What we share with our students will ultimately shape their ideas and perspectives on the world. And yet, so often we fall into the trap of a single story. It is not our fault. Obviously, our own unique experiences of how we learned language and culture will directly influence what we teach. In my first year of teaching, I spent a lot of time developing activities and projects centered on Paris, where I had lived for three years. I don’t remember teaching about anything outside of France.
In her 2009 Ted Talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigierian author and feminist, reminds us of the consequences of the single story. She says, “It robs people of dignity. It makes recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different, rather than how we are similar.”
I’m especially proud that today I teach about the entire francophone community. When you walk into my classroom, you will see a mosaic of student-created artifacts representing the entire francophone world. From Congolese author Alain Mabanckou to infographics about l’hopital Mirebelais, the world’s largest solar-powered hospital, located in Haïti, my students know that I aim to share diverse voices and cultures.
As social justice-inspired world language teachers, we aim to share authentic, multicultural, and anti-racist materials with our students. However, this is a huge undertaking if you go at it alone. We are only human and—let’s be honest—as teachers, our plates are full. This is why I appreciate the culturally responsive content in Vista Higher Learning’s 2023 Chemins series. VHL and the Chemins series have made a conscious effort to be inclusive, and to move beyond just the baguette and the beret. For instance, in the description of Les petits commerces, we read about Le marché en Fer in Haïti. There is an emphasis on small businesses throughout the entire francophone world.
Please join me in New Orleans this summer at the AATF convention, where I hope to highlight more about how the VHL 2023 Chemins series focuses on the entire francophone community. Together, we can move beyond a single story.
By Christen Campbell