Spelling errors

27 05 2010

A:  “How do you spell elephant?”
B:  “E-l-l-e-e-f-a-n-t”
A:  “That’s not how the dictionary spells it!”
B:  “You didn’t ask me how the dictionary spelled it!”

(Spelling joke from multiple sources online via a Google search.)

How do you spell it?

One thing I have done a lot with my CM1 kids (9-year-olds) is to practice spelling.  When I write words on the board they have already learned (the date, for example), I ask them, “How do you spell it?”  From their answers to that question, it is pretty clear that most of them have no idea how to spell things.

Kids are notoriously bad at spelling, but most of them get better over time.  Though I’m certainly NOT perfect, I have always been good at spelling…on paper, that is.  (Ironically, spelling out loud is not my strong point; I’m a visual learner.)  Luckily for me, my school never had any spelling bees, because I would have been mortified to lose.

Back to my CM1 kids: this week, they were tested on the names of different rooms in the house.  I spent today grading the tests and have had quite a few laughs at their spelling.  I started compiling a list, and from approximately 75 students, they came up with the following: 11 different ways to spell “living room”, 13 ways to spell “dining room”, 14 ways to spell “bathroom”, 17 ways to spell “kitchen”, and 20 ways to spell “bedroom”!

For your viewing pleasure,

here are their misspellings:

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Another reason why I shouldn’t buy a plant.

30 03 2010

Basil before (blurry screen shot of my video)

I’ve been wanting something green to live in my apartment for a while now – ever since I moved here in September.  But I never got around to buying a plant.  It wouldn’t have worked out, anyway, because I travel too much.  It would certainly have died while I was away on vacation.

Just a couple of days ago, I bought a basil plant so I could add some fresh basil to my meals.  For those of you who know me well, you know that basil is one of my culinary trump cards.  If anything on the menu has basil in it, I am most likely to choose that meal above anything else.  (Another of those special favorites: sesame seeds.)

I put some in my soup the other night, and have affectionately nicknamed the recipe “basil boats.”  I’m a dork and I made a video about it.

I should have known it wouldn’t last long chez moi.  Whatever the opposite of a green thumb is, I’ve got it.  Every live plant I buy dies within just two or three days.  If I water it, then it’s somehow too much water.  If I don’t water it, then it’s not enough.  I could probably even kill a cactus.

A rough day for us both

What it looked like when I got home from work today.

That plant looks just the way I felt after today’s teaching day.  It was one of the worst.  All four morning classes went horribly, and there were only two out of the four afternoon classes that were pretty good.  The rest sucked, and I’m glad the day is over.

One “diamond in the rough” moment was when a kid in my 9-year-old class asked me what the word “AIGHT” meant.  I didn’t understand him at first, and asked him to spell it.  When he got to the G-H, I started laughing to myself.  I then had to explain that it’s slang, and that it’s just a short version of “all right”.

Aaaight! In the end, I have some better news for my plant: I gave it some water right when I came home, and put it in the sunlight, and it’s starting to perk up a bit!  For the meantime, that is…I won’t get my hopes up.

Moi! Moi je sais!

29 03 2010

Today, while I was teaching my 8-year-olds some zoo animals (lion, bear, snake, monkey, dolphin), there was another…interesting…language mishap.

Mademoiselle Know-It-All

Every class has a know-it-all kid. The one who always has their hand up, who, 99.9% of the time, has the right answer, and who gets disappointed if you don’t call on them every time they raise their hand.

It’s great to have these kinds of kids in class. They are confident. They are excited about learning. (Unless, that is, they have reached the point where they think they know better than the teacher – and then that’s just plain annoying.) Of course, you have to call on the other kids (especially the quiet ones*) to make sure that everyone understands the lesson. But sometimes it’s just nice to be able to call on that kid when you want to move things along quickly.

Oh, really?

So today, before I taught them the English word for the animal flashcards I was showing them, I decided to see if any of the kids already knew some of these animals. Holding up the “monkey” card, I asked, “Does anyone know what this animal is called?”

And Mademoiselle Know-It-All starts repeating, loudly and clearly: “Sex!”

Pardon? She thinks the English word for singe (in French) is sex?!   Not wanting to draw attention to that word, I ignored her answer and the other kids’ answer (which was in French, anyway) and said: MONKEY.  Repeat!  MONKEY.

