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Buras Middle School

Home of the
My afternoon school, willing to be drugs and firearms free,
but not "French teachers free"...

I remember...numerous afternoons spent singing, dancing and hooraying to encourage the school's football team...

A sharks grotto ?

Managed by Mrs. Carmen Ingraham, this Middle School (lower secondary, from 6th through 8th grade) has the reputation to be so, as well as many Middle Schools in Louisiana.

To the difference of Boothville-Venice (before 1993), this school always marked an interest to have two French teachers, a luxury if we consider the small number of students and their very apparent lack of interest for Molière's and Zidane's (sic) tongue.

I taught there with Bella (Belgian) in 93-94, with Sophie (Belgian) in 94-95, and with Daniel (From Quebec) in 95-96 and 96-97 (two classes each).

First days

In August 1993, after a good greeting, I'm trusted into this mission :

1. Recruit two groups of voluntary students, for two classes each afternoon, and change groups every two month (!)

 2. Keep these students during the whole class time into the "classroom", which is the science lab, and try not to let or make the lab explode.

So I had the volunteers invited, though the speakers that are in all classes and often interrupt lessons for various announcements, and found myself in the lab with about 100 exuberant teens...

I selected a first group of them for each level, and mentally prepared myself for a though year.

Before going in, I emptied my mind.  I found myself back at the exit, on the parking : it was my way of preserving myself  from a nervous breakdown.

1993-1994 : Pierre in hell

I probably cursed (yes, sorry...) that school 100 times this year, and particularly during the first semester.  I keep memories of stinking bombs, loads of punishments, many useless lessons, crying colleagues...

 But also of some promising students, at their level...  And of my reaction : it doesn't work ?  Let's work more.  Completely crazy.

A memorable experience, but a very though and exhausting year.  Shall I stay this year ?  Shall I continue next year ?

It will have to work, or to break (me)...

August 1994 : many colleagues left, but I stayed.  This time, I have the advantage of knowing what I'll get if I come in here like I did last year, and I have no intention of being a pigeon again.

  First, Mrs. Ingraham gives me much better work conditions : a real classroom, and the possibility of keeping the students who wish it all year long.  Then, I discuss a new discipline and work plan with her and my American colleagues.  Finally, I approach the candidates to my classes in a very different manner...

Shortly said, it was something like : "You are in my French class.  If you came here with the intention of playing and chatting with your friends, you'll have more trouble than you ever had, so you better get out right away and choose another class ; no grudge.  However, if you came here to learn French, in a fun way as far as possible, I welcome you in my class.  And it's at this point, at each selection during the next three years, than 60% of the students would leave...

Be reassured : it was not their usual way to greet me when entering my class ;o)

Among the others, I selected my students following my impressions and their homeroom teachers recommendations.  Quite often I took "risks" with students having a bad reputation, and that's how I got some of my best students.

1994-1997 :

Three exciting years

Still tough years, since a "Middle School" stays a "Middle School", and this one is in a rural area that does not offer many distractions besides fishing, hunting, video games, the phone and four-wheelers.

But exciting, surprising, motivating...  Again, the feeling that a treasure is hidden behind those American teens masks, that a little teaching tactic can reveal.

Then I also saw my American colleagues, whom I really misjudged the first year, under a different light : I had not understood that a "Middle School" (and this one in particular) is another world, and that I had learn again to teach, in order to survive and to be really useful.

Vietnam, already...

Buras is one of those places in the US where a Vietnamese community lives.  My first contact with them was through Hung (photo), whom I was asked to take in my French Class when he arrived, not speaking English (nor French of course).  The idea seemed strange, but I had many other worries and I accepted.  So here's Hung in my class, following me around with a pocket recorder...

Hung became one of my best students, and was rapidly followed by other Vietnamese students of the school.  We realized that for them, my French class was very motivating : gifted for languages, they could do better here than most American students, while they had difficulties in the other subjects, taught in English !

At the end of the school year, Hung absolutely wanted a picture of his French teacher to show to his family in Hanoi.

What else can be said ?

In 1993, I would have told you "Buras Middle School is the worst school I know".  Ah, human subjectivity...  Appearances...

These four years taught me a lot as a teacher, as an educator, and as a human being.  I'm not saying that I would like to revive this experience, since it was very tough after all, but I do not have any regrets.

Well, actually I have only one : not being in contact with any of my ex-colleagues and students, to the contrary of Boothville-Venice.  But fortunately I keep the memories and the experience...  A treasure...

One last little memory ?  Every day I had frogs in my classroom (the ground was marshy)...  That also was a sign for Vietnam*...

* "Une Petite Grenouille" ("A Little Frog") is the manual used in Vietnam in the bilingual classes.

Next page : Plaquemines Parish

Page créée le 13 juin 1997 -  Mise à jour le 14 octobre 2000

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