A pink taxi

A pink taxi

July 15, 2010

The Way I Teach

Some people are born scientific and others artistic. Some have a business acumen or an athletic bend. I am convinced that I was born to teach. I even earned a degree to teach but was often labelled as overqualified to teach in some institutions, or stumbled over bureaucratic issues and university politics when I attempted to teach at the American University of Sharjah.

From very early on, I channeled that academic zeal onto my siblings: every summer we prepared for the following academic year by filling up Passport notebooks, the French  equivalent of summer bridge notebooks. One of my siblings was always enthusiastic, the other ran to his favorite hiding place (a box in the storage room) and the third once threw a chair at me in rage while we practiced for the SAT verbal. I also helped write college entrance essays with them, and I spoon fed novels to the less enthusiastic readers of the bunch. I gladly tutored for the brevet and baccalaureat exams. My mother had trained me to tutor my younger siblings from early on, especially that after a certain point, my French had become better than hers.

As a newly wed, when my husband was looking for a French teacher that would facilitate his integration in Geneva, I told him to look no further. No sooner would he untie his tie that I opened the large French textbook. He invariably fell asleep on the couch as I coached him but there was no escaping me. As we walked in the city and, as though he were a toddler learning speech for the first time, I would point to umbrellas, swans, trees, motercycles, sailboats, coats, buildings and he had to repeat the words to me in French.

When I had children, I transferred my energy and hopes onto them. My eldest son  has done the most mileage with me. He is occasionally enthusiastic, often tries to hide from me, and has yet to throw a chair at me, but that is because we probably haven't reached the SAT reviews yet. Beyond his normal school curriculum, I also choose to home school him with a French program by correspondence, religiously submitted  bimonthly, with all the required exams approved by the French government.  In all honesty, we do this for him to get a Swiss nationality, because he is technically supposed to be home schooled in Geneva, and we need to show proof of the latter.

For me, the most challenging thing to teach in this program by correspondence are, ironically (given my love for art!), the "art and music appreciation" sections. To fulfill those credits, we listened to jazz, counted musical scores, and were attentive to opera voices, all while driving around to activities.  We are always brainstorming for art project ideas, and the above picture is an example of one such project:  in this assignment, we had to transform a well known painting of our choice. My son chose "Liberte Guidant le Peuple" by Delacroix, for which he replaced the gun with our infamous Burj Khalifa, glued some authentic desert sand and put a hijab on the Marianne who, in his project, carries an Emirati flag. A gem shines in the sky.

I love to teach because somehow along the way, I learn myself. I stumble over a almost forgotten physics concept, work a mathematical axiom and shed tears for a poem. I try to make amends for my own educational loopholes. With my children, I relearn the intricacies of French history, understand Jean Jacques Rousseau better and practice the art of handwriting. Indeed, in order to teach you have to understand the concept yourself.

Tutoring available to those interested. Please apply in the comment area.


  1. She was nicknamed Mme Rengnon,after her French teacher at the Lycee Sharjah.Affectionately,she reminded me of my Aunt Ambara,who was an avid reader,writer and a teacher to many of her nephews and nieces.At many occasions,she was the dreaded reminder to her siblings and offsprings,of educational hurdles and home works!She had more success with her female students,and escaped tantrums of anger and frustration from her brothers and sons.What she skipped mentioning was her subcontracting some of her duties in Arabic and maths to her fat.her,during weekends,and much needed siesta time!
    The blogger as a student was a late bloomer.Her mother used to suffer going to parent- teacher meet,to avoid being lectured at length by the long- winded French teachers about the dreamy lost- cause student.Yet something was triggered in the dreamy teen ager, to make her a hard working,eternal student- teacher complex enigma!

  2. Torab may have more mileage than me, however I can say that Yasmine and I have gone through more subjects together than anyone else!! From Passport when I was 5 till probably 12, Spanish for a summer, political science when I spent a summer at Tufts while Yasmine received her PhD and delivered Torabu soon after... SAT (I still remember going through the list of those infamous SAT vocab words!), SAT I and SAT II, essays for college and the list goes on...
    I've always asked myself how a person can give so much quality time to an another, especially when the subjects were real boring, some of them even made her cry (mathematics, geometry)... she endured... for years... so she could see us succeed. We did succeed, and it isn't partially thanks to her, but ALL thanks to her!! Lucky her kids to have her and lucky her nephews who will have the chance to have her as a tutor!! Ali is already first on the waiting list!!

  3. I continue to owe our Blogger gratitude for having tutoured me and for continuing to share books, articles, museum trips, films, and other cultural and educational nuggets. Thank you!