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?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dice Game: Fail

Class just finished, and I taught them probably the most important verb in French today (etre). I think they got it. To change things up, and to get some more participation (they were quiet today for some reason), I played the dice game that Miranda suggested. I thought it was going to be fun and a breath of fresh air to get away from the textbook exercises...but they HATED it. After it was over, I asked, "Amusant ou stupide, soyez honnete!" and they allllll said "stupide!"  :(

I certainly hope they don't think the Jeopardy review game next class is stupid. Too bad, they're doing it anyway. :D

I spoke a TON of English in class today, but the book wasn't clear in their explanation of a topic. It was a struggle. Not sure how I feel about it. With speaking English, I feel like I'm in a struggle with what the department is telling me I should do vs. what will be the most effective/beneficial to the students (from past experience).

Another quiz today... this time I reviewed right before (for a specific reason), so I expect higher grades.

All in all, we are on track with the schedule! I also have been doing well with keeping them the whole time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lesson planning?

In my ROML5395 class, we've been talking about lesson plans.

My lesson plans aren't what most people's look like. And my point of reference is from Madame Gabler's formal ones in high school, and Miranda's and James' pretty, typed plans.

Mine? They are scraps of paper with a handwritten daily agenda on them. Each class starts with "Bonjour, ca va" and ends with "HW." They are usually done the night or two before.

But you know what? They work for me. They are all inclusive... everything I do is on there. If I don't write it down, I forget to do it. For example, I forgot for one of them to slot a space for "Hand back graded HW." Guess what I didn't do that class? I felt like an idiot.

But I think I'm going to feel foolish when we show our lesson plans in the ROML5395 class...because mine aren't pretty, they are by no means formal. Am I doing it wrong? In my defense... I didn't major in education in undergrad, so I didn't have all those classes where you learn about this type of thing. I honestly never wanted to be a teacher in the near I didn't have a lot of time to physically or mentally prepare for all of this.

But, my lesson plans work. And even if I learn a "correct" way to do them... I'll probably still do them my way for a while. Why? Because it works. I don't think it's me being stubborn... I think it's me not fixing something that isn't broken.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Learning Process

The second quiz was a success. Still some not-so-wonderful grades, but the class average greatly increased, and the lowest grade was higher. So, the more questions thing is working.

I also started using a new grading program (Excel hates me) that James recommended, called Engrade. It's free and online and has all these cool features. I'm using it at a basic level, trying to figure out grading in general (it's harder from this side of the podium!). I think I've got it right. And if I don't, I at least have all the grades recorded so if I need to do it a different way, it won't be crazy trying to remember who got what grade.

I also borrowed an idea from Miranda..the pronoun cube! It's a little paper cube labeled with one subject pronoun (je, tu, il/elle/on, nous, vous, ils/elles) on each side. Since we're learning how to conjugate verbs within the next week, it will be a fun way to randomize the exercise and take some of the pressure of conjugating. Miranda said her level 2 students loved it. I certainly had fun making it, even if Miranda's is prettier.

I love the idea of community between the TAs. Miranda and James are TAs of different levels but we still work awesomely together and borrow ideas without feeling like we've stolen them. Our office is like a communal idea pool... it's pretty awesome. It takes a lot of the burden of teaching away (even though I don't think I could define the teaching burden. I'm sure there's one there but I'm not feeling it... yet).

Another quiz on Tuesday and first test the following week. I made a Jeopardy game to review the first two chapters, hopefully it will be enough. I may make a review sheet to supplement it.  Is that giving them too much of a crutch, or is it something I should do without hesitating. These are the things about teaching that get me.

I've collected the first part of the Paris, je t'aime project... but to be honest, I haven't looked at them really. Not really quite sure how to grade them just yet.

Three weeks into teaching, I have learned that I am learning just as much as the students are throughout all this, if not my verb forms, then how to help them do their best.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Language Barrier

So I think I should assign a little less homework, because I grade them all individually. And when it's about 5 exercises (I mean, they're short, c'mon), it gets tedious when I have to grade 16 of them.

I'm down to 15 students and 1 auditor. One of the girls who told me she was interested in minoring in French (I was so excited!) dropped! She didn't say anything, so I'm not sure why. Maybe a different section was more convenient for her. Or maybe she hated me. Who knows, but I was a little sad.

