Foreign Language Teacher
Genevieve Oohlala jogs with her cat for half an hour every morning. Okay, so maybe the cat does less jogging and more batting at her feet while she marches on her Wii Fit. Anyway, it helps keep the juices flowing in her brain and relaxes her muscles for the long day ahead.
After a quick shower, she hops on her bicycle and pedals five blocks to St. Petersburg Public School. Hardly anyone else is at school at this ungodly hour (6 am) but Jimmy, the custodian, always lets her in the side door and gives her a crooked grin from behind his mop. A little creepy. Mme. Oohlala unlocks her classroom, flips on the lights and sits down to a quick breakfast. She keeps a food supply in the bottom drawer of her desk, behind the staple gun and her fifteen-pound French Verb Conjugation book. While she eats, she contemplates the colorful decorations in the room. She’s especially fond of the shelf of French cookbooks, and the French flag hanging on the back wall. When she finishes her breakfast, Mme. Oohlala pulls out her stack of lesson plans for next week and makes a couple changes to the ones for grades 7 and 8. Based on their quiz scores, she needs to go back over past participles. She comes up with a couple game ideas to help them understand and practice the grammar.
She writes a note to Johnny’s mother requesting that Johnny type all of his homework assignments or be punished by pain of death (i.e. getting a zero). The last time he wrote an essay Mme. Oohlala spent an hour trying to decipher his handwriting and ended up with a migraine.
Is that an accent aigu or an accent grave…?”
The bell rings and the 10th graders tumble through the doorway and find their seats. Mme. Oohlala welcomes the class in French, and explains that today they will be presenting their final projects on a French speaking country. Michael is the first one up. He brings a poster to the front of the room and launches into a description of the country of French Guiana. Mme. Oohlala takes notes on his presentation, asks him a few questions in French, which he manages to answer (without too many “je ne sais pas”s), and leads the class in applause. Several more presentations follow. Sean looks like he slept-walk to school and can barely pronounce the word “francophone.” Emily’s presentation is the best. She absolutely loves French, and frequently spends her free period practicing new vocabulary words. Mme. Oohlala gets warm fuzzies just thinking about it.
Soon the sixth graders are in their places, and Mme. Oohlala starts off with a game. Today they stand in a circle and toss a ball around. Whoever catches it has to say a color in French. The kids get into it and Mme. Oohlala only has to correct their pronunciation a couple of times. She has them each make a poster with vocabulary words related to a specific color, then walks around the room helping wherever help is needed. Class is almost over so she assigns a list of words for everyone to memorize. They all say goodbye to her in French as they leave the room. Little Clarissa gives her a hug and a sticky hard candy on her way out. Fortunately, Mme. Ooohaha is fairly certain it was not intended as a bribe.
After lunch in the teacher’s lounge, Mme. Oohlala heads back to her room for the last class of the day. It’s a small class of 12th graders, and all of the students chose it as an elective. Mme. Oohlala talks about the subjunctive moods (which are all about wishes, demands, and statements “contrary to fact”), then hands out a practice AP exam. The AP test is coming up in a couple of weeks and she has promised to have a party to celebrate their winning scores. They’ve done really well on their practice tests and Mme. Oohlala is sure they will all get college credit for French. She’s proud of their progress. For homework, she assigns an oral summary of a French-language movie. She clarifies that a movie with a lot of “excuse my French”-type language is not what she has in mind.
The bell rings for the end of classes and Mme. Oohlala packs up all the grading she needs to do on the weekend and bikes home.
Before going to bed that night, she reads a couple chapters in “Teaching French, Methods for Success” and grades a few more of the reports from her 10th grade class. As expected, Emily gets an A. Mme. Oohlala can’t help but feel a burst of pride at the girl’s progress, and treats herself to some Cadbury dark chocolate to celebrate.
We could eat a hundred of these. No yolk.