Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Let's not be reticent on good days!

Like many other teaching days, I woke up nervous today. Teaching is like giving a concert, which is cool, I like concerts, except I've been playing violin for 15 years and teaching for about a month and a half. Often enough, my worries are justified; I've had my share of unsuccessful teaching days. To be honest, I don't think I'm a natural at teaching, or the learning curve hurts, or I've been airlifted into an alien universe where nothing makes sense.

But not today! Today was gold. Teaching felt great. Thanks, I think, to the advocacy of one of the teachers, I worked with small groups today -- only 4-5 students at a time. With only 4 kids in class, we can sit together in a circle and have a conversation. It's hard to hide, so everyone gets a chance to bust out their English moves. So effective. So suited to my personality. (Have you ever seen me thrive amongst large groups? No, you haven't. And how do I like the "I talk you listen" model? I don't.)

This was one of the first times I've felt truly effective as a teacher. I felt like what I offered them was suitable and helpful and well-executed. After so many classes of feeling like I'm not doing anything for my students but confusing them, this felt so good. I do love those little punks, and I hate to let them down.

Some choice moments:
With the 10 year-olds: "What is dinde [turkey] in English?" "Dodo!" Exceptionally witty, that one. Faire dodo is a cutesy way to say "go to bed" in French. Yes, turkey makes you want to faire dodo. (Inadvertent wit, I'm pretty sure.)

At high school: We were analyzing a political cartoon, and one of my students came up with an interpretation that I had not thought of. Not that I have a monopoly on ideas, but using language to express abstract thoughts is glorious.

In the next class, we joked around about one boy's imaginary friend. Cross-cultural humor. Also glorious.

Later that class, I explained "sweat shop" to them. It's not a funny concept, but seeing them understand "sweat" and then trying to figure out what a shop of sweat might be... good fun. I'd forgotten how weird English is.

I have honed my plans for Christmas (Plan A was sitting alone in a darkened room drinking vodka and writing bad poetry). New and improved plan is an invitation from one of the teachers to have dinner at her house.

If good classes are my favorite thing, The New Yorker magazine is a close second (especially this). Thanks for the care package, Mom!

Out for a walk this afternoon, an elderly man fell on the sidewalk. No fewer than 5 people rushed up to help him, sit with him, and make sure he got home ok (it wasn't anything serious). It is deeply reassuring to know that even on a quiet, empty afternoon, there are still at least 5 people in this town who will help you if you fall.


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  2. awww that's awesome! it's always nice to get some reassurance that you are doing a good job and don't worry you are!, teaching is hard.... it's definitely a lot harder than i imagined but that's the thing about this job, it teaches you how to bring out skills you never that you came equipped with :-) I like the whole "Dodo" thing, some kids are just too charming for their own good. I'm hoping you continue to have more awesome teaching days such as this one.... p.s. if you have some free time during the break we should get together, ill be in Marseille with my sister the weekend of Jan 2nd-4th if you are free :-)

  3. Thanks Halima!! It's SO reassuring to hear that I'm not the only one who thinks teaching is hard. :-) I still have a ways to go, but I think we're really going to have learned a lot by the time this year is out (even if we won't have an oral bac to show for it ;-) ).
    We so should hang over break! My mommy will be here that weekend, but I wouldn't be surprised if we were in Marseille. Let's be in touch!
    Here's hoping you're having some good teaching days too. :-)

  4. In one of my classes, we were looking at an image that was basically the "icons of America," like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, McDonalds, Coca Cola, the Empire State building, etc...

    I asked what each thing represented, and one student said, "I think that the Coke bottle represents globalization. America is becoming a force throughout the world and its domination is represented in this one bottle."

    Yeesh. I have some smart students. (I should note, though, that in the next group, a student said the Coke bottle represented "that everyone is thirsty in America." ???? You win some, you lose some, I guess...)

  5. wow... nice. my kiddo's was about an image of an american flag, but instead of stars it had brand logos. he said, "it means that american has forgotten its values."

    left me speechless long enough that he was afraid he'd made a mistake

    PS kinzie, do i know you in person? i can't tell from your name, your photo or your writing style. either way, nice to see you here!