I love technology and I use different modern methods each lesson. Good power points, great pictures, nice and colourful videos, on line dictionaries, interactive games. But a part of old me still misses the black board and the white chalk. There is one picture I have in my head with this huge black board full of white stars, hearts, flowers and lovely good bye messages on it from my pupils, at the end of the year.
With this picture in my mind, I suddenly had some flash backs from my childhood: the smell of an old book, the Chinese whispers game we use to play at lunch time and…letters. Yes, letters and that moment when you were waiting for the postman every day, hoping that he will bring THAT letter from your friend. This is how my pen pal project started. I’ve got in touch with a small school in France, exchanged some ideas and made a plan together. My pupils were over excited about the day when we would start. We decided the after school club was the best moment to write our letters.
At 3.15pm everybody is quite tired, and definitely everybody is hungry. So my club starts every week in a very French manner: eating some croissants. But this is a French club, so my croissants will be sitting quietly in my ‘’boulangerie’’, waiting for the pupils to come and ‘’buy’’ them with our (plastic) Euros. Of course, why not talk a bit about our day or about the weather, as I ‘’own’’ this shop, since September and we know now each other so well; we’ve built up this ‘’relationship’’ in my ‘’shop’’.
Today we will be writing letters. Paper, coloured pencils, envelopes, dictionaries, excitement, and so much joy. My ‘’boulangerie’’ was opened for just 5 minutes, as we were so busy with making a plan: name, age, nationality, likes and dislikes, sports. We realized we know so many things and each of us wanted to write the perfect letter. What a buzz! I suddenly felt I was a doctor in an operating theatre: give me that noun, add this adjective, check that tense, pass me this sentence, open that dictionary.
But the best moment was yet to come. After ‘’have you got our letters back’’ asked at least once per hour for nearly two weeks, the big day finally came: on a Monday morning a big envelope from France was waiting for me on the desk, in my little office. I can’t describe the joy I have witnessed in my children’s eyes while opening their letters! They were dancing, jumping all around, showing to each other their little treasures.
In the meantime, my ‘’boulangerie’’ is still open every Thursday, from 3.15. We play games, we go ‘’chez le docteur’’ because ‘’j’ai mal au pied’’ or we organize a karaoke French show. I now have two shop assistants, helping me running the shop. They have to be very nice with the customers and ask them about how their school day was or maybe how are their brothers or sisters. We still write letters to France and we wait in the same impatient way for the answers.
Every time I witness the same humongous happiness on my pupils’ faces, when they receive their letters from France. And I feel younger and younger, with every big smile that comes from a very little idea.
Florentina Popescu is a French teacher at J and C Academy in north-west London.