Sacré Bleu! The Parisians Have Mastered Teaching!
I’m not sure if you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t
But I didn’t just walk around Paris with my mouth agape at all the beauty and historical significance
- Notre Dame took over 700 years to build (which, fun fact, is only twice the amount of time it’s taking to make this final season of Game of Thrones!).
- The French government regulates the number of ingredients in baguettes (it’s four: flour, water, yeast, salt
- Because of this, baguettes are typically sold in the morning and the late afternoon because they don’t last longer than six hours (and if they last longer than six hours, consult a doctor, I guess?)
- It’s true that Napoleon was notoriously small
…but he was, like, REALLY small (I saw his hat and it looked like something that could be sold at the Baby Gap under their “Baby Revolutionary” spring line).
- American croissants are disgusting sponges made from recycled tires, merely posing as the most glorious bread of all time.
Okay, that last one wasn’t a
There was one more thing—one more fact, that is—that I took away from my trip to Paris that I never expected. It turns out, Parisians are the best teachers.
It’s true! The French are, by my estimation, the best teachers I’ve ever come across. Granted, I’m not particularly well-travelled—my parents used to take me on vacation to exotic destinations like, “the
I guess what I’m saying is, unlike my 100% accurate “opinion” on American croissants, take this opinion more as “lacking sufficient evidence to prove contrary.” But the Parisians gave me many examples to back up my claim. Check out this 100% true
I walk into a café with my wife.
WAITER: For lunch? Just the two of you?
The waiter seats us. We eat and then the waiter brings our check.
WAITER: Where are you both from?
WAITER: Ah, yes! I love it there! I lived in LA for a little bit. A few years. Is this your first time in Paris?
ME: Yes. It’s beautiful here!
WAITER: Oui! There is a lot of history. Have you been to any museums?
ME: No, not yet. We are thinking of going to the Louvre right now. What do you think?
WAITER: The Louvre is very nice, but it is very large and it’s hard to see everything. If you want something smaller and more intimate, you should definitely go to Museé
ME: Sounds great! Is it far from here?
WAITER: No! You will just go down that way about half a kilometer on Rue de Verneuil, make a right on Rue
ME: Thanks! We’ll check it out!
My wife and I leave and walk right to the museum without any complications.
Okay, so full disclosure: my wife did most of the speaking during this conversation (she’s the boss both domestically and abroad), but for the sake of simplicity and to better illustrate my point, I simplified the dialogue to just me and the waiter. Sue me.
So what did I see in this (and the countless other examples like this) during my time in Paris? Well, let’s review:
1. The Parisian waiter first spoke to me in his language; but once he realized I didn’t understand his language, he changed how he spoke to meet my needs. Obviously, this is a literal example, and I’m not encouraging teachers to learn the native tongue of every foreign language-speaking student. Though, that would be cool—Hey Johnny, I know you only speak Klingon at home, so I’ll ask you again:
2. The man asked a few questions about my life and volunteered a little bit about his life. This seems like pretty basic stuff, but you’d be surprised by how many times this doesn’t happen between students and teachers. What happens between students and teachers is often one-sided, where the teacher may ask students about their lives, but not share much (or anything) with the students. And as anybody who’s been on a bad Tinder date will tell you: a one-sided conversation will not result in intimacy.
3. The Parisian waiter gave me a choice. See, he definitely wanted me to see a museum, but he allowed me to choose where I wanted to go. He validated my initial plan, but he also offered alternative suggestions and guidance for something he believed I’d enjoy more. When a teacher gives a student a project, they usually tell students what they must do and then enforce strict parameters
4. Lastly, the Parisian waiter gave me directions in a manner that was straightforward, yet challenging. He didn’t dumb anything down for me, either. He simply told me what I needed to do (which was difficult because I wasn’t familiar with the layout of the city) and never strayed away from using the necessary vocabulary of the task. I’ll talk more about this next week, but it’s so crucial to give your students a task (while using academic language) and to trust that they will understand it. As teachers, we want our students to succeed so much that we do more
As I said, this was not an isolated incident. All across Paris, I encountered locals (one after another) who held the same qualities as our most amazing teachers. They were extremely patient, informative, kind, and never condescending—basically the antithesis of the French stereotype. They made me feel capable and excited to explore and learn more about their city. There’s something to be said about a city that’s constantly filled with
As for my Parisian waiter, I truly believe that if he decided to work in education, his natural pedagogical skills would lead him to become a highly effective teacher. And, I mean, he did bring me a beautiful (authentically French) croissant—so he’s already my favorite teacher…