I'm finding it hard with some students who have a language barrier with English (ie - those whose native language is something other than English). They are having a hard time following me in both French and English, but they are too proud to say anything to me when I'm actually teaching...they just wait until after class...which I guess is better than not at all, but it's still a little frustrating. I tell my class a lot that they should stop me if I go too fast or say something unclearly or whatnot. But they never have. And I get it might be embarrassing for them...but there's a chance that 2-3 other students, at least, are in the same boat.

I'm giving my second quiz tomorrow. It has more questions and almost a gave-it-to-them section (matching..c'mon, it doesn't get any easier than that!). I hope they do better.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Little Disappointed

I had a lot of fun making my own quiz. Even though those who have taught FREN1161 before me have passed down their materials, I enjoy making my own materials and I think that it's important that I do... every teacher has a different style that not only comes out in their personality in the classroom but also in the work they assign.

So, I made my first quiz. 10 questions, relevant to what we learned. Everything was gone over. But maybe the quiz was a little too hard? I didn't think so, but, they didn't so hot. Of course, some did very well. Others...not so much. I know it's not my fault (or do I?) but I can't help but feel a little guilty.

My next quiz won't be easier, but I'll have more questions so there will be more room for error.

In other aspects, things are going well. We're covering the material in a timely matter that accords with the syllabus, which is good.

I'm a little wary on the Paris, je t'aime project, not really sure what I'M supposed to do with it, let alone what they're supposed to do. I guess I'll figure it out.

Friday, September 3, 2010

:) !

I LOVE teaching.

My first week officially done, I couldn't be more excited. My kids are GREAT. Everyone has spoken in class, and I wasn't pulling teeth either.

I did end up letting the first class out 30 minutes early. I thought I over-planned, but I finished everything on my little agenda/lesson plan and it was 11:45. I guess I didn't want to be one of THOSE teachers anyway, the ones that keep you until the last minute on the first day.

The second class I kept them the full time. It worked out perfect.

Good news, I found an entrance to my building :P. It's an old building, but, hallelujah, there's A/C! There's a really old, small, ruined chalkboard. Tables instead of desks for the students. A podium. The room is narrow but deep, so I really need to enunciate and speak loudly, which is hard to remember. There's Internet in the room, but I don't have a projector. I think there's a screen, but I can't tell.. I saw a scroll above the chalkboard, I couldn't reach it. It could be a map. The building is that old. I remember them telling us in TA training that we can reserve projectors and equipment like that... I'll have to look into it. The lab people seem nice.

I'm no longer nervous about teaching. I made mistakes in my French, and yes, I spoke probably a little more English than I should have (more on that eventually), but I just have to remind myself constantly that I know an infinitely more French then these students, and it's OK to make mistakes.

I e-mailed my old high school teacher and my recent college professors, asking for help (teaching aids and simply advice) and they were so eager to help me out. All three of them are wonderful professors who I really look up to, and probably wouldn't have continued with French without them.

I even had my mom send me my old French materials (because I'm a nerd and kept EVERYTHING French since Freshman year of high school). I'm going to recycle some old worksheets and tricks of the trade. With due credit, of course.

Lastly for this post, I'm just really grateful that I got involved in tutoring at my undergrad. It has helped me not only realize that I know what I'm doing, but has also prepared me in so many different ways (which I'll probably mention often) for where I am today.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Deep breaths!

Tomorrow is my first day of teaching.


I'm really, really nervous. I wasn't expecting to teach. I thought a TA was just an assistant to a professor, somebody who did the grading, who set up the powerpoints, who did recitations and tutoring. I had zero idea I'd have my own class, that my name would be in the Registrar's website as an instructor.

Granted, my first class is practically scripted for me. I have to do this Bonjour/Salut sequence (which is really going to scare the crap out of my students) and then talk about the syllabus. My class period is 75 minutes long, and I'm totally worried that the entire thing will take 5 minutes and I'm going to "Umm" for the next 70.  I'm more worried about the second class.. that's all me.

I hope I have enthusiastic students. I already have people dropping and adding and all that fun stuff. As of this second, I have 19 registered. That's not awful...but it will seem like 10000 when I'm standing in front of them.

My classroom...who knows what it looks like. It's in the old armory building. The campus' military group people are based there, it's under MASSIVE construction (I tried scoping it out today but there's no entrance whatsoever), and there's a gymnasium. It's probably hot, not high-tech, etc. Oh joy.

So, here we go, FREN1161, Elementary French I. Hopefully my students will be able to say more than "Comment allez-vous?" in 16 weeks.