Shonan the Librarian:
Delinquent borrowers will be fed to the dragon
So I started volunteering for a few hours once a week at a private school, L'Institute de la Tour, in the 16eme of Paris. They have a pretty cool afternoon program on Wednesdays (since kids don't usually have normal school on Wednesdays) structured to fully immerse bilinguals and non-bilinguals into English. A friend of a friend knew the wife of one of the American teachers working there, so that's how it all started. This has been my third week, now, and the first not to get lost trying to find the right door to enter within the inner maze of the institute's courtyard. The lady at the front must think I'm just plain stupid as she tries to describe to me where to go (and yes, i'm trying to get directions in french...but there are just so many doors!)...not a feeling of pride for this so-called architect.
This past year, the program has grown immensely, and now there are over a 120(?) kids between the ages of 7-11 split up into 7 different groups based on ability. Classes consist of things like art, theater, writing, literature, vocab, etc...sounded like a cool thing to get involved in. Alas, though, I do not get to help out within the classes (they have high school student from the institute who volunteer for this), so I, instead, have been dubbed the librarian. I felt weird taking pictures in the school, so I found this super sweet librarian poster....(for all you D&D fans out there ; ) most of the other librarian images online were just dirty, ha). And by library, I mean a folding table with 7 bins of books ranked on their difficulty. Each week, I get to knock on a teacher's door every time the classes switch (3-4 times a day), and ask who wants to go to library. The kids come out, and on my spreadsheet, I cross off the name of the book they just returned, let them go find a new one, then write down the new title for them. It takes about 5 min per class. The rest of the time I just sit in the hall waiting for the classes to switch again. This week I went through and organized all the books making sure they'd been ranked properly, and seriously had to laugh at some of the options out there. My favorite was a book called ' THE ROADMAKERS' which was categorized in the 'easy box'. And yes, it didn't have much text, and has a ton of big pictures about those huge machines that make roads, but seriously, the vocab? Here's one of my favorite lines (and yes, I tend to read these when I have nothing else to do ; ) ..."an insulated tipper lorry leaves a pile of dense bituminous macadam." Wha?! I still have a hard time IN english saying the word 'bituminous' (also not another proud moment for this so-called architect), and here it is in this book for mini frenchies to learn english? I had a much better time, though, reading about a little fox cub (un renardeau) who was going to school. This book was super sweet because it had the french right next to the english. So I'd read the english, then try to translate it myself before looking at the 'answers'. Not gonna lie, it was kinda fun, and I kinda felt smart.
There is a strict 'no-french policy' during these afternoons, but when kids get yelled at, it's all in the mother tongue. Last week, a boy got pulled outa class for calling one one of the teacher's aids an asshole. That kid got reamed in french out in the hall, and here I am, sitting silently at my folding table, staring at the wall, just taking it all in. In fact, I think I got about 80% of the reaming convo down, and THAT made me feel smart. When life slows down as much as it has recently, it's easy to get excited about the tiniest of accomplishments such as these. For now, the librarian job is pretty painless, but perhaps a bit too painless; I'm hopping to get a bit more involved in the school the more I hang around.