I’m not going to name any names but I remember the bad kids from elementary school. I’ve been remembering them a lot lately. Particularly when I scratch my head — or bend over at the knees to stretch my hamstrings in front of the entire class, which surprisingly relieves a lot of stress — and ask myself if those bad kids were as bad as the worst in my classes now. “They were worse,” I remind myself, thinking back to my favorite teacher Mrs. Jones’ trials and tribulations. But oh, how dramatic things can seem now that I am the one in Mrs. Jones’ place!
When I say “bad,” I hope you don’t think I really mean “bad.” My kids are spunky. Outgoing. Active. Assertive. All positive qualities, really. BUT NOT WHEN THEY ARE SPUNKY, OUTGOING, ACTIVE, AND ASSERTIVE ALL AT THE SAME TIME, and WHILE I AM TRYING TO TEACH!
I think I am getting the hang of this assistantship thing, though.
In my one point two five months of complete-immersion, sink-or-swim teaching experience I have learned that what it all boils down to is a sense of humor, positive reinforcement and, when necessary, a swift kick in the pants.
When I say “kick in the pants,” I hope you interpret that as “a kindly escort across the hall and back into the boring old regular maitresse’s room, where grammar lessons will ensue.” I even say, “Bye, we’ll miss you. It’s a shame you have to go,” as I push them in the right direction. They may not understand what I am saying, but my tone is bilingual.
As of this week, I gave one warning, and then whoever so much as approached a second strike received one of my swift kicks. On Tuesday I sent five kids from one class back to the Maitresse before I achieved silence. The next day, happily, I didn’t have to send any from that class. I think they are getting the hang of it too.
I felt kind of sympathetic the other day as I was walking down the hall and heard a teacher yelling across the room, “C’est pas possible! Qu’est-que vous arrive que vous soyez tellement agacants? (It’s not possible! What possesses you to be so insufferable!?) It was then that I realized the advantage I have as an assistant who travels from class to class. Having no one class of my own, I can always send away the misbehaving students. Out of sight out of mind. It does make me feel a bit of compassion for the “boring old regular” maitresses, who have to deal more directly with bouts of spunky-outgoing-active-assertiveness.
Yesterday I was giving the short and sweet ten-year-old explanation for why we don’t answer “yes” when asked “how are you?” (“In English it’s comment tu es — how ARE you — as opposed to est-ce que ca va — is everything GOING [okay]?) So we have to answer by telling how things are, (fine, great, okay) rather than whether they “go” (yes or no)…. Okay, it’s complicated. I had a hard enough time simplifying it for my students, so if you don’t get it, you might be better advised to talk to a real English-as-a-Second-Language teacher. Sheesh.
I was in the middle of this slight detour (we were supposed to be talking about colors, after all), and I saw, out of the corner of my eye, spit-wad ammunition being loaded into a straw and raised to the mouth.
DON’T FIRE ‘TILL YOU SEE THE WHITES OF THEIR EYES!
But my automatic was already loaded.
In two seconds I had made the mental switch to French, gotten my student’s attention (“AUGUSTIN!”) and delivered the lethal threat. (Lethal to the spit-wad, that is.)
“Vas-y, envoie-le,” I said. (Go ahead, send it.) “…Et tu ne me reverras JAMAIS!” (And you’ll never see me again!)
He put the apparatus down and I didn’t hear a peep from him for the rest of the class.