One-Week Student Woes

Language Lab instructor and Blog contributor, Frédérique LeBel, shares the highs and lows of teaching over the course of one week.

I was hired as the language teacher for the summer of 2020 at the Préville Fine Arts Centre, with the task of teaching kids from 8 to 16 conversational French or English. When I started thinking of a class plan, in my mind the camp would be six weeks with the same kids, six weeks being the length of my contract. I was then told that I would teach the kids for one week only, then get a new group.

With that knowledge came two things. First, relief that I would not need to plan a six-week course. Second, sadness knowing already that once the week was up, it was likely that I would never see them again. With that in mind, I adjusted my planning (once I started teaching, I saw that overly preparing for things is never useful, as my class plan is continually evolving).

So classes start.

Monday is the most awkward. The kids do not know me, and I do not know them. I try to make them talk for forty-five minutes. I ask about their interests, their family, what they would like to improve during the week. Repeat two or three times, depending of how many people registered. The day ends, I plan for the next, keeping in mind what my students like to do and what they would like to learn.

Tuesday comes by. I see more smiles all around. They are more comfortable with me, despite doing basically what they would do in school even though summer vacation is in full swing. I am more comfortable with them, too. My voice relaxes, I let myself laugh. I think they notice the switch.

Wednesday and Thursday are increasingly better. Sometimes the students show me things of their own volition. Sometimes they answer my questions before I can even ask them. There was one afternoon, on a Wednesday, when one of my students opened his mouth full of chewed-up cheese and proudly showed it to the camera, as if to say you won’t get me to cooperate. Later that class, he was laughing with me and the other student in the class, fully participating, and replying to me when I talked to him.

Friday arrives. The realization that I will most likely never see those kids again starts just before I switch on my camera for my 10am class. It’s my last day with them, I think. Class goes well. Forty-five minutes fly by, and just like that, it’s over. The students leave the call, and I stay a few quiet minutes in an empty virtual classroom.

Languages teacher Frédérique LeBel