BHS Open House Presentation

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The importance of the study of a foreign language in high school : 

The importance of the study of a foreign language in high school Open House 2007 Madame Guillet French 3, 4, 5, AP

Introduction : 

Introduction I am so happy to welcome you here this evening. My name is Abbe Guillet and I have had the joy of teaching at Baker High School for the past 20 years. I have lived in Central New York for the past 25 years, in Baldwinsville for 15. We moved to Baldwinsville 15 years ago because I felt so strongly about the excellence of this school. My children were raised here and my husband is a pharmacist in Baldwinsville. We are grateful for all that this community has given us and in turn are dedicated to giving something positive back.

Slide 3: 

I studied French Literature at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland and Columbia University in New York City. I also hold specialized certificates from the Université de Provence in Aix-en-Provence, France, and the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. Before coming to Baker, I taught English in Versailles, France and at the Lycée Français de New York in New York City.

Slide 4: 

This year, once again, I have the honor of being able to follow my students through the sequence of the study of French at Baker, teaching Levels Three, Four, Five and Advanced Placement. It is a busy, but an exceptionally satisfying, schedule. Each year brings new challenges and the opportunity to try and “get things right” – the impossible dream!

This summer, I passed these posters on my way to get bread each day. This one is of Victor Hugo. : 

This summer, I passed these posters on my way to get bread each day. This one is of Victor Hugo.

This one is of Gandhi. It reminded me so much of my students and : 

This one is of Gandhi. It reminded me so much of my students and

Its message is one that I share. : 

Its message is one that I share.

Slide 8: 

Over the years, I have taken much time to reflect on my goals for teaching and student learning. Certainly, one of my primary goals is to have my students raise their language proficiency. Speaking a foreign language is no longer an asset in this global marketplace; it is becoming a necessity. And while my students may not need French, knowing one foreign language is the easiest way to learn any other. We spend our summers in France, and this past summer as I was buying subway tickets, a young Japanese tourist asked me for directions. I spoke in French until I realized that he was a bit more proficient in English. It struck me afterwards that very soon, Americans will be the only citizens who are not proficient in AT LEAST one other language. What a disadvantage and a security risk is.

Slide 9: 

In their 2007 commencement address to Colgate University, Bob and Lee Woodruff drew up a list of Top Ten Tactics for the Real World. Not surprisingly, Number Eight was: Learn, think, and act globally “The world is a very different place than it was 20 years ago. This is a country that used to have an ocean on the west and an ocean on the east that would separate us from so much of the world. But the protection and isolation those oceans provided is gone. The Internet has brought us immediacy and information, and has leveled the playing field in many ways. The global economy means we need to be so much more aware of our neighbors and to understand them if we are to interact effectively. Customs, religions, cultures, differences…take what you’ve learned here at Colgate and expand on it as you go out into the world. Expand your horizons with an open mind. Learn another language, if you haven’t studied one already. Travel — you’ll see amazing vistas and meet people that will shatter your misconceptions and hopefully inspire you.”

Slide 10: 

My time is so limited this evening, but I would like to spend a moment on the OTHER things that I hope my students will learn before they leave my class. Each year, I am always sad when a student tells me that he or she is dropping my course. The reasons vary: I don’t need French. French is not a requirement. I won’t ever use French; everyone is learning English. It’s too much work.

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Actually, it really has very little to do with French – which is truly a beautiful language with an amazing history. What this student is really saying is: I don’t want to work THAT hard! I don’t want to pay attention ALL period! Because I can convince my parents that I don’t need it to graduate, I CAN drop the course.

In his book, College Knowledge, What it really takes for students to succeed and what we can do to get them ready, David Conley of the University of Oregon writes that while high schools prepare students for college acceptance, they do less well preparing them for success once they are there. : 

In his book, College Knowledge, What it really takes for students to succeed and what we can do to get them ready, David Conley of the University of Oregon writes that while high schools prepare students for college acceptance, they do less well preparing them for success once they are there.

