What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class X

  • While playing Mafia with a group of students, one of the Mafia looked at his partner and asked, “T’es Mafia?” (Are you Mafia?) I felt so bad for laughing because he’d given himself away, but the rest of the class lost it too, so at least my laughter was kind of justified.
  • I can confirm that French teenagers are exactly like American ones: the Hangman word was “B _ _ _,” and one student muttered, “bite” (pronounced like “beet,” French slang for a certain male body part), and the entire class started giggling.
  • While I was grading oral presentations, numerous kids said that the solution to Trump’s wall would be to build a virtual wall, complete with lasers, fingerprinting, and drones. Who the hell is teaching these French students such dirty lies? I’ll find you. And then I’ll fight you. (This question is rhetorical, I’m about 99% sure that it’s Ml.)
  • Highlight of my assistant career: while playing Mafia, the students were voting for someone to kill, and one kid shouted, “Trump!” My job here is done. There’s nothing more to teach them.
  • Right before my lesson on Hitchcock with Jn, he gave the students a brief vocab quiz, which consisted of English-French translations and vice versa for words related to crime. One kid sitting at the front of the room, where I was standing, tried whispering to me in French, “What’s English for ‘mugshot’?” Hon, even if I knew the word, there’s no way I’d help you cheat on a ten-word vocab quiz.
  • I asked a class to guess how much I paid to go to college for one year, and they started at $1000. These poor, innocent children, so blissfully unaware of American student debt. (Their faces when I told them that R-MC tuition is $38,000/year were priceless.)
  • My favorite part about teaching fluent terminales is that you can be as salty as you want about a certain bigoted Cheeto, and they’ll all laugh because they too share your burning hatred of him.
  • There’s nothing more amusing than teaching French kids about American foods and witnessing their expressions of pure horror when they see pictures of chicken and waffles, or PB&Js.
  • Me: “What’s the capital city of Virginia?”
    • Student: “New York!”
  • Jt: “Would you like to go to the Richmond Folk Festival in Virginia?”
    • Student: “Yes, to discover the culture of England.”
  • Since a class was excitedly chanting, “Let us sing!” Jt found a version of “Let It Go” with the lyrics, and one boy buried his face in his hands and started moaning like it was the worst moment of his life.
  • Six months after I started working, students still ask teachers, “Will her presentation be in French?”
  • S: “You’ve discovered how to get absolute silence in the classroom! Ask a question, and no one talks.”
  • It’s kind of heartwarming when a student brags to his friends in the hallway, “On a l’assistante!” (We get the assistant!)
  • During my last day at Méchain, one student told me, “Good luck with living in Trump’s America.” Thanks, kid, we’re all going to need it.
  • That moment of amused sadness when you’re reviewing Scattergories answers, and for the “celebrities” category, one kid announces, “Marine Le Pen!”
  • Probably one of my favorite parts of this year was watching a group of secondes who’d never had a Reese’s exclaim with wonder, “C’est trop bon!”
  • Jt invented a fantastic system for discouraging students from speaking French during her class: having them act out the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene. And I know this is mostly due to fragile masculinity, but it’s pure beauty watching two guys uncomfortably and awkwardly act it out.

P.S. The end of TAPIF went out with a whimper: I was supposed to have my last-ever class today, but not a single student showed up. Walking out of the classroom, even if it was an empty one, was bittersweet. Well, I’m free now and don’t have to work again until late July, so… I’m taking one last trip this weekend, and then attending a farewell party organized by the Claudel teachers on Wednesday evening. For the moment, I’m celebrating the end of TAPIF by eating the Reese’s that I was going to give to my students this afternoon.

