In today’s world of computer and virtual education, learning a language has often become removed from its original purpose: learning to communicate and connect with others. To me the French language is the perfect medium—philosophical, complex and romantic by nature—to lead students on their own journey to discovery.
During my clinical imagery and meditation studies at the New York Psychosynthesis Institute I noticed that most people didn’t use their creative intelligence to support their learning process. During my years of teaching, however, I realized that no matter the age, social background or personal skills, the more a student is engaged in his or her learning process in personal and creative ways, the more he or she succeeds in approaching life in general and other interests and personal obligations in particular.
My teaching style is rooted in my understanding of learning languages, my own writing process and my life experience. When the language becomes personal, in my case writing poetry in English (my third language), it takes on a different connotation, one that is meaningful and pertinent to my own self. The fact that the language doesn’t carry any personal history offers me a freedom, a distance and a detachment I can use to explore untapped and/or difficult territories, thus making the writing process richer and more potent.
Through conversation and creative writing students naturally develop and refine their French personal voice. In my classes I use the principle of exploration to support students in expanding their vocabularies and understanding the language structure from the inside out; when the language becomes personal and relevant, students are more eager to strive and push past their limitations. They want to express and share of themselves as a whole.
Speaking is one of the hardest things to achieve in a foreign language, especially at an early stage, yet when offered a supportive space and presence, even the shyest student becomes willing to communicate his or her thoughts.
In the writing process I emphasize a progression based on skill levels. Short clear thoughts with simple grammar and sentence structure for beginners, increasing complexity as the student progresses and, at every level, a focus on finding words to convey ideas and imagery. I discourage using sentences translation devices and reinforce the benefits of dictionaries, grammar and verb books and apps. While at first some students frown at this idea, soon they begin to appreciate how their brain and mind function, how being a bit slower enables better assimilation, and how learning from mistakes is more beneficial than skipping them.
I have always considered my students to be my greatest teachers, therefore I work to reflect and facilitate their desire to share and connect, as well as to stimulate the enthusiasm, curiosity and hope one needs in order to succeed. As a compassionate teacher I relate to their difficulties, yet my sense of humor always brings relief, reminding us all how human we are and that the learning process is seldom linear. My role is to help my students experience, again and again, their capacity to integrate and trust their learning process; it is what I strive to do, class after class.