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October 22, 2010

Lycée Camille Claudel, Home to the Purple and Blue Cows

I finally started teaching yesterday after several weeks of introducing myself and observing. My first class was with the "Euro" seniors-- a designation for advanced students like AP or IB-- and I prepared a lesson for them about the use of attack ads in American elections. I showed them McCain's "celebrity" ad on Obama, and used an Obama ad where he compared McCain to Bush. I asked them to think about how they used images and music to manipulate the viewers. I did the same with Tarryl Clark/Michele Bachmann ads, and asked them which they found most convincing and why.

It was pretty successful, forcing the students to think critically. I was brimming with confidence going into my next class, with seniors who have specialized in English. I brought them a video the Duluth tourist office made about the city, thinking the kids would be excited to see where I come from. I'm in a really tiny room with nowhere to put my laptop, so I had to awkwardly hold it aloft so they could see. If you've never seen "Fresh Duluth," it's about 30 minutes worth of Lake Superior porn, cut with interviews with locals. Many of them zoned out, so I kept pausing it to say, "Pauline, what just happened?" "Euh... eye don' kno'." "Is that because you weren't paying attention?" "....yis." It was somewhat of a disaster.

Today I had two groups of sophomores, and I prepared a lesson for them about school spirit. The kids here go to school from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and they don't have any extra-curriculars. No sports teams. No music ensembles. No assemblies. No mascot. No school colors. I brought in my Duluth East High School yearbook and tried to explain these foreign concepts.

Next I taught them some cheers from my high school. They really got into the clapping and stomping as they chanted:

"Oo rocks zuh 'ouse?
Zuh grey'ounds rock zuh 'ouse
And when zuh grey'ounds rock zuh 'ouse
Zey rock eet all zuh way down."

Another favorite:

"One! We ar' zuh grey'ounds!
Two! A leetle beet loudahr!
Sree! Ay steel can't 'ear yoo!
Foh! Moh! Moh! Moh!"

As an activity I had them choose a mascot and school colors for their own high school, Lycée Camille Claudel. The mascot had to share an attribute with the students. I told them we were the greyhounds because greyhounds are fast and always win the race, just like East High School athletes. I used escargots as an example, since it's a specialty of the region. But it's not a particularly fierce or fast animal, so they probably wouldn't want to choose it, I said.

"Les gazelles!" someone suggested. That was eventually shot down because they didn't think their classmates were elegant enough to qualify. "Les grenouilles (frogs)!" said another. Not too much enthusiasm for that one either.

"Les vaches!" said a girl who had been really into the cheers. "Cows?" I asked. "Why would you want to be the cows?" "Becooz, euh, zuh coos, zey talk a lot. And zuh studahnts, zey talk mooch az well. So we are zuh coos." Everyone nodded in agreement. And your colors? I asked. Blue and violet was the consensus. Why? "Becooz zey ah' well wiz each ozzer."

I asked the students to use their 10-day Toussaint vacation to create their own cheer for Camille Claudel. I can't wait to see what zey cohm oop wiz.


  1. Funniest post yet, FP. -- Sunshine (UMD; know your mom)

  2. Maybe I need to watch that video - my mom moved to Duluth not that long ago (from the other side of MN)!