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What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class IX

 

  • Claudel spent a week forcing students to take mock exams and recruited me to do five hours of proctoring. I got antsy an hour and a half in because I’m a fast reader and had only brought one book, and was about ready to stab myself with my pencil. France, please don’t make your high schoolers take five-hour exams…or anyone, ever.
  • Discussing appearances in the workplace and in general with a student:
    • Him: “I don’t think I’m the best-looking guy in the world, but I think I am handsome. Being handsome helps.”
    • Me: “Has being handsome helped you?”
    • Him: “No.”
    • Well, at least he admitted it.
  • There’s nothing like quietly screaming in the corner while J tells a class that you never put an article in front of “next” or “last.” Or when a teacher thinks that the sentence “I’m looking forward to the spectacle” is incorrect since “spectacle” means “glasses.” (There’s too much grammar nerd/writing tutor in me.)
  • Jn had asked me to prepare a presentation on Hitchcock, but the projector wasn’t working, so he told me to go ahead and start. Unfortunately, my PowerPoint was on the computer he was trying to fix, so I was note-less. But I somehow managed to start extemporaneously BSing the lesson without panicking—sixth-grade-me would’ve been so proud. Still, I’ve never been more relieved than when he finally got the projector to work.
  • A student realized they didn’t put enough blanks on the board for Hangman, so they added another one, saying, “There is a letter who is missed.” Somehow, that sounds much cuter.
  • Ml told me to come up with a Prohibition-related activity, so I gave the kids a list of items like eggs, oranges, syringe, and baby carriage, and told them to smuggle alcohol into a speakeasy. Some of the students figured out to use the syringe and replace the egg innards with alcohol, while others said to inject the alcohol into the baby and make the baby drunk—I worry for those kids.
  • An actual quote from one of my students: “We’re going to play Rock, Paper, Scissors like men.”
  • One student, attempting to English: “This is not ça du tout.”
  • A student saw me standing outside the classroom and immediately lit up, saying, “Ah, j’avais forget!” and later asked if the class could throw me a party.
  • Me: “True or false? If you can successfully hack Facebook, they will pay you $500.”
    • K: “Can someone explain what she said in French? Émilie?”
    • Émilie: (in French) “You get $500 if you enter.”
    • K: (in French): “Enter into what?”
    • Émilie: (in French): “Enter into someone.”
    • K and I attempted to remain straight-faced, succeeded for two seconds, and then promptly dissolved into laughter.
  • While trying to get Mg’s class to guess “astronaut” in response to the black story, “A man was just doing his job when his suit was torn, and he died three minutes later,” Mg hinted, “Think about what his job is.” One kid guessed, “Gangster?”

 

What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class VIII

  • K had me read aloud English climate change vocabulary so that students could give me the French equivalent, and then she asked if I could do the reverse. I took one look at the list and went, “I’d die in a natural disaster.” (Lit classes don’t really teach you how to say “tornado” or “forest fire.” The only reason I know the French for “hurricane” is thanks to the French Mulan.)
  • While doing black stories with Mg’s class, I was trying to get them to guess “the hiccups,” so I said, “It’s something that happens to everyone.” One kid raised his hand and proceeded to ask, “Is she a call girl?”
  • I spent an entire hour literally twiddling my thumbs because At’s students were taking a practice reading comprehension exam. J gave me a copy of the test, and I decided to see how quickly I could finish it— 10 minutes, which was a poor life decision, because I had to go back to my thumb-twiddling. Clearly, we assistants are being put to good use.
  • One of Mc’s students asked, “Are we doing the synthèse today?” and Mc confirmed that they were presenting it to me. The kid then muttered, “Merde” while face-palming.
    • Another student asked me, “Do you ever have a crush,” leading me to be deeply concerned until Mc clarified, “Have you ever had a car crash?”
    • The same kid asked me if I had a favorite car, to which I replied no. He muttered something I didn’t hear, and Mc translated, “He said women don’t know anything about cars,” and for a moment I wondered if the teaching program has ever had to penalize an assistant for stomping on a sexist’s foot.
  • The contract, the administration, and the teachers: “It’s illegal for an assistant to be alone with an entire class.”
    • N: “Hey, Tess is sick. Do you mind taking the class tomorrow?”
    • Me: “Yeah, sure!”
    • But substitute teachers don’t exist in France, so his students saw that he was absent and only 8 of them showed up. I gave them a fun New York-related quiz, and one of them saw Toby Maguire in The Great Gatsby and exclaimed, “Spider-Man!”
  • Probably my favorite line from the hundreds of oral presentations I’ve had to listen to was, “He died in a ditch. Poor guy.”
  • S asked her class, “Who is the Vice President of the United States?” and a kid replied, “Barack Obama.” Sweetie, I wish.
  • One of J’s students walked into the classroom, saw me, excitedly said “Hello!” and then walked past me saying, “I’m love this.”
    • The first ten minutes, I ran back and forth between students when they raised their hands to ask, “How do you say __ in English?” (I failed with emprise and dénonciatrice, and when a kid asked how long segregation has lasted in the US.)
    • I don’t know who was more horrified when J announced to her class, “One-fourth of your grade will come from Sarena”—me or them.
  • R gave me half her class for 30 minutes, and when I told the kids that I was supposed to bring them back and exchange them for the rest of their classmates, one boy screamed, “Oh no, not Madame G!” I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that they appreciate me more than the teacher.

