You know things are progressing when you can assert yourself (read: threaten little kids) with the same force (read: joie de vivre?) in French as you can in English

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.



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.


Filed under Laugh it off, Unconventional Wisdom

9 responses to “You know things are progressing when you can assert yourself (read: threaten little kids) with the same force (read: joie de vivre?) in French as you can in English

  1. Ah la la…que des petits anges. –.–”

    I wonder, if I fired the “you’ll never see me again” threat, how my lycée profesionnel young’uns would react?

    “Ah, la vache! OUAIS! Nikel.” 😛

  2. J. Forsberg Meyer

    Wow, Emily. The proof is in the puddin’, as they say, and from the puddin’ you’re getting so far, your approach is j-u-u-u-s-s-s-s-t right. I don’t know that much about teaching, but from what I’ve picked up from those smart “Love and Logic” folks (who educate both parents and teachers on effective “child management”), your use of empathy is right on target. “Bye, we’ll miss you. It’s a shame you have to go”—that’s straight out of their formula. They stress that empathy is absolutely essential–and often the missing piece when adults discipline children.

    So, a huge tip of the hat. I showed this post to Hank, too, and he laughed out loud and gave you two thumbs up. And he knows ALL ABOUT spunky, outgoing, active, and assertive–!

    Keep up the great work…and the terrific blogging.

    • Wow, thanks, Aunt Jen! I’m having so much fun writing these days…I laugh out loud (all by myself) in my little apartment as I am thinking of the funny things in my life and how I can share them. I am so glad you are reading so regularly — and sharing with the family. I’ve made a little progress from my cut-and-paste California Horse Review days, haven’t I? (Always looking up to you!) So glad you’ve been there all along to give me advice and encouragement! XOXO

      • J. Forsberg Meyer

        Ah, the CHR days. I have so many wonderful memories of you, Emily. Always the precocious child. Some of my favorite memories, however, have to do with the whimsical mispronunciations of childhood…such as “la-la” for banana (we still call them la-las around here) and–I can still hear you saying it–“kendy-ken” for candy cane. We still bring out the kendy-kens at Christmastime.

        Nowadays, you know all about childhood mispronunciations, from the “other side.”

        Such is life.

      • Kendy-kens! I don’t remember that at all! It’s funny that at your house you still have my “kendy-kens” and back in KY, I grew up and forgot all about them! Thanks for bringing it back!

  3. Sophie Meyer

    When I read this I busted up laughing. I could just see you with your stern teacher face telling your pupil you’ll miss him or that if he shot the projectile that they wouldn’t see you again. Your students must love you. In fact I know they love you. How could they not? I can see and hear you though your writing. I LOVE reading your blog, and I’m not just saying that because you’re my cousin. I genuinly love geeting the email telling me that you’ve posted. Your blogs are so interesting and you have such flare and style. Keep up the amazing work. I love you so much and miss you.

  4. Jennifer Pietropaoli

    Ohh how I sympathize with this post. I could go on but I’ll leave it at that lol..I think that’s enough said. Bonne continuation!

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