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Reflections on my first two weeks of having a real job.

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I could've used this title several years ago when I "graduated" from babysitting to shelving books at my local library (read: a three-hour yawn-fest that I hated going to three times a week after school), as that was my first job where I was employed outside the house.

Then I could have used this title a couple years after that when I got my first job with any real responsiblity. Yup, you guessed, it : Family Video, where I worked for over five years continuously, with the exception of the six months I left to go to France and do my student teaching. These last two items were to ultimately prepare me for the endeavor that now lends itself most accurately to the title: teaching high school French.

My plane from New York landed at 8 PM the night before I started teaching, and after having so thoroughly enjoyed my time in NY with all the TaTeurs, it was really a big change going into a classroom the next day.

The first couple days passed along without incident. A lot of the students remembered me from substituting last year and were really quite pleased that I was their new teacher. A couple students-- I found out later-- had been told to take the class because you didn't have to do any work, and as one student put it: "Now I got this guy and he knows everything."

Tough luck, kid. That's what you get for taking a class on the assumption you were going to breeze right through it. Looks like you're going to have to work a lot harder than you thought you were.

On a somewhat-related side note: The student has already asked to be transferred out of my class because I "yelled at him" and he "doesn't speak French." First off, he's in French 1. No one in the class speaks French. Secondly, the "yelling at him part" was untrue. Here's the story:

One day in-between classes, said student and his friends were talking in the hall directly outside my door when one of his friends says "Dude that guy is such a ***. He's so gay...". At this point, I stopped listening and went into the hall, accosting the students. I ordered (firmly, but not aggressively loudly) my student to come into the classroom (explaining that he was well aware that such language was against the rules both in the school and in my classroom) and got the names of the other students who were with him. Having no idea who spoke it, I gave the names of the students to their counselors so they would be warned this was not a first offence. So yeah, I
"yelled at him" apparently and he wants out. Unfortunately for both of us, he's not allowed, so he has to stay in the room. Talk about being unmotivated: he's really doing his best to do as little work as he thought he was going to have to do.

On a happier note, I have two different classes of French 1 students, and they are (with few exceptions) very eager to learn and very motivated to do well. They had their first quiz over the very basic introductions to the language and they are all picking it up very quickly. Many of them have already come to me wanting to know how to say even more things, and that enthusiasm is what I love seeing.

My French 2 students are abysmally far behind where I feel they should be as second-year students. Not a single one of them can put something into past tense, and that includes the brightest students in the class, one of whom is a friend of my brothers' and an outstanding student. This means they never learned it. Uh oh. Talk about a need for review: 50% of the students could not conjugate a regular verb in the present tense. Several acted as though they've never seen it before. Awesome. And my French 3 kids? Forget about French 3 material; several of them are lower than my French 2 kids. What did these kids not learn?

More random musings will follow, as my lunch is almost over. I hope you enjoy this completely not tennis-related blog. I hope those of you who I have told I would share my experiences with find this an adequate medium and will not feel this any more impersonal than if I had sent you a PM.

Bonne journée!

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Updated 09-17-2007 at 09:20 AM by beaujarkko



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  1. GVGirl's Avatar
    Bon chance! Hang in there BJ!
  2. Moose's Avatar
    I don't know that any of us had a smooth transition into the "real" work world. We're all here to cheer you on BJ! Look forward to reading about the continuing adventures.
  3. beaujarkko's Avatar
    LOL. I was never assuming the transition would be easy... for anyone. And I love the phrase "continuing adventures". Stay tuned!... Every day is one. 10 minutes after I finished writing this, a student came and told me how much she was enjoying the class. I guess there's just no telling how I'm going to be received :-D
  4. Tscott415's Avatar
    Im sure you will be fine. And about the comment dont worry about it all high schoolers say that about their teachers that they may think give too much work. Im not saying they should say it but well you know what im saying....
  5. dryrunguy's Avatar
    Can't think of a higher calling than to be a teacher, Beau... And I'm relieved YOU are among those doing this important work.

    Let's see if you still like it after someone slashes your tires...

  6. beaujarkko's Avatar
    I walk to work

    And TScott, I'm not worrying even for a second if my students think they're doing a lot of work. You can't learn much of anything (especially a second language as a high-schooler!) without putting in the work. These kids have been mollycoddled for awhile now (hence the "I took this class cause I heard there wasn't going to be any work" comment) and their complete lack of knowledge in the subject matter is shining through. Not in all cases, mind you, just in much of the class. And I'm not going to let all these kids fall through the cracks in my class, nor am I going to spoon-feed them. They'll learn all this in due time, but for right now my "upper-level" classes and I are trying to find a happy medium where I'm not boring to tears the ones who know the material nor am moving too quickly for those who never picked it up to begin with. I have a feeling there's going to be even more of this disparity starting next year when 2-year mandatory foreign language becomes a requirement (it is not yet that way in the state of MI... only with the freshman class of 2008-2009).
  7. mmmm8's Avatar
    Good luck, beau!