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The distinction between college-eligible and college-ready, is that the college-ready students are able to meet the expectations they may encounter in entry-level college courses. They do well on placement tests. They adapt easily to the faster pace with which the professors move through material. They accept the need to spend much more time on their own outside of class reading and reviewing. They accept frank evaluation of their work which may be more unvarnished than what they were used to receiving. They are able to support their opinions and assertions and to cite sources properly. They are able to accept that their ideas may be challenged in class discussions and their assumptions about what is true called into question. And despite working harder, they are able to accept that they may earn grades lower than they have ever received before.

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How is it possible that our high schools are not preparing their students for college? One of the greatest pitfalls for high school students is the range of course and scheduling choices available to them. Many students seek to avoid difficult and challenging coursework. Choices that they made as sophomores often constrain their college options, and when seniors fail to take math, science, second language, or more core academic courses, they either fail to become eligible for college or struggle when they next attempt one of these courses in college.

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So how can students become college-ready? By making them better thinkers, understanding that thinking is a process which requires them to reason, critique, analyze, reflect, and ponder. By developing intellectual maturity – habits of the mind – open and disciplined for thinking and analysis. By actively engaging and challenging them in their learning in a community where expectations are clear and high.

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What does this mean in the foreign language classroom? While the goal is naturally to communicate effectively with speakers of another language in authentic cultural contexts, this requires the development of multiple skills: Proficiency in the second language Cultural understanding to communicate accurately The ability to compare both with their native language and culture as well as an openness to thinking about other ways of acting and communicating. The master of critical thinking skills which is a critical factor in determining college success, regardless of second level proficiency level upon entrance into college.

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Important skills mastered in this class: Successful learning strategies Personal discipline and time management (breaking up longer assignments, completing assignments in detail and with care) Dealing with the realization that mastering a second language is really quite difficult and requires effort and conscientious work habits. Working effectively in a group Poise and confidence in speaking in front of others Risk taking and recognizing that making errors is part of the learning process. Ability to use resource materials such as dictionaries and the Internet Curiosity about other cultures. Strengthened English skills Understanding the importance of a positive attitude

A word to the parents of my Level Three Students : 

A word to the parents of my Level Three Students At the end of this year, your children will be taking the Comprehensive French Examination given by the NYS Board of Regents. It is an exam which checks for a minimum competency in all four levels of language: speaking (24 pts) listening (30 pts) reading (30 pts) writing (16 pts) skills that have been developing over the past three years (French One, Two, and Three) The exam also reflects an expectation of some level of cultural competency of Francophone countries. Time permitting, I would like to explain to you what I do daily to build those skills. However, two important notes:

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You can review this exam in detail by going to which not only goes step by step through the examination, but allows you to watch the spring broadcast of the tv show.

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My own goals this year are those of previous years: 100% passing, striving for 100% “mastery” (a score of 85 and above) I simply cannot remember a time when all of my students did NOT pass the exam. We work every minute of every day. No matter how weak his/her language skills may be when (s)he enters this classroom, if (s)he applies himself/herself, I guarantee you (s)he will be successful. Likewise however, if your child is NOT working, I can guarantee that (s)he simply cannot pass the course.

A word to the parents of my Level Four Students : 

A word to the parents of my Level Four Students I understand that many of you are concerned because your children seemed overwhelmed by the expectations at the beginning of the year. While at first, I was baffled as to why students felt this way, as traditionally the biggest adaptation to intermediate language instruction occurred in French Three, please understand that I have reviewed and revised my program accordingly. However, I would like to share with you several insights from my finest teachers…

Who are my students! : 

Who are my students! In a play I recently saw on Broadway called the History Boys one of the characters, a high school English teacher, said something I think is relevant to this discussion. He said: "Learn it now and you'll understand it whenever." This seemed very much like the philosophy behind your course. It's not about whether or not you "get it" NOW. It's not about whether or not you answer the question right on the test. It's about how the class will affect you in the long run. Matt Dengler, NYU; AP Class of 2006

