There’s student engagement – and then there’s Rachel Dow.
The student in McGill’s School of Continuing Studies gave an unusual Zoom presentation to her translation class on Feb. 11: from her hospital bed 35 hours after giving birth.
“I was pretty determined,” said Dow, who works on a horse farm in Rigaud. “I really wanted to get through the course with the best grade possible.”
James Archibald, who teaches the French-to-English course Dow is enrolled in, said that he didn’t know she was in the hospital when he sent her an email asking her to present her translation of a passage in the novel La cliente, by Pierre Assouline.
“It was the first class I had with her,” said Archibald. “What’s fascinating is that I usually pick a couple of students to talk about an assignment – the students I think are going to say something interesting.”
Dow had submitted “an interesting answer to the assignment, so I sent her that email.”
She replied: “I hope you don’t mind if the class is interrupted – I’m in the hospital and the nurses or the doctors might come by or the baby might cry.”
Archibald said that if she was comfortable with going ahead, he was also.
“I usually start the class with ‘les potins du jour’ [the daily gossip], and told the class we have a new student and that during Dow’s presentation, I would introduce that student.”
Dow gave “a very cogent explanation of her translation – very calm, very professional, no sense of urgency, no panic, completely cool,” he noted.
Only after delivering her talk did she reveal her one-day-old daughter, Clara, from under the sheets, holding her up to the Zoom class.
“It’s a really great example of students who are committed to what they’re doing,” Archibald added. “To do that just after giving birth, to participate, answer questions. Very impressive.”
Dow, who is working toward her translation certificate in the French-to-English option, said that she was going to attend the class with the camera off.
“When I got that email asking me to present, I was like ‘Oh God, I look a bit awful’. But my boyfriend encouraged me, saying no one would judge me. So I went for it.”
The text she translated? It was a scene describing someone on a Paris bus going to a children’s hospital.