Erica Marie Jergens
When I began my student teaching, I was excited to share my experiences with the French language and teach students about the beautiful French and Francophone culture that exists in 40 different countries all over the world. However, I was in for a shock. In my limited teaching experience, I had led supplemental instruction courses to college kids who were worried about their grades and who willingly attended the extra study sessions I led. I had never dealt with the studied cool attitude of high school kids and their seeming lack of interest in learning.
During one project assignment, students were to work in small groups and create a presentation on a Francophone country, highlighting that country’s culture, holidays, and other special facts. The presentations were poorly researched, included incorrect vocabulary and contained limited information. I saw the frustration in my cooperating teacher as she told the students that they had one week to redo their projects and re-present them to the class.
Rather than dictating a pedagogical strategy and solution, my cooperating teacher allowed me to lead class and prepare lesson plans leading up to the refined students’ presentations. She wanted me to encourage them to take French more seriously and to make an effort to do better, and gave me guidance that proved invaluable. I spent the first day presenting my own “Francophone project” in which I showed students a PowerPoint about Morocco and Mauritania. I brought in a Moroccan tea set, traditional Mauritanian clothing, and other unique items from Africa in hopes of sparking some interest.
The next week, one of the students came running up to me to show me pictures on her phone of a water jug that she had found and purchased online. It was handmade in the Ivory Coast, and was perfect for her presentation. In the end, her group’s redone presentation was flawless. They had thoroughly researched their country and were excited to share everything that they had learned.
This was my best teaching moment because my cooperating teacher gave me the opportunity to help her increase student motivation and build excitement for French, which is, of course, our shared ultimate goal as French teachers. I also learned that sometimes it is okay to take a step backward, and give students the chance to re-do a project or assignment, rather than plowing forward on shaky bases. Seeing the students’ joy and pride over completing a successful academic project made me feel like I had chosen the right career field, and I cannot wait to continue working with students and helping them find the beauty in the French language.
Erica Marie Jergens was the winner of the AATF-OH 2012-2013 essay contest, in which we asked teachers to tell us about their best French teaching moment. “Marie” is a 2011 French major, who is currently enrolled in an MAT program, and is incredibly enthusiastic about joining the ranks of high school teachers she met at the OFLA-CSCTFL conference in March. While she has many years of teaching ahead of her, it is clear that she has already gained a lot of insight into the profession as the Student Teacher of Sarah Ross, Wayne High School. Marie’s essay won the grand prize and a free ticket to the AATF Wine Tasting Presentation and Reception.