Real Work at Claudel

Like Méchain, I also spend six hours working with various teachers and their classes of secondes.

  • F and S asked me to work on reality TV. My knowledge of reality TV rivals my knowledge of math, AKA nothing.
  • I’m not sure whether it’s more awkward for me or for the teacher when the kids won’t shut up and she spends more than half the class yelling at them, calling them insupportable while I start desperately checking my watch halfway through the hour and wondering whether I can climb out of a third-story window. I finally see what two of my friends said before diversity graduation, when they said that French kids can be terrible. (The attitude of some of these kids. They’d laugh at the teacher when she got mad.)
  • I volunteered half an hour to sit down and listen to terminales convince me whether Lord of the Rings, Matilda, Alice and Wonderland, Narnia, and Harry Potter were good children’s books. Hello, I’m always here for books.
  • ­Ib asked me to help her grade BTS kids, and it was pretty awkward when they didn’t know how to answer the question, “Can you spell your first name?” so I cheated and said épeler. Afterwards, the students apparently complained, “Madame, she had an accent!” (Every teacher here has a British accent.)

Unlike Méchain, I don’t grade terminales. Instead, I have six hours with 6-10 voluntary students in each class—R-MC-sized classes, really. Anyways, I will protect these kids who want to improve their English and learn about the US. They will not be harmed.

  • The teachers and administration gave me total leeway re lesson plans, so I decided to start with Two Truths and a Lie, and then move on to a general quiz about the US. Originally, I was going to focus on Thanksgiving, but after attending the protest, I scrapped that, talked about the elections, and used Thanksgiving and Scattergories/Le petit bac to fill in the remaining time.
  • There’s nothing more beautiful than the sound of your students reading aloud lines from the Paris Against Trump protest. (Their favorite, by far, was “Hands too small, can’t build a wall.”) Also, bless the kid who muttered, “FDT” when he saw my PowerPoint slide labeled, “US Election.”
  • I don’t know whether this is frowned upon in the teaching world, but I already have a favorite class. When I showed them pictures of what the electoral college map would’ve looked like if only certain demographics had voted, these kids raised their hands and said, “Women vote better” and “White people shouldn’t vote,” and I just about died of laughter (especially because the class is mostly white). They also adored the Obama-Biden memes, and I really wish I saw them more often than once every two weeks.
  • My biggest problem is that these are supposed to be “conversation classes,” but I can tell that some of the kids are shy, something I completely emphasize with… So yeah, they picked the wrong person to try to make students talk. (I kid you not, I still have grudges against the teachers who tried forcing me to speak up.) I guess I’ll try to make them feel more comfortable with group-work games?
  • My goal is to slowly but surely turn the more advanced students into social justice babies by the end of the year. They’ll be able to define feminism, heteronormativity, and intersectionality in their sleep. Look, if the school’s letting me do whatever I want, they can’t stop me—now more than ever, this world needs people who are compassionate, who will understand and fight for equitability.

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