Méchain Adventures

  • I’ve started grading the terminales on their mock oral presentations for the bac, and I’m not sure if any other moment in my life will ever top the sheer confusion of sitting in an empty classroom, wondering if a 12.5/20 is a good average grade—because in the typical French fashion, no one has explained the French grading or expectations to me.
  • For some reason, I’m stuck helping an English-taught math class once a month. (In case you didn’t know, I can’t do math to save my life—I’ve actually caused friends physical pain by attempting to do simple addition in front of them.) The moment I heard words like “integer,” “polyhedron,” and “vertices,” I started getting high school flashbacks and was sorely tempted to nope my way out of the room.
  • I led half a class of secondes to my little library room and felt like a mother goose checking to make sure that they were all still walking behind me. They were all well-behaved, even if they didn’t want to talk—something I completely empathize with, so although Ml told me that they should speak, not listen, I ended up talking more than they did. Oops…?
  • Honestly, I don’t think it’s fair for the terminales to be chucked into a room with a native speaker and present in a foreign language while the rest of their peers listen. It’s got to be beyond intimidating, and I feel so awful calling on students when no one volunteers.
    • (I will never understand the French grading system, so the teachers can’t blame me if the worst grade I gave out was an 8/20—to me, that’s already an awful grade, not an average one.)
  • In a depressing and awkward turn of events, J’s husband passed away earlier this week, and nobody told me before I printed out a stack of handouts for her class and wondered why she wasn’t in her room.
  • For J’s next class, the substitute teacher didn’t show up, and her kids and I were still standing in the hallway because I didn’t have a key to the classroom. They were getting pretty rowdy because they were hoping that they wouldn’t have class, so I knocked on N’s door and awkwardly stuck my head in. He asked if I’d be okay with taking the entire class—something that’s normally against assistant protocol—but I agreed anyways. Luckily, they behaved themselves and demonstrated genuine interest in my Thanksgiving lesson. (It could’ve been because N terrified them with threats of punishment and two hours of detention.) Some kid actually came up to me at the end and said, “Thank you, it was a really good lesson.”
    • I don’t know if words can explain how surreal it is to be the sole adult authority in the room.
  • I was supposed to take half of Ml’s class to the library, but we had a terrorist attack drill—it consisted of us sitting on the floor in the dark for 30 minutes, and then standing in the hallway and evacuating outside for the other 30 minutes, where I froze because I didn’t bring my jacket.
    • Ml told me, “If I were a terrorist, I’d pull the fire alarm then shoot everyone as they left the building.” I don’t know whether I should be impressed or terrified by her diabolical genius. Probably terrified, especially because she told me, “I wouldn’t have voted for Hillary.”
  • I casually came out to her class because one of them asked how I reacted to the bigoted Cheeto’s “win.” Since these kids are the ones who’re up to date on Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and gun control, I felt perfectly comfortable explaining that I cried because I have immigrant parents; because I’m a person of color; because I’m a woman; and because I’m gay. It felt oddly…freeing?
    • Ml then asked me to talk about racism in the US, and they look horrified when I said people have told me, “Your English is so good!” I’m definitely going to try to turn this class into little social justice babies.

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