By Karolina Kaluza
I’m a third year student of English and French at the University of Nottingham. As part of my year abroad, I’m living in rural Quebec, Canada and teaching English as a second language in a secondary school called Polyvalente La Pocatiere. The region where I am is solely French-speaking and I am interested in not only helping my students strengthen their English language skills but also develop their international understanding by providing a first-hand insight into European and most prominently British culture.
Firstly, I would like to discuss the importance of my project. So why did I decide to teach on my year abroad? I believe that teaching is the profession on which all other professions depend as it aids the education of the next generation. In my opinion, inspiring children to pursue language learning is essential, as these children, who will be better equipped with language skills, will become world leaders, doctors, lawyers, etc. and will benefit any profession that they enter by providing a multinational outlook. Indeed, languages are important in building connections in an increasingly global world and exposure to a native speaker enables students to see the target language come to life in the classroom which can help encourage their learning.Therefore, by being an English language assistant and inspiring students to learn a second language, I have the potential to transform lives, perhaps even generations, by sparking an interest that can be passed on through families. I am delighted to have the opportunity to dedicate a year of my studies to such a worthwhile cause.
And how do I plan on accomplishing this mission? As part of my responsibilities, I support the teaching of English in a secondary school through planning activities and producing resources to help students improve their English, especially their conversation skills. I introduce UK contemporary culture through classroom activities such as quizzes and presentations, and I support the running of international projects and activities. For example, I’m planning on holding a Poetry Exchange Project between my old secondary school and the school that I am teaching at in Quebec. I have also been in touch with various sports teams, music bands and societies such as Poetry Society, at my university with the aim of creating presentations that include voice note or video answers from UoN students to questions that my Quebecois pupils have about these aspects of British and UK university culture.
I have been in La Pocatiere for just over a month and time has flown by. I have started to get to know my school, my students and my small town community by joining various clubs such as hiking and knitting, being invited to family dinners and making various friends. I have also grown as a person, frequently finding myself in unfamiliar situations outside of my comfort zone that have helped me develop various interpersonal and language skills.
During lessons, I have introduced myself to my classes and they have had the opportunity to present themselves to me too. I assist in 15 different classes across the school and so I have the opportunity to work with students from 12-17 years of age. Some of these classes are on an enriched English programme and others are not, therefore I need to be flexible and adjust to each class’s level of English. So far, I have experienced a lot of enthusiasm from students of all abilities which has been refreshing and shows that there is a lot of potential for the future.
Outside of lessons, I have watched my school compete against another at an American Football game, I have attended basketball practice and helped my students set up a stand selling orange items for ‘Orange Shirt Day’ to help raise awareness of the Indian residential school system and the impact this had on the Indigenous children and their families. All of these activities have helped me develop a better understanding of my pupils and of Quebec and in exchange I have also delivered some presentations about UK culture with many more to come. The development of international understanding is way under way in both directions!
Furthermore, I have found Quebecois French here different to the French in France that I have been studying, both in terms of vocabulary (e.g. le char for car, instead of ‘la voiture’) and in terms of more frequent use of contractions (e.g. ‘kesse’ for qu’est-ce que’). However, it has been an enriching experience to be able to explore these differences; especially because exposure to different accents and dialects is an important part of the language learning process.
I look forward to the months to come, especially to get started on some exciting projects such as the Poetry Exchange. I am intrigued to see how I find the Quebecois winter and whether I will manage to cope with all the inevitable snow shoveling that I will have to do!