Life Got in the Way

I did a PhD program in French Literature years ago and never finished the dissertation. Life got in the way. But I never looked back, and now and I am loving teaching. Would it have been so had I finished the degree and taken a university job?

I really fear that I would have become a pedant, had I lived among them. In order to survive thirty one years of secondary school teaching, I have had to slowly, a bit more each year, learn to unequivocally open up my heart. No choice in the matter. Not at that level.

After 24 years of consistent burnout at the high school level trying to get “the scores” on the AP French Language and Literature exams with absolutely no collegial help whatsoever, I finally found TPRS thanks to Dale Crum and Susie Gross.

My greatest growth, both professionally and personally, has come from being in secondary public education. I just don’t think it would have happened in the fairly closed world of academia, where people seem so concerned with establishing their own intellectual positions over all others.

So why did I spend three years of my life on a fellowship at the University of Rochester, specializing in 19th French poetry, for no apparent professional reason? Now I see there were good reasons:

Any moving and shaking in foreign language education is going on in our nation’s high schools and middle schools. I was meant to be a secondary school teacher, and I am thankful that I was protected from the general sucky tenor of college foreign language instruction.

One thing: I never really used my knowledge of French Literature in a creative and heartfelt way before TPRS, even when I was teaching AP French Literature! It was all formulaic and forced reading of texts provided by the committee, with predictable stuff. It didn’t have any
mojo.

Now, in the most unexpected way at the very end of my career, I am seeing, due to TPRS only, an opportunity to bring in so many neat things about French poetry and music into my classes. Stuff just pops in. I am even going to set up resources for my French colleagues about how poetry can be used in TPRS, and, to a lesser extent, music.

Has anyone else noticed that? TPRS and NO OTHER METHOD OF TEACHING has shown that it can take a poem and song and turn them into fertile mojo for a TPRS class. What’s up with that?

Maybe it is because poetry and music are bursting with energy, and so are kids. The fact is that when you are speaking the language in the classroom all the time, the culture seems to want to burst into the discussion, and, like Shari said recently on the list, she thinks taking breaks from stories to discuss other things is a good idea, and I agree totally.

Go figure. Maybe it is because language and culture are so connected that when the language is there in class, the culture piece comes out from beneath the rock it hides under in most not-TPRS classes.

Who knows? Maybe some university jock could set up a statistical model on that one. I probably wouldn’t read it, though. I would rather just go read some Guy Tirolien to my kids, and talk about the awesome French world.

 

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One Response to “Life Got in the Way”

  1. Michael J. Farrand Says:

    Great post. Thought you might be interested in a list of early classic French novels and modern classic French novels and classic French plays.

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