(Madame Ginette Tremblay a relevé une fois de plus un défi peu commun : traduire en anglais la dernière chronique de Sophie Torris, La craie au ventre… encore ! Ginette Tremblay, elle-même professeure, a reconnu, dans la description que donnait la langue savoureuse de Sophie, les angoisses de tous ceux et de toutes celles qui ont à se présenter devant une classe et à passer une matière. C’est à l’intention de nombreux enseignants anglophones que notre traductrice s’est efforcée, avec succès, de rendre le verbe agile et syncopé de notre chroniqueuse.)
Chalky Fear in my Chest … Once More !
I wished upon my blackboard for a quiet interlude. But chalk is embedded profoundly within me. One must believe that I must really have the chalky career. Tomorrow I leave my thirty-six territories. Certainly, after four weeks of breaking my back intensively ploughing on an unknown earth-subject, I am more than happy for this fallow, but nonetheless, I have a chalky fear in my chest. Once more. Always… Because during this month, Cat, thirty-six peninsulas grew on me, thirty-six mother’s arms. I grew attached to them. I always do.
But they are ungrateful. Like children. Most of them leave Mother-earth without looking back. They are already elsewhere. But sometimes, many, many years later, and by the greatest of chances, you run into one of them, he watches you from a distance and when, at last, he dares approach you, when he recall you even though you have not forgotten him, and he confides, with a tear in his eye, that you counted for him, when he recites with carefulness the few outmoded verses you had taught him, then, you know you have won. But it happens often so many years after. And water will have passed under your bridges.
I have no idea if I have won this time. Yet, the die is cast. Maybe, after all, I have succeeded in transmitting a certain enthusiasm for this earth-subject that was not mine, for I am a good actress and I have learned how to play. And yet, hasn’t the teaching profession often been compared to acting? Voice projection, on-stage presence, the script itself, improvisation on someone else’s text. But it isn’t that simple, Cat, because there is on both sides two levels to take into consideration: the text and its transmission. It is therefore, most of the time, for the actor as the teacher, a question of delivering a message. But perhaps we could say that it is the same nature? Isn’t the wood on stages more permeable to subjectivity than that of the stands? When the actor conveys emotions, isn’t the teacher supposed to convey, above all, knowledge? Is my student sitting to suffer, to be happy with me, to spend a good time, or to withdraw from my science the most exact premises? Finally, did my course have any sort of cathartic target? I must admit that I would draw pleasure to have some of them serve their sentence, but is that the genuine didactic mission that I was entrusted with? I concede to you, Cat, that my reasoning is a tad simplistic. Far from me the idea to reduce dramaturgy to the perspective of guilty passions, you must know this. Theater isn’t without sense, without apprenticeship. I simply want to make a point that the sciences of education are intended to be objective. If the playwright uses ellipses to stimulate a reflexion, up to what point should the partition of a teacher be deficient?
I am telling you, I’ve just experienced it, the first reading of a partition can be but imperfect, even if one has a good ear for music. So then, can one decently cultivate knowledge on a poor text? You will probably agree, dear Cat, that a virgin territory does not flourish as well as a cultivated land. A new vine is weakened by transplantation. If one can wish for a few grapes on the third year, a real harvest can be hoped for only the year after. I am not mistaken then in declaring that one teaches well what has been ripened many times. And even four years later, for a vintage to have classification, there is need for a noble grapes (the subject), a good winemaker (the teacher), a good soil (the student), and good weather conditions (the moods, the perceptions, the context, the moment). My harvest should, I shall hope, be less and less “late vintage”.
The evaluation by students of whether or not their teacher was in control of his subject has always amused me. What do they know about it? On what bases do they evaluate? Do I stutter my speech, do I work without a net, without notes? When one asks my students what they liked about my course, they answer unanimously:”Sophie.” At first, I was flattered. Now, I know that the most important is not for them to have a good time with the whimsical winemaker that I am, but rather that they learn from me, that I help them to ferment, sort of say.
Can it be concluded, the Cat, by saying that it is the chemistry between objectivity of the subject, the subjectivity of the teacher, and that of the class that make a good wine? An earth-subject must resemble those who cultivate it, don’t you think? And I strongly believe in the fertilizer of digressions, anecdotes, and of links. I will continue without doubts to risk improbable grafts. Do not think that I teach for work or for my career, I teach to spark life.
If one does not take root on the first groundbreaking, one can conversely, when to deeply rooted into an earth-subject, risk earth’s crust thickening. But this is another story and perhaps – who knows – the third part of this chronicle.
Regards to you, the Cat, chalky fear in my chest, always.
About the translator :
Ginette Tremblay is a Master of Arts student at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi. Aside from her research interest in Shakespearean studies, Ginette holds a B.A in TESL and is currently teaching English as a second language at Cegep de Jonquiere.