Friday, January 7, 2011

This Side of Teaching

Students take teachers for granted, but never realize it unless those students actually become teachers. There's a lot of things that could apply to this statement, but for now, I'm dealing with post-semester e-mails begging for grade changes and etc.

My answer? No.

I have one student in particular who is asking for a grade change. She's missed 19/26 classes, didn't come to the final, and didn't buy the textbook. She didn't let me know what was going on. I haven't seen her since mid-October, and that was after her missing 5 classes - she came just to take the test. I expected her to talk to me in private after she handed hers in - nope. And now she's facing academic dismissal and now all of a sudden she's interested in doing her work and talking to me.

Am I being mean, cold-hearted? No. Others may have their opinions, but if you were in my classroom on the first day (which this student was) you would have heard my spiel, on how I am SO willing to work with special situations. I WANT my students to do well and to love French. I know for a fact I am where I am today because I've had phenomenal French teachers from the start - and maybe one day, me teaching a student will bring them to this point, too.

During the semester, at least 3 others students in this same class have needed special arrangements. And we made them - more work for me and them - but we made it happen. Had this student in question come to me right away, or even not right away during the semester, we could have worked it out. But she chose not to, despite various e-mails from me.

I was basically waiting for her to drop the class, and every time I checked my class roster for something, I was always surprised when her name was still there.

Now she's gone over my head to my supervisor/the class' official professor. It's in her hands, and I have to do what she says. Which is fine - but if she leaves it up to me...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


So, I don't know if I've mentioned it on here, but:

The classroom I teach in is really... primitive. It's in an OLD building that is under construction. It's basically a gym (like the old high school style gym) with a few classrooms in it. Not handicapped accessible at all. One minuscule locker room bathroom that doesn't function half the time. My classroom has a 3x5 chalkboard, half scuffed and unusable. For lack of a better word: it's GHETTO.

I have asked TWICE to be moved. Once because of the lack of technology, and the other because of the construction going on INSIDE THE CLASSROOM and me having to shout over dirty construction worker talk, sparking electrical outlets, etc. My kids have yet to take a quiz/test in peace.

So yesterday, as I'm about to begin my lesson, the 90+ year old radiator starts squirting BOILING water, which was pooling near my students. Figured we'd ignore it and just move the desks, I try to begin teaching, when steam started to come out. It was just a little..I still tried to get the class' attention and begin. Within 3 minutes, the class was FILLED with rotten-pipe-smelling smoke/steam. I had to EVACUATE my classroom. No other classrooms in the building and a few clueless office assistants later, I'm trying my best to teach French in a gym, along side a yoga class that is pissed that I'm there. It was like pulling teeth to get my students to participate.. they were done. I lost them. Lost lesson, I'm going to have to reteach it.

I'm annoyed because I requested twice for a change before anything bad happened, and I was ignored. Now, one of my students or myself could have gotten badly hurt/burned and there was barely anyone else in the building around to help us, no phone for us to call for help on, not even an ADULT in the offices!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Not quite an F...but certainly not an A

Test #2 (the last one before the final): not so hot. They didn't do that well. Yeah, it was a "heftier" test than the first one, and we didn't finish the review game, but still. It's nothing that difficult. Or least I don't think so.

And boy, some of the answers they give me...some are so wrong it's comical, and others are correct possibilites I haven't even thought of. The spectrum is so huge, it blows my mind.

I've decided to become the Extra Credit fairy. So fair I've assigned one large extra credit assignment, and I made a small one that we'll do in class tomorrow. And I'll probably do another project which will be a grade-booster, but it won't be optional. :)

And we are going to review the heck out of these last few chapters before the final!

Other than that, teaching is good. :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Wow, was I wrong about my last post.

I'm pretty sure that thing have improved with the girl who I had the issue with, let's call her Jane. She wrote on a homework assignment a week or so ago that she was seeking help from the university's mental health services. I realized right away that the previous comment was not personal and this could be why. I wrote on her HW that I was glad she told me, but we probably should find a better way of communication for things like this.

