Recently, my mom and I traced back the French side of our family through “Ancestry.com”. It’s been fascinating. We’ve almost got the family traced back to the first “Lamarre” that came over from Normandy France (near Rouen) in the 1660’s. My mom is from Longueuil, Quebec, which is directly on the other side of the St. Lawrence from Montreal. Louis Lamarre was a soldier who boarded a boat bound for New France and somehow or another, he became the baron of this area of Quebec. He actually lived to be 94 years old which is exceptional for that time period! Most of the records we found about the Lamarre family were from baptisms, weddings and funerals – in fact they attended the same church for about 300 years. I’m proud of my French heritage. But to be truthful, I’m actually more Scottish than French!
These discoveries are a bit bittersweet really. Several years ago, our last relative in Longueuil passed away. I miss having someone there to visit. But the French line continues in our family. My sister and I are both French teachers and completed most of our education in French. Despite moving to Ontario at the age of 12, my mom still speaks beautiful French. She has francophone friends that she plays “Bridge” with and travels with regularly. My daughters, niece and nephews attend French schools. I’m very grateful for French education in this province.
This year our Literacy Coordinators developed a wonderful diversity kit for all of our elementary students. It contains wonderful books and lessons for teachers around race and ethnicity. One message that the Coordinators shared was how important it is that all of our students “see” themselves in the literature that we share in the classroom. This practice builds inclusion in the classroom.
I learned the importance of this last year. Approximately one third of my Grade 8 class had origins in South America, and most of these students spoke Spanish as well as English and French. I’ll never forget how the dynamics in my classroom were flipped on their head one day when we read an article on the death of “Hugo Chavez”. These were students whose parents had personal experience with his government. Many students who were normally quiet began to participate. Those who were my usual discussion leaders were quieted – listening to the stories that these students shared. My only regret is that I didn’t do more of this. It’s extremely engaging.
I find myself making a connection between these experiences and some professional development opportunities this year.
Last fall, I was excited to see French Immersion schools participating in literacy workshops called “Journeys Into Literacy” offered by the same coordinator team. While I was there participating with my two English schools, I did use what I learned there with teachers in my French Immersion school too. Much of what I learned there applied to the FSL classroom: highlighting text features and how they help us understand a text, interactive read alouds, making thinking visible and constructing new knowledge to name a few!
Today I was in a classroom where a teacher asked his students if Canada’s population was more like a salad or a soup? The answer of course is salad. Here in Canada, we are not a “melting pot”. We can retain our own identity (carrot, tomato, lettuce for instance) while being part of the whole. Each individual and diverse part is needed to make the salad. The same is true in education. Our classrooms, schools, board and education system need to reflect this salad. Our country is bilingual. Multilingual really! We offer various French programming. It’s part of the salad. Perhaps the croutons… but ideally, I would like it to be the dressing! The English and the French language programs compliment and strengthen each other.
And so I am wondering….
How might we ensure our French teachers “see” themselves in the PD offered at our school board? We need to continue to ensure that those classroom benefits – inclusion and tolerance that these diversity kits offer also applies to learning opportunities offered to teachers. What can we do to ensure they see themselves in what is presented or organized?
“Inclusion elevates all” – Elaine Hall