Thursday, January 31, 2008

Where do I even begin???? or Drama 02200 Style Part Deux

I am on gossip overload from yesterday through today. How ironic!

The remplacant from a couple of weeks ago who had the problem with the students? Apparently he is now in a mental hospital. He went home that night and had a total mental breakdown in front of his kids and is now in the hospital. According to the woman who told me this, he'd been ill for a while and had a lot of other stressors in his life and he needs some time to figure things out and relax. I feel so bad for him, what an unfortunate situation. And I think one of his kids is in one of my classes. Can you imagine? When I see him again I'm going to be extra nice to him.

At one of my schools I ride the bus with a ton of the students. In France they don't have school buses, so the kids ride city buses or charter buses to get to their schools. Weird, huh? I actually enjoy riding the bus with them, they all clamor to sit next to me and ask me questions, it's very gratifying. Anyway, while we're waiting for the bus today one of my CM2 girls, B, tells me she has a petit copain (boyfriend) in the class and wants me to guess who it is. I finally do, it's M. Then B says that M has hit her a few times, and she points to her sternum and eye. So I of course go into the speech my mother has given me 20 million times, that violence is wrong, that someone who hits you doesn't really like you, and that if it happens again she should tell her mother. Clearly I cannot just leave the situation at that, I have to do more. What I find almost more disturbing than the fact that one of my ten year old students is in a domestic violence situation is that abusers have typically been abused themselves, so I'm worried that M isn't in a safe home situation. I asked one of the teachers at one of my other schools what I should do zith this information and she said to tell the maitresse (teacher) so that she can handle it. I think I'm going to both the directeur (principal) and the maitresse about this. What I'm not sure about is how to tell B that I have to go to the other teachers with this. I don't want to loose her trust and I don't want her to feel betrayed. On the other hand, she did say this while there were other students around, so I don't know how much of a secret this is. I think the best approach is to tell her in private that I'm really glad she feels she can trust me with this information but that I can't just let it stay our secret because M might be in danger too, and because it's very wrong for someone to behave that way towards their significant other. Anyone else have any thoughts? I went through crisis hotline training, so I feel like I can handle this, but I would be happy to have other input.

My other drama today was with, you guessed it, my monster class. They were chatty and not paying attention, comme d'habitude, and I am quite annoyed by 4:20 (ten minutes to go) that despite all of my best efforts this is continuing to be a problem. It was mostly the CM1, the CE2 were actually pretty good today. Then all of a sudden one of the kids is under his desk crying, another kid tells me that some girls had said gros mots (bad words) to him, and they were shoving their desks into him now. So his sister goes over to see if he's alright, then one of the other kids pushes his desk into her head. She's hysterical, and it looks like the brother and the other kid are going to have a fist fight right in the middle of class. So I restort to screaming in English at them to break it up, send two girls to find the new remplacant (who had left me with the kids) and start giving them a lecture on being nice to each other. The remplacant comes in, has me explain what happened, and then offers her solution, which I thought was genius: she made the kid who shoved his desk into the sister's head kiss both the sister and the brother. I really liked that actually. Then she tells the class that they have to appologize to me, which they did, and she asked if I accepted their apology. I said that quite frankly, I see no reason to continue to teach English with them since they obviously don't appreciate it. Uh oh, maybe spoke a little too soon. That was a pretty big threat to use, and I don't really mean it. There are some kids that I never want in my classroom again, that is certain, but I don't want to throw in the towel with the whole class. So now I feel like I'm a little stuck. Their teacher (who is also the directeur) is coming back from leave tomorrow and he will be told about all of this. I am going to look so awesome in his book, I completely lost control of the class twice in the space of a week. But there are definitely some things that need to change with that class if I am going to continue to teach them. First of all, I need to be able to make a new seating chart. It is ridiculous that he has all of the problem kids sitting with each other to create more problems. I'm also going to tell him that this every other day thing is crap and that the kids aren't learning anything. And that I don't see myself taking all 28 or 29 insane children all at the same time ever again. They have to be divided in two, it's too much to supervise otherwise. I feel like I should go to the school tomorrow (I don't work on Fridays) to explain the situation to him, but it can probably wait until Tuesday, or Monday morning when I'm at the other elementary school in town.

