by Evan Newman
November 11, 2019
As you come up the final step into the top of the d-hallway stairwell, you find yourself standing beside a busy French cafe with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Two more steps and suddenly, the Louvre is to your left, glistening in the sunlight, and the Arc de Triomphe, illuminated by the colors of the French flag in the night sky. As you look in front of you, you see the flags of the different francophone countries and, finally, the French flag sprawled out on the wall in front of you, and a sign on it that reads: “La France.”
This past Monday, the fourth of November, “French Week” had officially begun, which featured decorations in the stairwell leading to the upstairs world language classrooms, trivia questions for homerooms to compete to answer each day, and French music that played at the end of each day during the week. In addition, a showcase of French art was displayed in the main entrance to the school. The program was run by the Société d’Honoraire Française (SHF).
This is one of the main activities that their honor society holds for its members each year, dating back as far as 2002. However, the SHF receives some help when they go about designing what they want to do for each French week. According to Ms. Laura Cassard, the head of the SHF and a French teacher here at Atholton, the American Association of Teachers of French, an organization of French teachers founded in 1927, focus on supporting teachers so that they can create programs such as SHF in schools across the country, and the activities that the programs create, such as “French Week.”
“A lot of people don’t even know that we have a French program here at Atholton,” said Ms. Cassard. “It’s important for us to get it out there that we do have a French program, that students are learning and using French… and that it’s important in the school and [to know] the importance of French in the world.”
As for the members of the SHF themselves, they set out to create the French-themed decorations for the stairwell, as the Student Government Association (SGA) did for homecoming. “This is centered on French, and we can take the experiences we had in class and apply them to this, which you can’t do with homecoming because that’s very different,” said junior Nikki Farnham, the Premier Ministre, or the “Prime Minister” in French, of the SHF. Members met after school to plan and create all of the decorations. Junior Aliya Belay, a member of the SHF, stated, “It’s fun. I don’t really like art, but I get to use a ruler… and I’m excited to see how it all comes together.”
This year’s decorations included a table beside the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe that had been made with the colors of the French flag, stained glass windows from the Cathedrale de Reims, the cathedral where the first king of Gaul, Clovis, was coronated, small flags of francophone countries draped over the door into the g hallway, and a large French flag with “La France” written on it. These decorations showcased the theme of French landmarks. The members of the SHF met to decide what theme to for “French Week” to have and what decorations to include under that theme. Meetings are run by senior Chloe Shader, the roi, or “king” in French, along with Farnham, the premiere ministre.
All of the decorations, trivia questions and music promote French and francophone culture across the school while showing off what the French students have learned. French Week is not the only way the SHF will show off French culture, however. Later this year, there will be a world language showcase that the SHF participates in to explain and present aspects of French culture. The showcase has many different world languages, so make sure to keep an eye out for it, et jouissez le Semaine de Français!