Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Which Soleil Finds Her People, Successfully Doesn't Burn Her Room Down, and Fails at Teaching English

I have been super busy for the past few weeks. Why, you may ask? I found the Jews. Or perhaps I should say that they found me. I was connected with a lovely fa,ily, the Bs, by a friend of mine from home whose father does business with Mr B. My friend exchanged our coordonées (contact information) and they invited me for Shabbat two weekends ago. I had a really great time, they are just lovely people and have seven really nice and cute kids. They made me feel really welcome and like one of the family. They are also quite a bit more pratiquant (observant) than me, so that was interesting. Observant as in their rabbi is Lubuvitcher - you know, the guys with the beards, hats, and black coats, Mrs B wears a sheitl and only skirts, the boys have tzitzit on always, women can't lead services or read from the Torah, you get the picture. Then on Sunday afternoon, you will never believe what happened. Picture this: I'm playing in the living room with the youngest girls when a guy comes to the door. He talks with Mr B and Mrs B, and then he and Mr B come into the living area and I hear Mr B say in French "this is the American, she's 23, etc." Uh-oh. So they call me over and Mr B says "this is our friend from Israel. He knows people and can introduce you to some people." He's a matchmaker!!!!! I felt like I had walked onto the set of Fiddler on the Roof. What century do I live in again? Anyway, I sort of stuttered and flubbed my way through telling him where I live, what I'm doing in France, that kind of stuff, and then awkwardly left the room as fast as I could. So that was quite interesting. I know that the Bs meant only the best by this, and I'm flattered that they think well enough of me to find me a husband, but this is not so much my style of finding Mr Right. I doubt that the matchmaker will come up with anyone anyway - I'm 23 and past my expiration date.

Anyway, so last weekend I was back in the same community but with a different family (see how welcoming this community is? very nice) but I also went to a Hanukkah party sponsored by the congregation Kehilat Gesher, which is a Francopohone-Anglophone synogogue in Paris and more in the wing of Judaism that I'm used to. I had a great time, met lots of people, including another assistant (or former assistant) who was really nice, and stuffed myself. Good times.

Yesterday I completely raté-d my lesson with one of my CM2 classes. We're learning I like/I don't like and also the forms with you and s/he. So I picked a song, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, and made up a worksheet to practice s/he likes, because they always forget the s at the end. The kids were clueless. I understand that they didn't know how to find the answers in the song (they had to find out who was singing and then figure out you/I into s/he), okay, fine, I didn't realize that that part was so complicated for them. But I am completely horrified that they didn't understand the questions in English, and that they didn't want to answer in English. These kids have no idea what "who" means. Oh my gosh, who has been teaching them for the pzst two or three years????? They should have learned that in their first year of English! I don't know how I'm going to get them ready to take the regional English exam at the end of the year if I have to spend this much time reviewing things that they should know by now, plus the fact that it takes them so long to learn anything. I think the problem must be me. Maybe I just don't teach in a way that will make them remember, or maybe I'm not forcing them to use English enough. I know I speak too much French in class, and I'm really trying to change that, but what can I do when they give me blank looks when I tell them to raise their hands if they want to anser the question? Maybe I should just switch to only speaking English. It would be really rough, but they might learn more that way. I say might, because with these kids there is no guarantee. I don't know, I just felt like such a failure yesterday, especially because I thought it was such a great idea for a lesson. If anyone has any games or lessons for drilling into their heads 'she likes" with an s, please tell me, because I'm almost out of ideas!

On the flip side, one of the joys of teaching is that I can see every class that there's another kid who is more enthousiastic about English and tries a little harder. It's really gratifying. Kids are great.

7 comments:

Destination Metz said...

You are not a bad teacher. Basically their teachers get them to memorise things like numbers, colours etc. But 90 percent of my CM2 class write things like "May naim is ...." and can't spell the numbers past 10. Scary huh? I've been trying to get them to do a lot of role playing with conversation questions and answers because some of them can answer the question but can't ask it, they can't tell the difference between "how are you?" and "how old are you?". I don't know, don't stress about it..we're untrained teachers doing our best.

Destination Metz said...

You are not a bad teacher. Basically their teachers get them to memorise things like numbers, colours etc. But 90 percent of my CM2 class write things like "May naim is ...." and can't spell the numbers past 10. Scary huh? I've been trying to get them to do a lot of role playing with conversation questions and answers because some of them can answer the question but can't ask it, they can't tell the difference between "how are you?" and "how old are you?". I don't know, don't stress about it..we're untrained teachers doing our best.

Meredith said...

I'm so glad I found your blog! I didn't know you had one. It's been so much fun reading about your vie en France! I'm super jealous. That's too funny about the matchmaker! I didn't know those existed-let alone in France! But hey, maybe you'll meet some cool people as a result! And I'm sure you're not a bad teacher. The kids probably LOVE you and you're doing such a cool thing for these small-town French kids just by bringing your real American experience! Hope you're doing well and having a blast.
-Meredith

Jennie said...

Oh honey, it is definitely not you. I have some Premiere students who cannot even say "how are you?" much less respond to it correctly!

So many of my lycee students do not remember the simplest things that I have a hard time believing they have been learning English since primaire. It's just sad how little they know and retain.

Leah said...

I wouldn't worry, I'm sure the lack of knowledge is a result of years before. But, I would take your own advice of trying to speak as much English as possible. There are so many things you can mime...write, draw, cut, listen, repeat, be quiet, sit down, stand up, raise your hand, open/close your notebook, take out your pencil/pen etc. Over time, they will eventually get the idea. To explain complicated activities or to discipline more than just a bit of talking or someone standing up, I would use French. I just think it's more effective to avoid mass confusion and them easily ignoring you.

As for I/you/we/they like vs. s/he likeS, I would use vocab they already know like fruits, then make some sort of sheet with 2 checklists with a smiley face for Yes, I like and a frowny one for No, I don't like. Then, after each student fills out their half of the sheet, you could have them partner up and ask Do you like bananas?etc and fill out their partner's half of the sheet. Then, go around the room and each kid has to say what their partner does/doesn't like by memory. I always found it helpful to explain rules such as verb forms in he/she take an 's' at the end before you do the exercise. If there's some sort of rule in place, they will pay more attention and remember it better.

As for remembering, I was big on using Flashcards to introduce new vocab as well as review old vocab. When you can, I would also try to mix in old vocab with new vocab(for ex, using fruits with I like/I don't like.) This also gives them a sense of meaning to the words...they're actually useful and are connected.

Ok, I have written an entire novel AS USUAL, but I wanted to try and help because I've been through all this stuff myself before. I saw on the technorati site that you had linked to me in your profile, so I thought I would give you a shout out! Good luck!!!

Leah said...

A second thought...if you want me to email you wkshts I've created, you can comment me on my site with your email(which I can delete after.) Lemme know! :)

Au Soleil Levant said...

Thanks for all the moral support guys! "my naim is" made me laugh out loud, that's exactly what my kids are like too. It is pretty ridiculous that they expect these kids to attain some level of competence in English when they only learn it for 1.5 hours a week, usually from French people with horrendous accents. And what great ideas for lessons!