Academic Insights: TCS Languages & Culture Department

Day of the Dead Celebration

Trinity College School’s department of languages and culture has continued this year in its commitment to dynamic, rich and engaging learning models. Members of the modern language team attended the TPRS conference (Total Physical Response Storytelling) in August, refining their growing command of this pedagogical method. In Vancouver, they had a chance to explore this pedagogical system both as teachers and as students. The emphasis is upon the deliberate and targeted use of comprehensible input during classroom lessons. The class becomes a language stage, a performative space within which all students have ready access to the referents, models, narratives and tools needed to explore collaboratively the language at play. Rote memorization and static learning have given way to exploratory, dynamic language application. Students learn to navigate the fluidity of expression, developing a capacity for expression that is not dictated by the artifices of script. Extemporaneous language use is at the heart of the learning model. This has transformed the classrooms themselves. Desks have given way to open performance spaces. Pens and paper are as important now as props and costumes. Music, poetry and the lyricism of language are highlighted in the classroom and in the hallway. This area of the School has been transformed through the efforts of these teachers. Extended examples of this include the Day of the Dead celebrations held for the broader school community. Dancing, singing and community were the focus through the guests and displays organized by Ms. Maria Velasquez-Labrecque. The health of modern language study, including French, Spanish and German, is tied to these exciting innovations inside and outside of the classroom.

The French program at TCS is involved in the biennial exchange program with a partner school in France. Having hosted our Parisian guests in the fall term, the students are now looking forward to their visit over the March Break. This kind of experience emphasizes cross-cultural literacy and aspects of global citizenship. Language learning, coupled with experiential education, affords heightened awareness of those values, habits and practices that bring our communities together. The leadership of Ms. Rachel Stephens, Ms. Tiffany Bathurst and Mr. Matt Fox is directing a student experience that is purposeful and that complements the broader school mission.

New this year will be the departmental inclusion of DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française) testing for all senior level students in French. This is a value-added extension of the Grade 12 program, providing students with an internationally recognized certificate of bilingualism that is applicable outside of the academy. This initiative extends the curricular expectations of the program while providing students with another rehearsal model that is of benefit in preparation for the AP French examination.

The classics, Latin and philosophy team continues to serve a fundamental and distinguishing role within the TCS program. Ms. Gillian Scott is a welcome and enthusiastic member of the team who is breathing life into the texts and lessons derived from Greece and Rome. There is no time during which the challenges posed to civic and civil discourse might be explored with greater sense of pertinence and acuity than today. The models provided both by the myths and tragedies of the Greeks and by the political models of the Romans serve as important counterpoints for the modern student. Questions of leadership, citizenship, ethics and responsibility are among the foci of these disciplines. In the Latin classroom, students learn the ability to read codified language, deriving meaning from the details of morphology and syntax. This is of immediate relevance to our technological economy that uses similar models when generating the next useful application. The intellectual discipline coupled with the need for accurate expression helps students of Latin negotiate the opportunities that present themselves in tradition STE(A)M courses and in the other liberal arts.

It is with delight that I have the chance to celebrate the work, the efforts and the success of the students and faculty associated with the languages and culture department at TCS.

- By Dr. Greg Hodges, head of languages & culture