Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My apologies to Madam Rau.

Like every other American high school graduate, I was required to take a language in order to get my diploma. I enjoy the eclair and Beauty and the Beast was a personal favorite as a kid, so I decided to take French as my language of choice in high school.

I really did enjoy the classes. Because French has the same roots as English, it helped me understand my own language a lot better. I felt very exotic repeating phrases such as, "Where is the restroom?" and "Are you my driver?" But I was honest with myself. I was never going to use the language outside of the 4 required semesters. I just needed these classes to graduate, so I just did the bare minimum. Surely the teacher understood that.

I would just like to go on record and publicly apologize to my high school French teacher for being such a punk. Madam Rau, you were a great teacher, and I sorely regret not applying myself to my studies more when I had the chance. But most of all, I apologize for making you feel like you were completely wasting your time and that your choice of career was a foolish one. Because that's certainly how I feel sometimes when I work with some of my students.

For example: Amber says, "Class, we're going to work on these vocabulary words this week and you'll have a test on them on Wednesday."

The students respond, "Whaat!? Oh no, teacher! Please! Teacher please we have a math test that day. We need to study for the math test. Please teacher please! We have so much to do!"

Amber hears, "Look, lady, I'm only in this class because I have to be! I'm not actually interested in learning this language. Just be a good girl and give me the A I need and I won't bother you with completed assignments and all that mess."

Amber says, "It'll be easy. I've spent hours creating resources like games and research-based manipulatives that'll help you retain the information without having to work that much at home! Come on! It'll be fun."

The students respond, "But teacher we never use the workbooks. Why don't you do like our other teachers and just give us book assignments and let us work alone in class?" **This was literally a complaint I had from a student**

Amber hears, "Woman, you've got to get it straight. We just want to get the grade, finish the work, and then just sit and talk. In Arabic. So just put your little games and kinesthetic activities away and start boring us to death!"

It's so frustrating because I can kind of sympathize with the kids, but I also know how much I regret not really mastering another language! Granted, these girls already speak English leaps and bounds better than I ever spoke French, but golly does it ever make me feel like I'm toiling in vain trying to conquer these girls' literacy issues!

So students, if any of you are listening, at least pretend to be interested. Study for the tests. Don't complain when your language teacher puts in a little effort in the classroom. Because every time you complain, a little piece of her soul dies.

Vicariously yours,


  1. Amber -- I appreciate you apologizing to Mme Rau for your behavior, but you're going a bit too far by saying she was a great teacher.

    hope you're doing well!

  2. Girl, Remember the post you talked about your students' dreams? How they want to be astronauts and doctors and they have been in so many different countries and they see a world of possibilities much larger than what we saw when we were kids?

    Honestly, Just remind them that ENGLISH, Yes, ENGLISH will take them there... Really, this was what I heard all my life and even then I didn't study much because the goals were so far. Right, but if they have specific goals, connect those goals with their next test.

    I can say that because I went abroad, got to graduate school and got comments on my papers that said "A for concept, C for English" and "You got to get your grammar right if you want to graduate here"... That made me regret the years I spent in English school without doing my homework or studying for a test while in middle school.

    When I was applying for college (doing the vestibular, which is a extremely difficult and competitive test/process to get into college in Brazil) an English teacher of mine, named Louise, made me repeat a level at the school.

    Oh my God I hated her for that, but she sat me down and explained how living in Brazil without speaking good Portuguese hurt her. For her, and I agree, your grammar mistakes "make you lose intellectual assets in the eyes of other people." Tell your students: THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE!!! If you make a grammar mistake explaining something to your boss or to your professor in the U.S., they look at you like you didn't get it straight and that you might not come up with your project ideas... Some people get embarrassed even, just for you.

    So, yes, show this comment to your students and tell them: get this done now and treat English as the passport to your dreams, to your goals, to other places and people you really won't know well if you don't speak the language. It can sound like I am saying that English is more important than other languages, I know... But we can't deny: the whole world speaks it. Most of the world. And it will most doors of the world for you, whatever your goal is.

    now, if you try to learn some Arab while there and show them you are studying it too, I bet they will get very proud and happy :D



  3. Well said. There really is a different dialogue that goes on in your head. Staying motivated to teach is definitely something I struggle with! :)