My First Taste of Work

The repetitive introductions are finally over—thank god—so I got to begin my real duties as an assistant this week, which was rather contradictory because my experiences all depended on the teacher I was working with.

Thursday:

R switched classrooms and didn’t tell anyone, least of all me, so an Italian teacher noticed me standing dolefully outside Ml’s classroom, hoping she’d see too-short me through the window; hunted down J—who had to ask her class about the R’s mysterious whereabouts; and then brought me to R’s room. In all three classes with R, she basically treated me like an object, telling me to read/pronounce/explain something…and then loudly shushing her ill-behaved students over me. Thanks. It’s not like I’m naturally soft-spoken or anything and have to consciously project my voice.

For her last class, she did an oral comprehension exercise and had her premières (freshmen) listen to a recording. I’ll just say that, even as an Anglophone, I thought it was too fast…so you can imagine the ensuing disgruntlement from the kids. I actually ended up casually sliding my worksheet over to the girl in front of me so she could copy my spelling of eccentric, which is not, as R had on the board, excentric. This same girl then hurled her pencil case at a boy behind her twice without catching R’s attention, which was kind of impressive.

On the bright side, R said she’d drive me home, and because she took the scenic route by the ramparts, I got to see the plains at night—which was a gorgeous sight, like a constellation of stars had fallen from the sky and strung itself across the earth.

Today:

Technically, I don’t work at Méchain on Fridays, but N asked if I’d be willing to switch yesterday’s hours to today—and he’s such a genuinely nice person that I’d feel awful turning him down, so I said yes. Unlike R, he treated me like a human asset instead of an object, and had me teach my first-ever lesson. Based on my PowerPoint, I used paintings and video clips to talk about Thanksgiving, and asked the kids to contribute answers/opinions on the art and TV shows. N jumped in to help me when necessary, which I deeply appreciated.

After the class, N offered teaching advice (he came up to me while I was working on this blog post, so I hastily clicked away and probably looked incredibly suspicious), and then he started worrying about having potentially hurt my feelings. Dear, sweet cinnamon roll, I’m a clueless newbie and will gladly take any feedback from you. Anyways, he said that my presentation was great, but for jaded teenagers, I should avoid asking leading questions or ones with really obvious answers, which I gratefully tried to take into account during my second lesson… Except this class was from 4:55-5:45, so they were basically half-asleep, and then we had technology problems. But all of his students are so well-behaved, if a little shy (which I totally understand), that it was a welcome surprise after R’s little monster imps.

He drove me back, too, even though I live in the opposite direction he does, and then wanted to know whether I’ve ever eaten raclette, fondue savoyarde, fondue bourguigonne, and tartiflette, so I assume he and his wife M will be feeding me those dishes after ice skating on Sunday!

(PS. Right before my first lesson, Nico asked his class if they remembered anything important about me, and it was rather disconcerting to witness 15-16 year olds raise their hands and say things like, “She likes juice and tea,” “She has one brother named Justin,” and “She hates clowns.” I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that there are now hordes of teenagers in Laon who know enough about me to start a fan club.)

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