On a happier note, my vacation travel plans are really coming together! I have all of my plane tickets booked and half the hotels. I'll be in Prague with my friend J (who is also an English teacher, but with business English and preschoolers) the 8-11, then it's off to Rome, leave Rome the evening of the 14th for Florence, get back to Rome the 17th for a flight to Greece, and Greece until the 24th. I'm really looking forward to this trip,it will be my first time outside of the US, Canada, and France!

I really need to get lesson plans done for next week, but it's so tempting to just go watch a movie and make some nachos.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I am exhausted. Monster class was ultra crazy today. They started out okay and then it just deteriorated after about 15 minutes. Finally I just yelled to get them to be quiet and made them write "English class is not recess" ten times, and they have to take it home to have their parents sign it. There were some kids who behaved well so I put a sticker on their lines to show their parents that they weren't the problem. They seemed to be really into the idea of the sticker chart and getting a prize at the end of the trimester but apparently it just wasn't enough to hold them for 45 minutes! I think I just have to change my approach with them entirely. Quick quick learning of very very short phrases or just a few words, then play like 18 different games that involve lots of getting up and running around. I think that's the only way I can keep some sort of order in that class! Although apparently they were ultra crazy for the remplacant too, she had like five different kids under punishment today. I just hate punishing the kids so I think changing teaching tactics is the best idea.

The new remplacant is tough! She left the room during the English lesson (she needed a break after being with these kids all day long!) and came back at the end while they were writing lines. When I told her what they were doing she started screaming at them and made one little guy cry. Also today one of the CM2 maitresses (there are two women who alternate days, kind of odd) was handing back conjugation homework while I was arranging my stuff at the back of the room after English class was finished and she started ripping into the kids who had done it wrong. I was really surprised by her behavior because she's really sweet and the kids seem to like her a lot, they always want her to participate in English class. I will never get used to the way teachers treat the students in this country. How are the kids supposed to build any kind of self confidence or self esteem if they are constantly being told how dumb they are and what a bad job they did? I guess that's one of the major educational philosophy differences between America and France. In France they are driving them through a machine to turn them into model citizens and filter through the dummies to create an elite ruling class, while in America we're a lot more touchy feely and think about developing the child's personality and character. Now the comment that my conseillere pedagogique gave me after my observation makes a lot more sense. She said "you're very nice and encouraging to the children and I think that's a very good thing, it makes them want to participate in class." Evidently that isn't so common. If I was getting yelled at all day long I'd just sit there with my mouth shut too.

By the way, the observation went really well, she said I did a good job and gave me some really helpful comments. When I remember to bring my notes on her observation down to the computer room I'll post them, maybe they'll be helpful to other assistants.

Wemm, my romance with Random Boy from Bar is over. Yes, I sent him a texto claiming that I started dating one of my friends last weekend. So he texts me back, and this is word for word, with the same spelling he used: "bone chouns a toi vraiment c dur...." In English, this is something like "gode look to you, really is hard." First of all, I think we're being a little dramatic here. Second of all, learn to spell!!!! Good grief, didn't loose out on anything there.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pick a little, talk a little....

Today with one of my CE1 classes we were finishing up an activity from Martin Luther King Day that I found online. They had to draw hands in various colors that were associated with different values of MLK, one of which was love. So I translate love as amour for them, and one of the little girls calls me over. She and her friend kind of giggle, and then she whispers "N and I have amour. We kissed on the lips at his house." Awwww, young love. And I'm so glad she told me about that too. I always try to get my kids to give me the gossip. A lot of the time though I don't really need them to tell me, it's just really obvious. For example, in my monster class, it's really obvious that I and T like each other, and that B likes M but she doesn't like him that way. Unfortunately J and N in another of my CE1 classes seem to be over, they were super cute. It's kind of weird to think that it's pretty likely that most of these kids will end up marrying their classmates. We're talking about two tiny villages here, the pickings are kind of slim. I would be so interested to know how that all turns out!

I was in Chauny again this weekend, surprise! One of my favorite parts about going there is dishing out what happened that night after getting back from the ba at whatever early o'clock while sitting around the kitchen table eating everything in sight, and then doing it again the next morning. I just like talking and gossip I guess. Some gendarmes that we (I guess I can say we? I think they are my friends too) called us "piplettes," or little birds who chatter a lot. Yeah, that's me. When I'm old I'm totally going to be one of those town biddies who sit around and talk about everyone all day long.