What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class VII

  • My lesson on new technologies involved a video of a dog with deformed front legs getting 3D-printed prosthetics, and the happy ending made some of Al’s students cry. Do I regret anything? Nope.
  • I got to teach not one, but two massive classes that consisted of a single student. Props to the first one for having watched Dead Poets Society and the second one for being twice as interested because he wants to live in America and never come back to France. (Even if I question his judgment because of, you know, the watery tasteless orange who’s somehow in charge of the US.)
  • I played “Guess Who?” fairy tale-style with Jt’s students, and none of them knew Rumpelstiltskin, even when I gave them the French title. Am I too old, or are they too young?
  • One day, I called on the first student on the list of terminales, and he asked, “What am I supposed to do?” We maintained direct eye contact for about a second before we burst into laughter because I have no idea what I’m doing, either.
  • At showed her class a video on why the US doesn’t use the metric system, and I had to try desperately not to laugh when the video said Americans saw the system as a “foreign Francophone invasion.” I hate to break it to you, but the very language you speak is a Francophone invasion.
  • While grading terminales, I was deeply concerned when a student said, “tried to eat a policeman” until I realized I’d misunderstood his accent—he’d said, “tried to hit a policeman.”
  • I was going through various TV shows with one of my fluent classes, and when I stopped on Pushing Daisies and asked if they’d heard of Hannibal, they shook their heads. So I said the show’s about a guy who eats people, and one girl looked so horrified that I felt awful and hastily said, “They’re produced by the same person, but they’re two completely different shows; I promise Pushing Daisies is cutesy.”
    • Similarly, I terrified a seconde when I started playing the trailer for Stranger Things. She pulled her scarf over her eyes, and I hurriedly reassured her, “There’s nothing in the trailer.” Sorry, kid.
    • Another seconde read the description for Avatar, said aloud, “A young boy,” and guessed, “Mickey Mouse?”
  • There’s nothing like having a class of students stare at you and F, utterly mesmerized, when she asks, “Did you understand?” until one kid pipes up, “Yes!”
  • We did a travel agent/traveler role play, and one pair of students told me that they wanted to sleep for free in a teepee.
  • During my lesson on flatsharing in the US, a kid in S’s class said “chicken” instead of “kitchen,” promptly confusing everyone.
    • S asked them what a single person was, and she got responses like “not popular” and “singer.”
    • When I showed them a picture of Iszi and me at graduation, they thought it was a marriage photo. (I mean, they’re not wrong; she is my wife. Well…one of them.)

