Saturday, 16 February 2013

Beef stew bubbling on an open fire

So: I didn't write anything yesterday. I got an awful lot of flack for not writing anything yesterday. I'm gratified that I have such eager readers, and I enjoy writing more than anything, but please realise that I'm only human and sometimes I need a night off.

Last night was that night off, but let's start in the morning. The morning started badly; my colleague was somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half late and, since I have no key to the upstairs office, I instead went downstairs and continued to record the DVDs we have. Four hours of that later and I was just about ready to end it all, my very will to live reduced by the illogical way the pile of DVDs appeared to get no smaller. I seemed to be stuck in a parallel universe.

Lunchtime came and went, and that was just about the highlight of my day - a Portuguese student of startling vivacity and a regular in my little mediatheque came in at the same time as me and so we ate together. She speaks Portuguese, of course, as well as excellent English and is attacking her ignorance in French with vigour. She was curious about where I'd come from and what I did, and I likewise was curious about her - I see students so rarely and they all have such interesting stories. Nearly everyone does.

After lunch I lent her La Fille sur le Pont, a black and white French comedy/romance/drama that I really enjoyed. The copy we have is not subtitled so it may be a struggle, but I think she'll profit from it. If you've not seen then I'd highly recommend it. The trailer is just about the most wonderfully...French piece of film I think I've ever seen, and although the quality is abysmal, I hope you'll get a sense of it from the clip below.


If not, imdb has a great quality copy (that I can't stick in my blog) over here, although the voiceover adds a dimension of reality to the whole thing which is somehow disappointing.

The afternoon was given over to more of the same and I left feeling utterly drained and itching for a drink. The drink was to come, but first I had my two new students, who are 12 and 15 and shall be known as C and B. Teaching anything from basics is very difficult, but language more so - I learnt English through assimilation, and so I have a sense of what "feels" right. Going back to the start and trying to explain the tenses is difficult, and I almost wish we'd been taught the rules in school. In any case, it was a success, as it relied on me being able to explain in French, so I taught pretty much 50-50 French and English. All was understood and some small amount of progress has been made, and that makes me feel warm and fuzzy, like a blow-dried panda bear.

B, on the other hand, has a good level of English, so I've set him a writing task to see if his written measures up to his spoken. We talked a lot about past tense, and that seems solid, though as with many French students he wants to say have where we use be, in examples like j'ai quinze ans - I am fifteen (years old).

A minor blip, though, in an otherwise strong ability. I'm really excited about these kids; new challenges and new things to be taught.

And after? I headed into town for a games night. This was my night off; spent in the company of international people, with tapas on one side, pastis on the other and the whole gamut of humanity before me. People were playing go, from China, abalone from France, chess - which has taken a roundabout route from India, where it was called chaturanga in Sanskrit - and poker, which may have come from Germany or France but took off in the States.

It was a really fantastic evening, and I'm already looking for ward to the next one.

Today has been my normal weekend student, A, with whom I'm exploring problems requiring linear functions to solve. Nothing too complex, but again I'm having difficulties in slowing him down. He answers the question before reading it, and it's causing no small amount of headaches. Does anyone have any advice on how to encourage students to slow down and consider their work more carefully? Comment below and I'll be eternally grateful.

For the rest of the afternoon I'm scaling Mount Dishes, another physics-defying construction which can never quite be utterly conquered. I've thrown together a stew too, which bubbles merrily behind me. I've crunchy, still-warm French bread to go with it, though I confess I'm starving myself for dinner and it's looking more and more likely I'll need to go back to the shops before long. The smell is intense.

Finally, and most importantly, my baby sister is 18 today. If 200 people say happy birthday to her, then something amazing will happen. She's on twitter. Go forth and wish her happiness.