Speaking of Chauny, they did end up coming to Soissons last Thursday, although Pantsless Neighbor was nowhere to be found. Another time, I hope. Unfortunately, I pulled one of my classic dumb moves that night and gave my number to this guy who I am totally uninterested in, and who keeps calling and texting me. I feel bad about the whole situation. So I think I'm just going to send him a text and say that there's someone else (not entirely untrue). Isn't that Jack Berger-ish of me? If SATC took place among teenagers or 20somethings rather than 30somethings he would totally have broken up with Carrie on a text message.

Today the maitresse of CM2 at one of my schools was sick and they didn't have a substitute so I only had one class there. I wonder if the Inspection is wary of subsitute teachers now? No updates on that situation by the way, but I hope to find something out tomorrow when I'm back at that school.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Drama, 02200 Style!

There were big goings-on at one of my schools today. It was kind of difficult to get the full and complete story, and I'm still not sure that I understand everything, but here's what I know. Remember that the teacher of the CE2/CM1 monster class is on paternity leave, so there's been a substitute for a while. Apparently today one of the kids told their parents that the sub had talked about sex in class and used bad language, and then I assume this parent called a bunch of other parents (either that or a bunch of kids told their parents this) and those parents all went to the Inspection (school district offices) to complain about the substitute. So the sub left during recreation, it was all chaotic, he ran in and out of the building with all the teachers a bunch of times before he left, protesting that he had only yelled at a kid who couldn't answer a question he had asked, they had to call and make sure they could get a different sub for tomorrow, lots of confusion. School didn't start again until like 4, so the kids were on recré for like an hour. So now I'm in charge of the monster class, and when I go to let them back into school they all swarm me wanting to know what's going on. I don't know of course, so I don't say anything. Then this girl comes up to me and says that the sub had been tzlking to them about how important it is not to smoke and he had started crying because someone in his family has some kind of health problem. And that is about all I know. Maybe the kid that he yelled at got upset and made up the other story, who knows. I hate to think that there's a kid in that class spreading a lie like that but I know the girl who told me that he'd been talking about smoking wouldn't like. We'll see what ends up happening....

Not a whole lot happening here, just the normal teaching and working. I found a new way to make the CE1s, who have been crazy since vacation, be quiet - stickers! On Tuesday I told them that I would give stickers to the kids who behaved well during class, and I decided to only choose four kids. I told them today that we were playing the same game and they were silent all class. They really wanted those stickers, and they were so excited when they got them!

I'm going to Chauny again tomorrrow, but the exciting news is that they may be coming to Soissons tonight for karaoke! If they end up coming I'm inviting Pantsless Neighbor. By the way, we've had yet another pantless encounter. He was coming out of the shower, I was coming out of the bathroom, it was fun for everyone.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Last night I visited the lovely folks in Chauny again. I had a great time, I feel very lucky that I actually found people in France who I get along with. I had expected, I suppose unrealistically, that I was going to get along really well with all the assistants in my town and be BFF instantly. That hasn't happened. They're nice, just not my type of people I guess. When we first got here we all hung out together all the time (which involved a lot of late nights surrounded by clouds of smoke, ridiculous amounts of alcohol consumption by the others, and me not having much fun) but since mid November that's changed a lot. Until yesterday I hadn't seen any of the other four assistants here, except the one who lives in my lycee, since way before vacation, and now that's kind of leading to awkward situations. Last night I encountered one of the other assistants on the bus to Chauny (she was taking it all the way up to St Quentin) and we had 40ish minutes of sort of strained conversation. Today when I got back from Chauny I met two other assistants in the lycee and had a really awkward exchange. I guess I just don't see the point of getting together with people who I don't enjoy hanging out with, although on the other hand, I'm kind of screwing myself over as far as having a social life in Soissons goes. It's just surprising. Three of my best friends from college lived on my hall freshman year, so I don't think I was entirely wrong to expect to instantly get along with people I was randomly placed with in a small French town. I wonder how other assistants have felt about this issue? I guess I'll just have to rely on Pantless Neighbor for socializing opportunities here....

I'm getting observed by my conseillere pedagogique tomorrow in one of my schools. She volunteered to observe me and give me suggestions when I told her I was worried about my CM2 succeeding on their end of the year English test. I don't think she's going to yell at me and tell me I'm a horrible teacher, so I'm not nervous about that, it's just that I really want to impress her!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More Adventures, This Time with French Doctors and Neighbors Wearing Pants

It's been an interesting week. My French still royally sucks after break, I feel like I have lost all the progress I've made since I moved here. Or maybe I just realize my mistakes more often? Who knows.

