Archive | October 2010

Caught between a rock and a hard place

The other day I was travelling between classes and reached Esplanade de La Défense. As I entered the metro, I decided that I didn’t have enough time to buy a sandwich from the Bonne Journée (French bakery chain) in the station. I validated my Navigo and went down to the platform, where my train was leaving.

There were three minutes until the next one.

Being rather hungry, I ran back up the stairs and out the gate to the Bonne Journée where I bought a poulet crudités.

When I returned to the gate of the metro, I touched my Navigo to the reader. “Passe déjà validé,” it read.

I couldn’t get through.

Not to worry – this had happened to me before.

Rather than try jumping over the gate, I bobbed down and scuttled under it. The structure of this gate was in two parts – first, there was one of those turning gates with three bars. Next there was a gate like a door. Having gotten past the turning gate, I pushed the door.

It wouldn’t open.

I was stuck between two gates, and I couldn’t open either of them.

I pushed the door experimentally. It budged about half an inch. I looked at the space between the door and the neighbouring gate. 15cm? Maybe 18? My arm would definitely fit through, and my leg (below the knee), though I wasn’t sure about the rest of me.

Oh what the hell – I had a class to reach. I slid one arm through, then a shoulder, then a hip. As I stood with the edge of the door running down the centre of my body, I saw a man watching me in amusement from the other side.

I couldn’t get stuck now. I gritted my teeth and wriggled through.

Vous avez la bonne chance d’être petite,” he said.

I grinned and trotted down the stairs, slightly short of breath with a distinct ache in my breastbone, reaching the platform as the next train arrived.

Another day in my life – October 14th

In an attempt to accurately represent the life of a TEFL teacher in Paris, here’s another ‘day in my life’ selected at random.

My alarm wakes me up at 7:31. I stare at it and grumble a little as I contemplate snoozing – on Thursdays I don’t start until 10:00, so I can usually sleep in. However, I realised last night that I hadn’t made some photocopies that I would need today and would have to go to BTL’s office before my classes.

I grudgingly get out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth. When I return to my room, I decide to snooze after all, resetting my alarm. After four minutes I feel guilty and decide to get up – as well as leaving early today, there are some things I need to finish before I go.

Next – making the bed. In Australia I was quite lazy with my bed, but here it’s a necessity. I can’t open my wardrobe when it’s out.

Step 1 - unmade bed

Step 2 - made bed (yes, the mattress is strapped down)

Step 3 - my daily bench press

Step 4 - the mirrored wall in my beautiful, spacious, bedless bedroom

Last night I was preparing some video activities for my students, and this morning I realise neither has gone the way I’d hoped. One was going to be some extracts from the Friends episode where Joey tries to learn French (S10E13), but none of my downloads have worked. Luckily I realise that I can save videos from YouTube, so quickly get the clips I need. The other video was of some extracts from episode 1 of Mad Men, which I’d clipped and pasted together using Windows Movie Maker for the first time. Unfortunately, when I publish, the video plays with a green bar across the bottom half of the screen. After following the advice of some online forums, it doesn’t play at all. Fortunately I discover that I can play the unpublished project full-screen using Movie Maker, so that will have to do.

I leave at 8:20 and go to the bakery across the road from the metro to pick up a pain au chocolat for breakfast (at €1.20 they’re a little expensive here, but I’m hungry). I then walk to the station. In front of the entrance are three people distributing each of the free papers – Direct Matin, Metro and 20 Minutes. As I approach, they stand in a diagonal line across the entrance and offer me a paper, saying ‘bonjour Madame’ in a canon so well timed that it could have been choreographed. I turn all of them down and scamper to the train. Today it’s line 1 from Pont de Neuilly to Franklin D. Roosevelt, then line 9 to St Augustin, then a five minute walk to BTL.

First I photocopy Unit 4.4 from The Business, Pre-Intermediate for my first class – Groupe Laudic. This is supposed to be a class of two, Antoine and Daniel, but only Antoine has come to date. Having reported this to BTL a few times over the past month, Daniel has confirmed his attendance today, so I’m a little nervous. I’m planning to start with the Friends episode and use this to lead into a discussion about learning languages and re-setting our objectives (this way I can learn Daniel’s objectives and confirm whether Antoine is happy with the course), before going on to some work on performance appraisals from the book.

Next I go to one of the computers to print out an activity sheet I wrote last night to go with the Mad Men extracts. Upon opening my email, I see a message from Antoine:

‘Hi Jolie,

I’m really sorry, but I couldn’t be there today because I have some issues with the person who keep my daughter.

