Former Shy Student Gets Salty

I’m halfway through my contract, and I will never understand why Méchain has me grading terminales. I have zero training (as a teacher and as a judge of oral presentations); I still don’t understand the French grading system; and I have absolutely no idea as to what oral presentations for le bac should actually resemble. Also, I didn’t sign up to force students to talk. I’m not about that life, especially when I spent most of my school career being that soft-spoken, shy kid who never talked.

I know exactly how it feels to be forced to speak up, which is why I don’t think it’s fair to thrust a bunch of students into a room with a native speaker. It’s illogical. Native speakers won’t be grading them on le bac, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to be listening for. Plus, these students are way out of their comfort zone, either because they’re self-conscious about their accents, or they don’t like public speaking. So what’s the point of sticking them all in a room with me and forcing them to all 1) speak and 2) be graded in front of all their classmates? Students shouldn’t be learning a foreign language like this—speaking English shouldn’t be some anxiety-imbued trial.

Case in point: one student started crying today because he was so stressed and nervous, so I told him that he could stop if he wanted to; I wasn’t going to force him to finish. I mean, these students don’t gain even anything from seeing me three times a year—I scribble a note or two on their grading rubric, and that’s it. I don’t have the time or the experience to give them more detailed feedback.

Since I understood exactly how the student felt, I wanted to give him a hug, but I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about that. I considered pulling him aside after class and giving him positive encouragement, but I didn’t want him to feel like he was being singled out, so I decided to write him a note. (Believe me, as a student, I hated talking in front of people. In 6th grade, I cried my way out of an extemporaneous speech that was supposed to be an IB assessment. And considering that the teacher told me I needed speech therapy because “painfully shy [was] going to hurt me later on in life,” I don’t regret anything. Joke’s on her, I graduated summa cum laude and currently work a job with 8 weeks of paid vacation. All without needing speech therapy.)

But I digress. I may or may not have gone overboard with my note; what was supposed originally a short message in English morphed into a paragraph-long note in probably error-riddled French.

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If you don’t read French, or if you do but don’t want to read the whole thing, it basically says, “You had a good presentation and speak good English, btw I was incredibly shy in high school so I understand your struggle, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help the next time I see you.”

Okay, that’s it. Rant from a former shy student over.

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