I had some good medical news yesterday, I can stop the hellish treatment I've been getting! Yay! Basically it was a day-long treatment in Paris that was not fun and run by really miserable people. You know all those stereotypes about French people in general and bureaucrats in particular that you hear before you come to France? That is this group of nurses and the doctor in charge of the unit to a T. If I have a question, I get yelled at. If I want to share my thoughts and ideas about my health and the treatment, I get yelled at. Our biggest conflict has been scheduling this treatment. Of course I only have two days off of work a week, so naturally it is impossible to schedule (insert dripping sarcasm here). I can't miss work and I can't rearrange my schedule all the time to get horrible treatment. So again, I get yelled at. I can't even tell you how horrible these people have made me feel over the past three or four months. Apparently it is a crime here for patients to be concerned about their health, have something to contribute as regards their own health, or try to schedule appointments convenient to their own schedule. Naturally the doctor is God and we mere mortals must humbly follow their orders or be stricken down with a bolt of lightning! They obviously hate me. The doctor in charge of the unit will say bonjour to everyone else except for me, which is just plain rude. Anyway, yesterday things actually got quite funny. I went to see my specialist in Paris, who decided that I could stop the treatment. So he calls up Dr B*tch to tell her this. They exchange the normal French pleasantries, and then all he does is say my name, and I can hear the woman start screaming on the other end. Unfortunately I couldn't hear what she was saying, but I can imagine it wasn't nice. So my specialist keeps trying to interrupt her screaming, and she just keeps going! He finally gets to tell her that he's stopping treatment, and the other end falls silent. Then they exchange parting pleasantries and then it's over. At first I was shocked that she would behave that way to a colleague, and then I found it so funny that I could hardly contain my laughter. At least I never have to deal with her again.

Pantsless Neighbor and I went out to boire un verre on Thursday. He wore pants, it was like a miracle. We didn't actually speak in English at all, and when I said something about that when we got back to the lycée he says "that's okay, I can't actually understand the American accent anyway." Whaaaat? Anyway, we talked about French cultural stuff and the primaries. Naturally French cultural stuff always includes food, and he asked me what I thought about French food, so I told him that there's just too much pork for me. So somehow this gets him going about how his family lives in a rural area near Lyon on a farm and that every year they kill a giant pig and he helps. They use the whole thing, including making sausage from the pig's blood. I am quite clearly grossed out, so he starts telling me about all the other animal killings he's been at, like when he was five or six and his grandparents sat him down with a sandwich and a glass of wine to watch Grandpa kill and skin a rabbit. Or how when you kill a chicken the best part is drinking the blood right away while it's warm. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I am surprised I didn't throw up right at the table in the bar. I thin that's another French thing, they aren't as removed from the process of getting the food that we eat as Americans are so they aren't as squeamish about it. Anyway, even though he took some sick pleasure in grossing me out, he's a smart, nice guy, and I had a good time talking to him so I'm really hoping this friend thing is going to work out. He didn't suggest any concrete plans for getting together again other than that I should knock on his door if I'm ever going out, so apparently I'm going to have to take the lead here. Why is it that the French can't just be forward about making plans? For example, at one of my schools the maternelle (preschool) teacher spent a year in New Orleans teaching French and it's only been mentioned to me a few times by herself and others that she would like to practice English with me. So I have told her I'd be happy to a couple of times, to which her response is always "oh yeah, we'll exchange contact ino and go get a coffee sometime." But the contact info is never exchanged. It's like they can't take that final step, it's all discussion and no action.

The teachers at one of my schools are cracking down on me about keeping the kids in line during class. I don't know if other assistants have noticed this but all of my classes are crazy since the vacation. I think the reason the teachers are starting to mention it is that the substitute for the teacher who is out on paternity leave ratted me out to the teacher (since we usually divide the class, he doesn't know if I'm having trouble with them). They're being very nice about it and just giving me suggestions about how to threaten them in order to get good behavior, but you know, it's a little akwkard all the same. The kids seem to respond better to rewards than punishment, so I think I'm going to bring out the sticker bribery again and see if that will work as well as it did the last time.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Accomplishing Goals, or Adventures in Illegal Bars and with Pantsless Neighbors