Take care

Hmm . . . so I might have a lesson with just Daniel. Although he said he would be there today, I’m not sure I trust him after his performance over the last six weeks. I reply to Antoine, and send Daniel an email, asking him to confirm his attendance by 9:30.

At 9:20 I go to Lisa in planning and ask if she can call him. Her side of the conversation goes something like this:

Hello Sir, it’s Lisa from BTL . . . I’m fine, thank you. I just wanted to confirm that you would be at your English class today . . . oh good, I just wanted to be sure, as Antoine will not be there . . .” she frowns, “. . . it’s at 10:00 this morning . . . ah, okay, so you won’t be there after all?

Yay – late cancellation! This means I get paid for 1.5 hours without doing anything, and next week’s class is already planned. Not having anything else to do at BTL, I decide to do some grocery shopping – some of the other teachers have said that the Monoprix near Saint Lazare accepts restaurant tickets, and I’m eager to test the theory.

As I reach the checkout, I tentatively ask, “puis-je utiliser les tickets-resto?

Oui, oui, c’est bon,” the cashier says. I grin as I realise that my food expenses are going to plummet – I’ll rarely have to pay for groceries anymore.

Now I go home to relax before my 1:00 class. It’s a shame I didn’t get the cancellation last night – I could have slept in after all :p

At 12:10 I leave again, taking line 1 to Chatelet then Line 14 to Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand. From the metro I head to Flammarion’s office, on the bank of the Seine.


13:00 – 14:30, Marie-Maud, Advanced

Lately I have been feeling uninspired with lesson plans. Unless I make some notes on class ideas in the previous lesson, I often find myself struggling to think of interesting activities – I seem to have used everything in my arsenal on all of my students.

So I was rather grateful when one of the other teachers at BTL told me about the DVD-ROMs that come with our course books. As well as having a digital version of the books and audio activities, they also have video activities which I’ve been using for the past fortnight with some success. Videos from The Business take about 45 minutes, which consist of watching a 3-4 minute video a couple of times then going through the activities on the disk, including multiple choice questions, matching the beginnings and ends of sentences and re-ordering dialogues so they match the video. Market Leader videos are much shorter, as they only come with one set of multiple choice questions, so I generally do two or three together.

Now, Marie-Maud’s lessons have been giving me strife for a few weeks – being my most advanced student, she gets through the book quite quickly, so I am constantly looking for (interesting) external activities to do, and have run out of ideas.

However, as I was planning to use my laptop for my next lesson, I decided to create an 8 minute video of extracts from the first episode of Mad Men – I was introduced to this series last week and instantly fell in love with it. Being set in an incredibly sexist time, some of the comments made to and about women are both ridiculously offensive and entertaining, and I think that this will be good for some conversation topics about how society has changed, feminism, etc.

After doing some grammar work on comparatives and superlatives, I open the laptop and we watch the video three times, then go through the worksheet of discussion questions and ‘complete the quote’ exercises I wrote the night before.

The video is interesting and Marie-Maud enjoys it (she asks if I can burn the season onto a DVD for her), but we still have 15 minutes left at the end of the lesson. So I quiz her vocabulary.

Shockingly, she has been forgetting words! Marie-Maud is usually very conscientious with studying her vocabulary, and today she doesn’t remember half of the words I ask her. Her homework? Write sentences using all of the words she didn’t get.

Now I just need to think of something for next lesson . . . if anyone has any ideas, please send them in.


14:30 – 16:00 Muriel, Pre-Intermediate

Last week I used The Business – Pre-Intermediate DVD with Muriel. The first video on this disk is my favourite, so I’ve used this with a number of different elementary to intermediate students – one of the characters makes an entrance wearing a black suit and sunglasses, and a James Bond theme sounds in the background.

‘The name’s Pond,” he introduces himself, “James Pond.”

“James Bond?” Mrs Follet, who runs the guest house in the film, asks.

“No, Pond,” he corrects her.

Then when she checks him in, “it’s a double – 07.”

. . . I know, I’m easily amused. But a few little jokes like that make the activities much more interesting, and as the rest of the videos follow the same characters, it’s easy to keep my students interested.

Now I did this video with Muriel last week and she loved it. I was planning to go onto the next video in the series this week, but when we start our class, I realise I’ve forgotten the DVD, and I haven’t prepared anything else!

Instead we take the Market Leader – Pre-Intermediate DVD from her book and look at a video from that (much more boring – it’s a story on a current affairs show about office bullying) before going on with vocabulary revision, which she had requested.