I gave a test on Thursday (which they all did horribly on... more on that later). She stayed after the test (and patiently waited until everyone was finished) and approached me. She was shaking and turning red, and said she was scared to approach me, and that I was the last professor she talked to. That made me feel AWFUL, and we continued to sit down and have a long conversation about what's been going on. I'm pretty sure we've cleared the air between us, which is such a relief. She told me her mental state is showing in her work, and that is why she has been doing so poorly. She feels as if she's failing (she's not, in fact, there are still students who have lower overall scores than her). I tried to reassure her and we'd work something out in the form of extra credit or re-takes. I told her that French shouldn't stress her out and that not to get worried about it.

I mean, I never worried about French as a student. Until now... but as the professors like to tell us, "That's grad school."

Anyway, so problem is 75% solved. The remaining 25% shouldn't be too difficult - I need to try and find a fair way to boost her grade.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to deal.

I feel like the student that I had an issue with a few weeks ago is purposely not-trying in class, and she's doing very poorly on quizzes. I think she's doing it because she thinks it will bother me. I want her to do well and I KNOW she can do well, she definitely has the ability, but it doesn't bother me. I know the answers, and it doesn't affect my job really, so she's only hurting herself. How am I supposed to talk to her, or do I even try to? I feel like she'll be immediately defensive and accuse me of accusing her of not trying, calling her stupid, etc. I think maybe I'll ask the question in class.

Most of my students are doing well, but I think I'm going to offer an extra-credit assignment and count it as a quiz? (or homework or heure-en-solo or what!?!). I'm not sure if I want to assign it in French or in English. They do not know how to say a lot in French, so they'd resort to using translators or trying to using vocab/grammar that is WAY above their level. If I do it in English...well.. it's a French class. So I'm not sure what to do.

We have a test next week, a much "heftier" one than the first. I really hope they do well.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How Rude!

I had my first rude student encounter. Not wanting to really get into it on a blog - but she took various elements of communication the wrong way (apparently to this generation, using punctuation in e-mails makes you a b****) and because I marked her answer wrong on a test (even though the answer was incorrect), I'm the worst TA ever.

I was pretty flustered after class yesterday because of this - but after venting and thinking about it, I know that she is in the wrong. I did a CYA e-mail to my TA supervisor, and I'm sure nothing will come of it.

I think I have a good relationship with my students. They respect me (well, most) without me having to have that "I'm the teacher, I'm always right, do what I say or FAIL" thing going on. They know I'm barely older than they are, they know I'm a grad student. But when I stand in front of the class, they listen, when I ask them to turn to a page, do an exercise, or assign something - they do it. I find that not only do they smile/laugh in each class, but I do too. I like it that way.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teaching while Sick.

I'm stuffy, sneezy, and my voice is all weird. Not really great conditions for teach students how to speak and pronounce. So, I started the day with this on the board:

"Aujourd'hui, je n'enseigne pas. Je suis malade, j'ai un rhume. Nous jouons un jeu." (Today, I'm not teaching. I am sick, I have a cold. We're playing a game)

Why did this work? Here: They know the first word, they just learned how to conjugate -er verbs (enseigner and jouer), they learned to look up meanings of the words they didn't know, (enseigner, malade, rhume), they just learned how to make things negative (the ne...pas part), they also just learned the verb etre (suis), and pronouns (je, nous). And, all of these elements (save the three words they didn't know) are on the test which is their next it worked out PERFECT. And then we played a review game: Jeopardy.

It went a little slow... they got into a little bit, with Final Jeopardy and Daily Doubles. For the first time, I felt like they actually spoke to one another (group activities have been awkward so far). I gave the winning team +2 points on their test.

After the game, we had about 30 minutes (out of 75) left, and I let them ask any questions they had. That lasted about 15 minutes. So they (and me, too!) got out a little early, with no homework but to study, we reviewed..and I didn't have to do all that much talking.

Win-win, I think, no?