Well, it seems that so far my New Year's resolutions/goals are on track. On Friday night I was in a neighboring town, Chauny, with the assistants there and another lost soul looking for fun in Picardy. The assistants in Chauny are a really fun, welcoming group and I had a blast with everyone! We had an absolutely delicious dinner prepared by V, hung out and talked for hours over I think four bottles of wine, then headed out to their local bar/cool place to go on weekends, Cuba. Not only does this bar break the law by still allowing smoking inside (come on France, get with the program here!) but they have an illegal downstairs bar, where we hung out all evening. A highlight included when the gendarmerie dropped by and we all had to be quiet, then prepare to tell them if they came downstairs that we were at Warren's birthday party. Anyway, it was such a fun evening, and I'm glad I'm friends with that group. It was just really nice to feel that I actually do have some friends in this country and that I'm not condemned to loneliness for the next six months.

I'm also hopefully on my way to making a French friend my age! The professor's hall that I live on in the lycee is sort of a boarding house for random people who find themselves in Soissons, so there's me and another American assistant, a professor at the lycee, two guys from Guadeloupe who are doing some kind of technical exchange or stage or whatever, and a journalist who's contract is only month to month, so he didn't want to do the whole contract/real apartment thing. Back in October I randomly ran into the journalist in the hallway after several weeks of wondering who on earth lived next door to me. I can see into his room, because I live in a corner room, and he can see into mine, so until we actually met in the hallway we had merely stared awkwardly through our windows at each other. Anyway, he asked if he could write a story on the other assistant and myself for the newspaper, so we had an interview one night and chatted a little. He is originally from Lyon and doesn't know anyone in Soissons either, so he said that if we ever were going out to do something we should knock on his door. Well naturally, we never did. I've thought about saying hi many, many times when I've seen his light on, but I never did because I was either too shy, or he turned the light off before I had a chance to go over, or I could hear that he was on the phone.

New paragraph because that one is too long already. Then on Thursday I saw that his light was on and I said to myself "Soleil, this is your chance. You keep wishing for a French friend to fall into your lap, and this one has done just that. Stop being lame and go over there to say hi!" So I mustered up my courage, walked out the door, took two steps and knocked on his door. I heard some sort of metallic noise, a pause, and then he answers the door, wearing only a button down shirt and underwear. Oh yes, he was pantsless. I'm slightly embarrased by this, and manage to mumble in broken French that I had seen his light on and just come over to say hello. He exclaims about how nice that was, then says we have to do the bise (kiss), we exchange New Year's greetings, and then he finally says "wait just a minute while I put on some shorts." You know, I wouldn't have minded waiting at the door while he put shorts on before he answered. Were the strange metallic noises I heard before he answered the door the sounds of pants being removed? Was he in there with someone, or did he take his pants off just for me? He came back out after he got dressed and we had a nice conversation about life in Soissons, French culture, and the fact that he's moving to Australia for a year starting in June, giving no indeication that there was someone in there, nor did I hear another voice. But I offered to practice English with him before he leaves for Australia, so we have an appointment to speak English together sometime next week. I hope he plans on wearing his pants. In any case, pantless or not, I really hope we end up being friends. He also said that he goes to Paris almost every weekend because all of his friends live there, so perhaps I can profiter from that and make friends who live in Paris too, and then I would have lots of French friends. Although if they are members of some weird pantsless society, I'm not sure if I could handle that. I'll just take it slowly, starting with the English date this week, and see how it goes from there.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Food, glorious food

I made myself a spinach enchilada for lunch today. It was so good I almost cried. Of course some things were missing, like sour cream instead of creme fraiche, and cheddar cheese, but it was a pretty good fake out if I say so myself. And I made the whole thing in the microwave, which is quite an accomplishment from my usual method of using like 18 different bowls and pans. Just one bowl and one plate. Nice to know that I can satisfy my Mexican craving somehow!

The monster class was decent yesterday. It's a little horrifying that some of the CM1s in that class don't know all of their colors or numbers through 20, I'll have to take that up with the maitre when I see him next. We played a game I found on the Genki English site where they have to draw cards with an animal, a number, and a color on it and then say what they have, for example, seventeen green zebras. A lot of the kids needed help. And then my other CM1 class decided that they thought hangman was too boring. What child thinks hangman is boring????

