Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I've been looking through my entries on this blog and I realised that I told you hardly anything about what I really do in Libreville. That is, apart from buying African fabrics and eating porcupines. I haven't written anything about my job.

As you can see in the picture (which now seems a tad creepy but I'll leave it for the lack of a better one), I work with children. I am the English teacher at Courte Echelle, a private elementary school in one of the better quartiers of Libreville. My students are mainly French, Gabonese and Libanese, aged from 3 to 10. I teach all the classes and consequently know all the children at school. This results in thousands of hellos every day and constant mind-breaking doubts when it comes to kids' names.

As you are perfectly aware, I'd never taught at a real school. I've done private lessons and language academies but this here, my friends, is something different. Here the children fall down and hurt themselves, they cry and fight and tell on their friends - and the teacher needs to react. Here you teach black children to respect white children and white chilren to respect black children. You're a role-model. Whatever you say or do might be copied and learned. Constant awareness, ladies and gentlemen!

Teaching "the little blonde heads" (as they were once referred to by someone) is not at all easy. They very often misbehave because they don't consider English a legitimate class. Even though now I speak enough French to communicate my anger (Je suis triste! Je suis fâché! Arrête!), I never use it (keeping them under the illusion that I speak no French seems to be working quite well) and thus it takes me hours to get through with my message. Any message, for that matter. But it's cute to hear them shout in shock Ha! Teacherrr! Vous parlez francais! whenever they accidentaly hear me say a word in their language.

My experience tells me children can be divided into several categories:
- smart and ambitious: they sit quietly, listen, know everything and want to learn; my favourite kind!
- smart and naughty: they misbehave but then answer any question with a huge smile and always know the answer; fantastic at distracting the less talented ones!
- smart and lazy: you know they could advance quickly but they just do nothing; frustrating!
- silly but motivated: they really want to impress but learn slowly; I also like these.
- troubled: learning disabilites, diseases, hyperactivity... you name it; they will drive you nuts but have an excuse.
- stupid and lazy: the worst kind; they do nothing in class, they don't study, they have attitude problems and, above all, they are simply stupid. Do I sound harsh and unfair? Spend a week at my school before you judge me.

I'm trying different things I'd
never tried before. I teach songs. I tell stories. I try to reduce the amount of time spent on crafts (which with the very little ones is still considerable... but with twenty 5-year-olds can you blame me?). I prepare hundreds of flashcards and bingos. I do tests. I shout. I punish. I get depressed. I get elated. I get pictures and hugs and hellos and mynamesisjuliettes.

Every now and then I feel like quitting. Every now and then I feel quite proud of myself. Ups and downs, as in any job. I like most of the children and I get a lot of satisfaction when I see them advance. All in all, the balance is positive, although it is definitely not a job for life.

Today I've started English classes at the European Commission. For the record, it was not Jandro who recommended me, it was a former student. I'm very thrilled to work with adults again. They probably won't draw pictures for me but it's a relief to be understood without repeating everything five thousand times. And they don't share bathroom details with me. And they won't cry. Or hurt their knees.

All this put together plus my French classes (twice a week) plus a private Spanish class I give (once a week) keeps me pretty busy. A teacher full time. Better this than the gym-supermarket-lunch-dinner routine, I'm sure.


  1. Reading this, I think you must be a very good teacher, and I know some. Try not to get addicted to work... it seems you really like it. And, for God's shake, don't show us more photos of the sexual fantasies you both share in Gabon! :P I respect all options in bed, but I prefer not to know if my friends like to wear animal maskes in bed :P:P

  2. Nice to read your blog.
    K. Babu