My 2018 End-of-Year Confessions

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WHEW. Is this thing still on? I can’t believe that I’m here, writing another end-of-year confessions post (you can go back and read my 2016 and 2017 confessions, if you’re so inclined) but more importantly, I definitely cannot believe that I’ve already finished my first year of graduate school. This year has rocked my world far more than I ever anticipated, and it seems oddly fitting that I started on this journey in the last year of my twenties because I have done an enormous amount of reflecting on what it is I want my life to look like as I move toward my next decade. Graduate school has been hugely challenging – not necessarily on an academic level (that’s been an appropriate challenge) but moreso on a personal level, which was something I really didn’t expect. But through these challenges I’ve gained a lot of perspective, which in turn has inspired a lot of questions that still, as of right now, have no answers.

But enough of the vague, wishy-washy stuff! Onto the confessions – let’s start with the fact that…

I know basically nothing about French literature, and definitely even less about literary theory. I committed to this particular Master’s program in part because they have a “culture and society” parcours that corresponds pretty closely to my own personal interests – history! Cultural studies! Woohoo! …WELP, turns out that at the end of the last school year, nearly all of the professors who teach on the culture and society track left on sabbatical, left on retirement, or just simply left the department altogether, leaving exactly one historian standing, compared to about six literature specialists. Who knew that a graduate seminar entitled “France in Ruins from 1945-present” wouldn’t be about the consequences of WWII on culture and society, but instead would focus on the nouveau roman? I read an entire novel from which the letter “E” had been completely omitted, you guys. There was no letter “E”.

Turns out, teaching college is…basically the same as teaching high school. Only, unfortunately, not as fun. My university has a pretty standard language requirement for nearly all undergraduates, which means that the vast majority of our student population has to take at least three semesters of a foreign language. I taught the third semester portion (French 3), where the majority of our enrollment is, as students are automatically placed into French 3 if they’ve had at least 2 years of French in high school. There is no placement test – this means that I had students with an extremely wide array of backgrounds and abilities; bright-eyed freshmen straight out of AP French, and last-semester seniors who hadn’t heard a word of French in six years but needed my class in order to graduate. This spurred a major realization (and was one of those perspective-giving experiences I wrote about earlier): there is no truly substitute for quality language instruction in high school (and before). What you do matters, and has consequences – good and bad – that may not manifest until after your students leave your classroom. This leads me to my third confession…

…I really think my place is in the secondary classroom. At the end of last school year, I was having doubts about the sustainability of being a high school teacher. Major doubts. Doubts that pushed me toward pursuing graduate school full-time and picking a department that would afford me the experience of teaching at the university level. What I learned was I think I really am meant to teach high school. I miss my students and my colleagues. I miss the atmosphere and energy of my school. I miss the connections that I got to forge with the kids that I saw every single day, some of them for four entire years. I miss designing my own curriculum and teaching in a way that aligns with my beliefs about language acquisition and proficiency. I miss speaking French to a room of 25 fifteen-year-olds and actually having them understand me. I miss the joy of hearing them respond to me in French – errors and all. I know I’m romanticizing a bit (or a lot) but I just feel that the secondary classroom is where I belong. But a return to high school will have to wait for now, because…

We’re moving – again! This time it’s a bigger move than Michigan to Pennsylvania – I’m actually going to be spending a year in Lyon, France, teaching English to French university students as the representative for my university’s longstanding teaching exchange with Université Lumière Lyon II. This is, of course, provided that the correct documentation comes through in time for my scheduled departure on August 13th – in true French bureaucratic fashion, I’ve not yet received my work contract, which means I’ve not yet been able to apply for my visa or appear in person at the Consulate…as an already highly anxious person, this has not be fun. The stress of it has started to make me physically ill, but I’m trying to remain optimistic that it will all get done (somehow, it always does) and that I’ll be able to leave for France as scheduled.

I’ll be blogging more about this process and our travels on my personal blog, which I’ll link to once it’s all cleaned up and ready to go! And who knows, perhaps this space will even see a few ESL lesson plans in the future…

Happy (almost) Summer!

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2 thoughts on “My 2018 End-of-Year Confessions

  1. I don’t even know how I stumbled upon your feed but I have followed a path very similar to yours. I started out teaching high school French, spent 5 years in grad school, one year in Lyon teaching English, gave up on my dissertation, have taken time to have a family, taught 6 years in middle school and now back in high school and love it.

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  2. Bonjour! So interesting…this year I moved from community college to high school and experienced similar but in reverse (sort of). It would be interesting to compare perspectives! I hope to teach at University soon, which actually has a whole different dynamic from community college! Just started following your blog so it will be interesting to hear about your adventures in Lyon…I used to live there a *few* moons ago before my Masters degree (being an au pair and having fun learning French)!

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