Sunday, March 24, 2013

Taking Out That Forgotten Pair of Shoes

I'm telling you up front:  I'm going to make an analogy.  I know, I know, a rare moment of thought is going into a post.  If you don't have time for this, move on.  I'll be back tomorrow with something inane like this or this.  Don't get nervous- I'm not going to wax all philosophical on you.  I don't wax anything.

For 17 years, I've taught French to 11-14 year olds in the same building, mostly in the same classroom.  This all happened by complete accident.  I literally sang for my job.  I was fresh out of college, no real job in sight, and I joined a local chorale of adults who sing pretty serious music like the Brahms Requiem and Ravel's Bolero and all sorts of fun and difficult and often very boring pieces of music.  But, it reminded me of the chorus I was in in college, very serious and good, so I joined.   The median age of the group was around 80, so I stood out like a sore thumb.  Everyone hovered around the new girl and I just went every Thursday night at 7pm like it was my job.

I can't even remember if this conversation took place the first, second or third time I went.  During the break, an alto came over to me and I remembered immediately that she was a German teacher in my high school.  She remembered me and my penchant for languages in high school and immediately assumed I had majored in language education.

I did not, but this didn't deter her when she was adamant that I needed to interview for a French position in the nearby middle school.  I explained that I had majored in French and education, but not French education.  They were so desperate since it was September 20 something, they hired me.  I figured it was my way into the district.  I really wanted to teach 4th grade, since that was where my real major lied, and maybe this would be my way into the district.  As retirements happened, I'd move into the elementary school.

There have certainly been many retirements in the time I've been at school and I've remained right where I started because I discovered I like teaching this age group.  6th grade is always the most fun because we don't get far into the nitty gritty of grammar and language rules.  7th grade is interesting because they turn into absolute monsters in January and go from pleasant kids I loved in 6th grade to creatures I don't even want to look at by the end of 7th grade.  By 8th grade, they either hate French or love it and there's not much that will budge those who've deemed it ridiculous and useless.  Around this time of the year, we usually turn a corner where they realize high school is just around the bend and they kind of silently agree to play my game and we end their time with me on a fairly pleasant note.

I've done this for a long time.  I know this routine really well.  And except for last year's anomaly class in 8th grade that literally made me consider retiring on more than a dozen occasions, this formula for behavior is pretty normal.

I've weathered 4 principals, 3 classrooms and more kids and assistant principals than I can count.  I thought I would start and end my career in this school.  And I'm sure some of the families of 4-6 kids assumed that too after spending so much time listening to their kids go through the trials and tribulations of that which is my classroom.

Friday, I found out I'm moving.  I will finally graduate from middle school...and go to 4th and 5th grade.

If you know anything about me, you know that change is not something I wake up in the morning hoping to find.  I do not seek change with the most open of arms.

However, this change is not making me double over with stomach cramps and I've known about it for 3 whole days.  Every time I think about it, I get excited!
This news came so far out of left field, I'm not even sure we were playing on the same field.  Or even  neighboring fields.  The talk of elementary foreign language has been on the table for as long as I've been there, but nothing serious has ever come of it.  This year, one elementary school has a 2nd and 3rd grade Spanish program but it seemed kind of fly by night.  A flash in the pan that probably won't continue.  We've had a lot of discussions with the superintendent and it's apparent that she is very pro language, but where this 4th and 5th grade position came from is a mystery to everyone I tell.

Here's why I'm ok with it:

1.  I'm moving to a different building but I'm going with at least 2 people I know very well and really enjoy.  There are others who have moved down to 4th and 5th grade over the years and though I've sort of lost track of where they are, we'll be together again.

2.  I'm going to be working with my 2nd principal, who I know well and like and can work with.

3.  I'm going to create the program as I go, so I don't have to follow what someone else has done.  Since I taught 6th grade for so long, I can use most of what I did with them, so I am not starting at square one.  It's not like I'm going from 14 year olds to 5 year olds. 

4.  I will be away from the insanity of the middle school child.

5.  I will be away from the insanity of the middle school teacher.  There will be a multitude of changes in my current building next year and the thought of not having to be involved in that circus makes  me really happy.

So, here's the shoe analogy.  I often have a pair of shoes that I wear a lot and then put away and forget about.  I don't wear them for a while because it's winter or they don't go with anything or whatever.  They are great shoes but sometimes they don't quite fit or they need a new heel bottom or something.  They have their quirks  but overall are good shoes.

Then, out of nowhere, I find them again and put them on.  I remember right away why I loved them and I'm tickled that I still have them.  As the day wears on, I remember they are a little tight when I wear them with certain socks or they make more noise than I remember or the heels are just a little too high to be running back and forth to the computer lab

I just have to remember which socks to wear and which days work for those shoes and it's love all over again.

Going back to work with this principal feels like that.  I haven't worked with her for 5 years.  I'm excited that we're being reunited.  The beginning will be the joy of rediscovering what I loved about working with her.  And as the day gets longer, I will remember the particulars of what it's like to work with her.  But I'm ready to reacquaint myself with her and the other people that are moving too.

It feels like we're going home after a long vacation.  Oh dear, that's two analogies in one post.  And I suppose we can't go home when we're moving to a building we were never in together.  But something about not going to a brand new place without knowing a soul makes this a pretty exciting bit of news!

On a different note, can you help me help my sister?  She's a sewing aficionado who blog at Call Ajaire and  has recently been featured on Joann Fabric's youtube channel.  Click here and go check out her video for a simple way to make a belt for toddler pants. 

Linking up here 


  1. Teaching a language to 4th and 5th grade?? That's awfully young to lay something that heavy on that age, no? I have a 3rd grader and I wouldn't want him learning another language next year - he needs to learn English first LOL.

    1. The beauty of starting it that young is that it doesn't have to be heavy. It's so much more fun. No one's taking notes in notebooks and translating sentences and doing verb drills. Not that I do that now, but I suspect that is your memory of language learning when you were in school. In elementary school, it's about fun projects, singing, playing fun games, things I do now that make 8th grade want to crawl under the table because they are so self conscious. In the younger grades, that self consciousness is not there yet. The younger they learn, the easier it is. I know because I started when I was in first grade, just once a week. LOVED it. No pressure, no scariness of the language. It was just cool.

      If they have to learn English first, as many people say, then they will never get to learn another language because no one ever completely knows all of their language, right? Plus, extensive research shows better test scores later when they've learned a language earlier. And the US is so far behind when it comes to multiple languages. And the best thing is that I keep reading about research that shows that being bilingual staves off Alzheimer's. Though I'm always sure that if I ever bang my head there will be nothing but gibberish coming out of my mouth from all the foreign words mixed up in my head!


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