A French Teacher's Memories: How to Ride Poetry
by Gabrielle Guichard
I have a confession to make, I do not like poetry very much. As a part of my French teacher's job was to explain French poetry, I tended to dispose of this part in as few lessons as possible. Of course, year after year, the method proved to be little sensible: the juniors could not understand a course run at university level and I had to explain everything twice.
Usually, when pupils do not understand, they get bored and begin to chat, to conduct experiments on how to fly a paper plane, and many other activities that have little in common with the subject of the lesson.
Once, mine prefered to pretend to be riding a motorbike. Their arms were stretched out in front of them, their hands were clutching the handlebars and they were leaning to right or left, depending on the bend they had to take. It was a ballet, though it was danced by sitting people (and rather monotonous). At least, it was highly rhythmic.
I recognized this rhythme, even if it was the first time I "saw" it. It was Victor Hugo's verse rhythm. I flipped through my textbook quickly, to find a poem by Victor Hugo (you are sure there is at least one in any French textbook).
"Roar your motorbike to page xx and read in rhythm" I told them.
They read. Thanks to this ride, I was able to show them the significance of the rhythm in Victor Hugo's poetry. It was not an explanation, but I kept the control of the situation; it was not so bad a result.