“Don’t forget your home-work, darling!”

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of …

My Life as an English Teacher in France
(Chapter 2)

So, as you know, I’ve been working as an English teacher in Paris for about four months now. In that time, I’ve had some interesting experiences. This week, though, I had the experience to beat all experiences … 

Picture it: Paris, 8th arrondissement, a small meeting room in the Haussmannian office building that is my workplace, Monday, 1:09 pm …

I’ve just finished a three-hour lesson with a student, and I’m packing up to head home for lunch. I open my iPhone and quickly type a text to my husband (in French, of course):

Je viens de finir ma leçon. Tu déjeunes ? Je t’aime

I’ve just finished my lesson. Are you having lunch? I love you

I put on my jacket, grab my bag, and head to the Métro. I make the transfer at Opéra from line 3 to line 7. About 30 minutes later, somewhere near Stalingrad station, I feel my iPhone vibrate. I look down and it’s a text:

I’m not quite sure this message was for me Michael.

I look at the name of the sender with mild panic …  I’ve just declared my love — not to my husband — but to my student!


So, you’ve obviously got two questions right about now:

1. How on earth did I manage to commit this faux pas?

… and, more importantly …

2. How did this delicate situation pan out?!

As to your first question: It turns out that the last text I’d received Monday morning wasn’t from my husband, as is usually the case, but from my student, confirming that he was on the way and had received my message telling him which classroom we’d be in. So, when I carelessly opened the texts on my iPhone three and half hours later and saw a text window already open, I just started typing away and hit “envoyer.” That’s how it happened. LESSON: ALWAYS read the name of the text recipient at the top of the screen very carefully, especially if you send texts to your boss, your clients, or your students. Simple, I know, but it obviously bears repeating.

Now, as to your second question: Let’s go back to that Métro car now rattling along the rails of line 7 somewhere near Riquet station, Monday, 1:40 pm …

“This is salvageable,” I decide. “He’s a cool guy,” I think. “He’s pretty fun, and we’ve already joked around a bit,” I say to myself. I immediately write back, apologizing in a lighthearted way, joking that this is what happens when I’m tired and don’t pay attention to who sent my last text. I hold my breath. Five minutes slowly tick by, and my iPhone vibrates again:

I don’t mind. Thanks. I laughed. Your French is excellent …
And you are a real French lover. See you tomorrow, darling!

No joke! Like I said, this guy is cool. (I obviously picked the right student to make this mistake with, huh?) We end up exchanging a few more joking texts about how this will make for a good story to tell our friends over cocktails but that he should NOT — under ANY circumstances — tell it to my boss!

Forty more hours of uncomfortable English lessons
over the next four weeks: averted.

Now, picture it: The same small meeting room in that Haussmannian building that is my workplace, Tuesday morning, 9:55 …

I’m preparing my materials for our next lesson. I make myself a cup of the infamously bad instant coffee we have at my office. My student, all smiles as usual, shows up at the door. I greet him:

Good morning, Jérôme.
[name changed to protect the innocent]
How are you?

Without skipping a beat, he cheerily responds, almost as if he’s been anticipating this precise moment:

Hello, darling! I’m fine. How are you?

I’m not even kidding! We share a good laugh and sit down at the table. Jérôme pulls his notebook and pen out of his bag, ready to learn some more English. I pause for a second and, on the spur of the moment, change my lesson plan:

So … let’s look at that text from yesterday, Jérôme. Why don’t you translate it from French into English for me and explain the differences in the tenses you use … darling?

I think we’re both going to get a lot of mileage out of this one. He’s already joking about blackmailing me with my text if he doesn’t learn enough English!

Note: Story shared with the gracious consent of “Jérôme.”

© 2014 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved


4 thoughts on ““Don’t forget your home-work, darling!”

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