All Careers Considered: Expanding your Horizon with Margaret Bishop Schlichter

In this episode, we speak with Margaret Bishop Schlichter about her journey from IU Bloomington to her important role at Walter Johnson High School. She tells us about her many experiences along the way and how those experiences have molded her into the person she is today. She also speaks on how her perspective has changed since being a student at IU.

Margaret Bishop Schlichter is a French teacher at Walter Johnson High School. Her mission is to train students in the vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, reading and writing of French. Additionally, she teaches students how to appreciate the culture and history of the language.

Before teaching at Walter Johnson High School, Margaret had many other experiences that put her on the path to where she is today. This included joining a teaching assistant program in France, studying abroad, and INSERT. In Margaret`s time abroad she mentions that being away in a foreign country really helped her learn something about herself that she hadn`t known before. She also emphasizes how important it is to meet people, especially from a different culture or background, as it really broadens your horizon as well as theirs. It is the people we know least about that will have the biggest impact on us and our lives. She has served in various roles including: Learning and Engagement Facilitator for Credible Behavioral Health Software and as an English Language Assistant in Saverne, France.

Prior to rejoining teaching, Margaret served as a Business Development Specialist for Allovue. “Allovue empowers educators at every level to allocate resources to best support the needs of students. Our user-friendly software applications allow district officials, principals, and other school administrators to visualize, analyze, and optimize the impact of spending on outcomes in education. Our flagship product, Balance, contains applications to analyze school budgets, track and forecast expenditures, identify trends over time, and plan for future capital investments.”

Margaret currently resides in Rockville, MD, where she continues to teach her students about language and its culture.

Participate in Themester 2021 — Resilience

Season 5 of All Careers Considered is produced in conjunction with the College of Arts + Sciences Themester 2021 on Resilience. One way you can participate in Themester is to attend a Themester event.


Ricardy: Hey, Hoosiers! Welcome back to the All Careers Considered podcast hosted by the Walter Center for Career Achievement, which is the Career Services Center that specifically serves students and alumni and the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. We are on a mission to help you achieve career success by supporting you in your pursuit of impactful experiences, designing your life, sharing your story, and building meaningful connections. My name is Ricardy Ellie and I am an undergraduate intern for the Water Center for Career Achievement, working with an amazing team of both undergraduate and graduate students who you’ll hear from him later episode of the podcast. A College of Arts and Science degree can unlock so many opportunities you may not have even thought were possible. I’m here to show you that really is the case by interviewing alumni and hearing each of these stories and how they got there. Next up is this week’s episode with Margaret, a French teacher at Walter Johnson High School. Through language education, Margaret inspires students to not just learn the language, but to also discover and appreciate the history and culture of where the language is from. Margaret graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in French and Italian Studies from Indiana University in 2012. I had a great time learning more about Margaret’s journey, her amazing experiences, and how her College of Arts and Sciences degree has influenced her life. I really enjoyed our conversation and I believe you will all find a lot of wisdom in the conversation. Enjoy the episode! 

Ricardy: Alright, thank you so much for being here with us today on the College of Arts and Sciences All Careers Considered podcast, Margaret. To begin, you’ve had a ton of experiences in language studies as a young professional from working as an English language assistant at the Lycée du General Leclerc, to your current role at the Walter Johnson High School. With that being said, Margaret, would you like to start out by telling me about your current role at a French teacher at Walter Johnson High School?  

Margaret: To start off with, I started off studying abroad or working abroad in France at the Lycée and currently I’m a French teacher on a team of three other French teachers. And so, I teach French 2 and French 4. But depending on the year and things like that that those levels can change.  

Ricardy: Awesome. So how did you choose your field of study and what inspired you to pick the industry that you’re currently in today?  

Margaret: Yeah. So I took French in high school and I fell in love with the language. And it was actually at IU where I was able to take these amazing literature classes and be with these incredible professors and get to be able to take a level that was really fascinating. And I felt that I had gone on to do my master’s and I had funding for the PhD. But something that I wanted to really focus on was the teaching aspect. So the research introduced me, interested me a lot less than teaching. And the place where you can really focus on teaching a lot, was actually in high school. That’s how I decided to do that.  

