– What time do you finish?
– I’ll be done at 4 p.m.
– Alright, I’ll pick you up in front of the Supreme Court then.
– The Supreme Court? Where is that? We’ve never ate there, have we?
Feng bursts out laughing. Right. Not a Chinese restaurant but the actual Supreme Court of Canada, located right behind Industry Canada.
Oh crap. It’s 8:50 a.m. and my brain is still sleeping. I ought to wake up.
I extricate myself from the car, a task harder than usual considering I’m holding a can of Diet Coke and that my handbag, slung across my shoulder, is bursting with colored folders, papers, photocopies and pens.
I step on the sidewalk and slam the passenger door. I stand there and root around my handbag and pull out a lighter. Woo hoo, first victory of the day, not a small one considering the mess in my bag.
I brace myself for my first class of the morning. Who, why, which floor, which room? Names of students flash through my mind. Oh. Them.
I’m the teacher. What we will do today is up to me. For now, I’m just sitting on the concrete low wall in front of the Ministry, mentally preparing myself for the daily transition. From student to teacher, from traveler to office worker. From being bossed around to leading people. Seems like I’m going somewhere. But the change is brutal.
I get my pass from the security desk and head towards the elevators. We’re about twenty people on the main floor. Everyone is holding some kind of caffeine beverage and we’re all staring at the green elevator light. 20th. 19th. 18th. I’d take the stairs but I can’t open the back door with my visitor pass. An elevator finally makes it to the main floor and everyone sight with relief.
We cram in the elevator. The woman on my left looks anxious.
– Are you going to the meeting at 10:00?
– No, I can’t. I have French.
Her co-worker nods bleakly. Everyone in the elevator nods when they hear the word “French” as if at some infinitely painful memory. I cower back and put my hand over my top folder’s title. “Grammaire.”
Patiently, I give advice, cheer up students who always cry in class before the exam, I explain, I dissect French language, I repeat again and again.
I got used to the teaching lingo. Like when we fill up the log book:
- “Morning: oral interaction, emphasize put on past tenses and describing.”
Translation: “talked about shopping all morning without taking notes.”
- “Afternoon: cultural activity with the class.”
Translation : “intended to go visit the Parliament again, was too hot, ended up in a nearby coffee shop.”
- “John needs to focus on his conjugations and building up vocabulary.”
Translation: “this idiot has been in training for 5 months and still can’t make a proper sentence by himself.”
- “Quizzed the class on various grammatical aspects of French.”
Translation: “anyone? Anyone? Anyone? No one would answer even the most basic question!”
I still sometimes wonder what I’m doing here. I love teaching. But do I belong here, between the cubicles and the coffee room?