Betsy Davis is a French teacher and the high school’s International Student Advisor. Davis is trying a plethora of new Zoom activities this year, and she has prepared to adapt to the stress and other difficulties surrounding distance learning. Davis enjoys watching her students grow as learners and as a community.
What do you like most about teaching French?
Helping the students progress and be excited about their learning. As the year progresses, I see them get excited about being able to show their personality to the language and start to joke around and feel more comfortable in the language. Sharing my love of the language and the various Francophone cultures around the world is really great, so it feels like a wonderful skill to be teaching students.
What are some activities you do in your class to try and help students learn?
One of my main goals is to help students feel comfortable in my class, feel safe, feel that they can take a chance and express something into a safe atmosphere. Music is really important to me. And I think, learning French songs, not just from France, but from any Francophone country, helps the language stick. A lot of my students remember refrains from songs that they’ve learned. So I think that’s an important way to learn a language. And we try to bring in other ideas, like an expression of the week, which is a colloquial French expression that the French would actually say.
Have you found any small benefits to teaching online?
The staff have really come together in an amazing way to share ideas, be collegial, share collective wisdom and help each other out. It’s super supportive, and I’m always proud to be part of this staff. And I found even last spring and continuing into this fall that sometimes the one-on-one Zoom that I might have with the student who’s struggling, or who needs something, is sometimes almost a more personal conversation than we might have at school.
How do you think the quarantine will affect the attitudes and academic performances of your students?
Teachers are prepared to adjust the curriculum going forward. My students that I have now, I’ll take them from wherever they are right now and help them grow. I’m not expecting that they mastered everything that was presented to them last spring. I think we’re all struggling with mental health issues and fears and anxieties around all the craziness of the virus and other things going on in the world.
How will you reduce the stress of your students during virtual school?
I think just being kind and forgiving and flexible and bringing some humor in and levity into a tough situation right now. When I say flexibility, I mean lots of things: a deadline for a student who’s struggling, or flexibility when technology doesn’t work quite the way we hoped it would, things like that. Also, I’ll recognize that we are humans behind this screen, we are more than just this little box that we find ourselves in right now. And just to be kind to each other, and respect what we’re all trying to do here.