What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class VI

  • Me: “They look confused.”
    • F: “Oh, don’t worry, they always look like that.”
  • I told a class of secondes to write New Year’s resolutions, and I got responses like, “I wouldn’t don’t eat candy,” “I would (que) my bedroom is clean,” “Reading very much,” “Help peoples,” and “Hit Clément. Ha Ha Ha!”
  • Some students didn’t understand my answer to a question, so I reformulated, and one kid gave voice to an enlightened “Ah!” three times in a row.
  • I never thought “oui” could sound so delighted until S asked a student if she wanted to draw my mystery story on the board for the rest of the class.
  • I’m beyond disappointed that I didn’t get to witness this, but F told me that she asked a class for a synonym of “good” and one kid replied, “f****** good.” (The asterisks are a direct quote from her email.)
  • Ak left me in the corner like a statue while she went over a worksheet with her unruly students, which dissolved into me turning all the Calvin and Hobbes frames on the worksheet into a thirty-minute shading exercise. Honestly, I should’ve just played the grief card and skipped her class to work on my feminism presentation. Priorities.
  • Jt’s class stared at me in confusion when I explained that the debate around illegal immigration is ironic and senseless, so I had to draw out the European-Native American genocide by drawing massive Xs over Native American stick figures.
    • They played “Guess the country” with me, and I disappointed them when I didn’t know France won the FIFA World Cup in 1998.
  • F said that her most fluent students really enjoy using French words in English, and one kid piped up, “Yes, it’s a cliché.” I gave my “History of Feminism in the US” presentation to them, and several students knew the term “glass ceiling.” These kids are more woke that I was at their age. They’re the generation that will save us all. (They’re also studying Shakespeare. Hell, English is my native language and I could barely understand Hamlet in AP Lit.)
  • There’s nothing like pretending that I don’t understand French when kids start whispering, “Tell her she’s pretty” or “Why does she have an accent?” (Practically all the teachers here have British accents.)
  • An entire group of terminales told me that I should never come back to Laon. It’s kind of sad how much the lycéens hate it here.
  • A student raised his hand and asked, “Miss, were you in Dijon a few weeks ago?” Turns out he saw me on the street, but wasn’t sure it was me, so he didn’t say hi. It’s a good thing he didn’t, because considering I last saw him in November, I wouldn’t have recognized him.
  • Someone asked me what horseback riding was, so Jh asked the class what you do with horses, and one kid said, “Canoeing?”
  • Madeline made the most accurate observation when it comes to me teaching topics that aren’t related to social justice: “LMAO either way WHO CARES SARENA SURE AS HELL DOESN’T.”

What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class V

  • I threw together a brief PowerPoint on Christmas in America, because I didn’t see the point in starting social justice when I won’t see the fluent terminales for another month and a half—and then a student excitedly showed off her ugly sweater and Yeti socks to demonstrate that France also does the ugly sweater tradition.
  • My conversation class that consists entirely of secondes addressed me as “Madame” the entire time. It was surreal.
    • I had them do a running dictation, which resulted in much hilarity for me as half the group ran back and forth and frantically repeated or spelled words to their partners, and still ended up with mistakes like “eggoes” instead of “eggnog” and “witch” instead of “which.”
    • One of the categories on my Scattergories sheet is “American names,” and one pair wrote down Sarena. Aw, thanks.
  • I told Al’s students black stories to solve, and the students started watching us to see which questions we laughed at to see if they were getting closer to the answer.
  • I made K snort when I muttered to her, “The students are looking at me like I’m going to eat them.” Ideal colleague relationship accomplished.
    • K had me rehearse a play with three students, so I had to read all the extra lines…I can’t act to save my life.
    • I spent the next three hours with her classes asking the same questions about a detective comic strip, and though it was repetitive as hell, I got to hear entertaining things like, “Do you normally threaten people with a t-shirt?” and “2:15 o’clock pm.”
  • Mc had his BTS students—18-22 year olds doing a vocational training certificate—present themselves to me, so they asked him, “Can she present herself in French?” and he replied, “No, that’s not what she’s here for.”
    • At the end of the class, he caved and asked if I’d be willing to speak French…except he gave me the topic of Christmas in America, whereupon I adopted a deer-in-the-headlights look. (I had to solicit information from my friends to be able to talk about the holiday in English. I kid you not, I didn’t know what an advent calendar was until last November or December.) So Mc changed the topic to my winter break plans, and I said, “Pour les vacances de Noël, je ne vais pas retourner aux Etats-Unis parce que c’est trop cher. Je vais rester en France, et je vais voyager à Strasbourg, à Lyon et à Dijon” and they stood up and started clapping. Thanks?
  • N didn’t even have classes; instead, he held a competitive quiz game for extra credit, composed of photos of Anglophone celebrities, my 10-question quiz about America, and then British/American/Australian film extracts. Like he promised, the classroom was filled with candy and good cheer. Favorite moments: 1) during the Frozen clip, he sang out Anna’s despondent “Okay, bye,” and the entire class giggled and 2) after the second class, a student came up to me and asked, “Do you want to eat a morceau of cake?”
  • Ml said my speaking activity had to be Christmas-themed, so I had the class debate for and against Christmas. I proceeded to spend the whole hour laughing because they got really into it (this was actually the class that I came out to last month) and came up with arguments like, “Chocolate, snow, and no school,” “You eat too much food and become fat,” “Children will be sad because Santa is fake,” and “It’s not a good holiday if you’re allergic to trees.”

