Life in Franglish Update 3: Reflections on Teaching

December 23, 2016 0 Comments

It’s been a while, friends! Since I last posted about my unfortunate run-in with French porn sites and unknowingly eating Thumper, I’ve finished my first period of teaching! It has not quite been halfway through, but I am on my second of four two-week vacations. I’ve spent six full weeks actually in the classroom quelling rebellions teaching students. The past six weeks has been a pretty steep learning curve that has resulted in quite a few lessons and reflections, some of which I share here.

  • Teaching is hard. Like, really hard. Technically, I’m a “teaching assistant” but often I find myself acting as an ESL teacher. I have groups of 12-25 students that I have to teach. I find documents, materials, worksheets, videos, or songs, plan lessons, and make sure to have backup plans in case an activity is just not working. Plus, I have a wide range of students from 3e, the first year of French collège or middle school, all the way up to my terminale lycée students, who are preparing for their BAC exams. Obviously, this means that the levels of my students vary quite a bit, so planning lessons can be quite difficult. I also have pretty much no formal teaching training, so I’m still pretty insecure about disciplining students or sending them out of my class (which has been the recommended course of action for disrespectful students). Overall, I find that I actually quite enjoy the process of seeing students “get it” or improve their English, however small.

The view from the staircase in my building… I love the sunsets sometimes!

  • I love traveling by train. Getting around my region and being able to explore different cities is so easy, and relatively inexpensive (especially with my carte jeune). Whenever I get stir crazy in my small town, I can hop on a train and be in Lens in 10 minutes, Arras in 30, or Lille in 40 – all of which are fun and have lots of things to do (and great museums!).

  • I love having time to pursue creative endeavours (like calligraphy and lettering – check out my instagram devoted entirely to stationery) and reading. I was apprehensive about working 12 hours per week, but that means that I’m only in the classroom for 12 hours each week. I spend at least 5 or 6 hours per week on lesson plans, working with teachers, searching for materials, videos, or articles. That is still a lot less time working than I’m used to, but it gives me time to pursue other passions that I didn’t have the time to explore before, especially during college.

  • People who want to speak French should take a “non-verbal French” course. It’s hard to understand or sound like you really know how to speak French unless you master the perfect pitch in your “bahhhh ouaiii”s, spend just enough time blowing a raspberry to convey your confusion or apathy, and perfect your “purse-the-lips-and-let-out-just-a-little-air” to let whoever you’re talking to that you either don’t care, or you’re thinking, sort of like an “um” but not an actual word – I don’t really know the name of this one but I’m tempted to make a video to explain.

Sunset in Lens from the Musée du Louvre.

  • Learning a language is more than learning words, sounds, and accentsKnowing French history has helped a lot with my French, understanding French culture and quirks helps me acclimate to speaking French with French people, especially in a region well known for it’s particular accent and dialect – Ch’ti. But its’ HARD. Some days I don’t feel like trying, and I sound horrible. Sometimes, especially in groups of French people, I try hard and it shows – I can feel myself start to embody what it is to speak French – more than knowing the words and verb tenses, but the attitude, the countenance, body language, etc. As I’m trying to teach these things to my students, I’m learning them for myself. As Lauren Collins in When in French: Love in a Second Language muses, “Do people have different personalities in different languages?” My answer would be yes. While I’m cultivating my own “French” personality, I am hoping to help my students cultivate their own “English” or even “American English” personalities.

Thanks for sticking it out to the end… I hope to post more frequently in the New Year, now that I”m settled in and have a hang of my job and schedule. À la prochaine!

zoe.j.dm@gmail.com

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