Rasma Says

Musings, deliberations, flashes of unaccounted for brilliance…

Les élèves me manquent

I miss my students.


The 7th grade French students I used to wow with my French-only-approach to class the first day of school. Once, in Chicago, a handsome young man in his mid-twenties came up to me at a conference and said, “Aren’t you Mme Haidri? I’ve always remembered how you blew us away that first day of middle school.” I had only a vague memory of who he was, but I knew what he was talking about.


Somewhere I have a scrapbook in which many of their names are written on cards and letters they wrote when I took maternity leave. I still have the impressionist card of a pen holder, flowers, window, coffee cup, that Chris Smith gave me. Other names slip my mind now, but I could find them in the scrapbook, on the letters that said Fëlicitations Madame et bébé! The girl who made origami boxes for my baby, the girl who sat with a sketchpad drawing page after page of colorful geometric patterns which she was going to use in her future as a designer, the girl who told me (after we read Le Petit Prince) that grown-ups sit down to be with their children but don’t ever really play, they just act like they do, the girl who begged me not to tell her mother what the note from the boy (who had brought a gerbil to show and tell) said she should do next time they met. My classroom full of my hand drawn posters of Snoopy and Babar and Lucy and Charlie Brown speaking French phrases the students needed to get by in our little French world that was our classroom, but also the field trips we took to the Milwaukee multicultural fair and weekends at French immersion camp.

I miss my students as I look over the skyline of Paris and know that they and I both once knew the name of every monument. I remember their diligent attention to the features of romanesque and gothic architecture as I explained the 200-year-long unfolding of Notre Dame cathedral. I remember their delight at learning the literal meaning of Les Bateaux Mouches. Their drawings of the difference between glasses for Cognac and red and white wine, their eager efforts at making crêpes, Bouche de Noël or French omelettes for extra credit. The team of boys who rolled up their chocolate yule log without removing the wax paper and didn’t think to whip the cream before pouring it over the petrified concoction. I miss my students as I look at the rose window of Notre Dame and recognize the rare blue glass they used to regard with hushed awe on my slides. I remember their skits as waiters and thieves and tourists and fashion models as I shop for clothes at the market at Cligancourt or sit in a café and call out Monsieur, l’addition s’il vous plaît.

I miss my students when a lady in a shop says I must be a professor of French, when I converse with the gebroken Chinese cab driver, when the man comes up to me as I stand in the middle of Trocadéro hailing taxis and explains where the taxi stand is. I miss how my students used to climb on top of and under their desks to demonstrate dessus and dessous, and dance around their chairs mimicking à côtè de, à gauche de, à droite de, tout droit, près de, loin de. I think of my students when the bouncer at the Crazy Horse tells me that the metro stops running in twenty minutes so I better run. I remember how I drilled them in telling the time, in asking questions and giving commands, in singing the alphabet, and pretending to sock their imaginary brother in the stomach with the letter e (/ø/) and smile in the mirror to practice the difference between /i/ and /y/, to gargle their r’s. I remember their earnest faces accepting with no ontological qualms my claim that gramatically speaking, there are only six people in the world: je, tu, il, nous, vous, ils.


I wonder how many of them ever came to France. If any of them, like me, love Paris in a way that defies reason. There is no reason I love Paris, I just always have.


I think this is my 7th time here, and while riding down the Seine our first night, I see the familiar towers and roofs and get tears in my eyes. Tears of joy at having those I love with me here. Tears of being deeply touched by the notion that I might never return. One time will have to be the last.
What will my last glimpse of Paris be? Which rooftop, which grilled and shuttered window with the pink geraniums, which park bench or pigeon or bouquiniste?


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This entry was posted on 01/08/2011 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , .

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