A sweet little throwback

I’ve had this poem buzzing in my head the past few weeks. I wrote it in Spring 2012 for a TESOL course I was taking.

The prompt was to write about where you come from.

This is where I’m from.

I come from dirt roads, dusty and soiled
Lined with raspberry groves, down the gully and snaking up the hills to the sky.
Skinned knees as tender as a first kiss
Lightly tracing the lines on a welcoming face.
Tickling blonde tendrils flowing with the dusty road’s wind carrying those summer sweet smells of sun tea and laughing family.
Dancing on back decks singing of sweetness, a euphoric hymn
Reaching every gods’ ears
Cascading and rolling in scratchy grass clippings

I come from the foothills of greatness
Only steps from tickling the stars and whispering sweet nothings into their twinkling ears.
Losing faith in what’s humanly possible and grabbing onto the rope of what’s possible with the help of star dust.
I have been dusted with stars, curry and bug repellent.
I have consumed stars,
Mutton momos so hot your eyes will drink up the snow packed Himalayas
Thenkthuk so filling the broth would do you in, put you to bed into a frantic dream over the mountains where we can only imagine.
Sandaled feet stepping on stars, freezing to the touch.
Freezing quicker than spit on a negative degree day.

Oh my land I come from
A free spring in a land so bruttle it suffocates the sun that thaws my frozen body.
The cloud of power squelching the light the mountains seek to consume

I come from a stolen childhood, gone too soon.
Snatched away like I was that day.
Dusty roads now soiled and raspberries forgotten.
With a crash and hands so harsh they crawled over my skin like poison ivy.
Leaving lines of hives that reached so deep my blood burned in my veins.
A river of fire being burned alive.

I am underestimated, though I have consumed stars.
Cultures more colourful than any garden and people more beautiful than the sun.
Underestimate me.
Let me overcome your doubts and abuses.
I’ll climb those mountains and lucky for me I was born to run.
Mountains are the play grounds of the gods.
So doubt me I dare you for I am heaven sent.
I have whispered to stars and drank sun tea on back decks.
Let me purge you of your doubts and reconcile your sinner’s heart.
Doubt is the symptom of fear and fear is a poison more vile than a snake bite.
Drink of the stars and lay in the garden around you.
Allow the sun to soak your skin.

I am from powerful women and men.
I am from unadulterated passion for education, whether traditional or playing on mountain tops.
I am from dusty dirt roads, dancing on back decks and being underestimated.
I am me and I believe in myself.

“You’re not a teacher”

Ouch. I know. Luckily, I haven’t had that happen very often, but this instance was particularly awesome.

It was awesome because of what happened afterwards.

I was assisting the English teacher in a first grade class. It was the end of the day and we were putting their water bottles and homework away. I was doing the usual redirecting and encouraging them to put things away so we could finish our lesson. At this time a student made the comment that I wasn’t a teacher. In a way that said “why are you saying things the teacher would say” kind of way. I shrugged it off. Gotta roll with the punches. I hadn’t said anything about it, but the teacher had heard and wasn’t going to let it fly.

Her head perked up and zeroed in on the student who had said it. She spoke to the whole class and told them I was the teacher. She sat down and let me handle them for a good 10 minutes of clean up and get them through their transition. She then told them that I am a teacher and no one should ever say something like that to someone.

It was amazing to have the solidarity with my teacher that she would support and stand up for me like that.

And hot dammit, I am a teacher. Maybe not in teacher’s clothing, but I am.

Reminder

Sometimes, recently, I had to remind myself to take a break. I came home today and took a nap. 20 minutes curled up under covers, comfy and cozy. A quick 20 minutes and I could feel the wrinkles on my attitude iron out.
Working all day in a role that you love is exhausting. In the moment, it may not feel that way. The ache in your shoulder or the headache aren’t there anymore. You’re using your energy to talk and or redirect. To share and (hopefully) inspire. But then you stop and you’re hit in the back of the legs by a wave.