What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class IV

  • I told half a class to divide themselves into groups and talk about discrimination against POC, and I ended up sitting in the corner trying not to giggle as these precious secondes said things like:
    • “To beer or not to beer, drink is the question”
    • “Donald Trump is very bad/racist/inhumane/stupid” (this gets better if you imagine them saying it in their French accents)
    • Parce que because”
    • Pire pire pire”–>“In English please”
    • “QQQ” instead of “KKK”
  • The next group split themselves into girls vs. boys to see who could come up with the most types of discrimination, and they took it so seriously, whispering so the other team couldn’t hear them. The girls finished first and then proceeded to distract the boys by talking to them, which I found hilariously ingenious—or as they’d say in French, malin.
  • Right before I took half her class into the library, J said, “I told you to talk about segregation, right?” and I went “Sure uh-huh” because I wasn’t about to point out that she hadn’t when her husband passed away two weeks ago. So I ended up BSing a lesson on the Civil Rights Movement and its evolution into Black Lives Matter, and then threw in intersectionality because why not, I’m never going to pass up a chance to talk about social justice.
  • Another group asked me questions about discrimination in the US—some really good ones about racism in jobs, schools, neighborhoods, states, etc., and even “Do you think there’s a solution to end racism?”
    • Some kid asked if there’s discrimination in men’s and women’s wages, and I absolutely did not have “A woman makes 77 cents to a man’s dollar” memorized.
    • Five boys in the back of the room were whispering to each other to figure out how to ask me, “Have you ever been a victim of discrimination?” but they decided it was too personal of a question. Aw, I absolutely would have answered your question, but I appreciate the sensitivity.
  • One group raised the question of whether there’s a term to describe discrimination against physical traits, such as height, weight, glasses, beauty, and clothing styles—and I couldn’t think of anything besides physical discrimination…?
  • A few students didn’t ask any questions, so all their classmates turned and stared at them. The poor children.
  • Several kids raised their hands to ask me how to say a French word in English. Thank you for believing that my French is good enough to let me serve as your French-English dictionary.
  • It was eye-opening, honestly, that these 15- and 16-year-old students in France are more aware than a good portion of the US population. (Yes, I’m looking at you, white people who voted for Trump. You know there’s a problem when high schoolers immediately start talking about Trump when I tell them to discuss racism.)

This week made me truly feel like a teacher for the first time—moderating discussions, teaching, explaining, and providing grades and feedback. I’m really grateful for the experience that working as a writing and French tutor gave me, and I think I could get used to this teaching thing…as long as the students are well-behaved and interested.

