Q: Firstly, what was your journey to become a French teacher?
A: The journey was a long one for sure. I always enjoyed the idea of teaching – passing down any knowledge I had, and equipping people younger than me with the tools to succeed in the future years to come. Not too long ago, during my Grade 12 year, I decided to pursue my passion for teaching at York University. At the time, York U had a 5-year concurrent education program, meaning you would receive your BEd (Bachelors of Education) degree, and a degree in your undergraduate studies. In my case, I did my undergrad in music performance (I play the viola!) and eventually made it out with a Bachelors of Fine Arts with Honours 7 years later.
Now, why 7 years if it was a 5-year program you would ask? Other than the fact that I had to go through 2 strikes at the university, I also experienced a lot of course conflicts between my music courses, French courses (high school teachers require 2 teachable subjects), and education courses. This meant that some mandatory courses I had to take in Year 3, for example, had to be taken the next year. Quite annoying, wouldn’t you say?
I don’t regret staying back a couple of years though. Despite having to pay a little bit extra to remain enrolled those additional years, the scholarships available definitely helped. With those extra years, I was able to meet more people, play/join in more musical ensembles (we had a video game orchestra!), and further improve my skills in music and French.
Q: What inspired you to become a teacher?
A: When I was in kindergarten, I remember little old me always pretending to teach an invisible group at home. I guess I was just trying to mimic my teachers at the time, who knows, but I would definitely say that the idea of teaching was floating around for a long time.
My desire to teach really stood out to me during my high school years. I had a very enjoyable time during high school, and I would argue that every single teacher I had, no matter what subject, influenced and inspired me a lot in their own little way. I too wanted to be like them, leading students onto the right path and into the real world.
My love for French began in Grade 6 – I had an amazing French teacher. I especially enjoyed his “morning news” segments where he would always discuss the news with us. Surprisingly, music came much later, around Grades 9-10. I originally wanted to play the violin, but my teacher threw me onto viola since there were too many violinists already. Best decision she ever made as from then onwards, the viola became my principal instrument.
Q: What struggles did you face, if any?
A: Like many students in the TDSB, I started Core French in Grade 4. Prior to that, I had zero experience with the language. Learning a new language, especially our nation’s 2nd official one, seemed intriguing to me, so I decided to really hone in on what my French teachers were teaching me. I always got high grades in French (high 80s to 90s), but in my later years of high school, I felt like I was starting to plateau – and I’m sure some of my students now know what I mean.
Personally, when it comes to French, I believe there is a difference between succeeding in the course, and actually learning the language. Sure, I was doing well, but I would hesitate a lot when it came to oral exercises or just speaking in general. When I got to York U, I told myself, “Okay, no more funny business. You’re learning French 100% now.” During my post-secondary years, I took learning French way more seriously. I enrolled in all the courses I possibly could to improve my reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I took French linguistics and learned about all sorts of things (different francophone cultures worldwide, phonetics/phonology, grammar, and much more). I made full use of the professors that taught me, all of whom were fluent. I even converted my phone settings to be entirely in French as an extra push to learn outside of the classroom.
While I was going through all this, I wouldn’t say I was forcing myself in a negative and unproductive way. I genuinely wanted to master the language and had authentic motivation for it, which I believe are key factors to learning anything. If you are honestly motivated to do something, you will do whatever you can to achieve that goal.
To add to that, being immersed in a French-speaking environment helps a lot. Immersion is important when learning a language. I had friends/classmates that spoke French during and sometimes outside of class, the professors obviously spoke to us in French, and all instruction was in French as well.
I feel like having the experiences I had, I can relate to my students a lot more because I started off just like them, and faced the same challenges along the way.
Q: What is the best part of being a teacher at Marc Garneau?
A: I’m actually a fairly new teacher in general! I only graduated university and got teacher-certified a few months ago. I’ve only been at MGCI for a month, but what a month it has been! Of course, due to the pandemic, things are not really normal per se, but despite that, I’ve enjoyed myself here very much.
From the very start, the administrative staff was very welcoming and friendly to me. The vice-principals, the principal himself, the office staff – it felt like I’d been working there for years, and I immediately felt very at home. My fellow teachers and the students I taught were also very friendly. I didn’t get griefed at all during my first quadmester with you guys, how exciting! Props to those who understood the reference.
Unfortunately, my time here is temporary, and as much as I would like to stay here and continue inspiring others, that decision is out of my power. I guess if I had to pick one thing that I think is the best about being a teacher here at MGCI, it would definitely have to be the person-to-person interactions, hands down.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: If I’m not busy teaching, lesson planning, or marking stuff, I’m probably doing one of the following things: practicing my viola/violin (you need to get those 40 hours of practice in, right?), playing some video games with friends/family, or biking outside with friends/family.
Q: Recently, the pandemic has caused a lot of changes to schools. What message would you like to send to the students of MGCI?
A: Guys, even though we’re stuck online, and it may not be the ideal way of learning for some of you, here’s one piece of advice I have for you. Ask questions! No matter how big, or how insignificant you think your question is, ask away.
Tempt your curiosity! I feel like creativity and curiosity have been lost a bit in education, especially during the pandemic, so don’t be afraid to ask your teachers anything you’ve always wondered about.
I’m confident your teachers would be glad to answer. How do you…? Why is…? Could you show me how to…? What’s another way you could…? A student with a genuine interest in something will always put a smile on my face.