Drinking With Students
On Saturday night, I went out to a couple of bars with the German assistant, Mirja, and an English assistant from another school, Lucy. First we hung out at a cool bar I've never been too, called the Camp Gouru (supposed to be a play on words, sounds like Kangaroo and has an Aussie theme). They played good music, like Bad Religion, System of a Down, Manu Chao and such. There were also young people there, and not young like my students young, but young like me young. After chilling there we went to another, called the Batonga.
Upon walking in I noticed a group of seven of my Terminale students (equivalent to seniors in high school). They invited me to sit down with them. We had a few beers with them while talking in French the whole time. I think they loved being able to teach me some verlangue (slang in which you inverse the way a word is pronounced - for example, merci becomes ci-mer, etc) and listening to me struggle with conjugating verbs as they do in English. They are all bright, mature kids for being 18 and we had a lot of discussions about French politics (especially the CPE I wrote about below), American pop culture and a teacher at Lycée Claude Monet that all the girls have a crush on.
It was odd at first to be downing a Heineken with these people that I normally see in a purely professional manner. I myself have always been a bit chummy with my professors and teachers, and regularly had a cup of coffee with them or went over to their house for dinner even while being graded by them in a class. I had never envisioned myself on the other side, though, being the person that the kids were bashful of mentioning drug use or sex in front of. The lines of authority we draw between teachers and students, adults and children exist outside the institutions which give them power. Students tend to dehumanize their teachers because they only see them in a classroom for a short amount of time each day. The teacher also has the role of making the students learn, whether either party wants to do so that day or not. This makes it such that the teacher is seen not as someone with fears, feelings, and possibly a screwed up life outside the classroom, but an authoritative figure to be a bit feared and respected.
As an assistant, I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't have the power of grading any of the students, nor the knowledge of their language sufficient enough to comprend entirely what's going on all the time in class. They do have a certain amount of respect for me because they think I'm funny and the things I teach are usually interesting on the level of pop culture or singular ideas from a country they revere and mimic. Thus, I think they invited me over to get to know me better, to try and dissolve that line between us. I am more than willing to do so, but realize that I can never truly be their good friend as long as I am an employee of their school. They invited me to come along to the house of one of the students, at 1am, while his parents were out of town and everybody in the group had told their parents, "Yeah, it's cool with S-----'s parents if I stay the night at his house." I decided it would be a bad idea if something were to happen and two of the assistants were at a student's house without or against the permission of his parents. So here the line again became evident.
Yet, at the same time, another student of mine, whom I no longer have because the class had to get exposure to the English assistant's accent, sent me a song he wrote in English to correct. This student was always telling me about concerts going on in Le Havre, cool things to do in Poland, etc. The song he sent is very personal and angsty, has some bad words and is something I would expect from a boy of 15 experiencing the first throes of woe and passion that come with puberty and meeting that alien species commonly known as girls. I feel honored in many respects that he chose to let me see it and, above all, critique the grammar of it. It tells me that he trusts me not to judge him for his feelings - which I don't - and not find fault in the way that he expresses himself. So again, the line dissolves, I am not just a teacher but someone in which to confide and trust on a deeply personal level.