Great Teaching

by Mary Shipp Bartlett

Laura McPherson’08 had just taken a seat in Thierry Boucquey’s Core III class—”Foreign Language and Culture Teaching Clinic”—when the professor burst through the door wearing a Venetian mask and theatrically introduced himself in Italian, then in seven other languages. The next day, he conducted the entire class in Flemish. “What world did we just step into?” she thought. While this was a lecture class, no one was prepared for—or knew—Flemish. “This isn’t lecture hall any more.”

One amid a dozen class choices for the third part in the three semester Core Program in Interdisciplinary Humanities, Boucquey’s class trains students to give local grammar school students “total immersion” instruction in a foreign language. Professor Boucquey was giving his students the same type of experience that they would soon offer their young pupils—and showing them how to do it with style. Laura would teach Japanese at Chaparral Elementary School in Claremont using the same approach Boucquey had: she would speak only Japanese, and she would use games and props to stimulate her students’ interest in and enthusiasm for Japanese culture.

“Professor Boucquey walks the walk,” said McPherson. “Before he tells us what we’ll be doing, he shows us.”

A second surprise came later, when Boucquey asked for volunteers to help write a book of games to facilitate teaching foreign languages to K-12 students. Laura was already taking five classes, a heavy load at Scripps, and this would be extra work outside the classroom.

Arguing that she “always burns candles at both ends,” she quickly signed on alongside five other women, and with Boucquey’s guidance, they created most of the games themselves and tested them on their Chaparral students. The book was snapped up by the first educational publisher who read the manuscript. “This is going to be a big hit,” he wrote, and published the book this spring. Boucquey insisted all seven names be on the cover with equal credit and royalties divided among them. The students, juniors this year, will each graduate with a book on their r

 

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