Last spring, I started a blog segment called “Teacher Feature” that I will be continuing into the fall. Today, I am sharing an interview with Rebecca Blouwolff, a French teacher in Wellesley, MA. Her dedication to teaching is inspiring to me; I hope she inspires you, too!
What and where do you teach?
I teach French 7 and 8 at Wellesley Middle School in Wellesley, MA, a Boston suburb.
How long have you been teaching?
Since 1996 – and I’ve been at WMS since 1998!
How many languages do you speak and what are they?
I speak English, French, and Hebrew. I’ve also studied Latin and Yiddish but cannot communicate in either.
Why do you believe it is important to learn a second language?
Learning a second language gives you an amazing window into another culture, other people, and other ways of being in the world. At the same time, it also gives you a mirror into your own culture and allows you to see what’s unique about your own way of life.
Why did you decide to be a teacher?
I discovered via various college summer jobs that I’m not meant to sit at a desk or take orders from other adults. Even though I’d been teaching forever (knitting lessons on the bus in elementary school, costume-sewing lessons in junior high, tutoring reading & GED prep in college), I didn’t really decide to be a teacher…until I actually became one. I taught English in France for a year after college and loved it – so I decided to see if I’d still enjoy it in the US. If you can love teaching on Cape Cod in the winter, then you know it’s the right job for you. I love creating something new, constantly learning from and about my students, delving deep into French language and culture, and working with like-minded peers. That said, I still waited several years before getting my MEd and certification. I wanted to be sure that I was in this career for the long run before investing in a costly degree program.
What makes a language classroom unique from other subjects?
Anything goes in the language classroom, and I love that it’s all up for grabs. As long as we’re talking in French, we’re good! There’s an advantage to flying under the radar of state testing and such.
When did you first become interested in language learning?
When I was in 4th grade, a really offbeat, intellectual, farmer-mom in our tiny town offered after school French classes. We’d take the bus to her house, pet the horses, eat carob-chip cookies, and learn colloquial French expressions like “Qu’est-ce qui se passe ici?” and “Tu es bizarre!” The next year we traveled to Quebec City, and I was sold. It was so exciting to see French in use on the streets, in magazines on newsstands, and at restaurants.
What in teaching are you passionate about right now?
I am pretty excited about standards-based grading right now. I think it’s important that students’ grades actually reflect what they can do with the language, and I love cutting out all the fluff that used to cloud my grades and students’ performance.
At the end of a long day, what do you do to relax?
I swim laps after school three times a week, and that’s a great way to wash away all the stress, ponder big ideas, and come out fresh and ready for the evening with my family.
What continued learning are you doing to become a better educator?
I recently wrapped up becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. That was an amazing journey of self-reflection and improving my teaching in many different respects. This year I’m involved with a local middle school French PLC where we’ve rated student work with different rubrics and discussed Bill VanPatten’s book While We’re On The Topic. I’ve also been helping to lead two different series of #langbook Twitter chats about The Keys to Planning for Learning and Enacting the Work of Language Instruction, which has pushed me to do more professional reading and delve into the books’ important points with virtual colleagues across North America.
You can follow Rebecca on twitter at @MmeBlouwolff!
Do you know of a teacher you’d like to see featured on The Confident Classroom? Use the form below to nominate someone today!