After Muriel’s class I take the metro (line 14) to Saint Lazare and walk to BTL, where I have my last class of the day.


17:00 – 18:30, Magali, Pre-Intermediate to Intermediate

For the last two weeks Magali has been at a conference with Médecins du Monde in Kathmandu. She was basically the MC for the 10-day event, so we had been doing a lot of work on introductions, speeches and general pleasantries over our past few classes.

Today she arrives a bit late and a bit stressed, so we have a fairly relaxed lesson – we start by talking about the trip, and then go onto a podcast from Breaking News English about holidays stressing workers out.

This leads nicely into a discussion about different stressful situations and how to relax, which then leads nicely into Unit 5 of Market Leader, Pre-Intermediate, which is about stress. As Magali flies through the exercises, I’m flabbergasted by how much her English has improved. The reading and writing exercises only take a couple of minutes, and when we do listening from the book, she generally only needs to hear the tracks once (a student should usually take 3 tries to fully understand something at his/her level).

I make a note to start using activities from the Intermediate book – I think she’d enjoy the Unit on travel.

Having been out with a friend the night before, and knowing that I’ll go to the customary Friday-night drinks with the other BTL teachers tomorrow, this evening is a quiet one, consisting of a face-mask, a long shower, and staying out of the way of Bénédicte’s crazy cat as she bounds up and down the corridor.

Real TEFL wages

Why ‘real’ TEFL wages? As I had previously only worked over the summer, September was my first opportunity to see what I would probably be making each month. My previous Money article was a true representation of summer pay expectations, but I think the rest of the year will be more profitable.

At BTL I worked 99 hours so earned €1,633.50. After taxes, transport and restaurant tickets (I need to pay for 40% of them) were taken into account, this ended up being €1,291.63 in my bank account.

Unfortunately I lost 19 hours of classes to early cancellations, so I had been expecting a little bit more. There are two types of cancellations at BTL – late and early. Late cancellations are made less than 48 hours before the class. Early cancellations are made at any point before the 48 hour mark. We get paid for late cancellations, but not for early ones. The theory is that late cancellations leave no time for a replacement class to be organised for the teacher, thus this policy protects our wages. The problem is that classes cancelled 60 hours in advance also don’t really allow enough time for a replacement class to be organised, so we do end up losing a bit of money.

So my 19 hours of cancellations were early, and although some classes were replaced, I probably lost about 12-15 hours of pay, which makes a difference since I’m taking a holiday at the end of the month (holiday leave doesn’t get reimbursed until the end of the school year/end of my contract, so I’ll just get paid for the three weeks I worked).

Having a private student eased the end-of-month strain, though. I had 9 lessons, or 13.5 hours, with Patrizio in September, for which he paid me €225 in cash, which really helped when my bank was being uncooperative, and without which it wouldn’t have been possible to do anything with my visiting friend last week.

So, in total I finished with €1516.63 for September, plus 19 restaurant tickets valued at €5.60 each. This is pretty good – from now on I’ll just accept cancellations as a part of the job and stop counting my chickens before they hatch.

Vin & Marée

One of the nice things about having a foreign visitor is that I have an excuse to do things in Paris that I wouldn’t usually do, one of them being eating out at nice restaurants.

Vin & Marée Suffren

I found Vin & Marée on La Fourchette. La Fourchette is a French website that has reviews and promotions for hundreds (maybe thousands) of restaurants in France. As we were planning to go to the Eiffel Tower on Friday evening, I looked for somewhere in the seventh arrondissement, and Vin & Marée was the best value place available – a seafood restaurant near the corner of the Champs de Mars with a promotion of 50% off your final bill (excluding drinks and the set menus, if you reserve a table at 7:00, 7:30, 10:00 or 10:30).

From the outside, the small blue restaurant looks like a Belgian mussels bar. On the inside, everything is very elegant with patterned white linen tablecloths and matching napkins twirled into cones at the diners’ places, and shining silver and glass wear.

When we walked in we thought we might have been too early – there were only two other diners, and the staff seemed to be setting up for the evening. But one waitress approached us, crossed our names off the reservation list and took us to a booth in the corner of the restaurant. When she discovered that my companion (this is his new title – I think it sounds very food critic-y) didn’t speak French, she offered him an English menu, and explained things in French to me, using a smattering of English words for him.

We started with aperitifs of beer and ruby port, and shared a bowl of complimentary mussels, very tender in butter and chives.

