Making plans is fun. Steve and I made plans – things we would do after we got to France. For eleven months, we did a lot of them. Then, life happened. Not in the Plan. Once I could think, I started trying to plan on my own. What can I do? I am trained to practice law, act, sell real estate, teach, write…. Yet, I cannot work in France. At least, not yet. Oh, that reminds me, I need to learn French. Hmmm. Yes, true. I must learn French. First of all, LEARN FRENCH! Once I can communicate effectively – and get a work permit, I can figure out ways to make money (I am thinking out loud, you realize, avoiding all talk of political and economical situations in the world). Then, I can afford to travel. Right now, I can barely afford myself, much less travel. Not in the Plan.
Now, while I ponder the Plan, life is happening, as we speak. I have begun teaching English, swapping time with French acquaintances and friends over coffee and emails. It is amazing how many people here want to learn English. It is not that I have met that many people. I haven’t. I can be trying to talk to someone while waiting to get my hair cut (Caroline), or meet an owner of an Airbnb who wants to work with me via email, improving her English (Severine), or meet a stranger who is helping me buy stamps at the post office and teaches me the word “timbre” on the spot (U.K. woman who visits her mother in Nice. She told me her name and gave me her phone number, but I misplaced it).
Caroline was getting her hair colored. While chatting with her (she spoke pretty good English), I learned that she has a new baby girl (adorable) and lives with her German husband (adorable) in Spain and visits her parents (lovely French people) in Nice. I met them all – at the Hair Salon!! She introduced me to her father and mother and husband and baby (who came by that shop, for some reason ???), asking me if I would be willing to meet her father (Alain) for coffee so he could improve his English and help me with my French. In other words, swap conversations (his French for my English). So far, I have met Alain twice for coffee on Mondays. We chat in English and very broken French (moi) for an hour or so. We are scheduled to meet again, tomorrow.
I met Severine and her husband when Steve and I stayed in their condo in Paris last Christmas. Lovely couple with two children. I met her husband, mother, and daughter at that time. They were all going to her maman’s for Christmas while Steve and I stayed in their condo in the Marais District. When Steve and I arrived, she and her husband spent an hour or so, explaining things to us and giving us tips about favorite restaurants and buses and trains and….. you name it! I liked them both a lot. Steve did, too. This Christmas, Severine sent me an email, wishing Steve and me Happy New Year. I responded, telling her about Steve. We chatted back and forth, and she offered to help me with French via email. So, we have been emailing back and forth. She corrects what I write; I correct her English. At one point, she asked if I would teach her daughter English. I said yes. At this point, if it works out as planned, their daughter Aline (15 years old) will spend a week with me this summer in Nice. I will teach her English during the day. I am looking forward to that.
The nice lady in the post office offered to teach me French. She visits from the U.K. frequently because her mother, who lives in my neighborhood in Nice, is not well. She wrote her name and phone number on a piece of paper. People here are friendly and nice to me. A lady in my building adores me and keeps talking at length in the parking lot, the elevator, the lobby, the entrance, wherever. I have no idea what she is saying. Plus, the pronunciation is weird, and the speed is too fast. I smile a lot. That helps.
Thus, I need to review teaching English. I used to teach. Early in my life, I was a college professor. Right after grad school, I was hired by what was then called Brenau College, to teach speech and drama. After three years, I took a year’s leave of absence in 1964, to have my third child – Blake. That year, I accepted a position at a branch of the University of Georgia – Gainesville Junior College, to be Chairman of the Division of Humanities – a Ph.D. position. Classes were first held in the fall of 1966. For two years, I taught classes in speech, drama, and English (creative writing and grammar).
During the summer of 1968, I took a leave of absence to obtain my Ph.D. at UCLA, in California. Prior to leaving, I applied for and received a lifetime California Standard Teaching Credential to teach Drama in Junior College. That was to be my fallback position, even though I never used it. While establishing residency, I started acting professionally. I stayed in California.
Most of these things came out of left field (as Steve would say). Creating forks in the road that were not in a plan. Which way to go? One, or the other? I chose to stay in California and pursue professional acting. I gave up educational theatre. What would have happened if I had obtained my Ph.D. in theatre history and returned to Gainesville, Georgia? I have often wondered. Now, many years later (51, to be exact), I am returning to something I started in the first place – something I loved and cherished. I loved teaching. I got excited when a motivated student appeared in one of my classes. Most students were not motivated. I did not have the energy to get an unmotivated student excited about learning. That was an art form and not easy to do. If I tried and succeeded, a new group was around the corner. Ugh.
Well, here I go, again, back to basics. That begs the question: how should I frame this? What makes a good teacher? Patience? Persistence? Encouragement? Thinking back, I remember Miss Bessie (2nd grade, strict, impatient). Miss Dent (3rd grade, strict, impatient). Jane Hulsey (GHS, strict, mean, bossy). Miss Turner (GHS, unfair, vindictive). Dr. Popovich (UGA, strict, vindictive). I can still see these people in my mind’s eye. I can remember specific situations with each one. Negative experiences, not positive. Needless to say, I don’t want to be “strict”, “impatient, mean, or bossy. My best teachers, the people who made a profound impact on my life, weren’t in that profession: Patricia McLaine, Hadidjah Lamas, Ira Progoff. Profound, patient, loving, and healing.
Forget making plans. Or, at least, have plans as a back-up position. Plans have your back. Life happens. That said, I need to make a plan as to how to teach English to a French person. Hmmm. Teaching English grammar to an unmotivated English-speaking person is one thing; teaching English to a French native is another. All tips are appreciated.
These photos are more for me than you. Nice memories that help clarify my thinking.