comedic interview, comedy, Foreign Exchange Program, foreign exchange program pioneer, French American Class, humor, humorous interview, humour, La classe franco-americaine, President Mitterant, professor, world travel
Today’s Guest Star is a fascinating man who cannot be confined to four walls. He traveled to Machu Pichu before it was *discovered* by the rest of the world in the 60s, went to China before it became popular, and has lived everywhere from Iowa to Tasmania.
Today I’ll quiz him on the four “W”s: What the heck–? Who traveled to China before Nixon? Were you lost or did you intend to go? And Tasmania? Wasn’t that a cartoon?
HDYGT: Welcome André Girod! Would you please tell us what took you all those exciting places?
André Girod: My sense of adventure. But if you mean my career, until retirement I was a professor of Latin, Greek mythology and French history.
HDYGT: Really? That was one of my favourite subjects!
André Girod: (grins) Louis XIV, Napoleon, Jeanne d’Arc…?
HDYGT: Yes, I know all the Greek gods.
André Girod: (pulls out notepad, marks a large red “X”) I see.
HDYGT: (sure she aced it) Where did you teach?
André Girod: The first 15 years all my teaching took place between four walls, with a few windows.
HDYGT: Four Walls… That’s a town in Iowa, isn’t it?
André Girod: (marks another large red “X” on notepad) No. But Cedar Rapids is, where I taught at Coe College.
HDYGT: Cedar, and rapids- so you taught outside?
André Girod: (beams) Yes, actually, how did you know? I taught in the open for the last 25 years of my career. But not in Cedar Rapids.
HDYGT: Right. Lost too many students in the rapids…
André Girod: No. (red “X” on notepad) Cedar fever.
HDYGT: Awww, that was my second guess! …So where did you teach?
André Girod: In the early 70s I left conventional teaching to create the French-American Class (La class Franco-Américaine), where my teaching took place between continents, under the open sky!
HDYGT: Wait – Between Continents? Oh, oh! (raises arm) I know this one! Geology?
André Girod: No. (Slashes large red “X” on notepad) I developed a month long Foreign Exchange program — which was a brand new concept in the early 70s. Especially the way we did it.
HDYGT: (raises arm again) Oh! Oh!! You did it in platform shoes, with tightly permed hair, while watching the French Connection!
André Girod: (eyes HDYGT’s polyester print shirt, enormous bellbottoms and poodle perm, Marks notepad) No.
HDYGT: (stomps her Elton John boots on the floor) Dammit!
André Girod: (slashes two red “Xs”) Cursing in class.
HDYGT: (pouts, slumps at desk like bratty teenager)
HDYGT: (sits up, beams) You like it? Some things never go out of style.
André Girod: Yes! Thank God for that. (adjusts his thick black sunglasses, pushes up the sleeves on his black turtle neck, and slants his beret)
HDYGT: So how were your foreign exchange classes different than the ones we hear of today?
André Girod: Instead of exchanging one student at a time, we exchanged the entire class, for a month.
HDYGT: I get hassled for trying to exchange a candy bar I don’t like.
André Girod: Remember, in the early 70s these foreign exchange programs had never been done before. Especially transporting whole classes of French fifth graders to America to stay in an elementary school, and likewise take American fifth graders to France. Reciprocity between the schools, families and children.
HDYGT: Interesting. What did they study?
André Girod: The very first class we organized was during the summer. They learned judo, sailing, swimming, javelin throwing and much more.
HDYGT: Can I go? I’m told I’m very immature for my age.
André Girod: Well… the years after that we only exchanged classes during the winter. Skiing in France was a big hit.
HDYGT: Oh, too bad, I’m allergic to snow. Did you prefer running the French American Class to conventional teaching?
André Girod: I did enjoy conventional teaching during the first part of my career, but never enough to stay in the same school for more than 2 years. I had to change my horizons: 2 years in the USA, 2 years in Australia, 2 years in France and so on. This is the only way to refresh your teaching. Then I tired of this continuous change, so I decided to meld the two, by teaching kids about travel and living in a foreign country. This is how I got the idea to start the French American Class, which I ran until I sold it in the late 1990s.
HDYGT: What did you do before teaching?
André Girod: I worked for 11 years as a tour guide, in the 50s/60s, traveling with my backpack, which made it easy to create the French American class. I have also been an encyclopedia salesman, a waiter, ski instructor, ski school director…
HDYGT: What a wealth of experiences.
André Girod: I have published several books on my experiences: Ilkya, French-American class, Caltecor 5127, Flammes du pere inconnu, to name a few.
HDYGT: And what keeps you busy today?
André Girod: Today I host art exhibits on my property. I live in a small village in Southern France, in the Luberon Vaucluse region. I am also the Director of Culture for our city hall in the village of Lauris.
HDYGT: Many of your past students have tracked you down to thank you for so many wonderful memories of their experiences in the French-American Class. I’d like to thank you for being such a good sport and sharing your adventures with us. So, as always– Thank You For Playing!!