Teaching Traveling: Welcome, Steven Langlois, the traveling education rocker behind Educorock! Steven, tell us a bit about your background.
Steven: My name is Steven Langlois and I am a Department Head of Modern Languages and a French Immersion teacher at Sandwich Secondary School in LaSalle, Ontario, Canada. This is my 21st year teaching. In that time, I have taught French (Core and Immersion), English, History and Spanish at seven different schools to students in grades K to 12. On top of my teaching duties, and those as a husband and father, I am also a full-time educational composer, author and performer of songs and music videos that help students learn French, Spanish and English. I have worked with most of the major educational publishing companies in North America and some overseas as an author, composer or consultant. I have presented workshops, sessions and keynote addresses around the world on topics from motivating students with music to current topics like Multiple Intelligences, Scaffolding and the Common European Framework. Under the stage-name “Étienne” (and now “DJ DELF”, as well), I have taken my “classroom” global having performed concerts for students in cities all over the world.
TT: Awesome! Tell us more about your travels.
S: For the past 21 years, I have been blessed to have performed sold-out concerts in theatres and arenas to students and teachers literally all over the world. While most of my time is spent performing educational concerts throughout North America from Alaska to Florida and Halifax to Vancouver, I have had concert tours in New Zealand, Australia and I have performed in China and even at sea!
TT: Wow! How do you find your travel opportunities?
S: It found me. Being “Etienne” was NOT something that I ever purposed to become. It wasn’t even me that made up the stage-name. These two facts are intertwined in the same story of how it all started.
Back in 1993, like many teachers that didn’t have a job, I was a “substitute teacher.” At the time, I was covering a maternity leave that was about to expire, I asked Elaine Marentette, the French Consultant at our Board (known then as Perth County Board of Education), if I could address the French teachers of the Board at our next French meeting. Back then, teachers were responsible for phoning their own substitute teachers if they were going to be sick or away from class. I wanted to share some songs and activities that I did with my students (during that maternity leave job I was covering) so as to convince the French teachers of the Board that I would be a reliable teacher to call upon in their absence.
Bottom line, my mission failed. I never did get a single call to work as a substitute teacher. But, the teachers were so excited about the songs and activities, they demanded copies. And, the French Consultant was so excited that she said, “We have our own French rock star here. It’s ETIENNE!” (taking my name “Steven” and putting it into French: Etienne). From there, word of mouth spread about the songs and by the time the next year had rolled around, I was working full-time as an educational performer while starting my full-time teaching career.
So, music that I recorded in a tiny Church basement with a friend became the spark to music that spread like wildfire and allowed me to take my “teaching” literally around the world. Soon, I was teaching half the year and touring the rest of the year. I did that for years. Now, I take as many as 20 days scattered across the school year and fly in and out of cities performing two concerts at a time or spending weekends at conferences, sharing ideas and learning from my fellow colleagues.
People liken my life to that of Hannah Montana or Spider Man. On a Wednesday, I can be teaching in my classroom. That same night, I will catch a flight to a destination 4 hours away. The next day (Thursday), I perform two concerts and fly back home that night. The Friday, I’m back in the classroom as if nothing out-of-the-ordinary ever happened the day before. Even though I was busy doing this:
TT: What a life. How do you find the money to fund this travel?
S: It is probably no secret that renting theatres and arenas can cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in advance. For most concerts, our company (Educorock Productions Inc.), funds the upfront costs to rent the venues. Then, schools purchase tickets to the shows. This helps cover costs for the venue, sound and light crews, flights, hotels and all other expenses. Not a simple undertaking. But, it is well worth the while to be able share the love of languages with so many students and teachers. Other times, school districts may receive funding to boost a love for languages and we work with those school boards and schools to help reach that goal. This video is an example of how this partnership works.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
S: Wow. There are so many to choose from. “Powerful” is getting the same reaction from students (screaming, cheering and singing your songs word for word) no matter where you go. “Interesting” is going to New Zealand and having a Haka ceremony performed in your honour. “Funny” is taking for granted the impact we can make on people via our teaching. Case in point, though my music is used by teachers in France, I have not officially performed there to date. However, one of my songs was performed live on TV in front of millions in France by a fairly well-known artist named Justin Bieber. Though I never knew before that he was an “Etienne” fan, he chose one of my songs to sing live on TV when asked to sing a French song to the audience. Here is the video of Justin Bieber singing my song. You just never know.
TT: So funny. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?
S: Each and every place I go, I think I take a part of the people and their energy with me. Whether a crowd of 500 or 5000+ students, who wouldn’t get excited seeing everyone singing, dancing and having fun in the target language.
I try to bring that energy back into the classroom and into the workshops and sessions I share with my colleagues. And, of course, while travelling, I also scoop up items, menus and postcards along the way to show my students upon return.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
S: Travelling has become a hobby for me and my family. When not touring as an artist, we are often touring as tourists. We have travelled all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Central America, and beyond.
Often, we take video wherever we are and it ends up in our music videos. Case in point, this song about “pronouns” that includes family footage of us at the Great Wall in China:
TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
S: To quote Ted Kirkpatrick, do not have “a microscopic view of a telescopic realm.” Think outside of the box. Life is short. Don’t be afraid of change. Those not afraid of change tend to travel! I have full respect for those teachers that impact their communities by teaching in the same classroom, in the same school for 30+ years. How rich that community is for your efforts! But, please understand that some of us were called to teach in a different way. Some of us become our own version of a travelling circus, edu-taining the masses. And, those shared moments enrich the lives of all involved.
TT: Thanks so much, Steven! What a story you have. Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this remarkable traveling, singing teacher?