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Rentrée

My French is awesome after vacation. On Monday I told a boy in my crazy CM2 class to go get a piece of paper that I had left next to the paper cutter. Or so I thought. He returned to the classroom with the paper cutter! In my other CM2 class yesterday we were doing tongue twisters and I asked for a brave volunteer to read one alone in front of the class. Not a single kid volunteered, which really surprised me because they are usually really eager to volunteer. Finally, one boy raises his hand very very tentatively and reads the first one (it was Peter Piper). So I said "great job!" and asked for the next volunteer, and suddenly everyone wanted to read. Turns out they thought I wanted them to read the entire page of tongue twisters. Oy.

Congratulations to the maitre of the CM1/CE2 class, whose wife just had a baby. Bad luck for me, because that means he's on congé paternel now and I get the class all to myself. Normally we share this class, so that one day a week I have the CM1 and the other day the CE2. Honestly, I don't think it's a good system, I don't think the kids are learning anything. However, these kids are completely incapable of behaving, and I'd rather only deal with 15 monsters than 27 monsters. And I'm serious about this - before I had to teach them all by myself yesterday the other teachers all wished me good luck. They're very sweet kids, but they just can't sit still or ever stop talking. Luckily we're doing animals now, which kids like and is easy enough to do activities with. Oy, quand meme. I will definitely have earned a trip to the soldes this weekend!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Happy New Year!

Bonne année to all! I don't really feel like it's a new year at all, but whatever. Vacation is over now and I'm going back to work tomorrow. I have no idea how that is going to go. I hopefully picked some fun things to do with my kids, but we'll see. It will be tough to get them in learning mode after vacation.

Vacation was great. It was wonerful to see my parents and my brother, even if he was a little shit sometimes. I thought we were going to have totally packed days running around to all kinds of different museums and whatever, but as it turns out we had a lot of down time to just be together and enjoy each others company. That was really special. It was a little stressful being their only means of communicating with the world (like when they would all tell me to ask someone five different questions at the same time. I only have two ears and one mouth!). We did have a little conflict about eating though. My mom thought it was the greatest thing to go to the boulangerie down the street for pastries and baguettes every morning and have that and some cheese for breakfast. I am kind of over that at this point and I really just wanted the gigantic buffet at the hotel! Give me some nice, normal American food please!!! So a few mornings my dad made the sacrifice and had buffet with me.

Along those lines, honestly, I am sick of French food. I need something with flavor please! I have realized that I honestly prefer "exotic" cuisines like Indian, Mexican, Thai, etc. I could really use a gigantic burrito with real salsa. Like now, please.

Anyway, so I had a great time with the fam, but unfortunately they had to leave. They left the morning of the 31st, and after that I spent some time in Lyon and Dijon with two other assistants, Shannon and Rose. I was kind of blue about going, I really wished that I had bought a ticket home for the last week of vacation, but I ended up having a really good time. I really liked both Lyon and Dijon. Dijon in particular I thought was really cute. One of the best things I did thise break was go to the Muée de la Resistance (Museum of the Resistance) in Lyon. The exhibits were really informative and well put together (even if not necessarily in the most logical order). It assumed a certain base of knowledge about the Resistance, so sometimes I had a lot of questions, but I really liked it. Those who participated in the Resistance were so brave, and as a Jew I feel personally grateful to them for their work. I highly recommend the museum. I got to see a lot of churches and cathedrals and torture my poor travelling companions with art history lessons. Good times all the way around. I can't wait to travel again! February vacation is really close and I really have to start making concrete plans. Like now. Right now I think I'll end up doing Rome, Florence, Greece, and Prague.

I guess New Year's is a time of reflection on the past and planning for the future, so I'll do a little bit of that here. I'm so proud of graduating from college this past year. It was a really, really impressive accomplishment for many reasons. I had maybe the best vacations of my life with my family in Northern Michigan this summer. It was just such a wonderful, beautful time, and I can't wait to go back. Hopefully we'll go again this coming summer after I get back. Of course there have been some frustrations too. I still have these ridiculous medical problems that just won't go away (isn't it time yet after three and a half years???). My time in France has been really difficult. I've heard that it gets better starting in January and I really hope that's true.

So what will 2008 bring? In the immediate future, I really hope to make French friends my age. I also want to be a better teacher. I want to get back my optimism. I'm the most optimistic, positive person I know, and that hasn't been the case lately. I don't blame France for this, there are a lot of contributing factors, but I just want to get over this hump and back to my old self. I want to travel a lot and have as much fun as I can for the rest of the time I'm here. I guess you can call those resolutions.

Happy New Year to all, and to the other assistants, good luck with the rentrée!