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When asked what my students wished they had known about French Four before they entered, they answered: I wish that I had known the structure of your class, that you weren’t scary and I could always come and ask you questions! (Kelsey Mulvaney) I wish that I had known how much I’d actually enjoy the class. I looked forward to ninth period every day. (Amanda Hamlet) I wish that I had known how much fun I would have despite all the time an effort I had to put into it. (Sarah Taylor) I wish that I had studied harder in French One, Two, and Three! (Lauren Clark) I wish that I had known how close everyone in class would become. (Lara Kratochwill) I wish I had known how worth it all the work on the art book would be. (Caitlin Letteer) I wish I had known how good the food was. (Jeff Reisman) I loved everything in this class. You need to have a trip to France every year. (Philip Whalen)

And this … : 

En pensant à mon expérience à l’université cet été, je sais que la chose la plus importante que j’aie apprise est que l’on apprend le plus quand on n’est pas complètement confortable. Thinking back on my university experience this summer, I know that the most important thing I learned was that we learn the most when we are no longer in our comfort zone. Marlee Dippolito, dd d’été pour le cours AP, Class of 2007 And this …

Slide 25: 

As in all things in life, we strive for BALANCE. In French Four, I strive to help each and every student, from the weakest to the most gifted language student, improve skills and achieve his/her potential. I have spent many years and many summers reflecting and creating a curriculum which prepares students for French Five, AP French, and college French, at the same time providing a suitable exit course which prepares my students to have a world view that helps them to see the beauty of a diverse planet where we are all truly connected. For in the end, the world needs finer human beings more than it needs honor roll students.

French Four Curriculum – a dream! : 

French Four Curriculum – a dream! Two Novels, one of which – Le Petit Prince - was voted “Book of the Twentieth Century” Cultural Studies of : French Art, Gothic Architecture, Paris, and French Cuisine! Francophone countries in Europe and Africa Intensive work in all four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

French Five/AP Curriculum – OK so I was lying…! : 

French Five/AP Curriculum – OK so I was lying…! French Masterpieces Much more culture Regular experiences with Francophone gastronomy Music, Films, and whatever else I can squeeze into a class period/week/evening/week-end/vacation/year! Intensive work in listening, speaking, reading and writing in preparation for the AP Exam, College Placement Exam, all the while knowing that for some THIS IS IT… On a serious note, please take the time to read my handout entitled: Teaching AP French means ALWAYS having to say you’re sorry

A word of thanks : 

A word of thanks Dominique and I are so grateful to the parents of the following students who trusted us with their children for the 2007 trip to France: Lauren Clark, Joe Crimmer, Keifer Dowd, Nikki Gummer, Colin Hack, Ashley Isaacs, Elissa Johansson, Lara Kratochwill, Caitlin Letteer, Carlie Matthews, Chloe Parker, Jeff Reisman, Colleen Robinson, Erin Stigers, Sarah Taylor, and Philip Whalen.

Slide 29: 

Each year, I have the opportunity of working with the finest young people in this community. I also have the privilege of meeting their supportive, kind, and generous parents. Because they allow me to teach more than one of their children, we sometimes share many evenings such as this one. Some entered my classroom many years ago and are today my dearest friends. I thank you for coming this evening, for supporting my program, and I look forward to seeing you again! Abbe Guillet

A special word of thanks and farewell… : 

A special word of thanks and farewell… Each June, I sadly say good-bye to my students – and their parents. This year will be no exception. I would like to express my gratitude to the following parents for whom this is our last Open House, with my deepest thanks for letting me teach your children and allowing me to take them to France:

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Kathy and James, parents of Jim & Joe Crimmer Cindy and Terry, parents of Greg & Keifer Dowd Barbara and James Rhea, parents of Nicole, Brandon, and Lauren Rhea Merci! Merci! Merci! Merci! Merci! Merci!

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