Paula CourageI didn’t always know I wanted to be a teacher, even though careful observation of my life would indicate I was preparing for it all along. I was a teenager who truly loved to babysit, despite my friends’ frustration due to the broken plans and Friday night unavailability. I tutored several children in both English and French. My first job was as a ski instructor at Marble Mountain where I happily volunteered to work with Buster the Bear’s Kid Camp on Saturdays and Sundays, taking a group of children for the day. As a university student working in the eatery of K-Mart, I was the only person who volunteered to host the birthday parties. They were so much fun!
I always loved French, probably because I was really successful at it, or was I successful because I loved it so much? In any case, during my first year of General Studies at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, my French professor, M. Roger Ozon, strongly encouraged me to attend the Frecker Institute in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon where I lived for 3 months with a French family and completed 5 French courses. Upon my return to Newfoundland in December of 1994, I decided I would like to pursue a French degree. M. Ozon, again, was the driving force behind my decision to continue my studies in Québec. “To study French, you need to do it in a French environment,” he advised, with his cute accent and smiling eyes. Alas, my baccalaureate en français langue seconde de l’Université Laval à Ste. Foy, Québec. M. Ozon was a true inspiration for me.
During my 2½ years in Québec I worked as an English language monitor in primary/elementary schools assisting English teachers. This was my first experience at the classroom level. During this time I also volunteered at a daycare, looking for as many opportunities as I could to get involved in the community and learn as much French as possible. Directly across the street from the daycare was a K-6 school. A grade 5 teacher was looking for a volunteer to help with a special needs student. The daycare coordinator recommended me and I found myself, yet again, within the walls of a school. It was around this time that I realized I loved French and I loved working with children. It did not take long to realize that teaching young kids to speak French would be a very worthwhile career for me. This prompted me to apply for an education degree. I chose the University of Ottawa because I wanted to study in English for my final year of university studies while still living in a bilingual environment. I was quite pleased with the program. The courses offered were relevant, current, and well delivered. I completed two 5-week practicums, the first in a grade 3&4 combined English class and the second in Grade 2. I felt entirely prepared when I entered the classroom on my own, fully knowledgeable of the current methods and practices in education, even able to offer advice and assistance to seasoned teachers.
My first job upon graduation was half-time French Immersion Kindergarten at Bayshore Catholic School in Ottawa. This allowed me time to substitute in other grade levels. The following year, I felt compelled to move back to Newfoundland which was always my intention. I was immediately employed with the then Avalon East School Board as an Intensive Core French Grade 6 teacher. This program was still in its pilot stage and I really enjoyed being a part of it. After two years as a replacement position, the job was offered as a permanent status and I was the successful candidate. After seven years with this program, I was ready for a new challenge. I presently teach Grade One French Immersion for the second consecutive year and am really enjoying it. That’s the beauty of our profession. It can never be stagnant nor boring. Just when you think you have experienced all there is, a new challenge presents itself. A new group of children every year, a grade level change, a new school, and employment options outside the school allow for new challenges at our fingertips all the time. What a fascinating career!
French has opened up so many doors for me. I spent very little time as a substitute teacher. I received a bursary to study in France for 4 weeks during the summer of 2001. I have attended a Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT) conference in Prince Edward Island and I have revisited Saint-Pierre on two occasions for language practice. I was approached by the Department of Education to become a member of a working group for the development of the curriculum guide for Intensive Core French. The opportunities are endless.
Recently I was invited by Camilla Stoodley, a member of the CASLT research committee, to write an article for Réflexions on the integration of technology in my grade 1 French Immersion curriculum. You can view my article in the February 2009 edition of Réflexions which can be viewed online if you are a member of CASLT.
I am currently enrolled in the Masters of Education program with Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia. It specializes in teaching French as a second language. Teachers and second language learners are learners for life. As much I enjoy teaching, I have an insatiable desire to learn. After 10 years of teaching, I truly look forward with anticipation to the next 20 years. What will be my next adventure in the wondrous world of second language teaching? I, for one, can’t wait to find out!