Your feet feel all the steps you took during the day. Your voice gets that itch, you know the one, it makes you croak randomly, your jaw feels heavy. Words become so so hard.

When you’re almost to the end of the week, and the four days you’ve worked this week have felt like four months. The number of coffees you drink can’t bring the life back to your blood and despite your attempts photosynthesis still doesn’t work in humans.

So sometimes, you need to remember to take care. Eat some ice cream, paint your nails (if you do that sort of thing), take a long shower, and take a big fat cat nap.
Burn out is the biggest killer to young careers known to humankind. I encourage everyone, in a new career or a 10 year professional to take care of yourself. By doing so, you ensure your are well and those around you are well.

This is just a quiet, friendly reminder to you from me, who got a reminder today in the form of a sigh after a failed activity.

Just a kind quiet reminder.

What do you do at an american french school?

I’ve been working at my current school for almost 9 months. I’ve been trying to break down for people what I do and what my ‘title’ means.

In France most schools have surveillants, or ‘wardens’ but here I’m what they call a monitor. Now, that title is extremely vague and misguiding. I do more than monitor and I don’t quite do what a normal surveillant in France would do. They typically attend to students during their free times between classes, lunch periods, patrolling the hall, and some disciplinary actions. The very sound of surveillant is big and scary. I remember seeing them yelling across hallways at students and reprimanding them in all around scary ways. Even though I knew they were some of the sweetest, most generous people in the school.

I definitely never thought I’d be doing anything similar to them in the states. At first I explained my position as a sort of assistant/noon duty type person. You know, those nice adults at recess in elementary school who had whistles and band-aids if you fell. Usually someone’s mom who didn’t work during the day. However, what I know now is much more intricate and elaborate.

Yes, I do lunch and recess duty. I am responsible for some disciplinary actions, but I do classroom support (thank god, I’ll explain) and lesson planning. My position is like a catch all for the things the teachers couldn’t do. I’m the extra hands and voice of reason for a lot of the learning kids do outside the classroom.

My role as a monitor started out as a sort of surveillant position with a hint of daycare teacher. I head up the 1st and 2nd grade garderie(daycare) and it is by far the toughest daycare situation I’ve been in. I average 27 students a day in a room with a max capacity of probably 20. We plan activities, we work until 6 pm and my group is always particularly rowdy. I was coordinating crowd control. I was keeping the peace until we could go outside to recess and I’d have more back up.

I felt (sometimes still feel) disrespected and looked down upon by the parents and teachers. I got looks that made me feel like a lowly babysitter, or like nothing at all. The kids will constantly test us, and at this point of 9 months on the job, they can chalk it all up to the monitor staff being new anymore.

I’ve become a very hard person. It’s amazing I haven’t lost m voice yet. I raise my voice everyday. Not to yell at children (I’m not a heathen) I raise it to be heard. Remember the 27 students average? I have to raise my voice to be heard. If I don’t get their attention somehow we’d never get anything done. I have put so many children into time out, and sent them to the office because I had 26 other students to take care of.

In the end of November, I was assigned (finally) to classroom assistance. I helped the 1st grade english teacher and ESL specialist with reading support and language assistance with a few of our FOB frenchies. The instructor had no idea I have a TESOL certificate, or about my other teaching experiences. Some of the administrators had no idea I could speak french for fuck’s sake. I must have had some mysterious skill vanishing aura around me associate with the title of Monitor.

Since beginning classroom support, my experience at school has gotten better. Some teachers still don’t care about what I do or who I am, but more of them do now, or at least acknowledge my skills. The teachers see us doing our jobs and caring for all the grades. They worry about their classes possibly the cycle they work with, but they don’t have the same amount of face time we have. We are doing teaching without textbooks or proper class setting.

