mercredi 2 mai 2012
Can I come back?
Actually... you know what? I think I want to come back. I want to write on this blog again. I've missed it, more than I'm willing to admit. So - for those of you who were kind enough to read my ramblings, maybe you'll want to come back . I'll do my best to update semi-regularly. This blog has helped me to figure things out along the way, to process and share. I don't want to stop doing that! I need this outlet. Otherwise, I tend to bottle things up, and I get migraines. Unpleasant. If "a blog post a day keeps the migraines away", and if I feel like I just can't stop myself from writing, then I should write! Simple as that.
Glad we cleared that up.
My last day of class is tomorrow. I'm going to go ahead and make an assumption : I think that my students are glad that the semester is over. I also think that quite a few of my students are glad that they won't have to take a language course ever again. Unfortunately, I wasn't singlehandedly able to successfully challenge the stereotype that English is the only language one needs to know in "America". Of course, some students have learned from the experience of taking two semesters of French in college. At least two young women in my class will be studying abroad in France, and will, most likely, gain a lot from the experience. Other students might pick French up again at some point in their lives. A few will take the next class offered for their level. And I hope that some students will consider tutoring next year. But the silent majority doesn't really seem to care. Maybe they do, and I just don't know it? Nah. I was teaching an elementary French class - who am I kidding? Some kids just needed the course credit. And I guess that's okay.
Or is it?
I don't know if it's a genetic thing, or the way I was brought up (I think the latter), but I overly care about things, and it does perplex me when I see others staring blankly as if to say "why waste your breath?". There is probably a correlation between caring and teaching. Come to think about it, there is a correlation between caring and theater. Both teaching and theater are occupations which wouldn't survive without a deep commitment to the ideals that are at their core.
When it comes to teaching, the content is important. And as a French teacher this year, I realized how much I enjoyed deepening my own understanding of French grammar and structure. But my happiest moments in the classroom are when I have successfully transmitted a concept; when students take what I give and make it their own. They created some fun tongue-twisters, wrote a few skits, sang a song in front of their peers and learned about the French election. I think those were the highlights of the semester, in terms of what I was really able to transmit. But there are other encounters where the teaching lies much more in the simple human interaction. Students look up to teachers. I was shocked to realize that when I started taking leadership roles in the classroom. It doesn't matter if you're only a couple of years older than they are. You, as the teacher, are meant to guide and explain things. Maybe that's really what it's all about.
One student came to my office and openly avowed disliking French. This caught me by surprise - who actually tells their French prof. that they don't like French? - but in a way, I was glad that he was expressing a strong opinion. I told him that he needed to find a reason to study. What was his goal for the class? Did he want to fail and take another language course? He said no. So I ventured that his goal was perhaps simply to pass the course. In order to pass, he needed to find it within himself to study. He agreed and asked me what grammar points he should be using in his next assignment. His work has improved since. He cared enough not to take French ever again. And he learned that you don't have to like something to do it. You just have to do it. Of course, it helps a whole lot when you actually enjoy the process, but that's not a prerequisite for success. In a twisted way, I'm glad that I was able to tell him that it was okay if didn't like the subject, but it didn't dispense him from doing his best to fulfill the requirements of the course. In that interaction, the emotional response "I like", "I don't like" was challenged and the notion of discipline was introduced. I didn't make him change his mind : it's safe to say that he will never speak French again once this course is over. But at some point in the future, he will encounter a challenging topic and think "I don't like this, but maybe I can get past my dislike and accomplish my goal" or, more bluntly " Damn, this sucks, but I need to graduate".