Lesson learned: I’d rather see a cow than be one!

Once long ago, in haste and to deadline, I mistakenly substituted “y” (Spanish for “and”) – for each and every “et” (French for “and”) in an essay submitted to my Grade 11 French teacher. I was taking Spanish as well, and no doubt also had an assignment pending in that course.

What might have happened: a large red D at the top of the paper, with one or two of the offending “y’s” circled in red.

What did happen: each and every offending “y” (one uses “and” a lot, you know) on the first page circled in red, with red lines leading to the top of the page where I read “Vous n’avez jamais entendu l’expression: ‘Elle parle le français comme une vache espagnole.’ ?” Translation: “Have you never heard the expression: ‘She speaks French like a Spanish cow’?” I was also asked to correct the piece and resubmit it.

Is what did happen, formative assessment? It was cogent feedback which impacted my learning profoundly… sort of a pedagogical slap upside the head. I was insulted – maybe even a little hurt –  but I got it. My teacher knew I had been sloppy and told me so by meticulously circling all those “y’s” She gave me a chance to redeem myself and in doing so, sent the message that she knew I was capable of better.

Ever after, I checked my work far more closely and consequently learned the importance of accuracy in writing in English, Spanish or French. Oh, I still make errors but not nearly as many as I might, thanks to Mrs. Gordon and that stinging comment.

About Esmé Comfort

My husband Jim and I moved to the Bow Valley in 1980, settling in Canmore in 1983. Both my children were born in Canmore and attended K -12 in Canadian Rockies Public Schools District (CRPS), French Immersion. For the past six years I served as vice-chair of the board. Alberta Government support to the CRPS Inspiring Hearts & Minds initiative created opportunities for provincial, national and international outreach. In the past I held positions on the Canmore Daycare Board, the preschool board, and various school councils/PACs; I served as president of the local chapter of Canadian Parents for French for five years and sat on the provincial board for two. I currently sit on the board of the Canmore Folk Music Festival, work full time at an events management firm and edit, copy-edit and proofread on contract. My husband and I ran a small main street business for 18 years: supply and install floor wall and window coverings.
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