I miss having a classroom, but I still get those chances. As monitors we don’t get time off. All those holidays I had last year in France, I’m working them here. These are my most and least favorite times. I’d love to have a break and recuperate some sanity, but I also get to plan my own ‘lessons’ and activities. I always start the day with the kids and try to encourage learning through movement and vocalization. These days give me so much excitement and happiness and remind me why I love teaching and need to be doing it.

We’re also responsible for the emotions and manners in some cases. We deal with the bullying problems, the scrapped knees, and afternoon exhaust. The roles we play don’t feel crucial all the time, but thinking into the future, we hope we made a difference. We hope our support and care for the kids let them know they are worthy of good things.

My boss has been thinking about renaming our position, because it does not seem to fit what we do. We do more than monitor the students, we do more than surveil the kids. Maybe if our title changes the mysterious skill vanishing aura will be lifted and parents won’t stare at us like we’re just baby-sitters or lowly peons in the school hierarchy. We’ll be acknowledged as the educators we truly are.

So for now, I’m a monitor.

I did a grad school!

Hello my long ignored blog. I apologize for not writing more, but not being in France and having a TAPIF focused (initially) blog made it weird. I didn’t want to make it weird… now it’s weird.

I’m revamping this little blog space to go along with my exciting movements forward in life.

I got into Graduate school! After many months of writing, and stressing I’ve heard from the schools I applied to and will be attending UW for a Masters in TESOL. I’m really excited that someone wanted me! I really had no idea what I was doing while looking into and applying to grad school. I just knew I wanted something within the scope of education. It’s one of the only things I really feel passionately about. Teaching is one of the few skills I will boast about.

So here I am. Starting a new exciting education adventure. I’ve also been working at a great bilingual school in Seattle; exercising my french and tesol skills on the daily.

I can’t wait to share more about my adventures in grad school, life post-TAPIF, and fun lessons and stories about my kids at school.

Thanks for sticking around.

Bisous,
-Erin

The Emma-pire Strikes Back

Remember that one time I said I’ve have guest bloggers? Well, I’m finally having another guest post from the same lovely who wrote the first one, Emma! This is her short reflection on being back home and how convenient it can be. I can’t help, but agree with a lot of her points. Except the ground floor first floor thing, I’ve always thought the french were crazy for that point. You can find her other post here!

I have hit a momentous mark in being home from France: As of today, it has been one month and ten days. And I have to admit, I’m starting to feel a bit more… normal. I know that everyone talks about how hard it is coming back to the U.S. after being away for an extended period of time, but I always forget how true it is. And even though it has been a month and ten days, and I can maintain a conversation without taking too much time to find the right words, there are still a few quirks about the American lifestyle that I still haven’t gotten used to. Again.
1) The ground floor is also the first floor: After spending all that time in France thinking “Ok, so I have to go to the fifth floor, which is actually the sixth floor”, I now find myself climbing one flight of stairs, looking at the 2 marked on the wall and thinking “How funny. They skipped a floor and didn’t realize.” I’ve been thinking this subconsciously for the past month and ten days, and finally today it hit me: “No, stupid. You’re doing it wrong”. Good.
2) Six o’clock a.m. wake-up calls: Not from my alarm. No. Even though I now have a job (yes it’s temporary, but I’m proud and will shamelessly advertise this fact in this post!) and am taking classes, I really don’t have to be anywhere until noon. Even with a few hours in the morning to run or (more frequently) plan classes and do homework, I still don’t set my alarm until a leisurely 7:30. But without fail, 6:00 hits, and I’m wide awake. I can’t get out of bed on principle; I need my eight (ok, seven) hours! So I just… lay there. I mean, I’ve been sleeping on this schedule for the past 23 some odd years of my life. Why would nine months take all of that away from me? It’s cruel.
3) The radio: I can understand it. I mean, I did reach a level of comprehension in French that allowed me to understand just about everything (even group conversation of five or more people! Again, excuse me for my hubris), but I had forgotten the ease of driving around with NPR, understanding all the witty banter and inside cultural jokes and twists. Word-play is one of the most underrated arts in today’s era, but boy do you appreciate it after the pathetic puns you try to make in a foreign language (e.g. when trying to get a child to eat a kiwi- It’s a kiOUI, not a kiNON).
4) Streets: They are HUGE. I mean, you can park cars on either side of it and STILL drive through. And I don’t mean parking cars by driving up on the sidewalk to do so. I mean six inches from the curb and you can still get your SUV through. ‘Nuf said.
5) Drinking in peace: I’m talking water. Not only am I no longer harassed about having a water bottle with me when I’m out and about, I am joined by the majority of the population. Instead of being gawked at and asked why, I’m told “You should bring your water bottle. It’s a hot one today” by just about everyone.
So though this list is not exhaustive, it does give some food for thought. You never know what you may end up missing. Maybe it’s because they are so little and ingrained in our society that they make themselves particularly loud and obvious at this point in my re-integration. Of course I miss the food and the beer and the wine and the people and the travel and the history and the culture, who wouldn’t? But these subjects are still too painful to elaborate upon at this time. Give me a year, a month and ten days, and then maybe we can talk.

