On Monday, April 27, 1998, Claudia Hommel presented a program entitled “Souvenirs of Paris” to students at Robinson High School. Funds for this project were obtained in part by a Small Grant from the AATF and from the local VFW. Veterans of WWII were invited as special guests. Claudia's program (which is presented in French and English) is set in the time period right after WWII. I thought the program would be of interest to veterans who had served in Europe, particularly France during the war.

Prior to the performance, we planned what we would do. One class wrote invitations to the veterans (over 60 of them), created bulletin boards, decided who would serve as host for Claudia, etc. Another class made table decorations with candles melted over bottles, put together ten little round inexpensive tables with red checked tablecloths, and set up the room the day of the performance. The last class planned refreshments.

The day Claudia came, she spent the first period talking to the French students and the drama class about preparing for a performance and went through a song and the meaning of the song. During the next class, she talked about herself and her career. The performance was set at 12:15 because it worked best in the schedule. Several veterans attended as well as the music appreciation class, art class, and an AP English class.

During the last period of the day, Claudia conducted a master class for the chorus while my French students watched. This project was particularly effective because it was done during school time where everyone could attend and because we involved the community—the veterans.

It was a thrill to watch Claudia work and relate to these students. It is an honor to have a professional of her caliber come spend the day with the students and connect with them as she did. The students may forget how to conjugate various verbs in a few years or how to say things in French, but experiences like this will stay with them forever. Perhaps we need to include more cultural experiences for our students—after all, isn’t this why students sign up for French? (Students do not take French because they can’t wait to conjugate verbs or learn sentence construction.) Yes, cultural experiences can make the difference!

I would like to thank the AATF for this grant. It meant a lot to me and to my students.

Judith A. Beckes
Robinson High School (IL)

Reprinted from the AATF National Bulletin, Special Issue, Vol. 24 No. 5 (May 1999)


Created: April 25, 1999
Last update: July 31, 2015