May I never take for granted the gift of academic freedom to teach French the way that is best for my students and for me!

I am blessed to teach in a private school that supports me 100 % in how I choose to teach both French & Logic.

What this means for me is that as I learn through what I read and listen to, I can tailor content to fit my students.  I adjust throughout the week.  As a result, I feel free and affirmed as a professional. I derive immense joy at this unconstrained ability to grow with my students.  In addition, my content in French is driven by my students’ imaginations and interests as well as my own.

For example, after 8 ½ years of using TPRS™ (teaching proficiency through reading & storytelling), I now feel both skilled and competent to go into class and do the following two activities.

a)   As an opener or warm up, I can have a conversation in French with any of my 3 levels of class (French 1, 2, 3) that is both comprehensible to them and personal.  We talk about their weekend, their interests, and their problems.  They learn new vocabulary as the conversation meanders.  I write essential words on the board as the conversation progresses.  Curriculum does not constrain or drive my classes.

b)   As my planned activity, I can go into class with one sentence and let this slim basis for a story grow where it will, emerging from my students’ input.  They then embed and adorn that sentence with themselves and a story emerges that is tailored to that particular class

For example, my sentence last week with my French 1 students was:  “Laura’s grandparents were still living”.  Laura was a character they had made up in the previous week’s story.  Going into this class, I had a phrase in mind that I wanted to teach them the following day (they have the tendency to _____).  But first we had to develop this fictional grandpa and grandma.

This couple became Bob & Cherrie who were both 2 feet, 2 inches tall.  Bob, a former soldier, turns out to be addicted to video games in his old age.  Cherrie, a former buyer for a clothing store, is depressed by Bob’s habit and turns to vodka.  I flow with the kids, making sure to make everything comprehensible. I work the details, so that the new words and details are repetitive enough to stick in their long-term memory.  They provide the personal interest, because the details are theirs.  I learn new words (had to look up how to say “addicted to”) so it’s good for me.

Another example of the blessing of unconstrained curriculum is what has happened when a French teacher in Mulhouse France contacted me.  We have set up a loose exchange between her students learning English and mine.  The other day she sent papers they had written about some pressing issues in America and asked for my students to respond.  I have the time to formulate a plan and work that into my lessons for the following week.  We can spend class talking about issues of immigration and ‘the American dream’ and what French teens might think.  If I had to follow a weekly plan imposed on me from the administration, I would have to let that go.

The methodology and thinking behind TPRS™ guides my daily activity, but in a non-constrained way that allows for expansive growth and unlimited possibilities.  I can do whatever I want as long as the French is comprehensible, repetitive and interesting to my students.  I can incorporate music, history, the Gospel, vignettes from my life, random stories from the paper, ANYTHING as long as I make them comprehensible and repetitive.

I am a very satisfied teacher.  Thank you, Jesus for giving me a passion for language and leading me away from the shackles of textbook teaching.  Thank you, Summit Christian Academy for believing in me and supporting me.  Thank you, Michael for working a job that is not your cup of tea but provides income so that I can work in a private Christian school.  Thank you, Blaine Ray for birthing this method and fellow TPRSers for fleshing it out and sharing unselfishly.

My prayer – Lord, keep me grateful.  Keep me growing.  Keep me depending on You!