For our entrées, we ordered langoustines and scampi. The langoustines were served in a circle over a bed of salad and, although the salad was dressed lightly, the langoustines were just seasoned with some paprika and pepper and were beautiful and soft. The scampi was very interesting – wrapped in rice-paper and fried like a spring roll, it was too hot to eat immediately, but rather voluptuous (I know it’s a strange word to use to describe food, but when I think about the slight resistance of the curves of the shrimp before I bit through it, it seems the most appropriate) once it had cooled a bit. It was served with a mild tandoori sauce in a small pot with a spoon, which was so good that we scooped out what was left and mopped it up with the baguette pieces in our bread basket. The bread had a lovely hard crust, though was a little chewy, so probably a bit old.

For our mains, we both ordered baked salmon with a lemon sauce. The salmon fillet was like butter on my tongue, with a deliciously light herbed crust on the top. It was served with some broccoli and sauerkraut which left something to be desired, as well as subtly-seasoned whipped potatoes in a casserole dish on the side. Not being a lemon fan, I was a little tentative about the sauce, served in a small pot with a spoon, but I couldn’t taste any lemon in it. If I was going to compare it with anything, it would be a honey mustard sauce, and it went beautifully with both the salmon and the potatoes.

My companion finished with a coffee, at which point we started itching for the bill. Although the restaurant had been empty when we arrived, by 8:30 it was packed and by 9:00 we were starting to overheat. The tables along the booth were extremely crowded, with barely enough space for champagne buckets between them, and they needed to be pulled out from the wall so that patrons could sit behind them. There were a few specials boards throughout the restaurant, which the waiters would carry to each new arrival’s desk and rest on the champagne bucket as they chose their order, which left us feeling a little claustrophobic when this was done with the people next to us.

Usually I enjoy other people arriving – I love food, and it’s always exciting to see what other people are having. We even saw one table choosing the lobsters they wanted from a fish tank. And generally, I wouldn’t have minded it getting a bit crowded before we left, even if it was a rather long wait for our bill.

However, unlike Bercy, this time the other patrons were not French, but American. I don’t mean to insult any Americans out there, but hearing large groups of Anglophones getting louder and more boisterous as they order more drinks does take something away from the experience of dining out in a French restaurant in France. I suppose it was to be expected, what with us being so close to the Eiffel Tower, but it never even occurred to me. Because I don’t work near any monuments, my days are generally tourist-free, or at least, free from large groups of tourists.

That being said, although the food was incredible and the service was wonderful, it was a bit of a relief to be outside again. I would definitely go back there, but I might consider the 10:00, or even the 7:00 booking instead, and have a little more quiet time.

With our discount, the total bill came to €43, which included two drinks, two starters, two mains and a coffee, all within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. If anyone else comes to visit, I’ll definitely be taking them to Vin & Marée.

Partie de Campagne

On a Thursday I work from 10:00 to 4:00, and I have a 1.5 hour break from 11:30 to 1:00. A few weeks ago, I remembered that my friend David (who I met through a Conversation Exchange – we had coffee and hot chocolate at Café des Deux Moulins, the café where Amélie works) actually works in the same building where I have my morning class.

Since then, we’ve been having lunch on a Thursday.

The week before last we went to a French restaurant in Bercy Village called Partie de Campagne. It was lovely and rustic – the walls and floors were all exposed wood, along with the tables and chairs, which were not covered by tablecloths. The walls were decorated with rooster motifs, and general bits and pieces that you would find around a farm, like brass buckets, wrought iron coat hooks and even a wheel (if I remember correctly).

Bercy Village

The seating was a little bit crowded, but with the warm light and the smell of food wafting in from the kitchen, it felt more cosy than uncomfortable.

We both ordered the dish of the day – Canard de Maghreb, for €9.50. The service was very fast, polite and unintrusive, and the food looked beautiful when it was laid in front of us – two slices of duck under a ladleful of gravy, with a small lettuce salad, potatoes and some sort of ham concoction on toothpicks on the side. The duck was okay, but when compared to the richness of the gravy (which we both mopped up with the sliced brown bread from the bread basked), it seemed a little bland. The salad was simple, served with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette, and the potatoes were lovely – a stack of sliced potatoes with cheese and chives, they were a cross between baked potatoes and potato gratin.

But what won me over was the ham things – we each had two toothpicks, each one threading through two pieces of ham which rolled around something. I sliced open one of them, and could see some sort of black jam. The combination was incredible – the saltiness of the ham contrasting with the sweetness of the (prune?) jam made my tastebuds sing.