What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class III

  • Some kid shouted, “Wait me!” after his friends, which made me smile, like when someone tried to say “eggs” but pronounced it as “oggs.”
  • One boy said, “What does ‘historic’ mean?” and then answered his own question by going, “Ah, historique!”
  • A girl walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, my friend wants to know if your scarf is Ravenclaw?” After I said “Yes, it is,” she and her friend giggled delightedly and walked away.
  • One of Al’s classes basically started crying when I left. I’m sorry, children. If only all the students were as excited about having me in the class as you all.
    • Al and I scarred another of her classes for life when we Googled a picture of spray can cheese. (She also showed me a teaching site that she uses, bless her heart.)
  • When a boy asked K in French whether he was allowed to ask for my phone number, she looked at me with pure pain in her eyes and whispered, “I’m sorry, this isn’t my fault.”
    • A girl asked, “Where do you want to live in the future?” and I replied, “In an apartment with my friends”—and then I almost died with laughter when an utterly shocked K said, “The normal response would be, ‘With a husband and children.’” Pfft, I don’t have time for heteronormativity.
  • After a boy asked if I watched basketball and I replied “No,” he sat back in his chair and muttered, “How do you live in the United States?”
  • I told a class that I’m from Richmond, Virginia, and re Virginie, someone said, “C’est une très belle prénom!” (That’s a pretty first name!”)
  • “You’ve wasted your life,” declared a boy after I told him that I’ve only played the Wii because I don’t own a PlayStation or Xbox.
  • A couple of kids whispered, “She can understand what we’re saying?” after I confirmed that I speak French. Yes, children, I can understand all your whispered conversations.
  • One class was supposed to present themselves to me, and one kid ended with, “I am hungry.”
  • Ml said, “Look what happened to America, the greatest democracy in the world!” when talking about the bigoted Cheeto, and I all but snorted with laughter, causing a few girls sitting in front of me to start giggling.
  • During Two Truths and a Lie, one of a student’s truths was, “I am very shy.” I immediately wanted to walk over there and give her a hug, but that probably doesn’t fit teaching assistant protocol.
  • While taking attendance, I called out, “Anaïs,” and apparently pronounced the name so correctly that one of her friends muttered, “She speaks French?”
  • F told me that a kid raised their hand and said in French, “I want to talk about Harry Potter, but I don’t know how to say Harry Potter in English.” You dear, sweet children.
  • A girl told me, “It is very hahaha” because she didn’t know how to say “funny.”

What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class II

  • While a girl was trying to figure out what languages I speak, she asked, “German? Spanish? Italianish?”
  • A student legitimately asked me, “How long have you been learning English?” and I stood there flabbergasted until the teacher said, “Think of what a stupid question that is! She comes from America! She’s been speaking English her whole life!”
  • I finally met the elusive Ak (it took F one whole year to realize that Ak was one of her colleagues), and I can see why. I didn’t think it was possible, but Ak, along with R at Méchain, are quieter than I am and thus have serious issues keeping their classes under control—the students are horrifically behaved and talk the entire time, so it’s beyond awkward for me to be in the room with those two teachers.
    • One girl in Ak’s class said “No no no I don’t believe that” when I said that I liked France better than the US and then called me crazy for not choosing to be an assistant in the south of France. Child, don’t give me that attitude. You know nothing about my life. (I’ll confess that I had fun answering her questions with outrageous lies that would’ve been obvious if you know me.)
  • With the amount of kids asking me if I prefer Trump or Clinton, I’m actually morbidly curious as to what would happen if an assistant replied Trump.
  • One girl straight up told me, “Let me give you some advice. Take the train to Paris because here it is a dead city.” Good to know that the children of Laon hate it.
  • Several kids have said that R-MC looks like Disneyland. They’re so young, so innocent.
  • When a student asked if I had a boyfriend, I said no, and then two boys loudly exclaimed, “Yes!” I don’t think they’ve realized that they have absolutely no chance.
  • Jt told a student that he should try eating peanut butter with Nutella, and he got this look of utter disgust on his face. I don’t think that kid has lived if he thinks peanut butter and chocolate is disgusting.
    • I then proceeded to depress one of her classes by explaining why I don’t believe in the “American dream.” I know, I’m so patriotic.
  • Someone asked me if I’ve ever seen Fifty Shades of Grey, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more horrified to learn that a high school girl has watched the movie. And liked it.
  • A class protested, “But you said you don’t have a boyfriend!” when I showed them a picture of one of my professors and me. I’ve been sufficiently scarred for life. Why must heteronormativity exist?
  • After I told a class about R-MC’s annual tuition, one girl raised her hand and asked, “Are you rich?” Sweetie, I wish we were living in a world where student debt isn’t real.
  • I was on the verge of falling asleep before walking into a class, but these 15-year-old babies were so excited to see me that I became wide awake. Although poor M-L had no idea what was going on while they happily fired away with questions such as, “Do you like Pokémon/Troye Sivan/The 100/Bioshock/Teen Wolf/Fast and Furious/Pretty Little Liars/The Hunger Games? (Also, what on earth is up with the French obsession with The Walking Dead?)
  • I won over this class full of boys when I confirmed that I play Pokémon Go, and then one of them shouted, “I love you!” after I said that the Tenth Doctor was my favorite.
  • To the two boys muttering to each other in disbelief when I said I was 22, I just want you know that I could understand your French. Every word of it.

