DeClerck experiences “how life should be”


DeClerck said, “There’s a rhythm to the city life… We felt like we belonged to the community.” Photo by: Lily Lara

Liliana Lara

Sebastien DeClerck, French teacher at Ventura High School, decided to take a break during the 2016-2017 school year and go to Spain with his family. His wife is on sabbatical, so she got a year to go prepare a native speakers program for Ventura College.

To prepare for the year away, DeClerck saved up money, through teaching night classes at VC so that he could take a year off of unpaid leave. Once in Spain, his kids were taking Spanish classes in school and he taught English Composition classes online for a couple of hours a day for VC.

Even after all the preparation, DeClerck said that he should have been more prepared for his kids to be culture shocked.

Madrid’s lifestyle is a bit more laid back then that of Ventura. DeClerck said, “I’m pretty active and I move around a lot and I’m high energy but I really wanted to slow down. It’s a society that works a lot less. They make a conscious effort to enjoy life.” There, they have a big break in the middle of the day. They stay up later and their day starts later. There is also more respect for the weekends and vacation time.

An average day for DeClerck consisted of waking up around 7:30 a.m., eating breakfast, walking his kids to school, stopping to have coffee with his wife every week for a few hours just to talk. Then he went home for a couple of hours to work, until he walked back to the school to pick up kids. After that, they would all go back to the house and make a big hot lunch, because it was the main meal of the day. Following lunch came a nap and reading, followed by taking the kids back to school for two more hours. After those couple of hours, DeClerck and his family would walk around downtown and go to museums. They would return home around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. to have dinner and go to bed after doing an hour of homework at most.

Something that surprised DeClerck when he returned to the U.S. was “that being tired is kind of the lifestyle here. When I ask students how they are they say, ‘Oh I’m tired,’ and when I talk to colleagues, they are tired because they work so much.”

When asked if the trip changed his teaching style, DeClerck responded with, “No. I gained perspective and I have things I can share with my students in terms of what’s important in life and I know a little better about assigning homework and making sure I’m remembering my students mental health and emotional health. I’m telling them to take care of themselves and I think I always kind of knew that, but I think it was reinforced. I’m a little more critical of the schooling system we have here. I think it over-works and over-stresses students. I’m more conscious about making sure that I don’t stress out my students.”

Even Though DeClerck spent a year of spending time with his family, writing poetry, riding bikes, reading, going to museums, and most importantly, “taking it easy,” he said he “missed coming into work and spending time with my students” and he is “very glad to be back at Ventura High.”