Teacher Feature #8

Name:   Jacqueline GarçonIMG_2141

Nationality: American & French

How long have you been teaching? +40 years

What are you teaching? EFL/ESL

Right now, I am teaching EFL and French. I spent a number of years teaching ESL in the USA, including Harvard University and Harvard Summer School, plus Boston University. For the last 24 years, I have also taught a TEFL Certificate in conjunction with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

What certifications do you have?

Two M.A. from the US, one in French (UC, Santa Barbara) and one in TESOL (Boston University), plus a TEFL Certificate and a Licence d’Anglais

How did you get into teaching English?

I always wanted to be a language teacher. Why? In high school I even belonged to FTA, Future Teachers of America

Where are you currently working? country, school, companies, etc.

For a socio-cultural association I created here in France with some of my students five years ago, “Languages & Lifelong Learning”

What kind of contract are you working under?

At the moment the contract is “determiné”

How long have you been working there?

Five years now….

Where else have you worked?

The list is very long from a private secondary school to business schools to the university in France, plus the Chamber of Commerce, etc.

Where do you prefer teaching English?

Definitely, for the socio-cultural association I have worked so hard to keep going and flourishing. The kind of organization I believe in…but not easy!

What do you love about teaching English?

The challenge intellectually and socially of creating an interactive and dynamic classroom where the learners are enjoying learning and moving forward positively, building on what they do know and can do. I also love the social contact with the learners from all sorts of backgrounds, socially, culturally, intellectually. I learn so much from teaching and being in contact with all these different people. I love sharing my experience, exchanging ideas and thoughts with teachers in training, watching them reflect and develop to be their “own” kind of teacher.

What are the advantages to teaching for you?

I keep learning all of the time from new developments in pedagogy to linguistics to learning from my students/ teachers. It is a continual challenge in so many ways.

What are the disadvantages to teaching for you?

Definitely, the salary, plus the lack of respected and recognized stability/security of employment. Teaching/ learning has become a vocation for me, not just a job.

Do you do another job?

No

I would like to thank Jackie, my former TEFL teacher, immensely for agreeing to be featured here on my blog.  She was and is still a great inspiration to me.  She is running a fantastic association which is keeping teachers up to date with their pedagogy and teaching people French and English, along side culture.  I urge those of you who are in Paris or near by that are interested in taking language lessons or in learning to be an even better teacher of languages to go over and check out her website for Languages & Lifelong Learning http://languageslifelonglearning.webnode.com/products/bloggs-joe/.  There you’ll find the courses being offered and all the information needed to enrol.

The French Lieutenant's Woman

I was really excited when this novel wound up on the final list of books we would be reading this school year with my book club.  It’s been on my TBR for ages…  I can say I’m a real fan of John Fowles having read and loved both The Magus and The Collector.  I should have known that The French Lieutenant’s Woman would challenge me immensely.  It wasn’t at all what I expected, however I liked and hated it at the same time.  Those 56034480 pages went by a lot slower last week than I had expected. I guess I can congratulate myself for finishing it in five days; for without the book club I may have taken a lot longer to finish it or worse not finished it at all.  The first half of the book was slow, but from about page 240 on something changed in the writing and I was hooked.

The story is complex and I’m not really sure what to tell you because I could say something that will either steer you away from it or maybe make you feel as if I’m giving you spoilers.  In a nutshell, the main characters are Sarah Woodruff and Charles Smithson.  Sarah, the French lieutenant’s woman, is a seemingly depressed character mourning a relationship that could have been.  She spends her days walking along the streets of Lyme Regis and staring out to sea.  She is an utter mystery to the end.  To the citizens of Lyme Regis she is a disgraced woman, a blemish on their tight-knit small town.  Charles, however, becomes attracted to her difference and falls in love with Sarah, while he’s engaged to the young, pretty, naive Ernestia, while defying the accepted customs and beliefs of Victorian society in 1867.

John Fowles wrote The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1969.  It is a very experimental work because it mixes  a Victorian love story, along with an intricate critique of Victorian and modern society.  What I mean is that John Fowles presence is right there with you while you’re reading the story.  This aspect can be perceived as annoying or engaging.  At times you’ll want to tell him to shut the hell up and go away.  The consensus in my book club was that it was annoying and didn’t allow them to enjoy the story the way they would have liked.  I too felt this but some way some how midway through the book I started to enjoy the concept.  I accepted it as if John Fowles accompanied me, holding my hand through the second half of the book, showing me and informing me on life in Victorian times and critiquing modern-day simultaneously.  I had begun to accept the experiment.  The second half I loved so much I had trouble putting it down.  At times, there were footnotes that intrigued me, but also that made me smile.

