Friday, November 25, 2005

professional monkey trainer

Happy thanksgiving yesterday. I've had the longest, most thorough observation of Thanksgiving this year. In every class, I've explained the history of Thanksgiving, shown the students pictures (which I colored myself, thank you) of turkey, pilgrim, etc., and had the students draw turkeys by tracing their hands.

Of everything I've done this year...possibly in the whole time I have been a teacher, having French kids draw turkeys is by FAR the most successful and popular thing I have ever done.

It seems to me that in France, people transition from children to adults much earlier. That is not to say that I'd trust a 16 year old to file my taxes properly, but they are given much more freedom. They can smoke and drink earlier. A lot of these kids, at 15 and 16 years old, live here in a dorm during the week. Their schedules at school have different free periods and classes all over town; each day is different. Basically, they experience their freshman year of college 4 years ahead of Americans. Combine that with the (yes, stereotyped, but true) French tendency to take ones self rather seriously, and you have adolescents who have nearly forgotten what it is like to be young.

When I pulled out the boxes of crayons from my bag, they looked at me as I was showing them my favorite shrunken head: confusion and apprehension. However, once they started drawing, I couldn't stop them. Nearly every kid, in all of my classes, sat silently and colored in their whole turkey.

After that activity, they were genuinely interested in my lecture on the story of Thanksgiving. I've been told that I should focus on teaching one to three words every lesson. I took the opportunity this week to teach: 1. Starvation, 2. Mourning, 3. Cornucopia. Does that qualify as abuse of power? Other words I have taught: quaint, smooch, torture, gigantic, chronological, aisle, and "I have been robbed!"

It snowed last night! It was unpleasantly cold as I walked home, but today it felt like a still, cold blanket had been layed over the town. Cold, but still kind of snug. On the news, they showed that other towns in the east had received up to a foot of snow!

The party I went to was really fun. Nearly all of my oldest students were there, crammed into a tiny apartment. I had wine spilled on me three times, by three different (HORRIFIED) kids. And yes, I spoke French to everyone. By the third glass of wine, I was ready for a career as a professional orator, in fact. I guess I'd better start drinking every morning. I ended up having a series of small conversations with my different students -- they'd come over to me, chat a bit, then leave. I was rather quiet and left pretty early. Good thing, too, because when I saw a boy this morning and asked him if he had a good time, he replied, "Yes, but...I don't remember much what I said."

So, tomorrow morning I leave for Paris. Tenatively, I will be seeing CocoRosie in the evening; on Sunday, we will go to the Austrian exhibit at the Grand Palais. Also, I'm going to do some work as Santa's personal shopper at Ivana Helsinki. I'm excited.

Finally, the internet connection in my room decided to repair itself. It's a Thanksgiving miracle!


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