Thursday, October 18, 2007

Day 25

This coming Monday will mark my first full month in France. Wow.

Today went all right. Thursdays are exhausting because I start at 8:30am, go to all three schools, and get home just before 5:00pm. It’s long.

Kids I can’t smack:
T* refuses to listen to anything I say in English or French because “I don’t understand when you speak English” and “You don’t speak French very well.” Well, is there something I should be doing so you do understand? No? Ok, then I fully expect you to behave, do as I say, and respect your classmates. He’s in third grade.
F* is a jerk. He harasses other kids for the sake of being That Kid. He’s just the obnoxious kid, but not at all in the smart witty kind of obnoxious. He’s annoying and the rest of his class (there’s only eight!) can’t stand him. When I led them back to their classroom, virtually all of them asked me “You’re going to tell the teacher about him, right?” Oh yes. Oh yes. This is only the second lesson, and I’ve already separated him from the others, given him lines to copy, and scolded him in rude harsh French in front of the class. Next time he’s out of line he’s going to the principal’s office. Let Monsieur B. deal with him. I really don’t want him in the class. There are enough other strong personalities, like M* (eesh she’s going to be a handful when she’s a teenager) and T*(dorky awkward little girl who acts like a friggin princess).
W* (that’s his real name) has the best accent in his fourth grade class but he’s an asshole and disrupts everyone. He’s also the ringleader for him and three other boys, so I really would hope that taking him out of the picture would calm things down.

Kids I can’t adopt:
C* spent his first three years (he’s in third grade now) of school in a bilingual school in Ghana. He speaks English with virtually no accent, and his French is normal. I feel terrible for him because we’re doing friggin NUMBERS and he’s the only one who knows exactly what I ask for. I really have got to find something more fun for him to do, like enrichment activities. Anything! If his parents would let him stay after school for a half an hour, we could do something more fun together.
Ophélie is adorable and has just the sweetest face and voice. Omg want to hug her. She makes good efforts too, and usually succeeds. That’s impressive, considering she sits in the back of the room.
L* lives in an apartment building up the street from me, I’ve learned. She sits in the front with her friend who isn’t quite as bright as she is. She is very smart and catches on quickly. She makes such an effort to imitate my pronunciation as best as she can. I really like her.
Ah I don’t remember his name but he’s one of L*'s classmates – he’s really smart, kind of a smart-aleck, but quick to catch on and totally understands what’s expected. I like him a lot.
There's another L* who is just as intelligent, and whenever I need someone to give a perfect and audible (that's always important) example, I know I can count on her. She makes such an effort to imitate my accent. Ah I love her.
A* is a third grader whose vocal cords are set on ultra-soprano. It’s unbelievable to hear him speak – I mean squeak – the little sentences I ask of them. Omg he’s unreal.

What I don’t understand is why these children continue to talk over me and their classmates, even when I tell them in French “You do not speak when your classmates are speaking, and you do not speak when I am speaking. It’s rude and disrespectful.” I really should have given my fourth graders at School Three crosses in their règles de vie today…I’ll ask Virginie (their classroom teacher) if I can do that. They’re unreal.

The French really do expect their children to be better behaved than this, and when they misbehave, they’re told in very stern and what I would consider harsh language that it is not tolerated at all and that they immediately affect others around them. Language here places a lot of emphasis on others and the inequality of others – we’re not all the same – and that in effect devalues a little the individual. Indeed, there is little here that is private. The State, especially in the school, occupies the space. Everyone pretty much has the same dishcloths and mailbox color; there was even a box of socks and underwear in the teachers’ room in School Three for students. Like new socks and underwear. On the other hand, there is so much that is not discussed, like your name, what you do for a living, what your parents do, your family situation, etc., things that normally come up in an American conversation to gauge the person’s place in society. As a result, I, and Ben agrees, have a hard time “reading” people. I can’t immediately, or even after speaking with them on multiple occasions, divine people’s social places – what do you spend your money on, what education do you have, what does your spouse do, what are your children like, etc. It’s a lack of social context. It’s frustrating and makes one lonely.

I have three classes tomorrow, starting at 8:30am. Hopefully the France Orange technician will come tomorrow, because if he doesn’t I’m going to hurt something. I want me some freakin internet, goddammit. (Ben agrees with me, but in less harsh words.)

Miss home, miss Mom, miss Dad, miss Peter, miss Nicholas, miss Andy. End.

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