Or, The Day Pitbull Changed My Life
I was watching a video the other day on the importance of different approaches when it comes to teaching. It’s not just about “here’s the book, now go get’em!”- it’s about what surrounds the students: their community, their background, their home life. Addressing these factors in an effective way can be what actually helps lessons stick in their brains, and have it make sense from the get-go.
The campus at X College where I teach happens to be in an area of town that is not known for its affluence. Quite the contrary.
Upon informing a friend of mine we had to drive through that area in order to reach downtown faster one night, she did the sign of the cross.
While this is a huge exaggeration of the safety concerns (or lack thereof) of those who share my commute, let’s face it- it’s an ugly area of town, surrounded by even worse areas, where poverty is palpable.
Now, the student population at this campus is not by any means homogeneous. Here is where the hub of the nursing school and the police/fireman training academy is. It is not unsafe. If anything, it has a pretty bad-ass student population (think about it- nurses AND cops!!) There’s a little bit of everything- it’s a microcosm of Miami.
Now, keeping all of this in mind, I have to deliver my lessons effectively. Though I’m still learning how to actually (fucking) teach, I have to stand in front of 20 people bright and early at 8am and tell them “Bonjour messieurdames, aujourd’hui on va continuer à travailler sur l’impératif!”
And so, after blank looks, and resigned sighs, the lessons begin.
During this particular unit (the imperative), I touched upon some verbs like “aller” (to go). The imperatives for aller are va, allons, allez. Everything was fine until I decided to go a liiiiiittle bit further and teach them how to use the expressions allons-y, allez-y and vas-y. Though I didn’t get into what y stands for (to prevent cerebral hemorrhages, and brain matter to leak from their ears), I used several examples.
“All right, so! Allons-y, treat that as your ‘let’s go!’. Allez-y, notice we’re using the formal and/or plural conjugation of the verb. Treat this as your ‘go ahead’. Vas-y, you use it when you want to push someone into doing something, or when you’re trying to get someone to go somewhere”.
Ok, ok, ok!! Um…you know, your friends all want to go to the beach, and so do you so you say ‘Oui! Allons-y!’
I dug into my arsenal of teaching aids- writing excercises, videos using the imperative- everything! Next up, I was probably going to whip out a stripper pole, if only to get their attention once more. I was slowly losing them.
Towards the end of the class, as my energy was winding down and their brains had already long been in shutdown mode, a young man in the back raised his hand.
“So, Miss, what you’re trying to say is that vas-y is like dále?”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best example of transcultural education I have ever come across with.
I heard he’s opening a school. Maybe I should apply.