Another one for the books.

*I used to be one of those quiet kids.

Photograph Stone Monkey by garryknight on flickr creative commons

Snow problem (s’no problem!)

10 02 2010

Well, it was another special week of teaching.  Monday went pretty well, and 6 out of my 8 classes felt like they were a success.  I also had the pleasure of teaching my first straight-up grammar lesson to my 10- & 11-year-olds.  And then one of my 9-year-olds made me laugh pretty hard when he said, “Au revoir, maman!  Euhhh…teacher! He called me “mommy”.  Ha!  I also got a few art project presents from kids: one girl’s drawing was especially touching*:

(*Though I don’t know if she really loves English, or if she was just sucking up because she and her class had just finished a test that day!  However, in my last post, I listed a few ways to get on your teacher’s bad side; well, this is one of the ways to get on their good side!)

Tuesday was a little bit more bizarre, and had a lot to do with discipline: I had to be a little mean yesterday.  One kid was playing with a lighter under his desk, and then he lied about it to his main teacher.  He got in big trouble for that, and spent the rest of the class period sulking.  Even so, Tuesday was about a 5/8 on my scale – 5 good classes is a very good day.  I can’t complain.

In other news…

There’s been a lot of snow back home in the States.  All the French teachers have been

excitedly talking about it, and of course they ask me about it.  I would have liked to have been there for the “snowpocalypse”, as they’re calling it, since I haven’t seen that much snow since the Blizzard of 96.  Although I can imagine I would also have cabin fever and not enjoy shoveling snow for several days in a row or having to drive to work in that mess.  But the distance from it makes me feel a little more nostalgic about snowstorms!  It looks like my brother and his girlfriend (who are visiting me 4 weeks from now!) had a ton of fun playing in the snow.  I’m glad they sent me pictures so I could see what my house looks like with so much snow!

(Thanks, Jaimie, for the photo!)

It’s snowy in Paris today, too.  An hour ago, it was snowing quite a bit.  Now, everything on my neighboring rooftops is melted and the sky is even a light shade of blue, and it’s pretty sunny!  I’m glad I caught the pretty snow before it stopped.  It makes me feel a little closer to home.

This was my view from my window this morning:

There is a small chance of snow for the rest of the day.  It’s funny: I need to go grocery shopping, because I’m out of milk and bread.  How very typical.

Still no pass, but maybe closer?

28 01 2010

The ridiculousness of the story regarding my passe éducation continues this week.

Monday:  I asked the secretary.  Still nothing had arrived for me.  She asked me for the name of the person at the inspection with whom I spoke and said that she would call her to see what the status was.

Tuesday:  Return to the secretary.  She said she tried calling the lady but couldn’t reach her.  She shrugged and said, “I tried.”  And then she informed me that the directeur had received something for me; she had heard that from my conseillère pédagogique.    So I went to ask the directeur. He showed me the letter he had received from the inspection, granting me the “right” to have one of these cards. But instead of sending the actual plastic card, they had some small piece of paper stapled to the letter.  So he had to ask them again to send the actual card.  Maybe they’ll be able to get it to me by next Tuesday?  Good grief.

Some days…

This was a weird week, teaching-wise, too.  Monday was extremely difficult, as the kids were more rowdy than usual and some of them had some serious attitude problems toward me.  It was a long day.  Tuesday was also bad, since the noise level in the class right before lunch was so high, I ended up with a pretty big headache, which lasted until the end of the day, despite the Aleve I took.

My teachers criticized my lunch foods again:  Oh, chips are so bad for you!  Oh, you’re not eating a warm lunch!  Oh, you’re having soda! (no I’m not, it’s selzer water, you should know what Perrier is, you’re French!)  This time I joked about it back at them and said “Hey, I don’t care.  Besides, you only see what I eat for one meal for two days a week.”  Plus, there are all sorts of cultural differences in meals.  It’s not a big deal, but it’s slightly annoying when they do that on a regular basis.

