Teaching in France: Dealing with Students

Bonjour!

Following up to the “Teaching in France” post last weekend, I will be sharing with you my take on how I have dealt with students– both the good and the bad– while teaching abroad this year.

Let’s preface this by saying that, even though as assistants we had training days, we barely discussed rules of disciplining pupils who weren’t behaving in class. I think in total, we did a *very brief* unit on it during our second training period, but otherwise, it was negligible.

That being said, I have heard a lot of fellow assistants who have wished that there was some sort of training for discipline. Basically, we were taught that we, as assistants, weren’t in charge of doing so, but rather if we had any problems with them, we would just send them to their teacher to deal with it. I find that rule both advantageous and problematic, in the sense that, for the former, it’s good that we can avoid dealing with the crap of telling our students off, as well as having to talk to their parents about it. But for the latter, not disciplining the students does not teach us to deal well with changes to the classroom atmosphere, as we can find ourselves stuck in a very sticky situation if the teacher is not around to reign in the ropes.

For me, there have been a couple of times when I had to tell a student off for being disruptive (and more importantly, disrespectful). Otherwise, I just tell the students to shush when they are talking when I’m talking (seriously, rude), and have surprised myself by being remarkably patient with them, which I am afraid has bordered on passivity (but doesn’t matter).

I remember the first time that I had actually gotten angry (like, scary-angry)at a student, and went on a mini, but justified, tirade in the front of the class. It was during my Thanksgiving lesson at the lycée; one of the students was talking when I was talking, and when I waited for her to stop talking, I smiled ironically and said, “Thank you (for shutting your trap),” and calmly continued my lesson. She then started to mimic, otherwise mock, my speech, and that’s what set me off. NO ONE should disrespect me like that. I snapped and asked her, “What is your problem? You do NOT disrespect me like that. You have no right to do so…,” and I just went on and on about how I hadn’t slept well the night before, how we only had thirty minutes to do the lesson and that she was disrupting it, etc. That was the first time the students probably saw me genuinely angry, and man, it sucked. Thankfully, the student behaved after that, and things went back to normal. Had to tell my second group of students my story, so that they knew not to mess with me. Hope that I never have to do that again…

Another time that is worth telling was at my collège after les vacances de Noël. That was an especially rough week, as the students (and I myself) were still in vacation mode. That said, one of my pupils in the 5ème class was, literally, talking to his friend behind him, his back to me while I was lecturing. I must have sounded scary, because the class got dead quiet when I ordered him to “Turn around!” He did, but he still continued to talk afterwards. I took his carnet de liaison (a record book that the French school system uses for punishing students), even threatening him with it when I slammed it hard against the table, saying, “If you disrespect me one more time, I will NOT hesitate to send you back to your teacher, as well as have her write in the carnet that you have been very disruptive in my class. Understood?!” He got it afterwards, but man, besides him, that whole class is rough as heck. They really don’t know how to respect someone trying to speak to them in French, to help them understand the lesson, because I have an accent (not heavy, but still after that vacances to the U.K. and Ireland, my French was rusty. Had to spend the next week or two brushing up on it). Their English isn’t any better, either, if not basic, so they shouldn’t be making fun of people. Ah, kids…they can be super shitty to deal with. 😦

…but other than those cases, though, the majority of the time that I am teaching has been cool. Yes, the students still can be loud and chatty, but I have been very lax about rules. As long as the chatter doesn’t get out of hand, and as long as it is not disrespectful to me or to another classmate, then I don’t really care.

…and not all students are nightmares. True, there are maybe one or two who really don’t give a shit about me teaching them (in fact, they don’t give a shit about their own teachers, either! They just don’t like school, in general. Nothing personal; it’s whatever), but most are either fine with me or really find pleasure in seeing me whenever I teach, the latter which really touches me. It’s too bad, because I don’t know most of my students’ names, and I would really like to, especially those who really care.

Seriously, some of my collège students are super adorable, and super polite and sweet. Same goes for my lycée students, even though they’re older. Is it bad to say that I find some of my lycée pupils attractive? Many of them are quite shy, and it’s always super amusing to see them get nervous (the “good kind”) when around me- it’s cute! Haha, I wouldn’t dare to “go there,” especially since I’m their instructor, but their personality (and looks) never cease to brighten my day. 😉

That’s about it for me. If you are or have ever been an assistant or teacher, let me know your thoughts on discipline and interacting with students; it’s great to share!

— The Finicky Cynic

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2 thoughts on “Teaching in France: Dealing with Students

    1. Exactly! I admit, teaching is not my forte (nor my ideal career), but I get by. Teaching in a different culture (and with a different language) is a challenge, but again, things turn out well in the end. 🙂

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