As I have a friend visiting me in Paris at the moment, I decided that we could also meet for lunch during my break on Thursday, and we would go to the same restaurant.

This time I was left in awe of the service. Bercy is not a tourist area, so I was assuming that I would have to do all of the talking, as my friend speaks no French. As soon as the staff realised this, they assigned waiters to us who spoke some English who were very attentive, explaining dishes, offering suggestions and making jokes.

Unfortunately the duck dish with the ham concoction wasn’t on offer, so this time I went with the Formule Gourmand (the suggestion of the day – today a prawn and calamari dish, with a Café Gourmand – coffee with a trilogy of mini-desserts). My friend chose the Boeuf Tartare, and looked a little bit shocked when it arrived French-style – a cylinder of beef mince topped with a raw egg.

My dish wasn’t bad – the prawns were amazing, seasoned so well that I didn’t need to use any sauce, crispy with a salt-and-pepper crust. The calamari was a little chewy, and the plain rice was rather bland. Unfortunately the sauce they gave me seemed to be a tomato sauce, thinned out with tomato juice, Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce, which really didn’t compliment the dish or make the rice more enjoyable.

My friend was very impressed, though, saying that he couldn’t believe that raw mince topped with a raw egg was one of the nicest things he had ever eaten. It was served with chunky potato wedges seasoned with chicken salt, and salad.

Then came dessert – a large plate dusted with icing sugar arrived, carrying a short black and three small deserts in matching white pots – chocolate mousse, crème caramel and slices of banana in a thick chocolate sauce. Not being a coffee drinker, I gave the coffee to my friend and set about attacking the desserts. The chocolate and banana concoction was heavenly, though anything chocolate and gooey is sure to win me over. I ended up eating some of the chocolate sauce with the chocolate mousse. Although the chocolate mousse was good, the other desserts were so rich that I was using it more as a palate cleanser than anything else.

And the crème caramel . . . excuse me while I drool. It was ridiculously sweet. The custard was lovely and firm and moist, but I could barely taste that over the generous amount of caramel sauce that had been ladled over it. Every time I dug in my spoon, more caramel would seep into the crevice I had created, and I felt my smile grow bigger and bigger with every bite.

All in all, I was very sorry to have to rush to class. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough change to leave a decent tip, so I’ll have to remedy that the next time I go there.

Although some moments at Partie de Campagne weren’t outstanding, the atmosphere, service and food highlights are enough to warrant a return visit. And how much was our meal? Two mains, one drink and one dessert for €32.50.

Outside the classroom

Although I really enjoy teaching, some of my favourite moments in this job are the ones that happen outside of the classroom.

Take Wednesdays at Noisy –

A few weeks ago I was waiting for the elevator with Joelle, who I teach at 9:30-11:00. When the elevator doors opened, one of Joelle’s colleagues was inside and the two women started talking.

The other woman nodded at me and Joelle said, “c’est ma prof d’anglais – elle ne parle pas le français.

I smiled and said, “en fait, je peux parler le français, mais je ne le parle pas avec Joelle parce que ceci serait mauvais pour son anglais.

The look on Joelle’s face was priceless. I must admit that it’s fun to show off when the opportunity presents itself.

On another Wednesday, also a few weeks ago, I was waiting for the elevator with Loïc, who I teach at 3:00-4:30. When the doors opened, one of his friends was waiting.

Bonjour,” he greeted.

“This is my English teacher,” Loïc introduced me in French.

“Really?” his friend raised his brows, “très bien.”

I smiled, pretending that I didn’t understand as they chatted. When we left at the next floor, the friend came too, telling us that he was following us.

“Not to the lesson,” Loïc said, “we need to work.”

“I don’t think you would do a lot of grammar,” the friend grinned before we retreated into the meeting room.

This has happened to me a couple of times – the week before, Xavier (one of my Société Générale students) and I bumped into his boss. When Xavier explained that he had English class, the boss commented that Xavier was very lucky and asked if he could join us.

The week before that, Muriel (from Flammarion) and I saw her boss, who looked me up and down and said that he thought he needed English lessons.

I should compare notes with the other female teachers to see if this is normal. Either way, it’s very flattering!

But back to my Wednesdays – last week I went to Denise, one of the receptionists, at the end of the day to exchange my visitor’s badge for my driver’s license. Denise doesn’t speak English, but I know that Dan, one of the other BTL teachers, has been teaching her the odd phrase here and there.

So I couldn’t help but smile when she said ‘J’ in English as she looked for my card. She handed it back to me, asking how she says my name.