My class of 8-year-olds had a little incident.  I was teaching them the colors in English.  First I used flashcards, then I had them hold up their markers or colored pencils, and then I had them put their hand up if they were wearing a t-shirt of the color I announced.  That is where it all went downhill: the kids got so excited about it, they were pulling on their shirts and pants and socks and what not.  When I said the color “pink,” one girl decided she would take off her black sweater to show her pink t-shirt underneath.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her belly as the t-shirt was being lifted off with the sweater.  That happens, you know, and usually you’d just pull down the t-shirt with one hand and use the other to successfully pull off the sweater with the other hand.

Apparently, 8-year-olds are not very adept at that technique yet.  Because when I looked over again, I saw her with no shirt on whatsoever.  I felt extremely awkward, because it was also funny, and the kids all started to laugh at her.  Poor kid…she was embarrassed.  I quickly tried to distract them, while keeping my composure.

Then, as I was going home, I went to use the bathroom and ended up walking in on another one of my 8-year-old students.  Not only did he not lock the door, but he did not CLOSE the door.  Totally wasn’t my fault, but was very awkward as well.

Looking forward and looking back

Now I can look back on both situations with a lot more humor.  But here’s to hoping next week is better.  Only a few more weeks until winter vacation.  I’m spending the first half in Hamburg, and then going snowboarding in Switzerland with my beau!  🙂  And then my brother and his girlfriend will arrive the next day after I get back to Paris!  (And they’re bringing my new Macbook Pro!)

There certainly is a lot to look forward to.

It made my day.

19 01 2010

Yesterday, I got a response from one of my 9-year-old students that totally made my day.

Me:  “How are you?”
Boy:  “I’m dead.”

I try hard never to laugh at my students, because that probably doesn’t promote a good learning environment, but this one comment made me laugh out loud, because I was certain he had no idea what he had just said.

Then I translated, and he (and the rest of the kids) laughed.  I asked him if he meant he was “tired” instead, because I think that’s what he was trying to say…  Then I explained the phrase “dead tired” to the class:

“You can be tired.  And you can be dead tired.  But if you’re dead, you wouldn’t have been able to answer my question.”

Yesterday wasn’t that great of a teaching day, but I had two classes canceled thanks to a field trip for the older kids.  So one of the teachers rearranged her English schedule for the day so that I could do her class right after my first one and go home early.  Thanks to this, I was able to catch the 4:08 direct train to Paris (instead of the 5:08 p.m. train I usually take.)  It’s so much nicer to get home while it’s still daylight hours…even if that daylight is overcast as it has been the past few days.

This made my day today:

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À l’école

2 10 2009
Teachers lounge at the afternoon school.

Teacher's lounge at the afternoon school.

Yesterday, I had my first day at my school.

The answer to my question in the last post is yes: the school is, in fact, attached to the town hall.

I met my contact lady around 9:00 a.m..  She is the one who will oversee everything, and she is super-nice.  She is in charge of the adults who teach, including the language assistants, of which I am the only one this year.  (I will hereafter refer to her as my advisor.)

She introduced me to the school principal, or Monsieur le Directeur, and then I got to meet the other teachers in the teachers’ lounge.  They all seemed excited to meet me.  Then my advisor loaned me some curriculum books and other materials: posters, flashcards, CDs, and storybooks.  We also hammered out my schedule:  I will work in that school in the morning, and another school in the afternoon.  I will teach 8 classes two times a week for 45-minute class periods.  That means 4 classes back-to-back at the first school, eating lunch, walking to the second school, and teaching 4 more classes back-to-back, two days in a row.  It will make Mondays and Tuesdays very exhausting, but at least it gives me quite a lot of time for lesson planning and allows me to be more flexible with travel plans for the weekends!


I met two out of the four teachers at my first school, where I will teach in the morning.  My advisor had set up an agreement with a different school to let me observe some of their English classes being taught, but then there was a problem with that school.  The principal was absent due to sickness, and the other teachers refused to do it because they were not told in advance.  (Apparently the principal didn’t pass it along to her colleagues.)

But this worked out in my favor, because I ended up getting to go to my second school in which I will actually teach!  So I went there in the afternoon and met a lot of the teachers there.  I ate lunch with three of the teachers whose classes I’ll be assisting.

Overall, I will have mostly older classes.  Ages 9-10.  But I will have one little class (8-year-olds, I think) – this is their first-ever English class!  I even got to introduce myself to all four of my afternoon classes.  The little kids looked a little scared, but at least they giggled when they couldn’t understand me.

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