Friday, February 13, 2009

French School ≠ Creative and Fun

I've been doing various Valentine's Day activites with my classes. Making cards, learning the "Roses are Red…" poem, singing. Here in France, Valentine's Day is strictly for couples. So the kids are entertained by making cards for mom, dad, friends and teachers.

It's fun to do all this stuff, I can tell the kids are enjoying it, and that makes me feel good. But then one teacher made her students memorize the poem and write it from memory a couple days later. I had to give them grades on it. This did not make me feel good.

My whole point of being here is to get the students interested in English. I don't have enough time with each class to do much else. I spend a maximum of 1.5 hours a week with each class, oftentimes less. So my only goal is to get them to have fun with the language and learn a bit about the culture. Hopefully somewhere down the road they will more seriously persue the language.

But making some 10-year-olds memorize "Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, And so are you"? What does this accomplish? How does this peak the interest of a child? It is boring, and the poem is pointless. I was mad that the teacher made the kids do this. I feel like it will make them hate English. It would make me hate English.

But I have to remember that this is how things are done in France. The schooling system is way more academic than the states. Kids aren't supposed to have fun in school. They are supposed to learn. The learning is inside-the-box. If you step out, you will fail. I'm not being dramatic. It's really how it is. Creativity is not encouraged. It's really sad.

And so that is probably why most of the class did so well on this quiz. Almost all of them memorized the poem perfectly. This is kind of my "stupid" class. They consistently perform terribly on my evaluations. I was so surprised that they received such high scores. But I guess it's because they're used to this memorize-and-regurgitate method.

All I can do is secretly fight back. I hope to subconsciously show them that learning doesn't have to be so sucky and boring. We learned about Valentine's Day in the U.S. as well as how to say "I Love You," in American sign language, thanks to a variation of this activity. Then I let the kids glue, color, and write however they pleased. Everyone's cards turned out a bit different, and I was happy again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ever Heard of Biarritz?

I like to browse Craigslist Paris a few times a week. Maybe I will find a writing job. Or do I need a new Frieling Stainless Steel Milk Frother for only five euros? Hmm this tickets sections looks interesting. Tina Turner for €136? EuroDisney for €40? How about this one: Nighht Train Tickets week-end in Biarritz mid March - EUR30

Maybe it's the three grammatical errors that sucked me in. Maybe it's the idea of a round-trip train ticket for €30, which is cheap cheap cheap. Maybe it's because I want to know more about this strange Biarritz place.

I verify two things. Am I free the weekend the tickets are available? Yes. Where is Biarritz exactly? Southern France, the ocean. Done. Email sent. Inquire if tickets are still available. They are. I decide to buy them.

I meet the seller by a metro stop and purchase the tickets. I don't do this normally. I don't meet random people off Craigslist to buy their random train tickets to some random town I know nothing about. But I did do it. I'm going to Biarritz solo, March 13. I feel like the young and spontaneous 22-year-old I am supposed to be. Glad to be living up to stereotypes for once.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More on the "Missing" Quarter

As far as I'm concerned, the quarter is forgotten. Someone stole it, it's gone. Let's move on.

The kids didn't forget though.

Today, in the same class in which the quarter disappeared, one of the students brought it up. Out of the blue "Did you get your coin back?," she asked me. I was totally taken aback. Me: "Oh… uh… no." Her: "I wish I could reimburse you for it." I get the feeling she gets why it was such a big deal. Because she can't reimburse me for it, even though she wants to. "It's okay, it wasn't you," I tell her.

Later, in a completely different class where quarter theft was never an issue, some other kids mention it. "We heard someone in Madame Labeille's class took a coin," some say. "Yeah, it's true a coin is missing. It's lost," I say, even though we all know it wasn't just lost. "It was Maxence," several agree. I shrug my shoulders. I am not sure it was Maxence, but the other kids are positive it was him. Secretly, I believe them. But I don't say anything and try to move the class along with recognizing the difference between thirteeNN and thirtYY.

"Here!" says one of the students. She pulls an American nickel from her pencil case and tries to give it to me. "You can have this!" It's adorable, these kids trying to make others' wrongs right. Of course I don't take her nickel. The offering of it was enough. This class gets stickers today.