A tale from the Paris classroom
Once, to resist the French education’s master/slave dialectic mania — its making students feel “null” — I gave a student an A+++.
Every day I would see gratuitous emotional violence and carnage play out in class.
Like the time we were making folded name tags to sit on the desks and a kid had trouble making a folded paper name tag and he was finally getting it right except he wrote my name is and he was the only one in the class to do that, so the teacher said THIS IS THE FOURTH TIME YOU [FUCKED THIS UP] and tears it up in front of the class. I thought it was charming that the kid wrote my name is, he wrote it correctly, it wasn’t wrong in my mind, and there was the other side of the name tag to write only the name. It would have functioned perfectly. But it’s a good example of how nonconformity is treated.
I felt like a nurse sent into bloody battlefield where kids’ brains were bleeding and thinking, feeling parts of them were being amputated every day.
Sometimes my students would run to me and hug me as soon as I arrived.
Many of my students would say how some teacher had said they were “null” in this or that.
Their teachers would mock them.
That’s not what I was about.
Most of the kids really tried hard, and if they practiced and participated, if they did the work and spoke English, they would get an A.
The students who showed the most motivation, who learned the most English, and who went above and beyond, who colored Black History Month and other assignments like monks at work on a mandala were in the A+ to A++ range.
I gave just one A+++ and it was well-deserved. She was just the most on top of her game 5th grader, and she was black, this badass learning like it was her job. Like she was a professional and making her peers look amateur.
Aside from my grading, which was infrequent and not actually my job, I always tried to nurture and provide as much encouragement as possible.
The motivation to learn English had the potential to change every single one of my students’ lives for the better, so I really, really tried my hardest to make English have positive associations.
My students would respond to my pedogogical approach by demanding all of my attention all the time. I always wanted them to leave the classroom feeling capable and motivated.
One day at the end of class lining up by the black board my first grade kids seized the opportunity and wrote HAPI on the board because that’s how they were feeling.
They also drew a blushing, smiling sun.