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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Introvert Adventures

For my second week of break, I decided not to go anywhere because I’m poor and hadn’t been paid yet (I have six more weeks of vacation to see Europe, anyways), though I did get some lovely, much-needed introvert time that left me feeling indescribably at peace. The highlights:

  • Picked up a rock because it looked like a chunk of caramel and now I have to keep telling myself not to eat it (which for some reason reminds me of Iszi)
  • Walked 2.1 miles to Carrefour and stopped and stared at a horse, who looked equally confused, in someone’s fenceless backyard
  • Downloaded 11 books from an MA reading list for free off of Amazon
  • Screamed with Madeline over Facebook because one of our favorite actresses was in Brussels days after I was
  • Sat outside and photosynthesized for hours—I honestly don’t remember the last time that I got to relax without any obligations whatsoever, to sit outside and soak in the sunlight while reading or writing for the pure enjoyment of it
  • Finished Men Explain Things to Me and may or may have gotten slightly weepy over quotes like, “His name was privilege, but hers was possibility. His was the same old story, but hers was a new one about the possibility of changing a story that remains unfinished…” and “…feminism is not a scheme to deprive men but a campaign to liberate us all”
  • Started rereading Discours sur le Bonheur while staring longingly at the copy of La femme indépendante: extraits du Deuxième Sexe that I bought for 2 euros
  • Happily crunched through the abundance of leaves on campus (I, um, may or may not have spent a good five minutes stepping on every single crunchy leaf I saw, and this doesn’t include the times I traipsed through the sea of fallen leaves beneath two trees)
  • Spent an hour thinking about my grad school statement while shamelessly wandering around the campus to rack up kilometers and hatch eggs for Pokémon Go
  • Excitedly edited a friend’s 22-page paper
  • Tried to write outside, realized my hands were frozen, muttered “nope,” and retreated indoors
  • Began the challenge of designing my first lesson—per N’s request—on Thanksgiving, all the while muttering, “Don’t get salty he wants it to be fun and interactive don’t get salty and delve into Columbus and genocide and ruin it for the children”
  • Lamented to Madeline that I’m craving tofu but will never find it in Laon because it’s too white

Funnily enough, I think I was happiest when working on my grad school statement—if you ever wanted to know how much of a nerd I am, there you go. It’s the closest to academic writing that I’ve gotten since graduation, though my biggest struggles will be a) explaining why I want to study feminism when I haven’t taken any Women’s Studies courses (Am I allowed to quote Madeline and say, “I’m not an idiot”?) and b) being concise (Yes, I’m the kind of person who turned in a six-page French rough draft when my professor asked for four…and a twelve-page English final when my professor asked for seven to ten). In fact, I got so excited writing about French and feminism that I’m at 638 words, not finished, and still have to take into account whatever I end up doing in 2017-2018. As my R-MC roommates would say, “Why are you like this?”