Finished my first full week of teaching middle school French and I’m exhausted but so elated.
Injecting critical pedagogy into a curriculum is hard. The county curriculum isn’t openly anti-critical, but upholds the status quo that accepts French as an esteemed language to be learned without questioning why so many people speak it outside of Europe.
My students barely know their continents, let alone the nations of Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas that have been colonized by the French. And I was initially frustrated with myself for feeling like I wasn’t making them think critically right away, and that we couldn’t discuss colonization right away. But teaching is all about patience. And at the end of Week 2, I’ve gotten some results that I’m going in the right direction.
- De-centering France/Europe: Students saying they want to travel to African countries while pointing at the photos on my wall of African francophone countries.
- Questioning the binary: When introducing gender in French, we briefly discussed why you should ask people their pronouns. At the very least, they understood to not call people things they don’t want to be called and that there are other pronouns besides he/she. Also one girl said the gendering of countries was stupid 🤣
- Reflection on cultural identity: I asked students to write about the unique aspects of their culture. One Black student asked me what he thought I would say. Would he ask a non-Black teacher that question? I have no idea. I just know that too many students said there was nothing unique about their culture.
- Affirmation of cultural identity: So many questions about vocabulary when prompted to write their national identities and origins! Affirming that just because we’re all in America doesn’t mean we have to identify as exclusively American or American at all.
Here’s to making a difference!