The characters were all perfect and served the overall purpose for critiquing Victorian life.  Even though the story revolved around Sarah and Charles there were a myriad of other important secondary characters that make the novel great.  I would say the character of Charles is surrounded by many women considering he was motherless.  The only things he has left are his faith in science, his Victorian upper class background and education(which he has difficulty shaking), and his uncle who will hopefully leave him a healthy inheritance.

As for the film of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, released in 1981, screenplay written by Harold Pinter, I haven’t seen it yet but probably will try to since I heard only good things about it.  Starring Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep, how can I pass on those two.  If this novel seems like a big hunk of hefty for you but you’d still like to try a novel from Fowles, I’d recommend The Collector as a good place to start.  It was his first published work in 1963, even though he’d already started writing The Magus first.  Fowles was interested and influenced by existentialist writers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre and this aspect is one of the common themes that runs through his novels.  Fowles was an English teacher for most of his adult life.  He taught English in France at the University of Poitiers and in Greece on the Peloponnesian island of Spetsai.  This is where he met his first wife Elizabeth Christy.  His experiences in Greece set the scene for his third successfully published novel called The Magus in 1966.  Oddly enough his second wife was called Sarah and he lived the rest of his life primarily in Lyme Regis.  He died in November 2005.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iq_Pmrwq6Ik]

Aya de Yopougon

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3392178 I happened upon these graphic novels while waiting in line to pay for my daughter’s books for school. I was enticed by the big orange band stretched across this big, beautiful graphic novel advertising the movie release.  Yes the movie release was apparently the 17th of July and it slipped right passed me. I don’t remember hearing one word about it nor did I see that it was playing in my local movie theatre, which is notorious for sometimes not showing movies that are being shown everywhere else.  The artwork and a story of a young woman from the Ivory Coast seemed to be the perfect end to6545260

my summer reading.  I read my big orange book in a couple of hours and then went to my local comic shop to procure the rest.  It was there that I realized I was in possession of books 1 and 2 that had been combined in the movie version.  I quickly purchased book 3 and now can’t wait to get my hands on books 4, 5, and 6.

Aya is of course the main character and the story centers around her neighbourhood in Yopougon and around her family and friends.  I’m reading it in French and love the way it’s written.  There are all the expressions and customs wrapped up in these stories.  The main themes in these books are family and community, advancement of women in African society, and infidelity and dishonesty.  The stories are touching, funny, and a real critic of African society.  I can smell the spices and feel the warmth of Africa in theses books.  At times I can’t help laughing out loud or shaking my head at what characters say.  Another interesting aspect of these graphic novels are the last few pages.  There are recipes and little tidbits about African culture, along with a mini glossary of some of the African expressions and words used in the story.

Aya is intelligent and helpful to her friends and family, especially when they are in trouble.  As readers we hope that something good will happen to Aya, but by the end of book 3 I’m no longer sure.  I hope I’m wrong about that.  So I returned on Saturday to get books 4, 5, and 6 and unfortunately I had to order them. Ahhhh!  The suspense continues…..Lucky for me I won’t have to wait too long.  I should be able to have them on Thursday.  If you’re looking for a graphic novel that isn’t about superheroes or typical comics, you should give Aya de Yopougon a try.  It’s sure to suck you in.  So what’s the name of the last graphic novel you’ve read?  Why do you like or dislike reading graphic novels?

