Now why would I call this blog entry, "Belle Journée à l'Ecole Secondaire de la Seigneurie --- WHOOPS!"? Well, I added the WHOOPS because I wasn't supposed to speak French today at this high school in Beauport, just outside of Quebec City. That's because I was there to work with Mr. Lord's three Enriched English As A Second Lanuage classes -- and I was pretty good about following that instruction (most of the day!!).
The three groups I worked with could not have been more different. The first group was focused and studious. We actually got into an interesting talk about whether, if the students improve in one language (say English), it will help them with their French. A student named Cédrick stayed to continue this discussion after my workshop. He told me he loves writing stories -- in both French and English. I told him I think our province, and our country, is ready for a story told in BOTH officlal languages AT THE SAME TIME! Cédrick gave me a great example of how his brain works bilingually. He was writing a horror story about a corpse (in English), and when it came to the descripton, he thought of the French word "ensanglanté" -- so he used that to inspire the following description in English: "a bloodied corpse." I LOVE IT. And I don't think in all my years of working as a writer, I have ever used the word "bloodied" in that way. Cédrick, if you don't mind, I think I'm going to steal it!
The second group seemed a little sleepy, but you know what? When I started to talk about my historical novel, What World Is Left, which is based on my mum's experience in a Nazi concentration camp (and which all three classes are reading), they totally came alive! My mum died just over a year ago -- and this part of my day really made me miss her. Because in the old days, I'd have phoned her in Montreal to tell her that her story turned things around in the classroom. She'd have loved that!
The last group was ... well... amazing. Though it was the end of the school day, these kids had lots to say and they made many great points. Here are some examples. When I showed them the diary I write in every morning, a student named Nada tried to peek into it. I thought that was great because it shows that she is SNOOPY -- an essential trait for a writer. Then a student named Mia wanted to know exactly what I do in my diary. When I told her that i use it for "whatever," she wasn't satisfied. Mia asked: "Are you writing it as a story or a description?" That question -- so specific and probing -- really impressed me. (By the way, I explained to Mia that I don't usually write stories in my diary, but I sometimes describe people and places. Mostly, I really do write about "whatever.") Later, when I was telling the students how I HATE my first drafts, I asked them, "What do I do then? GIve yp?" I loved a student named Margaux's answer: "You work at it."
That's a nice end for today's blog post. That's what it's all about -- working at it, playing sometimes, and not giving up even when you feel like it.
I told all three groups today that it's because of my grandfather -- a Dutch artist who was forced to produce propaganda drawings for the Nazis -- that I am alive and that all my family is alive. Some days, I told them, I feel very privileged -- that I can laugh, and teach, and write, and have a delicious dinner and see beautiful things like a wintery afternoon in Old Quebec. Today, working with these kids made me feel that sense of privilege. Special thanks to their teacher, Mr. Lord, for inviting me back to the school. Thanks, too, to Miss Verity, the lovely English (from England!) monitor who is assisting Mr. Lord. And thanks to all of the students for making me feel so privileged. Now get to work on your own stories!!!