In Memoriam on Epiphany.
Nicole Hatfield 1-6-08
By Freddie A. Bowles
Posted from Fayetteville, Arkansas
On this last day of the holiday season in the new year of 2008, I sit before the flat screen of my laptop and allow my mind to wander through a maze of memories, dioramas of faded events, and hazy recollections of friends and mentors. It is Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, when the three Wise Men, Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar, offered their gifts to the Christ child. It seems fitting to share a vivid recollection about a very special gift that was given to a few of us as young students at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in the seventh decade of the last century.
We Discover Shared Memories
Of a Teacher Who Inspired Us.
If you approach each day with a sense of anticipation and a spirit of openness, you just might encounter a couple of kindred souls. You might discover a commonality of experience with total strangers in a moment of unexpected discovery.
I was blessed with such a moment a short few weeks ago when I joined two complete strangers, Jeanette and Tom, in discovering a common human link to our past. All three of us are graduates of UCA. In casual conversation we discovered in wonderment that we share memories of one special teacher who inspired us to pursue language teaching careers.
I recall the exact moment at our district foreign language conference last fall when the three of us reminisced about a marvelous, joyous, gentile lady from France — Madame Nicole Hatfield. We concurred that Madame Hatfield was our role model for teaching foreign languages, even though none of us went on to teach French. No matter; we each wanted to emulate her in our own careers, to model her joie de vivre, her chic couture, her love of teaching. She was the sole teacher who invited us to her home in our four years as undergraduates.
Rich Repast of Language, Culture.
In my last year of study as a UCA undergraduate, I signed up for eight hours of French under Madame Hatfield. I had studied Spanish for four years and German for three, and found great pleasure in learning a new language. I decided to take on a third. In relating that decision to my newfound friends last fall, I discovered that they, too, signed up for Madame Hatfield's French class when they were students. The three of us reveled in our shared enthusiasm for the rich repast of other languages and cultures.
Madame Hatfield taught in an original and highly effective manner. She broke the traditional grammar translation rules of "listen and repeat," choosing to toss tired methodology to the wind and plunge enthusiastically into the pleasures and uniqueness of French. Her way of arranging the classroom showed us that her way was different. We shoved the extra desks to the back of the classroom in Old Main and sat in a semi-circle so that we could talk to each other vis-à-vis. Our conversations in beginning French were real conversations about topics related to our daily lives.
We sang songs and chanted rhymes. We played games and role-played scenarios at the bakery and post office. We listened to Madame Hatfield's beautiful French as she described her life as a young girl in rural France during the last great war.
At the end of the semester, Madame Hatfield gave us a party at her house. She made us feel special. Most importantly, she treated us to a method of learning French that would inspire us in our own language learning classrooms. After four years of studying other languages, I understood for the first time in Madame Hatfield's class that learning a language can be fun.
Delightful Home-Baked Breads.
In my later years I became an instructor of German and English as a Second Language (ESL) at UCA. Madame Hatfield was our neighbor — two houses distant from our first rental home and just around the corner from Cricket Song, our brick-and-stone cottage. She was famous for her home-baked breads, so we were often the beneficiaries of these delights as a reward for feeding and caring for Le Chat, the Hatfield's feline companion, when Nicole and husband, Gene, were on the road together.
We visited each other as close neighbors often do, sharing homemade goodies, passing the time on our walks to and from campus, stopping by with cut flowers — each of us eagerly anticipating the first yellow trumpet of spring's herald, the daffodil, and wondering whose garden would be first to sprout this cheerful and fragrant perennial.
Beauty, Peace, Poise, and Grace.
Madame Hatfield departed abruptly from our simple neighborhood. She left gracefully with beauty, peace, and poise, at home on her divan in the sunroom surrounded by her dear friends, family, and the comforting knowledge of a life well-lived and well-loved.
With my new friends Jeanette and Tom, I remembered Madame Hatfield. I remember her now. Through memory we bring to life our past and the dear ones who inhabit it.
In a moment of openness and with a sense of anticipation, three strangers met and shared a common experience amidst the flurry of presentations at a district foreign language conference. Jeanette, Tom, and I lit the flame of remembrance for a magnificent teacher and friend, who shaped our careers and served as a model for how we must carry the torch and keep the teaching of language aflame and alive in the classroom.