Losing something important…


(Mes chers amis françophone, il est tard et je n’ai pas le temps pour faire une traduction. Désolé mais aujourd’hui, il n’y a qu’a l’anglais!)

I teach a few English classes at a university. I like it although some groups can be difficult, especially the first or second year students. They sometimes behave like they are still in high school and can be quite immature. But even those students are usually ready to work.

One of the challenges of teaching English in France is that French students were often so traumatized by their English teachers that they learned to keep their mouth shut during class. When they spoke either the teacher would criticize them or the other students would laugh at them.

And since so many classes have 25 to 30 students, and sometimes more, the teachers don’t have the time to have everyone speak. The result is that the French can read and write French rather well but they don’t want to speak.

A tourist stops a French person in the street and asks, “Where is the Eiffel Tower?” The Frenchman understands the question and answers in French. The tourist feels like he’s in the Twilight Zone. The French act like this because the French teachers are so critical that French people don’t want to speak English for fear of making a mistake.

A few years ago I had a big group of 18 students. Eighteen students is a lot for a language class. They all had a pretty good level. But because of what I said above, no one wanted to speak in class. It was like pulling teeth to get them to speak. They were afraid the others would laugh at their accent.

The first class after Christmas vacation only nine of them came to class and they all participated and spoke quite a bit. I was so happy and thought maybe they’re beginning to be comfortable with me.

The following week when all 18 were there, no one wanted to speak. And this was a three-hour class. Three hours can seem quite long when the students don’t cooperate.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be talking about losing something important but I didn’t forget about it, I’m just setting the stage.

At the end of the semester they had their final exam and I put all their test papers in my file and went home. Sometimes the final grades don’t have to be turned in for a few weeks so I take my time in correcting the exams.

Then I received an email saying the grades should be turned in by a certain date and I knew it was time for me to get with the corrections. I went to my pile of university files and looked for this class…And I couldn’t find it.

“Oh, I must have left in the car”, I thought. I went down to the basement and looked in the trunk. No file…I looked under the driver’s seat and the front seat. No file… I went back upstairs and went all over the house…No file…

What in the world was I going to do? I had only noted two grades for the semester. I didn’t have much time but I tried to remain positive. “It will surely turn up at the last minute!” But it didn’t.

I finally had to contact the secretary and tell her what had happened. There was a big discussion and some other teachers told me, “This kind of thing happens from time to time, don’t worry about it.”

I appreciated their encouragement but I felt so bad. It was finally accepted that with the two grades I had plus a grade for participation that would be enough for the semester.

Fast forward to two days ago; I finished a class last week and brought the exam papers home to grade. Two days ago I finished grading everything and went to enter their grades on an Excel file. And what do I see? I don’t have grades for two students! And I know they were present for the exam!!

I start going through the entire file for that class but I don’t find the exams. I go through the file of another class that I also had to correct but the missing exams are not there. I go through all the papers on the table where I was working. They’re not there.

It’s not possible! And I need to turn in my grades tomorrow, Friday!

This evening the Mrs. was doing some tidying on the table where I was working two days ago. I happen to walk in and she says, “You left some papers of yours here.” I had left some photocopies of an article about how to give a good presentation on the table so I reached over to get them and put them away.

As I picked the papers up, I see the two missing exams. How is it possible that I didn’t see them when I was looking at everything on that table?

In any case, it’s a big relief and I’ll be able to sleep comfortably tonight!

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