Over the past month, work has taken so much time that blogging has been shoved to the side. The weeks between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break passed in a whirlwind of testing, grading, and charging through lectures and notes to get it all in. Yesterday I graded the last final and can at last put the semester behind me. I both love and hate grading. I hate that it has to be done, that there is never enough time to really get ahead, and that some kids just do so poorly, despite how much I adore them. But I love when a student makes me laugh as I am trudging through their test with my red pen.
Often I invite their humor, as they can get away with a lot if it is written in French. One student wrote an essay in which he referred to someone as an “intelligent derrière” and even though his attempt to translate the profane American phrase should have been inappropriate, it was such a hysterical translation that I let it slide. What should have been a little vulgar now read “smart bottom.”
My mother recently gave me a floral pattern shirt. By floral, think “camouflage on a nursing home couch” floral. I was determined to wear it, and after turning back the sleeves to reveal striped cuffs, and covering it with a blue sweater, I found the over all effect to be very Anthropologie, which is basically old lady clothes that we are tricked into finding stylish by the huge price tag. I explained to my freshmen my feelings on the shirt (in French, of course) and it happened to fall on a day where they were taking a quiz on clothing vocabulary. For a point of extra credit they were allowed to write how they felt about my shirt in French on the back. Here were some of the responses I received (translated from their rudimentary French into equally rudimentary English):
“Your shirt ugly but you cool so it works.” (Verbs are still coming slowly)
“Zach loves Multi-colored shirts and Miss Stone.”
“You wear blue sweater – it is good. No sweater – it is bad.”
“I LOVE FRENCH CLASS AND THE GRANDMOTHER SHIRT!!!”
Grading finals gave me more reasons to smile. To start off, there were my French III kids who had to write a rather lengthy essay to introduce themselves to an imaginary French family. They had to introduce their families, (everyone’s parents are apparently lawyers), tell what they like to do (everyone – without exception – enjoys skiing more than anything else because “faire du ski” is their favorite verb) and one kid just gave detailed driving directions on how to get to our school as he had run out of other vocabulary.
My French IV finals showed me that we have some historical issues to work through. They students had to give one paragraph responses to some quotes from French literature, poetry, and philosophy that we have read this semester. The quote that caused the most problems was Rousseau’s “Man is born free and he is everywhere in chains.” Here were some of the answers I received (same translation principle) to explain the significance.
“We can see here that France took the idea of freedom being important from America and our revolution.”
“Rousseau is saying that man is born into original sin.”
“We are free – but not!”
Of course, since it is a Presbyterian school, most answers for my students do come back to us all being born in original sin and predestined one way or the other. I tried reminding them that Rousseau was in fact not only not a Calvinist, he wasn’t even a Christian, but they gave me that all knowing high school look of “That’s what you think!” I am interested to see what happens when we hit existentialism.