Lessons that worked- #3 Creative Writing Ideas

I’ve been thinking about what my most successful lessons were when it came to both my college and my lycée. And by far, providing creative writing opportunities won by massive landslides.
Towards the end of February, before the holiday, my cooperating teaching at the high school, was being a real gem. So, I decided to teach whatever the hell I wanted to instead of waiting for him to avoid emailing me back and putting my students through more improv speeches I created a short creative writing/story telling unit.

I began week one with them doing a creative writing exercise. I’m sure many of you have done this at one point in time during an english class. You bring out a blank sheet of paper and start a story. After an amount of time you switch papers with someone. I had them group in two and they passed their papers in a circle. I gave them 2-3 minutes to read and add to the story. This took a majority of the 50 minute class I had with them.

They loved it. There was lots of laughing, sabotaging and excitement. I had never seen this class more excited and engaged in an english class. After about 40 minutes, I had the papers return to the original writers and they read through their new stories. I collected them and told them the next week we’d be editing them and practicing telling them to the class.

So this gave me homework, which was fine with me. I typed them all and passed them back the next week. Again most of the class time was consumed by editing and grammar. I created an edit guideline/rubric, example: wc=word choice, sp= spelling, wo=word order, etc.

Afterwards, I had them read their stories to the class just as an ice breaker to being in front of a group.
For their homework, I printed out stories from around the world and passed them out. I asked them to try their best to memorize the stories for next week.

Week three, I came to class and we talked about traits of a good story teller and a bad story teller. Which turned out great! I made a simple graph and wrote down exactly what they said, which is a way of encouraging students to speak up more often. I asked them to think about people who are good story tellers or public speakers (Francois Hollande was not on the great speaker list, which I found hilarious).
I gave them time to practice, because I know frenchies track record with actually doing homework is quite low. I also brought extra stories because most students ‘lost’ theirs over the weekend. *le sigh*
It went relatively well.. except for the first half of my class. A group of girls were not being respectful listeners. I had to pull the talk on them and put them in their place. I had been taking volunteers until this point. I then had the girls go one by one

MUAHAHAHAH The power we gain as assistants!
The next group was equally as disappointing. There came a point where I asked students to raise their hand if they were really interested in English. 4 (not counting the two exchange students) out of the 13 in the class raised their hand. Ouch.
The next week, I was suppose to have them bring their own original story prepared for a “score.” Now as an assistant we aren’t really allowed to grade, but it always seems to happen one way or another. I mostly told them I’d score them to make sure they actually did what I asked them to. Tricky, I know.

Unfortunately, my real gem of a CT cancelled class that day. And then I only saw that class maybe 2 more times before I left for good. I wrote a cool rubric up and everything.final story rubric

So should you choose to include a story telling unit you can feel free to trick your students with this rubric haha. I also recommend planning for a longer unit. Include sequence word practice, more public speaking practice and story development time.