Ricardy: That’s awesome. How would you say your Bachelor of Arts in French and Italian studies from the College of Arts and Sciences has enhanced your career so far?  

Margaret: Yeah. So I loved my experience at IU and I would say that what I learned from IU was how to teach in such a way where you could inspire kids to understand the nuance and the beauty and how to move away from a very old school way of teaching. And how to bring in all sorts of different ways of teaching that would make it a lot more interesting for the students. And so things that I learned at IU, the history of the French language, and different linguistic classes, and different things like that, I’ve actually brought that into the high school level. And a lot of that was inspired by what I learned at IU.  

Ricardy: So for our podcast, the theme is Resilience. in your own words, what does resilience mean to you and the work that you do today?  

Margaret: Wow, that’s a great question. So I, with resilience, to be honest, I had left teaching. I had gone into work as a corporate trainer and decided to come back into teaching high school. And for me, what resilience means is that you’re able to put up with the unpleasant part because what you like is so much fun and so resilience for me is each day waking up, resetting where you need to go and understanding that today is a new day and going backwards, that greater goal, the greater mission that you have. So it’s like circling constantly back to that. And I think resilience is possible when you’re doing something that you’re passionate about. I think it’s really hard to be resilient if you don’t, if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing.  

Ricardy: Yeah, for sure. And who or what was your biggest motivator throughout your journey?  

Margaret: Well, there’s a lot of people and I have to admit, I don’t remember exact professor’s names because it has been a good amount of time, It’s been a long time. But throughout the way, I think professors at IU, a lot of them were really helpful and encouraging me to not only enjoy the material, but when I decided to go and do the teaching assistant program and France, teachers were able to write recommendations, were able to advise me on what to do. And IU did a really good job of helping me find internships that were in the line of works that I could see if I liked the material before I got started. So IU was really strongly with that. Throughout my career I was able to work with really wonderful people who pushed me to become really good at what I was doing. So not only supportive but actually giving legitimate feedback. Oh, hey, I think what you’re doing here is great. And what I think you’re doing here could be improved. Instead, that’s helped me out a lot along the way as well.  

Ricardy: Awesome. And speaking on studying abroad, what advice do you have to give the current IU students who may not have the same opportunities to go abroad because of the global pandemic that we’re going through right now and looking ahead at their futures.  

Margaret: Well, so I started abroad with, with a focus on language which I really loved, but I realize not everybody may have that same focus I think, is to go to a place that is different enough. Where when you’re there, you can find out something new about yourself. And so if you’re not able to actually travel due to COVID, if you can meet people from different cultures and backgrounds and everything like that, it really broadens your horizon. It broadens theirs as well. And so finding opportunities, whether that’s different groups to meet different people or on campus if you can have a language partner or even join different groups of people from different nationalities in class is doing that anything that helps you learn about a different culture, I think, is incredibly valid and as a language teacher, if you can do that in a foreign language, I think that’s really solid to be able to do that.  

Ricardy: Those are awesome ways to definitely go about not being able to go abroad. So when did you learn all three of your language and how long did it take you for each one? 

Margaret: Okay. So French I took I started taking in high school and actually lived with a host family in France in high school. So I did that, went back over. And I worked at a somewhat seedy hotel in France. And so, learned a lot, learned a lot that. So that took the longest and I think for, for that skill because it was the first time learning that type of skill, it took a long time. But then Italian, because it was very similar to French and I would say to get up to be conversational, it took about a year and then I studied abroad in Bologna through Indiana University, so I had that. And then Spanish, I only took a semester of it, but absolutely loved it and that, I just feel like if I could go back, I could get it really quickly.  

Ricardy: Yeah, for sure. And then on campus, while you’re juggling all your class and learning different languages at the same time, what did you find was your best way to cope with the stress of being a college student? 

MargaretI think doing, a lot of, I met some of my best friends. So it’s funny, I’m 33 now and we’re now going to all the weddings of the friends that people eat up from IU. And so, yeah, I think it’s finding people who enjoy what you like, finding trying different types of activities. And because you may not know what you like, I think in high school, people kind of maybe get pigeonholed or your parents have an influence or something like that. But in high school or in college rather, I loved being a part of ushering for the auditorium and all the language clubs. But also on the other side of that, I’m going to friends houses and different like social activities and things like that. So balancing that was really, really nice.  

