is of use.
In three weeks I’ll be done my third year and I’m calling it a wrap.
My daughter, my youngest, will unofficially graduate from high school (she’s skipping grade 12 by doing two correspondence courses on her own). We will celebrate with a journey through Europe and after, who knows. I feel like I’ve been in school long enough. I need to experience new things. Have new challenges.
It’s been a good journey though. It has been really good to meet all these fine young individuals. It’s been good to find behind a rowdy front, attention and mindfulness.
It’s been good to nurture the needs and to be trusted to do so. It’s been good to see my own barriers and fears fall.
I’m looking forward to a new journey and I will be happy to hear, when chances come along, the sweet sound of: Bonjour madame Catherine.