There has been a slight uptick of successful classes lately. I still haven't gotten the hang of manipulating large groups of unwilling adolescents, and I may never, but when I can gather a few little students in a circle to chat for 50 minutes, things go well. More than six or so and you start getting into cat-herding territory. Not that I don't like cats, and in fact I have an adorable group of 15/16-year-old kitties on Friday mornings who are curious and playful and will respond however flittingly both to suggestions to be quiet and invitations to talk in English.* Yesterday I chatted for an hour with a charming group of five terminales (high school seniors) who, unless I flatter myself, were pleased to discover that English can be used to chat, not just to do grammar exercises, and to have a teacher sit and listen to them talk about themselves. The cool thing about teaching is that you have tons of kids in your life who you could potentially care about, and every so often you see them respond. Tuesday, two girls told me, "It's a good class, Madame!"
With one class, I had a worthwhile, if brief, discussion about multi-culturalism, via Kwanzaa. We worked through their confusion ("No, no, black people can still celebrate Christmas! And, uh, I guess white people can do Kwanzaa too?" I don't think we have segregated holidays in the US...? They were worried about the white people being left out of Kwanzaa) and they were impressed that we have a holiday to celebrate black heritage. They did tell me that they think US has more racism than France to which I say: Obama can take Sarkozy any day, and they know it. We got to Kwanzaa by way of the Muslim holiday of Eid. For my part, I made the mistake of assuming that that blond girl didn't celebrate Christmas because she was atheist or celebrated the Solstice or something. Turns out she was Muslim. Guess that goes to show that, Obama and Kwanzaa aside, we still have something to learn about stereotypes...
Of course a small group is no guarantee for success. For example, my terminales today who, when I mentioned that we were in English class to practice speaking English, told me "je parle pas anglais"** as matter-of-factly as if I had accidentally stumbled into a grocery store looking to buy a skirt, and went back to chatting in French until I was ready to get back on subject (whatever that may be). Luckily, I came to class armed with music, and they happily sang along (such as it were) to Winter Wonderland and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and the class narrowly escaped complete failure.
Across the board, good kids or no, they all think they can get away with texting in class. They look embarrassed and surprised when I, smugly, swiftly and adeptly, catch them, but, really, what did they want me to think they were doing staring intently at their lap?
*I mean the cat analogy as affection rather than condescension; I think I respect my students.
** "I don't speak English."