    When I was 12 and was switching schools (and countries), one of my teachers reminded me of the following adage: "In the beginning, you'll have to work for your reputation. Then, your reputation will work for you"

    Works everywhere, but in school most of all, for teachers and students alike.

    Seems like you're doing everything right
  8. atlpam's Avatar
    Hang Tough! Sounds like you'll be a teacher they'll be glad they had (boy it's been a long time since I took French 1-3 in high school), but I'm pretty sure I could conjugate basic verbs in the present tense after French 1. Just please don't ask me to do it now - do me a favor and don't make them sing "Sur le pont"!

    What do I remember? Michele, Anne, vous travaillez? Eh No, nous regardons le television, pourquois?
  9. jjnow's Avatar
    I wouldn't imagine high school French is taught much differently than Spanish. From what I remember, we didn't learn the preterit (past tense) until Spanish 2 (along with the second past tense, the conditional). Spanish 1 was basic greetings and the present tense of both regular and irregular verbs.

    Interesting that MI is just now requiring 2 years of a foreign language. I always thought most colleges require two years of a language for admission.

    And of course, best of luck with the teaching, beau! Here's hoping it only gets better.

  10. Ti-Amie's Avatar
    It seems you're doing fine Beau. I opted to take French in High School and everyone said I was stupid to do so. I had pretty good teachers it seems because all these years later I can still read the language.
    If the worse brat you have is the one you described you're already ahead of the game. Please keep us informed.
  11. Scotty's Avatar
    Keep up the good work, mon ami. Looking back, my 'toughest' teachers were definitely the best ones. I agree: anyone in French 2 should be familiar with passé composé (I had to do that in JUNIOR high), and at least the "easy" way to do future tense (aller + infinitif).
  12. beaujarkko's Avatar
    You know what's weird, jj, is that most colleges/universities (as well as many in MI) DO require the 2-years of HS foreign language or the equivalent. MI is just now making it a requirement for the HS.

    I've learned not to try to figure some things out. For example, starting next year as well, the 9th graders in my school district will no longer be in HS. In my area, it is K-5, then 6-8, then 9-12 HS. With the new foreign language (and other course) requirements, the new demarcation of K-6, 7-9, and 10-12 HS is a step in the wrong direction, as not all the middle schools will likely offer a full year of language. Our school board is questionable. Not to mention the fact that ALL the other schools in our county are switching TO the system that we had! In any case, school board elections are coming up and we need a change, like maybe someone who knows what they're doing.
  13. Tscott415's Avatar
    Yeah my school has 2 year madatory for foreign language, but based on my brothers experiences taking four years of a language benefits you when applying for college. I know i will be taking spanish 2 and 3 then in my junior year switch to latin for that and senior year to prepare for my SATs
  14. munchin's Avatar
    I absolutely hated foreign language (Spanish) for all of high school, but oddly enough when I got to college, I took French and loved it to death. I did extra credit, put in 2 hours a day, watched French TV w/o subtitles and went to see French movies. I couldn't figure out for the life of me if it was because French is more fun to learn or because I hated high school or the teacher or because I matured leaps and bounds in 2 years.

    But you sound like you're doing a pretty great job, honestly. The teachers I respected the least were the ones who let us walk all over them. They depressed me with their complacency and lack of passion. That you sound stressed about your students' French competency is a VERY good thing. For them, anyway.
  15. mmmm8's Avatar
    9th grade will be in middle school?? why not just rename college "High School" and grad school, "college?"
  16. beaujarkko's Avatar
    I'm worried, too, m8.
  17. Madame's Avatar
    wow, a french teacher. tell me Beau, how do you get kids interested ? In france its easy, you just take a favorite rock group and start translating the songs (Beatles, rolling stones, whatever) but I can't imagine you guys translating Brel maybe ?
  18. mmmm8's Avatar
    We did that in French, Madame (although in college). Brel, Dassin, Gainesbourg... and MC Solaar.
  19. jjnow's Avatar
    We did that all the time in (high school) Spanish too. Our teacher would print off the lyrics and chop out certain words for us to listen for to improve listening skills; then we translated. Always one of my favorite activities.

  20. beaujarkko's Avatar
    Isn't Brel Belgian?

    And we also listened to a lot of MC Solaar in college... and my teacher was not a very hip woman. She knew good teaching tools when she heard them, though.

    So far, it's mostly been about taking what enthusiasm they already have and helping it, anecdotally, to grow.
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