Monday, July 19, 2010

Cafe Anglais

Patrons of my Cafe Anglais

Yesterday concluded 23 days of High School English- summer school is ended!   Today I remembered a few of my former English teachers. I'm pretty sure they would be astonished to hear that I am now a high school teacher. At the beginning of my senior year a guidance counselor informed me I had failed sophomore English (a fact that, to this day, eludes my memory) and must repeat it. So, in my final year of high school I trudged to English class- twice daily. Now, thirty-six years later, I am captivated by the subject. It seems fitting that I, having failed a course in English, should one day teach the subject to students who also failed. The first day of class I had the students answer the following: "Why do you think you are here?" Responses included-
"... because I am lazy and my last English teacher disagreed with my views, so she graded me harshly."

"because I lack the motivation to do anything!"

"I hate school and usually give up when my grades go down."

Thirty-six years ago their responses would have been mine. I determined to make these twenty-three days meaningful. It was exhausting. Here is a typical day;

-write an acrostic sentence
-read and discuss chapter 7, Through the Looking Glass
-etymology discussion
-read and discuss The Red Wheelbarrow
-read and discuss a poem by Wm. Wordsworth
-read and discuss The Three Hermits by Tolstoy

Among the many pieces we read was Babette's Feast by Isak Dinesen. It is the story of Babette, a French refugee who flees to a coastal village in Norway. After serving two elderly sisters for many years, Babette reveals that she is the former chef of the Cafe Anglais, a premier restaurant in Paris. We read a chapter at a time, discussed the chapter, outlined the story on the board, and one day it occurred to me- my classroom was The Cafe Anglais (translated: The English Cafe), by definition- a small, unpretentious place where language lessons are served to customers.

Here is an acrostic sentence by one of my students:

A boy
can dissect Edison's fascinating
hypertensively increasing joyful
laying many nice options,
promising q u i z z i c a l roads,
stitching the undisectional, venturous ways...
xenophobic, yet


by Patrick Rallings

1 comment:

  1. I don't even remember high school english. I was in a bad way at the time.