Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another week gone as a teacher. Now that all the initial paperwork, observation and looming vacation is over, I have a solid seven-week stretch of time to get some real work done. Two weeks down. Another week or two, and I'll be really counting down the days. I can't say I hate my job. It's not hard, per se, and it's something new. I'm all for new experiences. It's just that some days, it can be challenging and very tiring. Despite their varied backgrounds, the kids are pretty good. Some could definitely use some learning disability testing, or at least some behavioral lessons. During recess breaks, I hear horror stories from teachers about kids that have hit them, bit them, or thrown a chair at them. (!) So far, nothing like that in my classes. But behavior is just something that is definitely lacking in a lot of them, especially the boys. Chalk it up to cultures, I guess. A lot of the kids have abusive fathers, absent fathers, or just not enough's a real problem that seems to repeat itself in future generations.

As far as the English lessons, though, they're going okay. I have this time to make some real progress, and I've been trying, but some classes are just better than others. In some classes, it's just a good group of kids that don't fight, and are really receptive to learning English. In others, it's a really strict teacher that knows how to handle them. But there are a few of my classes that are just plain disrespectful and annoying. Let me tell you, it gets old saying "BE QUIET!" over and over. One class of 5th graders I have are way behind the class right next door to them--they both started off at the same level--solely because I spend half the period telling them to be quiet, listen, and threatening them with non-existent tests. As a tip from another assistant, I might just make the troublemakers sit alone at a desk and copy pages from an English book. Something really English-y, say, Charlotte Brontë or Charles Dickens. It's a classic French school punishment, making kids faire des copies. They all know The Simpsons, (I get asked at least once a week if Springfield is a real city..which I have to respond, yes, there's more than one!) so maybe I'll go all Bart Simpson on their ass and make them write "I will not talk when my teacher is talking" 20 times. For the really bad ones, "I most certainly will not ever again think of speaking while my instructor is teaching us invaluable English lessons that will serve us in our future studies and careers." 100 times.

My day-to-day life as an temporary Parisian has become pretty familiar. My morning routine is hauntingly precise. Up by 6:20, quick breakfast, check my bank account (crossing my fingers), get ready, out the door by 7:00 on the dot. Followed by a hurried 6-minute jaunt to the metro stop. Catch 7:06/7:07 train to train station. Arrive there at 7:21/22. Run to commuter train that leaves at 7:25. Get to suburb around 7:50, run to the 7:55 bus to take to my school, arrive at my school around 8:15. Repeat the next day.

I feel like I've adapted pretty well to living (again) in Paris. I frequent the libraries like a pro, take the metro and buses to every corner of the city, and know that the supermarket closest to me closes officially at 8pm but locks its doors at 7:50. Sometimes, while on one of my many public transport trips, I'll scare myself because I'll know what stop I'm at without opening my eyes. I'll recognize where I am just by which side of the train the doors open on or by how many times the train has stopped since I've gotten on. Bad, huh!

The thing is, though, I like blending in. I like being a part of the city, breathing it in and watching life go by as a million other people follow their own morning routines. I love that, with unfailing consistency, the same beggar woman who always sits in front of the bakery will be there on my way home, or that the fruit shop will call out the day's specials as I walk by, or that in my building, where I don't know anyone, everyone will still say "bonjour," to me, because we live in the same building. (Note of culture: you would not say "bonjour" to someone randomly on the streets. Since we cross paths in the building, it's common courtesy to say hello.)

So even when I'm pissed, with no money, and it's raining, and I'm dreading having to get up at 6am the next morning, and I haven't started my lesson plans...I look out my window, see the Eiffel Tower, and remember why I'm here. Because I love this city. If teaching kids English during the day and watching kids after school makes it possible for me to live here, then that's what it takes. Paris wins.

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