Let me take you back to grade 2. My English teacher was Mr. Cameron. I loved the guy. Can’t tell you anything I learned that year, but Mr. Cameron was the man. What a thrill it was to have him for the year. He was the one teacher who I didn’t want a supply teacher to come in for.
My French teacher, on the other hand, stunk. I feel like she was exactly who everyone had as their elementary school French teacher- mean, middle-aged, grey haired Mme. Badeaux. She scared us. There’s no way she should have been teaching grade 2 students. If Mr. Cameron was a party, Mme. Nadon was a funeral, where you were the one being buried alive, and when asked to speak your last words, you were yelled at for speaking English, and forced to try to roll your r’s when you had no ability to do so (still can’t).
Back then, short French days were celebrated. It’s actually hilarious looking back at it. No wonder the old bag was so miserable. “Okay mes amis, ca c’est petit francais aujourd’hui, alors Mr. Cameron va returner dans juste 5 minute.” Sure enough, Mr. Cameron entered the class a few minutes later and we went wild! I’ve never been much of a hugger but I just couldn’t help myself, the whole class would mob the guy! I think we once did a “na na na, na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” chant as Mme. Badeaux left the class.
Let’s get into the specific, embarrassing memory that refuses to leave my brain. It was probably a Tuesday afternoon in the Winter. I know it was winter, and we had French in the afternoon so I’m sure about that. I have no feel for what day it was which means it must’ve been Tuesday. Tuesdays have no feel.
Mme. Badeaux had us all sitting on the carpet like a herd of sheep. She wasn’t into asking those who knew the answers what the answers were. That makes too much sense. Instead she seemed to sniff out the most scared and confused kid in class to answer her impossible questions. Helen Keller could’ve been in our class and Mme. Nadon would’ve made sure she was the lead singer in our Christmas Concert.
Anyway, there we were, all terrified that day as she asked us about the different items of clothing that we wear during winter. Some of the answers were easy- mittens = mitaines, boots = bottes. God, I would’ve killed to be asked one of those. No, no no, Mme, Badeaux had a challenge lined up for me. “Mes amis, c’est quoi la nom en francais pour “scarf?” First of all, I never should’ve been asked to answer this as I was on team neck-warmer as a kid. But of course, she sensed my fear and called my named: “Danielle”.
Oh God, another horrible memory just came back to me. She used to call me Danielle. My name is Daniel, I always went by Danny, but Mme. Badeaux, in front of a bunch of immature kids, used to call me Danielle. I had to tune out the giggless of my classmates upon hearing me called out as Danielle. This was my big moment. What in the heck was scarf in French? Scarfé? La scarf? Think dummy, think!
Amazingly, 7 year old me had the proper word for scarf enter into my brain! I cleared my throat, and went for it: “FOO-FOO!”
Well, that’s not good- Mme. Nadon is now laughing. She never laughs. I’ve never even seen her smile. So of course her laughing causes the whole class to laugh. “Danielle, la correct mot est FOULARD!” I was humiliated. Horrified. Mortified. My life was over.
A couple of things to go over here. I just looked up scarf in French and the word that popped up was écharpe. Foulard is apparently not even a winter scarf, more of a decorative, fancy scarf. What the hell Mme. Badeaux? Had you been teaching me “écharpe”, do you think I would’ve answered “FOOFOO”? No chance! Secondly, there’s no way the other kids in my class knew I had messed up until Mme. Badeaux starting hooting it up. Foofoo was a heckuva guess; I can only imagine what Davey Armstrong would’ve guessed. She couldn’t have just said “very close, it’s foulard.” No, she made it a whole song and dance and I was made to be the class idiot.
My embarrassment likely lasted until recess when I took my anger out on top of the snow hill by throwing a few kids off of it, or maybe I took over the grade 1 fort and sat in there like a king. And yet here I am, 20 years later, still vividly remembering this moment. Well played Mme. Badeaux, you’ve successfully lived in my brain for two decades, making me always remember that foo-foo is not the right word for scarf. Heckuva teaching moment if you ask me.