La Culture ou les Pensées d'un professeur en retraite

Can you learn from a really bad teacher? I have spent about 30 years in the education field and have always tried to create engaging lessons.  I have hoped to involve every student in my elementary French classes in a positive way.  I have staged Eiffel Tower sundae building classes, construct your own French street using any medium classes and my favourite Trois Petits Chats ( you can sing it really fast once you practise). Whatever your fancy, Madame L. would try to provide some activity.

I did this largely in reaction to the truly uninspiring French teachers that I suffered in high school.  I always wanted to learn French. Although my great-grandmother was French-Canadian living in Manitoba, nobody in my family spoke French.  I thought French was elegant and the language of culture.  More than anything, my teenaged self yearned to be elegant and cultured. I have already admitted to nerdiness, so this probably is not surprising.

The teaching of French in my school in the 1960's involved copying material from the blackboard, writing out conjugations of verbs and completing interminable exercises which were always marked in class by our fellow students. Even tests and dictées were marked in class. Most students dropped out of French as soon as possible and few ever learned to speak a sentence of the language.

But my junior high French teacher, a somewhat louche man, who was always ogling the mini-skirted fourteen year olds had a special section  "la Culture" on the right side of the blackboard where he listed famous French sites and cultural words.  It is there that I first learned about Sacré Coeur, Montmartre,
the Moulin Rouge and Edith Piaf. This litany of "cultural words" somehow stayed with me.  This morning, I asked my visiting friend, who shared the same high school experiences with me, if she remembered this. She did not. It is an interesting observation that sometimes, if the student is keen, the worst teacher can deliver a life-long lesson.
Whoever wrote the title on youtube made 2 agreement errors.


  1. Now I must wonder if we're somehow related! My grandmother was French-Canadian, living in Manitoba, but punished for speaking French once she started school where English was the norm. I wrote a post last year about her little Catechism book, all in French, published at the turn of the century. . .
    And my experience of French in public school was like yours, but I was lucky enough to have a few good years at a small private all-girls school where classes were more enjoyable. . . .
    I would still love to fulfil a goal I set then, but somehow abandoned to life's other demands, a goal of someday becoming complètement bilingue. Comme vous!

  2. I think you may be right. I loved school but I also had many good teachers that I will never forget and set me off on the right track. My first school teacher who taught me to sing 'Scarborough Fair' and all about 'Pans People' was just brilliant. Some years ago she contacted me through Friends Reunited to find out what had become of me. Very special. I think good teachers are very special and it is such a shame that teaching seems to have become so hard. I would have very much enjoyed your French classes.


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