Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Day 22

Today I had four classes: fourth grade, fifth grade, fifth grade, fourth grade. The day started out a little hitchy, as I thought Ben, one of the intern teachers (that means he lives here like we do) and I were supposed to meet with Rodolphe the IT dude to discuss how much the school network sucks in the internat. However, no one was to be found, not even Rodolphe. IT people really have a monopoly on the technology services. Rar. Anyways, I went to my first school, School Three WAY early in order to make sure that my lesson for today was set. It was. Also to make sure that the lunch ladies (what do you call them in French?) knew that I was there and would be eating there every Tuesday.

My fourth grade class at School Three has eight students – four girls, four boys. F* is an obnoxious brat who bothers EVERYONE and E* is a whiner who thinks everyone hates them. Guess what happened. F* pissed off E*, and E* punched F*. Greaaat. I took F* out of the group and had him copy the numbers – just the numbers – 0-20 because he was generally being a pest. Oh, I think they also learned their numbers 0-20 and how to say how old they are. Maybe. We’ll have to do that a lot more on Thursday. After the lesson I told their teacher, Virginie, what happened. I felt so embarrassed that a situation would get THAT out of hand, but apparently this is what those two do, and often. So Virginie pulled – and I mean pulled them both by the arm with force – into the principal’s office (dude I love the principal, he’s almost as cool as the principal at School One) and scolded them both harshly. I got to be there too. It was really important to see how children are disciplined in a French school and what consequences come of it. I feel terrible about what happened, and I feel terrible when I see how upset the kids get when they’re being scolded, but dude. Keep your hands to yourself; if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all; no hitting. Kindergarten rules, guys.
Lunch at School Three blew. Only two other teachers ate the school lunch and it wasn’t all that great. Sucks.

I then went to School two which is quickly becoming my favorite school. The principal teaches English as well and is super excited to see me; the other teachers couldn’t be more supportive or friendly. Ah I love this school. I don’t like that the kids still call me Maîtresse, which is way too French for an English lesson but I’ll fix that. Eventually.

My two fifth grade classes were AWESOME. We did colors and then flowed seamlessly into clothing. I gave them homework which they will be sure to do, I’m so excited. If they do it they get a sticker, I’ve already decided. Awesome. On Friday we’ll expand it to other people wearing colored clothing. So neat. AH! I love this school. One of the fifth grade teachers whose name I only know as Sylvie because the three times I’ve written her last name I’ve gotten it completely wrong has asked me to tutor her daughter who is in her last year of high school in English! How much should I charge? The last time I tutored it was for Darlene and she paid me in stuff because I just can’t take my neighbor’s money…and before that it was for school and they paid me $7.00/hour. I’m thinking 15€/1.5 hour session…does that sound reasonable? I don’t really want to take this teacher’s money but then again, I’d like to be compensated for the work I’m going to put into this. Ah I can’t WAIT! English conversations about TV shows and shopping and boys and stupid girls and so much fun stuff. Everyone send me copies of stuff – Maggie, can you make copies of your Friends DVDs? That would be super sweet. We can discuss those. I’m really excited. I was surprised, actually, that Sylvie asked me about this because Ben is the high school assistant…shouldn’t she approach him first? I told her about him but she’s like yeah but I’m asking you. Ok. I told Ben after school and he was happy for me and was all for it. I just don’t want to steal his students, you know? Ah I’m excited.

My fourth grade class today did Anglophone countries and the structures “Where are you from? I’m from ___.” Not bad, they’ll get better. They take FOREVER to copy from the board, and not just because they have trouble reading my handwriting but because they are SO friggin particular about HOW things go in their notebooks. They ask me things like “Do I underline in red? Do I underline on the next big line or the next little line? Do I skip lines? How many lines? One line? What color pen do I write in? Do I write in pencil? I made a smudge on the other page!” and other ridiculosities. To all of their questions, my response is “Yes; That’s ok.” Which makes for some hiLARious situations, but honestly, I couldn’t care less how they format their notebook pages as long as they copy exactly what I’ve written and how I’ve written it because I’ve included all the formatting I feel is necessary. The classroom teacher for this particular class always has this look on her face like she’s unconvinced of their mastery of the structures, she doesn’t think they understand or that they’re paying attention…she makes me nervous sometimes. Also, D* who sits in the front row was fooling around, basically being nine years old, and Catherine (the classroom teacher) got up from her desk and PULLED him – again, by the arm and with force – to the back of the room and there he stood until we did notebook work. I didn’t think he was that bad but I felt really embarrassed that Catherine felt it necessary to do that. This again points to my confusion of what exactly to respond to in terms of classroom disruptions and it’s not just cultural here. There are classroom management skills I’m definitely missing. Another embarrassing situation.

Karine (another; there are two English teachers at the high school) is a marketing teacher here at the high school and has invited me and Ben (ok, mostly Ben) to a brewery in Limoges that she has connections to, and to her home in Cahors, a city I’d like to visit for Toussaint. She is SUPER sweet and with a history/geography teacher, had a scintillating discussion on the apathy and passiveness of today’s teens. Simultaneously encouraging and discouraging it was to see that teens are alike pretty much everywhere, at least in the Western world. So cool.

Tomorrow I plan on making sure my lessons are all prepared, buying French shoes, and sitting for a few hours in the tea salon at the bakery up the street to read and to attempt intelligence. Maybe Ben’s new schizophrenic friend will be there. Ironically her name is Claire.
Oh France, you kill me.

Addendum: Madame la Proviseur, aka the high school principal, just knocked/rang our doorbell to ask if we had found the brioche (sweet eggy bread) she left at our door last night. We had, we just had no idea who it was from. It was made with homemade chestnut flour and has raisins. It was delicious. Um, yes we did find it…it was from YOU? Holy cow…
Ben: Is it just me or are you getting tired of people being really nice to you?
Me: Um, yeah. It’s getting harder and harder to graciously accept the invitations for dinner, apéritifs, shopping, gifts, and general help.
She’s going to drop off some more bread on Sunday.

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