Salut à tous! Since my last update, I have made my final trip to Paris, accompanied by my friends from Dijon. It was an overall amazing weekend and I enjoyed making a trip with the people who have made my experience in France so enjoyable. Apart from last weekend, I’ve been spending a lot of time focused on my ICIP (Independent Cultural Immersion Project). The ICIP is a 10 page reflection required of each Holy Cross student abroad, written completely in their language of immersion. My topic of choice has been my work at Collège Saint-Joseph. Though I briefly touched upon the subject in a previous blogpost, I figured that I would go greater in depth about mon travail (my work) due to the fact that it is one of the most interesting parts of my life in Dijon.
In October, I made it clear to my coordinators that I needed a way to both make a few extra euros and keep myself moderately busy during the week. Within no time, I was given the contact of a local middle school where I had an interview to be a Foreign Language Assistant. After going through the hiring process, I was assigned around 100 students separated into four different classes with whom I would hold English conversation lessons with each week. It wasn’t long until I was spending almost as much time at Collège Saint-Joseph as I was at l’Université de Bourgogne.
At the middle school, I have at least one class from each year: sixième (5th graders), cinquième (6th graders), and quatrième (7th graders). All of whom know an incredible amount of English already, the quatrième a considerable amount more than the sixième of course. In the beginning, I was surprised by the level at which even the 10 year old sixième students were able to understand. Although they are not comfortable enough with the language to hold a conversation, I would say that French 10 year olds know as much English as I did French during my junior year of high school. Having a variation of age groups is also interesting because I am able to see the difference a year makes to a middle schooler’s knowledge and maturity level and how easy or difficult collégiens (middle schoolers) can make teaching a class be, depending on their cooperation.
Each week I teach a different lesson on American culture, which range from the topics of holidays to celebrities, regional differences to eating habits, and I have yet to run out of subjects to talk about. Usually, the classes are less student-teacher oriented but rather are groups of French children asking me to deny or validate their established ideas of American culture. My time at the middle school has really shown me the great amount of knowledge which other countries have of les États-Unis (United States), even if it is sometimes misconstrued. I oftentimes have mes élèves (my students) asking me about random facts such as the meaning behind Groundhog’s day or why Americans in movies always eat pizza with their hands instead of a fork and knife. It would be extremely hard to find an American middle schooler that knows more about a foreign culture than foreign middle schoolers know about American culture without ever visiting the country.
The level of knowledge my middle schoolers have about the English language and American culture really attests to how influential America and other anglophone countries are in the world. It also shows how little Americans know and are taught about the world outside of our borders in comparison, which is a grave problem that definitely needs fixing.
Leçon du jour: “L’éducation est l’arme la plus puissante qu’on puisse utiliser pour changer le monde.” -Nelson Mendella
“Education is the most powerful weapon that we can use to change the world”