June 29, 2011

The French Dinner

What is it about French teachers that make middle school and high school students want to torture them with bad classroom behavior? They naturally transmit some sort of signal to young students that says "go absolutely bonkers in my class." It's like spilling a drop of blood in a shark tank, inducing what can best be described as a sort of French class feeding frenzy. I'm not sure I've identified the quality common to all French teachers that causes this; perhaps it is having a big heart.

No matter the unjustified (but very real) cause of said bad behavior, my classmates and I were 100% susceptible to it. The most well-behaved and the most depraved students couldn't help but go crazy each time we set foot in the French room.

Take, for example, the 7th grade French dinner. Our teacher arranged for each of us to cook a French meal and bring it to school one evening so that we could learn about French cuisine. All week we prepared decorations. One of the assignments was to draw a French themed place mat for the event. Things were already going south at this stage of the game.

My friend, Katie, was in charge of bringing the French onion soup. Very exotic. She and her friend Liz were running late, so she decided to be responsible and leave a voicemail for Madame.

I believe she actually said "Click."

Katie and Liz were, of course, perfectly fine, just stuck in traffic.

(Note: I realize how bad this is, but isn't it kind of hilarious that a middle schooler wouldn't know better?)

Well we all got mighty impatient waiting for the soup, so we planned to jump out and yell "Where were you!?" as Katie walked in the door. The problem was, Katie startled easily, so when we jumped out, she screamed and dumped the entire crock pot of soup onto herself.

The dinner spiraled out of control from there. I believe we ultimately made jokes about Madame's recent gall stone removal procedure and then began launching crepes out the window at passersby.

In high school, one might think we had matured and could carry ourselves in a more civilized manner. Not so. Once, when a giant dragon-fly flew into the room, we all used it as an opportunity to act panicked, as though a B52 bomber was swooping around overhead. It was a most immediate descent into madness.

When someone trapped the insect in a cabinet drawer, we could still hear its wings buzzing.

Quite often, our teacher needed a mental break from us, so a lady named Mrs. Chen would come in and substitute. She didn't know a lick of French. Every time we had her, she would threaten that if we didn't behave, she would make us watch West Side Story as our punishment. She must have loved that movie because even before we could act up, she was popping that tape in and pressing play.

We must have seen that movie at least 30 times.

When our teacher was preparing us for the AP French exam, she asked that we take a practice test. Before we began, she reminded us not to have "wandering eyes," meaning no sneaking a peak at anyone else's test. That's when John piped up with an honest question.

He had a point. None of us knew any French.

If you know any middle or high school French teachers, give them a hug the next time you see them. They probably need it.

June 6, 2011

First Impressions

Soon after I accepted my offer of admission to college, I started getting mail from my institution about an opportunity to go on a week-long camping/hiking trip with some future classmates. What better way to get to know your new peers than to not bathe in the woods for a week with some of them?

Wanting to get a head start making friends at a new school, I submitted my registration forms and began gathering equipment. In south Florida, being outside generally meant going to the beach, so Carolina mountain gear was pretty foreign to me.

One of the registration forms asked that I share an interesting fact about myself for my upperclassmen trip leaders. I was told this would be kept confidential. Naturally, I took it seriously.

Toward the end of the summer, I packed my bags and headed north into the wilderness. My group of fellow campers was a hodge-podge collection of kids from all types of locations and backgrounds. As soon as we started chatting, I knew I was in for a good week.

I really took to the mountainy outdoors. For one thing, my hair mysteriously got all big, soft, and poofy.

I also told lots of good jokes and my group thought I was really funny, which is what really mattered to me.

I suppose that the interesting hair situation and the good jokes had me feeling pretty confident. Confidence on me is akin to wearing a suit that is three sizes to big. It doesn't quite fit. I belong in the goofy-thus-approachable zone.

One evening, several groups had gathered at a camp site, so we were all enjoying time getting to know more future classmates. I was on fire with good jokes. Someone pulled out a frisbee and we began tossing it around. Eventually, someone accidentally threw it into a tree. Wanting to continue my streak of being impressive, I volunteered to climb the tree and get the disc.

I landed on nature's most dense gathering of thorns.

The scene was pretty bloody. I ended up standing in the middle of about 20 kids who were plucking thorns out of my body. This was not how I wanted to identify myself in college - as that bloody kid who took a face plant from a tree into a mess of thorns.

But alas. I was.

At the end of the trip, we drove directly from the last campsite into Orientation at the college. As many well-dressed students and families roamed the campus, my group trudged in covered in mud, sweat, and in my case, dried blood. We were instructed that we could shower and change in the Student Rec Center. On the way in, I opened the wrong door and set off the world's loudest alarm, calling more unfortunate attention to myself.

Once Campus Police got the alarm turned off and I got cleaned up, I met up with my parents and we headed over to the Dean's welcome address for the entire freshman class and their families. Of course my parents made us sit in the very front row. Part of this speech was about the amazing accomplishments of certain members of the class. All that stuff like starting an orphanage abroad or being a world champion at something like cup stacking or alpaca farming. The Dean concluded with a final point.

"There are also a few students you may want to watch out for. For example, look for student with a huge dent in his forehead. He sneezed so hard he blew his head into the microwave door. This is one of your future classmates!"

Startled, I jumped up about a mile in my chair. He actually leaned down and said:

Apparently, those forms weren't so confidential.

Good or bad, I had certainly made a first impression in college.