As many of you know, I just got back from a two week excursion in Sancerre, France. It was for the Teacher Opportunity grant that I was awarded in August, and I thought that I should go before I have my first baby in April! I had two objectives on this trip. One, I wanted to increase my own language skills/proficiency level in French. Two, I wanted to bring back authentic materials, games, and songs, and knowledge of culture for my students to provide a more real-life context for learning another language. I attended language classes every day (with homework each night!) and had an additional private one hour classes each day specifically focused on teaching French.
Coeur de France was located in Sancerre, which is two hours south of Paris by train in the Loire Valley. The area is know for their (unpasteurized) goat cheese and wine. Good one, Janet…go there while pregnant so you can’t enjoy either… pregnant women can’t have unpasteurized cheese and well, you know about the wine thing…
Anyway, Sancerre is a small, medieval town located at the top of la colline. Technically, this translates to a hill, but it was more like a mountain. I know this because I had to walk up it from my apartment to attend my language school everyday. My favorite part about the town, even though I was clearly there in the off-season due to the fact that it was winter and the holidays, is that people did not speak English. I literally had to rely on my French to communicate. As someone continually trying to improve my French, this was truly an invaluable experience. Also, since there weren’t any tourists, I felt like I got a true sense of the town and culture. Sometimes I would pass someone walking the narrow streets and think to myself, “Wow, here is this person who has had a different life than me. There are definitely many similarities in the culture (I was in Europe after all) but it’s also really different. This person grew up speaking French (while I’m trying so hard to improve mine) and experiencing a culture that I’m trying to learn and understand. This is this person’s everyday life. I’m just getting a glimpse.”
Traveling is just such a perspective shift, and I love that. I want to model tolerance, understanding, and learning about others to my students. Learning about differences and similarities makes me feel closer to humanity. A line from one of my favorite movies, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, goes “In the end, we’re all fruit.” I get that sense when I travel.
Here’s info on the school if you ever want to go and learn French!
Learner, Thinker, Writer: Janet Parks serves the Trinity School community as a World Languages Teacher.