“[Jolie],” I said with a smile, then translated it into French for her. “C’est comme [belle] en français.”

Ah,” she laughed, “parce que vous êtes un très belle mademoiselle.”


Donc, belle en anglais – B . . .

“B-E-A-U,” I spelt it for her in English, “comme ‘beau’. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.”

“Ah – boh-ti-foo,” she said.

I repeated with a grin – “beautiful.”

“Beau-ti . . .”

“Ful,” I prompted.

“Ful!” she finished with a laugh. “Donc Mrs, non, Miss . . .”

“Yes, Miss,” I confirmed.

“Miss Beautiful!” she handed me my license triumphantly. “See you next . . .”

“See you next week,” I said.

“See you next week!” she repeated.

As far as nicknames go, that is one I could get used to.


An Aussie guy commented on my About page at the end of August, saying that he had just moved to Paris and was also teaching English.

I had been thinking about sending him an email to see how he was doing and to see if he’d like to get a coffee some time, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

Then, in the BTL teachers’ room on Friday, I was preparing for lessons and happened to mention to Andrew, a teacher who has been at BTL for a month, that I have a blog about teaching English in Paris. I said that I hadn’t been able to find anything similar when I was considering doing my TEFL course, so decided to start one of my own.

He then started telling me about a good blog he’d read, and asked me if I’d heard of it, “it’s something like Julie in Paris . . .”

I grinned, “Jolie à Paris?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

I laughed, “that’s me!”

“Really?” he said, “I think I left a comment on that – yeah, I remember I made a spelling mistake and complained about the keyboard.”

Small world!

Private students

To earn some extra money, I advertised for private students on Craigslist. I currently just have one, though I’ve been so busy that I’m not sure I’d want more.

Meet Patrizio – an Italian man in his 30s, Patrizio is working in Paris for a year on a company project. Why is he learning English and not French? Because he isn’t planning to stay here (his wife is still in Milan) and he thinks that English will help him more in the future.

I have two 1.5 hour lessons with Patrizio a week, and I generally let him run the show – after a ten-minute chat about what has happened since we last saw each other, I tell him about everything I have on me and ask him what he’d like to do.

Generally it’s listening with comprehension questions, but the week before last I started bringing in grammar exercises that I had photocopied from The Business, Upper Intermediate. I said we could start doing grammar on alternate lessons, and we did tense revision exercises.

The next lesson I had forgotten his folder, but I had my iPod so figured that we could just do listening, especially since I’d already said that grammar would be every second lesson.

Patrizio said, “okay, but next time – grammar,” looking at me as one might look at a child when giving important instructions.

So I brought in my folder the next lesson and took out some exercises on comparatives to do.

“No, I wanted to do this,” Patrizio pointed at the tense revision exercises we had done previously. “You said that there were more exercises in the back of the book.”

I smile, “yes, I said that there were extra exercises in the back of the book if I thought you needed to do some extra work on something.”

“But you said we would do grammar.”

“This is grammar,” I said, “there’s more to grammar than just tenses.”

He stubbornly insisted on doing tenses. I opened my bag and took out the books I had on me – Market Leader, Advanced, Market Leader, Pre-Intermediate and The Business, Pre-Intermediate. I turned to the back of The Business where there were more tense review exercises, and told him that he could write the answers in pencil and I would photocopy them for him when I was next at the office so he would have a copy. But, as soon as he saw the book was Pre-Intermediate and not Upper Intermediate, he didn’t want to do it.

Grammar rules don’t change depending on your level! I tried to explain that the work would cover the same areas, but he wouldn’t have it.

“Okay, we’ll just do listening today and I’ll photocopy it for next lesson,” I said.

“Good, now write yourself a reminder so you don’t forget,” he instructed.

One of my students giving me orders? I raised my brows and obligingly took out my diary. “Photocopy tense review exercises for Patrizio,” I said as I wrote.

“From The Business,” Patrizio dictated.

Dictation now? I’m usually quite tolerant with my students’ behaviour and think I’m reasonably adaptable, but I don’t think I should be treated like a child.

So I punished him by giving him listening activities that were above his level.

This morning, I went to his place for the next lesson, triumphantly brandishing the exercises he had asked for.

“Ah, good,” he said and put them aside.

“I thought you wanted to work on them today,” I said.

“Oh no, it’s just for my revision.”

Then why did you give me so much grief?!

I restrained myself from saying this and punished him with an hour of exercises on comparatives and superlatives.

Beware my wrath :p