I will always remember my middle school French teacher. She was this petite, older woman with a smile so wide it dazzled and a chic bob the color of red wine.
The class: a bunch of wild, hormonal pre-teens.
Not surprisingly, we were a tough group to teach. We goofed off while she enunciated vocabulary words. We laughed while she conjugated verbs on the board. We spoke loudly in English while she insisted we communicated in French.
But she was strict and stood her ground. The persistence she had when motivating us was really a tour de force. And in the two years I had her, an amazing thing happened. I actually learned French—well, enough to participate in class and know the basics.
And the thing is all these years later I still remember her and that class. Now and then my best friend and I will have a good laugh over some inane middle school memory—and more often than not, the conversation winds back to her, to that class. We still remember the French songs she taught us and her inflection of certain phrases. I still remember how she spoke of Paris in the most romantic way. She would clasp her hands together in a prayer-like stance and her eyes would gloss over, not looking at anyone in particular. It was the only time her voice got soft and the only time she seemed to wish she were somewhere else. She was part of the reason I always wanted to go to Paris.
I thought of her today while in the supermarket. I was getting goat cheese to make some grilled goat cheese, tomato, basil and pesto sandwiches. As I tried to pick out goat cheese, a memory came to me.
One day she came to class with a surprise for us. It was goat cheese. We didn’t understand or appreciate why she brought this in. In fact, I’m pretty sure we were obnoxious about the whole thing. She told us that in France, goat cheese is a staple and that she wanted us to experience it. She was so excited to share it with us. We still didn’t get it, but we tasted it.
Today as I bought the goat cheese, I smiled. I get it now and it makes me appreciate her even more. I decided on the one with the French flag. It seemed appropriate.
I hope we said thank you then, but we probably didn’t…
And she was right about everything she said about Paris. I can’t wait to get back there.