Marguerite Abouet was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1971.  She is a writer and is best known for her  graphic novel series Aya de Yopougon or Aya of Yop City.  At 12 years old Abouet and her younger brother moved to Paris with their great-uncle.  There she furthered her studies and eventually became a legal assistant.  Aya is her first successful graphic novel in collaboration with her husband Clément Oubrerie who illustrated it.  This was his first illustrative job in graphic novels.  Abouet and Oubrerie won the Angoulême International Comics Festival prize for First Comic Book in 2006.  Abouet was inspired to write Aya after reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  She wanted to depict Africa in all of its realism, not just in the common themes of poverty and starvation.  Abouet has published another series called Akissi for younger children.  Akissi is based on Marguerite Abouet’s childhood memories living in Abidjan.  There are four books in the series.  It was apparently translated into British English with  Flying Eye Books publishing company.  The first book of the series is called Feline Invasion or Attaque de Chats in French. The link below shows a clip of the animated film in French of Aya.  Sorry that I couldn’t find it in English, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing what it’s like all the same.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XHUX7v6ILA]

Black Like Me

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The old saying is that you never know what someone else is going through or living until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes and frankly it’s impossible.  However, John Howard Griffin turned his skin black and tried to live as a black man for six weeks while travelling through the Deep South in 1959.  He persisted to take a medication which is normally prescribed to patients suffering from vitiligo, a disease where white spots appear on the body and the face, in conjunction with exposure to ultra-violet rays to darken his skin.  This process would take from six weeks to three months but since he wanted the process to be accelerated so that he could get on to his project, the doses were augmented so that he could start on his journey as a black man.

Now this is actually my second reading of this book.  I’d forgotten how powerful it is, not to mention I was only seventeen the first time I read it and really can’t remember what I thought of it.  I don’t usually have the habit of rereading books, but I think I may have to change that.  You do see things differently reading books at different ages.

Black Like Me really does explore the life of a black man, but directly through the eyes of a white man.  It’s like being a fly on the wall.  Griffin went through the Deep South in 1959, riding buses, hitchhiking, trying to find jobs, and meeting blacks and whites of all classes.  The book is recounted in journal entries since this is what he used as a way to record everything he’d seen and felt for the day.  So, it is like we have a sneak peek into his travels.

One main positive point of Black Like Me is that it is particularly well written and Griffin had an astute sense of analysis about the people he met along the journey, about some the things they said and even their body language and facial expressions.  He interpreted situations perfectly.  In fact, there were moments of high suspense where we as the reader feared for him.  All in all his experience helped him to tell the story of his journey.  Now I’m sure some African-Americans will have a problem accepting Black Like Me because it’s a white man telling it, so its authenticity is on the line and he was white so he couldn’t really know what black people were going through.  I get that, but I have to disagree, in this case.  Griffin approached this whole idea like a journalist but with the skin he was in he would have had to be blind not to feel some of the things blacks were feeling and going through at the time, for everyone that looked at him treated him like he was black.  He makes that point quite clear in the novel when he talks about the hard racist stares and how the blackness of the skin is what seems to be despised and why the black man was treated as inferior.  He reflects on this and explains how illogical this way of thinking is and the more and more that he continues on his journey the more that he feels like a shadow.  “I have held no brief for the Negro.  I have looked diligently for all aspects of “inferiority” among them and I cannot find them.  All the cherished-begging epithets applied to the Negro race, and widely accepted as truth even by men of good will, simply prove untrue when one lives among them.  This, of course, excludes the trash element, which is the same everywhere and is no more evident among Negroes than whites.  When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin.  My experience proved that.  They judged me by no other quality.  My skin was dark.  That was sufficient reason for them to deny me those rights and freedoms without which life loses its significance and becomes a matter of little more than animal survival.  I searched for some other answer and found none.  I had spent a day without food and water for no other reason than that my skin was black.“(Black Like Me, p.115)

In essence, I believe this book was written for the white man.  Most people believed black people were poorly educated and probably dismissed their writings and absolutely didn’t believe that they were disenfranchised.  Whereas Black Like Me was like a ripple in the river that couldn’t be ignored, I remember hearing my Uncle Lawrence talk to me about this book when I was young, as well as Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Dick Gregory, W.E.B DuBois, and others.  He felt that Black Like Me was an accurate account and felt that every American should read it.  He used to say, “It happened, is still happening in some places, and we should talk about it.”

As I was reading Black Like Me this second time, I was thinking about my mother and my Uncle Lawrence and wondering how in the world did they survive all of that.  I wondered deep down inside if I would have been as strong and combative as they were.  I felt this especially at the moments in the book that  made me feel sick to my stomach and very fearful.  This just reinforces that history must be told in its entirety and truthfully.  We can’t afford to leave anything out.  Our youth and future generations are depending on our capacity to be thorough, but most of all honest.  Everybody needs to know where they’ve come from, how they’ve acquired what they have today, and what they hope for the future.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNnS9mOmm5I]