Now that I’ve moved out from my apartment in my gifted Cornell shirt, finding it only fitting that I wear my symbol of my future life as I left behind my City Year one, I’ve had time to reflect on the major differences between TAPIF and City Year.
- By the end of the year, aside from the students in my biweekly conversation classes at Claudel, I barely knew any names. But at Ketcham, since I see the students every day, I know all 48 of my 2nd graders and an assortment of kindergartners to 5th graders.
- Because I saw the students at Méchain or Claudel so infrequently, I didn’t really get to know them. On the other hand, I’ve watched so many of my 2nd graders grow—emotionally and academically—and it’s amazing to see how much they can change in a year. My favorite example is a kid who went from being unable to read at the beginning of the year to a wise old soul who dished out life advice: “It comes to a moment when everybody have to start a new life and that started with you.”
- Children do not hold back the affection or their unadulterated love—they all but throw themselves onto me, though I love it when they randomly give me hugs. (Except then they pick me up. That’s horrifying. No child should ever have that much power over me.)
- Working with high schoolers was great because I could discuss topics such as feminism and immigration without mincing any words—especially for the fluent terminales, who were basically adults. With elementary schoolers, you have to think about how to adapt such subjects so that they’re clear and comprehensible for children. There really isn’t any difference in students’ spelling abilities, though, regardless of whether they’re secondes (15-16 year olds) or 2nd graders.
- The fights. Why were there so many in my grade? At least I remained bruise-free in France.
- A 12-hour work week sounds like a dream come true, but I actually hated it. There was too much free time on my hands, and I felt so unproductive. Sure, 50 hours per week is a lot, but the days went by so quickly in CY because we were doing so much. In fact, weirdly enough, I think I was actually doing more work for TAPIF outside of the classroom than for City Year.
- Being the only older-than-high-schoolers, younger-than-teachers person around was sometimes lonely. Regardless of how welcoming teachers like Nico were, nobody aside from other assistants understood the TAPIF struggles. At Ketcham, I loved being on a team and having a 2nd grade buddy—everyone understood what you were going through, especially in afterschool. Hardship truly does bring people closer.
- Sometimes teachers in France gave me specific topics to talk about—or, on some fortuitous occasions, a few guidelines. But otherwise, I crafted my own lesson plans and PowerPoints. In the classroom at Ketcham, my partner teacher let me know what to teach in rotations and showed me the worksheets, but gave me the freedom to choose how I wanted to go about doing so. For afterschool, although each week was assigned a theme, we created the lesson plans from scratch.
- My partner teacher is wonderful, and I’m so grateful that I got placed in her classroom. It’s so much smoother, working with one teacher versus fourteen. Also, the work environment is almost entirely POC and WOC, which is so refreshing.
- Laon made me so pale. I do not miss the endless fog. In Maryland and DC, there was so much sun. I have acquired the most ridiculous watch and ring tans.
- Boulangeries do not live on every street corner in America. I will never find a simple, delicious 2.80€ sandwich poulet. I have resigned myself to this dolorous fate. The sandwiches in America are expensive lies.
- I miss those 8 weeks of paid vacation and being able to take spontaneous trips to Paris, or book $40 flights to Copenhagen. Sure, Silver Spring actually has a downtown, but America will never live up to the standards of convenient transportation.
- I still curse the DC metro even though I’ll never have to use it again. It’s trash compared to France’s and the rest of Europe’s. Is a functional, affordable, reliable metro really too much to ask for?
- Other than the view, I don’t miss the living-on-a-mountain life. It was so nice to be able to walk to Giant for groceries and not have to pay for the bus. I do, however, miss the 5-minute walk to Claudel and the 20-minute bus ride to Méchain…if only I’d lived that close to Ketcham. And the view in Laon, I can’t forget that part, even if I could see the Capitol and the Washington Monument from my second-floor classroom.
- TAPIF ended without a bang. No one showed up to my last class; I said bye to the other three assistants in Laon; and though the Claudel teachers threw me a party, I didn’t really get emotional. On the other hand, with City Year, several kids were on the verge of tears; I graduated and partied with my team; and I cried in an Uber. When I went back to visit Ketcham for the final time, so many kids screamed. I’ve never been mobbed by so many children, despite not having the arm to hug them all.
Here’s my team, my manager, my partner teacher, and the 1st grade ELA teacher! (No, I don’t know why we all look so orange.)