“I always knew that I was going to become a teacher, and after I did my junior year [of college] abroad in France, I was positive that I wanted to teach French.”
Mrs. Kandell, the French language teacher at JLS, grew up in South Africa and moved to California when she was 15. Her path to becoming a teacher was filled with many challenges and revelations. Her first experience learning French, when she was young, was not enjoyable.
In her first class learning French, “I remember it was just repeat, like une lampe, a lamp, une lampe, and it was really out of context, like, it was just words.”
A few years later, in her junior year of college, she got the opportunity to live and study in France. During that year, she gained knowledge about French culture, French politics, and understood the world better with an entirely new perspective.
“That was a very transformative year for me, it was a year I started to understand the world a little bit more, in a way that I have never thought about it before.”
As a French teacher, she is setting her students on a path to discover the world and meet new people, simply because they speak French.
“And being in France, I was exposed to people from North Africa who speak Arabic, West Africa and people from French Africa in general.”
As she met more people, she ironically started to understand more about South Africa. Growing up there, she was isolated due to the racism in society at that time. Being in France allowed her to have a broader holistic view of society in South Africa.
In France, she gained knowledge about the culture ranging from small things such as “eating salad near the end of a meal,” and mostly eating croissants only on Sundays, to larger cultural differences. French people generally care more about where their food comes from and as she picked up on these cultural differences in France, she got immersed into the rhythm of how French people live their lives, slowing down and enjoying things more.
At the beginning of her teaching career, she also used to teach from a textbook because that was all she knew at the time. Going to France helped her understand that speaking to real people is not at all like the textbooks. She started to move her teaching style away from a textbook and avoided teaching grammar just for grammar’s sake.
“People speak fast, they use slang, so I try to remind students that it might not be exactly how I taught them.”
She continued on a journey away from her own French learning experience and looking back, her entire teaching journey has been “an incredible journey and it’s what kept me teaching for so long.”