The French speaking world is so much larger than France and Canada, and Brookwood’s French program strives to expose students to the many countries and cultures around the world that use the French language.
Beyond European countries such as Belgium and Switzerland, French is used in many African countries including Senegal, Benin, Guinea, Cameroon, Chad and Rwanda just to name a few. Additionally there are francophone areas in the Caribbean (Haiti, Martinique) and the south Pacific (French Polynesia and New Caledonia). In an effort to engage students in the language and culture of these countries, my French students have been corresponding with students from around the francophone world.
Three years ago the fourth grade class connected with the Fontamara School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The connection was made through a volunteer connection I have with the Power of Education Foundation, which started the Fontamara School following the earthquake in 2010. Brookwood fourth graders wrote autobiographies in French to talk about their homes, families, likes and dislikes, and their school. The students at Fontamara also wrote to our fourth graders following their lead of topics which made it rather easy for Brookwood French students to understand the French.
Two years ago the fourth grade class was paired with a Peace Corps volunteer teaching in a school in Senegal. Our Peace Corps partner, Samantha, kept a blog of her experience, and the Brookwood class was able to follow her adventure in addition to corresponding with her students in French. They even got to see pictures that Samantha posted on her blog of students in Senegal writing to Brookwood fourth graders.
This year we were able to take advantage of Grade 1 teacher Sarah Dawe’s trip to Rwanda and Brookwood’s relationship with the APAPEC School. Many of the classes in the school are taught in French and prior to her departure Brookwood fourth graders wrote personal letters that Ms. Dawe presented to the APAPEC students. Upon her return she brought letters in French from the students in Rwanda. They are currently on display on the board outside of my classroom in the World Language Center.
These connections between Brookwood French students and students in Haiti, Senegal and Rwanda have been a truly authentic way of engaging the skills of cultural competence. These skills, which are essentially behaviors and attitudes that enable them to work effectively cross-culturally, are a central part of these classroom connections. Students are often quick to point out what we all have in common, but we as educators need to push students to look for what is different as well. This is where we have to put our cultural competency skills to work. It is easy and somewhat effortless to respect, honor and understand that which we share in common. The learning and strengthening of skills of cultural competency come from respecting, honoring and understanding that which is different.
– Joshua Cabral,
French and Spanish teacher