Merci, Madame Alushin

I was one of those nerdy kids in high school.  I was (more than) a little OCD, very much a perfectionist, quite analytical and pretty smart.  I chased a 4.0 in high school (back when you didn’t get “extra” points for taking tough classes) and had regular, full-out panic attacks about my school work (no kidding — ask my family).

It paid off pretty well.  I graduated near the top of a very competitive class, with a 3.86 grade point average (yes, I still remember, all these MANY years later).

In high school, French was, by far, my worst subject — no matter how much I worked and studied, I never felt like I got it.  Even when I put in twice the effort I did for my other classes (which I didn’t always), I typically only averaged a B in French.  In most subjects, if my grades started to slip, I just worked harder, and got As.  Not so with French.  It was the only AP subject I took that I didn’t get college credit in.

I studied French for 7 years total (2 in middle school, 4 in high school, and 1 in college).  Over the years, I had a variety of teachers, but my high school teacher, and therefore my main French instructor, was Madame Alushin.  In addition to struggling in the class (relatively), I never really felt like Mrs. Alushin was as charmed by me as my other teachers.  I was quiet, attentive, bright, and desperately sought the approval of my teachers, and most of them liked me.  I can’t be sure, and it might just come from a combination of insecurity and over-inflated sense of self-importance, but I’d go so far as to say that I don’t think Madame Alushin really liked me very much.  (To be honest, it’s not a total surprise.  I wasn’t really the most likeable person in my high school years — see the OCD/perfectionist/super nerd comments above.)  For whatever reason, I never really won her over.  (I’m enough of a geek that the memory of having a teacher who wasn’t impressed with me sticks out.  No wonder I didn’t have a date to prom.)

I struggled studying French.  Constantly.  And I wasn’t used to struggling.  I used to sweat more over my French class than my other subjects (and I took Calculus and Physics in high school — French was harder).  It just didn’t fit well with the way my brain works.

I honestly didn’t think I’d really learned anything of substance, even after all those years of classes.  (I remember “pamplemousse”, because it’s the best French word ever, and I remember that the word for trashcan, “poubelle”, is feminine, but I thought that was about it.)  But, it turns out that I did.  I just spent a week in France, and I got good use out of my French.  I was able to read just about everything I saw, plus communicate and have complete (albeit simple) conversations in French.  Even after living here in Austria for a year, my French is still better than my German.  That’s pretty impressive, especially because it’s been over 15 years since I last had instruction of any kind in French.

So, she may not have liked me, and I certainly wasn’t a star student, but she did teach me.  I just spent a week in France with my family, and I didn’t have to open my French phrase book, other than to see the explanations of the traffic signs.  Thanks . . merci, rather . . . to Madame Alushin.  I learned a lot.

4 thoughts on “Merci, Madame Alushin

  1. I still keep in touch with Madame, and I can tell you that you are very wrong about her not liking you! She didn’t know you very well, but she always asked how you were doing and what you were up to. 🙂

  2. Pam — That’s good to know! I don’t know, I always got a vibe. Might have been my own insecurity . . . of course, that’s *never* been an issue for me before. 😉 That’s actually really nice to hear. 🙂

  3. Bonjour vous deux! High school years are the hardest. Trust me, I spent 40 years there including my own four!! XXOO Madame

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