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.