My son and I are leaving our small town in southeastern United States to live for a year in a small town in southeastern France. It couldn't possibly be THAT different, right?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Learning experiences

Things I'm learning from my French students this year:

  1. I don't have all of the answers. Why are “thorough” and “through” not pronounced the same way? No idea! Why are there two pronunciations for “live” and “read” and “tear” depending on their use? “No idea!”

  2. I am thankful that English is my native language and that I do not have to learn it in school. See number one. The pronunciation rules alone are crazy!

  3. Grammar is not nearly as sexy to teenagers as it is to me. I already suspected this, but my French kids let me know every day in oh so many ways that learning the lyrics to “I'm Sexy and I Know It” is much more interesting than the passive voice.

  4. I do not like silence in the classroom. I do not particularly like lots of noise either, but I have to admit that I contribute to a certain amount of unruliness because I get bored when there is no activity.

  5. I am uncomfortable being an authority figure. I prefer a cooperative learning environment, and I am accustomed to older, more mature students who can handle such.

  6. Students would rather that I be clear and organized than interesting and creative. This might be true of my American students too. I'll have to ask. At home, I spend a lot of time trying to vary my lesson plans so that we do not always do the same types of activities. I want students to like what they are learning. My students here just want me to give them the lesson without fanfare.

  7. Handwriting is very important. I'm not sure that I agree with this one, but my students in France believe that it is one of THE most important things that they learn. It takes FOREVER for them to copy sentences from the board. When I complain, the ask me how I expect them to study their notes if they can't read them. Good point!

  8. You never know what's going on in the life or head of a teenager. They can be pretty obnoxious one minute and then break your heart the next and then do something incredibly sweet the next. That's why I love them so much. There is never a dull moment. Just as I was about to strangle one particular 12-year-old boy, I learned that social services had removed him from his home for some unknown reason and that he would not be back at our school. No wonder the poor little guy was such a pain! There a few exchanges with him that I would love to take back if I could.

  9. If I do not consistently enforce the rules, I am mincemeat. The students want and expect structure, and they go wild if I back off even a little. After 23 years as a teacher, it would seem that I would have already figured this one out, but small classes are not that hard to manage. Discipline is just not something that I have had to give a lot of thought prior to this year.

  10. Just about all teenagers will lie or cheat  to save their butts or to save a friend. I would say “all teenagers,” but I know that parents who might be reading this would never believe that their child would ever lie or cheat.  (An extra interesting tidbit about cheating:  my colleagues tell me that if a student is caught cheating on the Brevet, an exam at the end of collège, he/she cannot take another test for FIVE years!  Now that's hard core!  That means no Bac and no driver's test either.  Yikes!)

    11.  If I confiscate something from a student, I had better stick it in my pocket or briefcase or the student will dream up some elaborate scheme to retrieve the item.  I was a slow learner on this one.  After "losing" several cheat sheets that I had put on my desk, though, I finally caught on!

    12.  If students laugh for more than a few seconds at something that I have said, I have either mispronounced a French in such a was as to render it vulgar or I have said an English word whose pronunciation makes them think of a dirty word in French.  I have now said "dildo", "penis", and "screw" to my students, and I said all three many times before realizing what I was saying!
    The final thought for today:
    13.  My French students are teaching me that it's ok to wear an outfit for two or three days in a row. I love this idea! If only I had known! I could have brought much smaller suitcases!

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