11 May 2008

Portrait #1: Madame CIESLARCZYK

Mme Françoise CIESLARCZYK, PhD

Picture a woman of an age somewhere between 50 and 60. She’s about 5’7”, yet somehow rather stout. Her family is Slavic, I think. I mean, obviously, look at her last name. She has a long, wide nose and wide, thin eyes, though sometimes it’s difficult to tell because she wears classy French glasses which just barely manage to magnify her eyes, but not quite. I think she only has three outfits in her entire closet, because, like a good French woman, she re-wears everything during the week, and thinking about it now I can only see one outfit in my mind. It’s a brown pinstripe A-line skirt with a matching jacket. The fabric is linen, from what I can see. I could very well be wrong. Her hair is short and auburn and highlighted liberally with blond and brown.

Mme C is my étude de la langue teacher (Language Studies). I see her three times a week generally without fail, unless God smiles upon me and my classmates and we don’t have class either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Her style of teaching is thus: Give students a piece of paper loosely explaining the idea of the day. Don’t explain the paper. Order students to orally create examples of what is on the paper. Stand in exasperation when the Asians, Brazilians, and Americans just sit and stare at you. Give students another piece of paper containing exercises related to the first piece of paper. Order students to complete it. While everyone is working, be sure to stand just behind their shoulders while rustling your papers and tsking whenever they make a mistake. Don’t answer questions. If a student does ask a question, pretend to answer while walking away, then say that you’ll come back. Don’t come back.

I’m sure that Mme C is nice outside of the class. Goodness knows that she tries to make jokes and laughs at things that French people must understand. We smile out of politeness and laugh every once in a while for fun. My favorite phrase of hers is, “We won’t talk about this now because it’s something for students of Avancé.” I just don’t understand how someone who can’t teach has lasted so long at CIREFE. Shouldn’t you be able to teach if you’re going to be a professor of foreign students in a university? I don’t know, maybe that’s just me…
I can remember spending a good amount of time complaining about Mme C with all my American friends in the first week at classes. Now, I just let things go. I can’t really change whether she actually answers questions or not, and maybe it truly is that we’re asking dumb questions.

“Madame, I don’t understand this thing.”
“But we just talked about it.”
“Yes, I know, but I think I missed something. Why can’t I say this like this?”
“We just talked about it. Haven’t you learned this sort of thing before?”
“Maybe. I don’t remember…”
“Ok. I’ll come back.”

This is a typical ‘question conversation’ between Mme C and Julia. Julia and Abby and I are always sitting next to one another near the windows of the classroom. Escape dreams? Definitely. Unfortunately, we are on the fourth level of the building, making survival that much less achievable. Some people count down days to seeing friends and family...I count down how many more classes of hers I have to sit through.

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