Literacy and Liberty

Posted by: , September 21, 2018, 4:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As a young girl, I attended Lycée Francais de New York. At that school, I was a total and utter anomaly at times. Most kids had bilingual parents, whereas I had two loving parents that did not speak a language other than English and a splash of Hebrew. Truth be told, learning how to speak French at the age of 2 is something I do not have a lot of memory of. I do, however, remember learning how to read in French which was engrained in my childhood. Many children’s book I had were in French and I had to learn how to read them on my own, because my parents were unable to. What intrigued me about reading in French was the way the words flowed. I also just loved gazing at the illustrations I saw in the books while staying after school. In the fourth grade, I was hard core struggling in school. My teacher at the time was severely scary to me because she yelled when I did not do something right.  Sometimes, she even pulled me out of class because she told me that I just kept making mistakes while reading and could not be helped. Words started to make me sick to my stomach and my mouth became my worst enemy. I had no idea how to ask for help or if it was even worth it.

Lucky for me, my insightful mom knew something was up. She introduced me to Madame Stephanie Durand. Madame Stephanie Durand at the time tutored my younger brother who struggled with his dyslexia. It’s weird, I still remember my first encounter with her. I was in my room crying  because I wanted to give up and never go back to school. Not to brag, but I was a little bit of a diva when it came to stress at 8 years old. Anyway, Stephanie then knocked on my door asking if she could come in and I remember being too shy to reply. She came in anyway, left the door open and sat on my window sill , looked at me right in the eyes and spoke to me. Stephanie told me that she believed in me and told me that if I worked hard, I could believe in myself. It probably sounds corny but for an 8 year old me, it sorta touched my heart. She helped me rock the fourth grade despite having a scary teacher and sometimes struggling with French reading comprehension. Words started to make me smile again and I became an avid participant in class when it came to reading aloud. I felt like I was on top of the world when it came to school.

Sadly, it broke my heart when Stephanie told me at the tail end of that school year she was leaving to go back to Normandy. Stephanie left me with an encyclopedia which was all French and told me to try learn something new from it everyday. The following school year, my brother and I attended an English speaking elementary school while I still took French on the side. I remember trekking the heavy 1000 page book for the first few days before realizing it was too heavy to bring. Reading from it still reminds me that I am capable and that it takes the right people to walk into your life to believe in you.

3 Comments so far
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Thank you for sharing your story Natasha and I do agree with you the important role that a helpful teacher plays in a kid’s mind and her development. It seems like Stephanie really brings one turning point to your life!

   Julie 09.23.18 @ 3:33 pm

That’s so interesting that your parents wanted you to learn French despite the fact that they don’t speak it themselves. I hope that even though it was challenging at the time, you appreciate the advantages that being bilingual gives you now.

   Dan 09.24.18 @ 8:26 am

Natasha, thanks for sharing this story. I’m with Julie in appreciating your story of a great teacher: learning to read and write in *any* language is definitely a team effort. And I’d be interested to hear you and Dan talk more about your experiences learning a second language at your parents’ behest, if for different reasons.

   Professor Seiler 09.25.18 @ 9:18 am

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