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December 11, 2010

The most adorable two hours of my week

I ran into one of the English teachers from the local middle school at the cantine a few weeks ago, and he requested that I come into some of his classes of sixièmes (10- and 11-year-olds) to talk about about what life was like for their compatriots across the pond.

After enlisting the help of fabulous Texas middle school teacher Aberdeen, who was also in my French classes of yore at the U of M, I compiled answers to the teacher's list of questions: How long is the school day? Do the students wear uniforms? What kinds of clubs are available? What food do they have in the cafeteria? Etc. (Thanks Aberdeen! Now everyone go read her blog.)

I got to the classroom a bit early, and the students were crowding around the door, waiting for their teacher. They. Were. Adorable. Some of them seemed barely 3 feet high, and they just had the cutest little French faces. Once they discovered that I was The American talking to them that day they encircled me and chirped, "'Ello! Good afternoon! 'Ow ah yoo!"

When the teacher came he unlocked the door and they filed in, each repeating, "Good afternoon!" before going to their desk. They all stood politely beside their chairs until they were told to sit down. They started the class by practicing their questions. The teacher would prompt them in French, telling them to ask me things like whether I had any brothers or sisters. Those who knew the sentence structure would point their index finger in the air and moan, "Mister! Mister!" when they wanted to be called upon. Some of the questions I was asked included:

Do yoo lahk flowers? Do yoo lahk Michael Jackson?* What ees your address mail? Haff yoo got a boyfriend? Do yoo spek Portuguese? Do yoo spek...attend...c'est quoi le mot...Chinese? What ees your telephone numbah? Do yoo beleef in Fazzer Christmas? Do yoo lahk leesen zuh blues? What your muzzer do for job? Do yoo lahk your fiancé? Do yoo sink Barack Obama ees good president? Do yoo haff an animal pet? 'Ow old ah yoo?

For the latter I told them 25, and they whispered among themselves trying to decide what that translated to in French (numbers in another language are always so hard). One of them announced, "Elle a trente-sept ans! (She's 37 years old!)"

After my interrogation was over, I told them about life in America. They were envious that students there get out of school at around 2:30 or 3:00--here they have school until 6:00--but astonished that Americans have to go to school all day on Wednesdays. Elementary students here have Wednesdays off, and everyone else only goes to school till noon. They were similarly incensed that the kids only had about a half hour for lunch. Here they get two hours.

The Duluth Public Schools lunch menu was another source of envy. Several clutched their chests and smacked their lips when I told them their friends overseas enjoyed chicken nuggets for lunch last Friday. They also thought Rotini Hotdish sounded divine, which means I did not explain it correctly. Turkey hot dogs, however, did not sound as appetizing to them. They were impressed at the number of sports available for students, and that if you're a member of a high school team you practice your sport every day after school. Jaws literally dropped.

I offered to teach them the "We've got spirit, s-p-i-r-i-t spirit" cheer, which is always a big hit. They were amazed at the complicated clapping that accompanies it, and when I finished I got a deafening round of applause. When the bell rung the teacher told them all to thank me, and I got a chorus of adorable gratitude.

One student, who still hasn't mastered his "th" sound, beamed and yelled, "F**k yoo!"

*Fun fact: The school has a Michael Jackson club.


  1. This is my favorite thing. Ever.

  2. This is exactly how I felt my first week at my ecole primaire. The cuteness wears off quickly...but there are some days when it comes back in all its glory. ;-) Glad you had fun!

  3. LOL. (I found you on the Assistants forum today. And I'm at a lycee in the Champagne region this year.) This is hilarious--thanks for the laugh!

  4. "F**K yoo." Really?

    The vocabulary they have sometimes impresses me...

    -Barb the French Bean

  5. Barb: He was trying to say "thank you," but since he couldn't do a good th sound it sounded like "f**k you" instead. :)