Ricardy: Yeah, definitely. And how necessary do you think it is for students to go and try to learn another language and do you feel it’s opened doors for you or give you a competitive edge for your work?  

Margaret: Yeah, I think foreign language is incredibly important. I think as we are able to work remotely, which is one of the good things with the pandemic. Having foreign languages means that you can, if you have a job and you want to move to a different country and your job in the US case you $70 thousand and you go to a country where the cost of living is a lot cheaper, you can have this really great quality of life. And having that foreign language allows you to be able to work for different companies and different in different countries and things like that, but also being able to work with different colleagues. And I really believe that if you can speak that language even a little bit, then people are more likely to allow you to do a project that maybe is working with people from France or maybe even going to France or whatever country abroad. So I really think foreign language is critical and I think it opened for me tons of opportunities. So I find it very, very important.  

Ricardy: How do you feel the language have affected you from a cultural standpoint, do you feel yourself obtaining more of a respect for the culture at all?  

Margaret: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think honestly, for the different languages, I feel like it kind of highlights a different part of my personality. Or I’m able to say things I wouldn’t be able to say in another language. And there’s so many of them. It’s like in Italian, If you go to like, brutta figura, is to like make an idiot out of yourself or to do something really rude, which is cute and Italian and it’s a pleasant way of saying it, but it’s kind of hard to have it in English. So there’s so many different things like that that I think language has done. I don’t feel like I’m not answering, one more time the question? 

Ricardy: Yeah, just how do feel that language has affected you from a cultural standpoint and do you feel yourself obtaining more of a respect or connection to the culture at all? 

Margaret: Being able to speak the language is the quickest way to kind of get an inroads with a person, with somebody, in a really like, not in a conniving way, but in a way that is to connect with someone. And I think because in Italy I lived with a Italian roommates and I spoke the language. And because of that, I was able to be let into that world, which meant that I was able to see it in a much different way than I would have if I didn’t speak the language. And I think the same thing with French. Being able to speak French has allowed me to connect with a lot of different people and even my students. I’ve been able to connect with them because I have a lot of native speakers who actually take French, and so being able to connect with them as well, which is really lovely. So it’s, to understand a culture, I really believe that you need to be able to speak a language or at least understand a few key words or phrases. 

Ricardy: So at IU, students have the chance to study abroad, and with your experience studying abroad and being over there, how do you feel like? What advice would you give the students that would push them over the edge to take that risk, to go to a foreign country they may not be comfortable with and do you feel like it’s definitely worth it in the long run? 

Margaret: Yeah, I think you meet amazing friends. You learn a ton about yourself. And I think as a language teacher, I’ll just put a plug here if you can actually have a focus on becoming somewhat fluent in the language, you’ll get the most out of it. I think you still got a lot out of it, if you don’t learn a foreign language, but if you do, then you actually have a solid scale to put on your resume as well. So that’s something that if you’re going and money, like you’ve got to really make sure that you get the most bang for your buck, I think learning the foreign languages is critical.  

Ricardy: That’s great advice. And how do you feel that the pandemic affected your teaching in the classroom? How are you able to adapt and adjust to the circumstances?  

Margaret: Also, yeah, really good questions. It’s made me have to come very much into the 21st century. So, I am lots of technology, lots of using kind of like the features on the technology that I would always be too afraid to use, but that kids get a lot out of. So yeah, there’s so much more stuff that we can do. And Zoom school was interesting in that as a teacher, there are some real limitations, but there is also some real plusses, where the importance of the sidebar conversation, the fact that they could send me something in chat and that privacy, actually was a real positive. So Zoom school have a lot of negatives, but I think it also provided kids who struggle with anxiety and things like that to really thrive because they could, they could turn their screen off, they could mute themselves, when they needed a pause, things like that. So having that made it really nice and also realizing how easy it is to Zoom with people. So I haven’t done it yet, but I would love to have friends from France Zoom in to my French class. We’ll see, we’ll see. But yeah, kind of where that is.  

