Reflecting on Culture

My community field experience has come to an end and I am now in a position to take what I have learned and apply it to the classroom.  There are a lot of things that I will reflect on in the days and weeks to come but I would like to write down some thoughts on culture as it has been a personal goal of mine during my program as well as a major component of the new curriculum for French.  Admittedly it has been a challenge trying to understand what it means to engage the students with authentic cultural material while maintaining sound pedagogical lessons and keeping the interest of the students high.  On Wednesday I had the chance to accompany the students to Café Salade de Fruits inside the French Cultural Center near the school.  My expectations for this experience were pretty average regarding how the students would experience culture and to be honest I did not expect them to be too ready to “show off” their year of language acquisition or polishing in this kind of setting.  After all, they were teenage boys of various grade levels who would have difficulty using any of the “risk it” behavior that we need in learning a language.  What occurred was amazing.  The students actually lived the culture.  I spent a year living in France as a language assistant and my one hour in the café made me feel like I was back there.  The students made the necessary mistakes and they corrected each other if they could.  It actually seemed like some students were practicing what they had learned but not just to show what they knew to the café staff, teachers, and their peers, but actually were using this hour as a transition point for going to French speaking countries or parts of Canada where French is the dominant language.  It struck me that without this kind of a cultural link or spring board language learning may not complete itself for students.  For some they may not use their high school core French for anything else in their careers but at least they will have the experience.  I am inspired to find a way to have mini spring boards scaffolded into my teaching and it will be a fun challenge to figure out how to do this in my lesson planning.  Thank you to the staff at Vancouver College for the amazing opportunity and to my Faculty Advisor Jim McCleod from UBC for the encouragement to reflect and to patiently allow teaching culture and pedagogy to form who I am as a person.


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One response to “Reflecting on Culture

  1. Jim McLeod

    Paul: You make some interesting observations regarding the place of culture and the study of culture in language learning and I’m glad that the French Cafe experience resonated with you and got you thinking about how to incorporate cultural links into your lesson and unit planning. As I read couldn’t help but think about “culture” in a different way. I thought about the success of the field experience and wondered about whether the “culture” of the school or the “culture” of the classroom had anything to do with the way that the students approached the experience? Clearly VC has devoted time and energy to creating a culture about the school which after time becomes somewhat self maintaining and bound in philosophy, tradition and history. In all likelihood the regular classroom teacher has done a similar thing in his classroom; perhaps building on the school’s culture, but creating a culture; a way of doing things that his students embrace and probably becomes self perpetuating from year to year. I challenge you to look at this phenomena and what the school and this teacher have done and think about how to build a “culture” in your classroom so that your students can embrace the integration of “culture” into their study of a second language. I’m glad that all went well for you at Vancouver College and that your CFE experience was rewarding. Good Luck with the rest of your program and with your future job search.


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