The Best Professional Development in the World….
Debbie McCorkle, Secondary Language Learning Committee Chair, Unioto High School , French I-IV
Those are the last words that I remember saying as I was losing grip on reality to the sedation that my dentist was using on me for a procedure this summer. Was I delirious? No! I was telling him that World Language teachers have the best Professional Development of all the professions….we get to travel the world and this summer, I was “developed” to the fullest extent of my time and pocketbook!
I began my summer by traveling with my French students to France. We explored Paris, the Loire Valley, Normandy and Bretagne. I got to hone my medical vocabulary in a Parisian pharmacy as I helped one of my students get medical assistance for a sprained ankle. In the Loire Valley castle of Chenonceau, I became an impromptu participant in a presentation to elementary school students by the castle’s educational program. I became a visitor from America who crossed the treacherous ocean filled with sea monsters! In Normandy, I became the transmitter of history as French World War II veteran wanted, no needed, to explain to my American students the enormity of the sacrifice of the American during the D-Day invasion.
The next occasion for Professional Development was the attending the Faculty Development Seminar entitled “Land, Culture and People: The Atlantic and Mediterranean Spaces” in Morocco. I have never been to Morocco! The hosts of the conference were Georgia and State University and University Hassan II, Ben M’sik, Casablanca. The first part of this trip was spent in Casablanca attending the conference hearing presentations on papers from several scholars on history, literature and language to name a few of the topics. Some of the presentations were made in French so my language skills were forced into levels that were rusty! The remainder of the trip was a wonder of travel. Larbi Oukada, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at Georgia College was the coordinator of this conference and then travel guide for the rest. He, his wife Ibtissam and Ohio teacher, Sarah Marsh, traveled from Casablanca, to Rabat, to Fez and finally to Marrakech. French was the lingua franca of the trip. My exposure to the people, places and customs of the land will never be surpassed. Now, when I plan a unit, I also think of a Moroccan addition. How fortunate I am!
Finally, I ended my summer with a family vacation to Canada! My husband, daughter and I traveled, by car, to New Brunswick, Novia Scotia and Quebec. I acted as translator/interpreter for my family. In New Brunswick, our hotel was evacuated by a fire alarm. What a challenge to figure out what is going on in québeçois when people are in a panic and have an accent that is a challenge to those of us trained in Standard French pronunciation!
Why do I do it? Because I should. If I want to keep my language skills honed, travel is necessary. I know, the technology makes travel un-necessary. However, technology cannot substitute the experience that I had watching my new Moroccan friend sing a song in Arabic while standing in the middle of a riad in ancient Fez which was so moving that I cried or the experience of being invited to sing along with a group of French senior citizens who were preparing for a concert. We sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic”! Go figure! It’s not just the language practice that I get, it’s the human experience that is priceless.
(I would like to thank the Ohio Foreign Language Association Teacher Grant in their support of my trip to Morocco. I will have a presentation on this trip at 2014 Conference.)