Letters (and Lessons) from Luxembourg

When one of the classes of 6e students, the youngest students at the Lycée Hubert Clément in Esch-sur-Alzette, found out that their school had an English Teaching Assistant from America, they were very intrigued. They were jealous that I had been focusing on teaching to the upper level students, and pleaded for me to visit their class. I had warned them that my lack of Luxembourgish would make it very hard for me to teach them, but they were unfazed. They told me, fearlessly, “We will understand your English because you speak American English, which is just like British English but without rules”. Overlooking their misconceptions about American English (which I eventually addressed in a lesson on the differences between American and British English), it has been a pleasure to work with them as well as all the other students at Hubert Clément.

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Working at the Lycée has been a truly rewarding experience, and I have immensely enjoyed bringing a piece of American culture to the classrooms. One of the best aspects about the experience is the flexibility, which has allowed me to work with a wide range of students and teach a wide variety of subjects. In some cases, my lessons have focused on topics that the students requested, such as the election, the 2nd amendment, American holidays, and high school life in America. In other cases, I have brought in personal experiences and taught lessons on topics that I thought they would enjoy, such as the musical Hamilton (yes, really!). For some teachers, I even help them with their curriculum. For example, while studying colonial literature, I taught lessons in which we discussed Winthrop’s “City upon a Hill” and held our own mock witch hunt as part of the Salem Witch trials.

My biggest personal accomplishment was starting a “Pen Pal” exchange club at my school. Once a month, afterschool, I provide the students the opportunity to write letters in English that are exchanged with students in my home state of Arizona who are learning one of Luxembourg’s official languages (French and German). Last semester, over 50 students attended the sessions to write letters. The reception was so overwhelming that, during one session, we had to scramble at the last minute to find a second room for us to use!

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Each session typically has a theme, such as a Thanksgiving session in November and “Cookies and Cocoa” in December (where I provided cookies and hot chocolate). The teachers and administration have been incredibly supportive, and every day I get asked by wide eye students when will the replies be coming (soon, I promise!). It has been really incredible for me to see these students get so excited about sharing their Luxembourgish culture with students from the United States, while anxiously waiting to hear about American culture firsthand from American students.

– Andrew Ahearne
2016-2017 U.S. Fulbright grantee to Luxembourg