Elizabeth Ann Bloomer* later in life said:
You can make it, but it’s easier if you don’t have to do it alone.
I was reminded of this again when I had to face the second module with Ana (the one who insulted my presentation in French class – post: Recognition of our Existence). The comments that followed were so helpful. I decided that I should handle Ana’s behaviours head on. If she said something hurtful to me I was going to tell her privately after the class. I prepped before the start of the next module.
In the following module, we had a different professor. The past 3 modules I had had the same professor (by coincidence). The new (new to me) professor’s name was Carole.
I have to back track a bit to the first module I had with Ana. I knew who Carole was before as I had seen her in the hallway. I had once seen Ana and Carole exchange pleasantries prior to having her as a professor. I got the immediate impression they got on well and Ana had made the comment that she liked Carole.
So, on our first day with Carole I was not very happy with the situation. I thought, great, this is going to go well. Carole also asked us to present on a topic. I was already reliving the nightmare of my last presentation but this time Carole asked us to present a proverb from our language/culture and tell us something about it.
Carole, for me, was very difficult to understand. She spoke fast and didn’t seem to watch her words when it came to teaching people who won’t pick up 100% of what she says. I definitely was forced to concentrate a lot harder – already more than usual. She also switched between subjects, it was like we were listening to everything going through her head. At times (when I could understand), she was quite funny. There were other times I found her to be exhausting and somewhat disorganised – making it even more difficult to follow.
Each day a different student presented his/her proverb and gave a brief presentation about it and the professor would then lead a discussion about it – often, leading to a more philosophical one. I began to enjoy the presentations and found it fun to participate in.
It was, then, Ana’s turn to present – she choose:
“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”
Ana is from Russia and I couldn’t find the origin of this proverb however, in English, we often use ‘Birds of a feather, flock together’.
We had a good discussion about this proverb. Carole asked us if we agreed with this. I answered with No and then I had to explain why I disagreed. My explanation, not so eloquent in French, went something like this: There is more to a person then their friends. Many factors determine who you are and who we are is more complex than the friends we have. Then, Carole asked for an example of what other factors determine who we are and this lead to another discussion. When the discussion ran its course, Ana then said I brought another proverb. The student who had presented before her had brought two proverbs (probably a back up). Carole told Ana that we didn’t have time for it today with what she wanted to get through. Ana responded with the fact the other girl had brought two proverbs. Carole said we can’t today and maybe if we have time later in the module (3 weeks).
This was Carole’s boundary. And she said No. Carole runs the class with some of our input on our objectives but for the most part it is up to the professor to design the class how they want it. There is no standard format except for grammar objectives. As the course continued Carole often cut off Ana when she started down the path of negativity – she went down paths of insulting cultures and started to pick on the only man in the class. Started saying that women are like this and men are like this. At one point she started to blame him for a game that we played that went astray and even I had had it – I told her that he speaks French very well and I understood him very well.
Carole often stopped Ana from talking so that we could talk. She also would switch to another person if what we were staying didn’t lead to conversation. I could see that she held boundaries and didn’t like them to be crossed. Something that was lacking with my old professor. I didn’t agree with the way in which she approached some of the situations but I could appreciate her sticking to her boundaries.
After all there is no such thing as perfect and no such thing as a perfect professor of a foreign language. Carole nor the old one were perfect. Yet, I would choose Carole** any day of the week. She helped me deal with Ana, she helped me stand up to her when she had crossed my boundary of blaming someone for why we messed up the game. I think I could have eventually done it having learned from my mistake in the earlier module but it was easier with someone there who helped set boundaries and help introduce the concept of enough. It is easier when someone else understands what you feel. It is easier to go through recovery with all of you.
*Elizabeth Ann Boomer came to be known as Betty Ford later in life.
**Carole did help set boundaries in our class – it helped on the emotional front for me. And, in fact, Carole helped me learn French. She has a great technique of helping us learn vocabulary and explain grammar. Ironically (or maybe not so), the professor with healthier boundaries ended up being a professor where I learned better.
Brave New Kitty: It Takes a Village to Raise a Really Healthy Person