Ricardy: Awesome. And what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in yourself from when you were an undergraduate at IU Bloomington up until now?  

Margaret: Um, humility. I will tell you, I remember thinking, when I get out of college, I’ll give myself two, three years, I’m going to have my life together, I’m going to be married by 27. I’m going to have my house. Slow the brakes. I’ll tell everybody: your career, you’re going to be really hitting a pretty good spot at like 40, not at 27. Don’t put that pressure on yourself. Don’t do that. It’s going to take a lot longer and listen to people who had been doing the job for a long time because yes, they’re a little jaded at times, yes, they might do things that might be a little bit what you perceive as outdated, but they know what they’re talking about. They’ve been there, and I think learning humility and that you don’t know what you’re doing and that’s okay as is a really good thing.  

Ricardy: Yeah totally. Was there ever a moment in your journey that you wanted to quit, and if so why and what gave you the motivation to keep going? 

Margaret: Yeah, lots of different points. With language, it doesn’t, the pay, being a public school teacher does not pay that much. And so there’s a lot of times where it’s difficult. But something that I learned, truly, is that if you, you have to have a job that pays the bills so that you can enjoy what you’re doing. So there is that reality, but there’s also a reality that if you don’t like what you’re doing, it’s, it’s painful and so you don’t want to go above and beyond. And so because where you work is where you spend so much of your life, if you don’t like it, it, it really can lead you astray. And so, something that I wish I had known before I graduated undergrad, is I would have done, because I studied French, Italian, which were amazing and I loved it. But also maybe coupling that with like a business degree or something could have added that balance. 

Ricardy: Yeah for sure. What was your transition like from student to teacher and what advice can you give to IU students who aspire to be teachers or professors in the future?  

Margaret: Yeah, great question. For teaching, get somebody to give you really honest feedback. Someone you trust, who gives you feedback in the style that you need, whether that’s like straightforward, or for me, very sugarcoated. But you want to make sure that you have somebody who can give you feedback. Because in the beginning with teaching, you’re going to need to learn a lot. And there’s the theory. And then there’s the practice. And being able to meld the two of them is really helpful. So when I first started teaching, I taught, well after, after grad school, I taught in Philadelphia. And I had an amazing, amazing woman who would tell me when my lessons, when I thought they were great, but the kids were clearly bored. And she was so good at telling me, giving me actual feedback. And having somebody who can give you real feedback helps you improve. Otherwise, you just kind of stay the same and you have trouble understanding where you’re at.  

Ricardy: Yeah, definitely. For sure. And what would you say has been the biggest teaching moment in your career so far?  

Margaret: That’s a great question. There’s lots of little ones. I think, there are the ones where kids, you know, they learn French. It’s like okay. And then they go and they meet someone who’s a French speaker. And they realize that they can communicate, or they go to a French speaking country and they come back and they can really communicate. And there’s this light bulb that goes off and this excitement, and that’s really, really beautiful. And then just those, those moments with teaching when the class comes together, everyone’s jiving and it’s really exciting and everything’s coming together. There’s a kind of magic there. So yeah, it’s really beautiful when that all works.  

Ricardy: Yeah, for sure, definitely. And, one of the other questions are, what is your favorite French cuisine? 

Margaret: Ooh, French cuisine, french dish. Well, well, there’s, there’s a lot of them. Poutine. So gotta love some fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Amazing. There’s chaussons aux pommes, which is like an apple turnover. That’s a Parisian, or not Parisian, a French pastry that’s awesome. Tagine, kind of like the Moroccan or Tunisian stew is really great. So yeah, definitely lots to choose from.  

Ricadry: Well awesome, Margaret, thank you so much for your time today. If students have any questions or want to keep up with the amazing ways you’re changing the world, how can students go about doing so?  

Margaret: Yeah, they can shoot me an e-mail. And so my Should I give my e-mail address? 

Ricardy: They can also communicate with you on the Walter Center for Success Network. 

Margaret: Yeah. Or reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m happy to connect over Zoom or or what have you. Yeah, for sure.  

Ricardy: Well, thank you so much for your time today.  

Margaret: Thank you so much. 

By The Walter Center For Career Achievement
The Walter Center For Career Achievement The Walter Center For Career Achievement