Monday, October 3, 2011

Surviving the First Day (or Man, are Adolescents Weird)

I had my first day of work today—four hours at Collège Georges Chaumeton. I spent a lot of it observing, since it was my first day, a slightly smaller portion being a dancing monkey to my host teacher’s accordion, and the last portion being utterly confused. Hopefully at some point, there will be an additional section—that being “knowing what I’m doing.”

But we’ll see.

I had either three or four classes today, depending on how you count, starting at two o’clock in the afternoon.

2-3: Troisième, section éuropeene: Ninth grade “honors” roughly. Section éuropeene means that they’ve opted to have five hours of English a week, as opposed to three. During this class, I mostly observed, though Aline (my host teacher), had me read their dictation quiz. This provoked a great deal of grumbling, since they are used to Aline’s British accent rather than my (admittedly atrocious) American accent. For a test that was based almost entirely on the ability to understand and transcribe spoken English, it didn’t quite seem fair, but I’m guessing Aline will take that into account.

3-4: Quatrième: eighth grade. The difference between their language skills and that of the class before is astonishing. Aline says that this class in general also struggles with English and that, for some, you wouldn’t realize that they’ve already studied English for two years. They were a lively bunch though and asked me a ton of questions (a metric ton, of course).

Two students stuck out for me—Justine and Vincent. Justine, a tiny brunette in the very back, seems both very shy and very studious. Her notebook is organized to perfection and she listens intently to everything Aline says—she just rarely talks. Vincent, on the other hand, is bold and charismatic, though his English is atrocious. He asked me several questions, including: “So, are you married?” Heh.

Ultimately, what I think I need to learn here is how to balance the Justines and the Vincents of the world. I don’t want to squash him, since that enthusiasm is valuable, but I need to make sure she knows that her diligence is valued and that I want to hear her voice in class. Teachers of the world, how do I do this subtly, without embarrassing Justine or squashing Vincent?

4-5: Troisieme, section europeene: For the second time of the day, which is why I said I had three or four classes. Three classes in four periods. I had half of the class on my own this time, for a half an hour each. I started by introducing myself and answering any questions, then we moved on to reading some letters they had written to their penpals aloud and correcting them. I had expected, after quatrieme, to find the same enthusiasm.


The first half was dead. Not a single question, and it was like pulling teeth to get someone up to read or to suggest a correction for a classmate’s letter. (Except Adrien, who always wants to read and who always has an answer and whose English is excellent. Unfortunately, he’s not the only person in the class.) The second half was more enthusiastic, but only about reading aloud. Except for one poor soul, who was incredibly anxious about correcting his mistakes, they bounced up to the front of the room, sprinted through their letters, and then bounced right back into their seats, grinning all the while. Advice here is also helpful—how do you spark enthusiasm? Also, how do you redirect enthusiasm that’s not going the direction you need?

I’ll leave talking about my last class until tomorrow, otherwise you’ll have to hear about doing laundry, since that’s my plan for the day.

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