Wednesday, February 24, 2010


This is something I posted to the FLTeach listserv. It just really ticked me off that this woman was assuming that a native French speaker was ignorant because they made a grammatical mistake in a letter. Oooo, I'm mad about it. But I tried not to let that show in my response. Does anyone have any feelings about this?

Leigh said: "I see a ton of grammatical errors because one family is Armenian and another, just plain ignorant, which I don't tell the student because she's so proud of her French relatives."

I hate to jump in on this, but this phrase really struck me because I've been having similar conversations with my colleagues. Is it really that they are ignorant or is it that the academic French that we are taught and teaching in schools is too perfect? I had a home stay three summers ago with a brilliant, well-read French woman. I asked her to explain the difference between Il est and C'est to me. She said it was the same: that the two phrases were interchangeable. I know that it is not strictly true, but it is being used currently interchangeably in France.

I was also listening to Fresh Air on NPR yesterday and they had a quick blurb at the end about nit-picking the English language. For example, if we are following the strict rules of English, we should NEVER say that there were 5 people at dinner last night because you never use people with a specific number. Instead, you should say 5 persons.

So, are we teaching outdated grammar rules like this or are we teaching our students to sound educated?? I have no idea because I don't live in France and I'm not a native speaker. I don't want my students to go to France and use outdated language rules, though...they would sound too stilted. I also don't want them to spend a bunch of their time and brain space memorizing rules that are ancient.

Maybe someone on here with a finger on the pulse of the language can answer this.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I absolutely can't wait to get to Chicago this summer. Perhaps I am romanticizing it a bit, but I feel like I will really know my ass from a hole in the ground at the end of an intense week of TPRS training.

Here are some things I hope to learn:

1-Reading it all strict translation or are there other ways to check comprehension
2-Basic classroom setup...because I started TPRS after the beginning of the year, I feel like I'm always doing catch-up on the procedures of the classroom.
3-"Curriculum" creation...what "should" be taught first to ensure a successful year of reading and listening.
4-Other activities...what can I do with stories after I've told them?
5-Story ideas...I've been doing a "bad"job with this because I never have a plan beyond my three words. I have no structure in my head beyond the old "There is a _____. ____ has a problem so they go ____, etc."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ohhhh Frank McCourt

I try to read a lot. A lot of different things. I can do this because I drive 45 minutes to work every day (and then home), so I get books on tape (really CD) and listen as I make the mind-numbingly boring drive. This week I'm listening to Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. I highly recommend listening to his books instead of reading them because he is the narrator and you get his voice...accent, singing, etc. It's quite an experience.

Anyway, today's excerpt was about how self-denigrating he is. Is this a common problem amongst us teachers? I feel like I understand exactly what he's saying when he describes second-guessing every action he takes. "Oh no, Susie has her cell phone out. Should I say something to her? If I say something to her, she might get mad at me and the whole class will turn against me. What if she refuses? Then what will I do? What if I don't say anything and the other students see that she's using her cell phone and then I've lost all authority." Oh man, that's my plagiarized version of an experience he talks about. I'm obviously not alone...because he has/had the same problem...but I wonder if other teachers have the same thoughts? Does it ever end? Will there come a point, maybe ten years down the road, when I have enough confidence to walk into MY classroom and let the kids know that, like it or not, they're going to play my game or there's the door. That sounds really harsh, but I'm coming to discover that it doesn't have to be...right? I want every person in my class to enjoy coming to class. But right now, I have a student who is poisoning the experiences for the rest of the class. Instead of enjoying a story, they are waiting for me to do or say something "unfair" so they can pounce on it and mumble stuff under their breath about how horrible I am. In my mind, I'm being "unfair" because I'm handling the needs of all the students at that particular point in time. If I have a student who didn't sleep last night because she was physically fighting with her dad and got thrown out of class...I'm not going to nitpick on her for whispering to her neighbor. Sorry, but I'm just not heartless enough to do that. But, the student who constantly and LOUDLY berates me in front of the class? Hmmm...I might just be a little harsher on that student. (although usually I'm not because I try to outlast the behavior...classic error)

I guess what I'm rambling about is my insecurities in the classroom and how badly I want them to go away. I'm hoping that they will magically disapper in time.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I want to cry

What a day!! I have a class that tore me to pieces today. My crime? Taking away a cell phone. Then I took away some kids Tech Deck that he was playing with. Then I said that if the students didn't want to participate in class today, they were more than welcome to go elsewhere. My class just wasn't having it today. I kept trying. But I have one student (okay, actually I have 3 or 4 in that class) who poisons the rest of the class.

We started our story today and when I asked for suggestions for names, someone yelled out Madame Hussein. I thought that was really clever, so I jumped on it. Little did I know that they were making reference to me (Madame) and how horrible I am. It became clearer as we described the character further. She was evil. Very very very stupid. Every time this student would make his suggestion, he would snicker. It finally dawned on me what was going on, but I tried to ignore it...thinking that I would rather look stupid as long as we were making progress in the story.

Long story short, I finally stopped and told the students that they are not being forced to be in my class. If it is so horrible and I'm so unfair, they can drop it. There is no FL requirement in our district. I tried to engage them in dialogue about what I do that is unfair...they wouldn't bite. I know that it's my fault because I shouldn't let it get to the point that it got to today. I should have sent the poisoners out of class much earlier...but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, even if it makes me look like an idiot. But for some reason, that translates to me "having it out" for them. Like I come to school some days and say "Hmmm, how can I make Bobby's day horrible today?" Because my classes are so fun when everyone hates being there...(dripping sarcasm here). It honestly makes me want to cry and give up.