What Happens in Class, Doesn’t Stay in Class

  • Students keep asking me if I’m married or if I have any children, which makes me feel like a fossilizing dinosaur.
  • I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to explain Halsey, Bastille, Parks and Recreation, and Chipotle.
  • One student asked for my phone number, and that’s the one question I’ve refused to answer so far.
  • Another student asked if I used social networks, and I replied “Yes” before realizing that was probably a terrible idea. At least I haven’t received friend requests from hordes of high schoolers on Facebook…yet.
  • I showed a class pictures of my friends’ cat and said that I sadly don’t have one, and one girl said she’d buy one for me. Go for it.
  • A girl wanted me to say écureuil, so I did and she approved of my pronunciation, which I guess is good. Better than when another class said, “Aww, that’s so cute” when I said my name and age in French.
  • A boy recommended I go to a nearby kebab restaurant because “It is very bon.”
  • When I told A’s class that I was working as an assistant to see if I want to become a teacher, A translated, “She isn’t sure whether she wants to take care of petits monstres for the rest of her life.”
  • When a boy said, “Can I ask a personal question?” and I replied “…Yes?” he asked, “Are you single or married?” After saying that I was single, I immediately thought, “Is this a trick question should I have answered ‘married’ to make sure no high schoolers will ever try to flirt with me?”
  • The one time I’ve ever challenged a teacher was when I said that knew a bit of sign language, and J explained it as “the language that dumb people use,” and I immediately protested, “I’d use ‘mute’ or ‘deaf’ instead of ‘dumb.’” But she said that she didn’t think the students would understand “mute,” and I just… Seriously? “Mute” in English really isn’t that different from “muet” in French. Give those kids some credit.
  • When I asked a class what I could do in Laon, one boy said, “Nothing. Take the train and go to Reims. Don’t come back.”
  • I attempted to say “You’re welcome” and “No problem” to a student as they walked out of the classroom, but it came out as a muffled “You’re problem.” I’ve already done this once at the Writing Center last year. I’ll go put a cone of shame on my head.
  • A fluent class wanted me to speak French, so I said, “Bonjour, je m’appelle Sarena. J’ai 22 ans et je viens de la Virginie,” and the kids said, “Pas mal,” so I’ll accept it—especially because these kids were asking me about gun control, police brutality, and the primary elections.
  • I interpreted “Do you have a gun?” as “Do you have a girl?” but at least the answer was no either way.
  • I misheard “Do you like Marie Le Pen” (the French equivalent of Trump) as “Do you know Mario Lopez,” so I accidentally said yes…but luckily they realized I have no idea who she is, so all is well.
  • This 15- or 16-year-old child told me, “You are beautiful,” and I burst out laughing in front of the whole class because I don’t think he realized that there was a pretty significant age gap going on.
  • One girl at Claudel is apparently such an overachiever (she’s going to the US for two weeks to do a project comparing the French and American elections as viewed through the media) that the teachers don’t know what to do with her because she answers every question during class.
  • When a student asked, “Are you going to live in France later on in your life?” I told him, “Yes, depending on the elections,” and F gave me a thumbs-up while the rest of the class laughed.
  • I broke this kid’s heart when I told him I’ve never seen Lord of the Rings or The Walking Dead, but he adorably perked right back up when I said I like The Legend of Zelda and David Tennant.