When I Was 17: Ms. Kasimirowski

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Set the scene:

So, I was going to public school, like we all do in France. It’s part of the culture there. There was a lot of camaraderie, we had a lot of social life; you know, we never got enough of each other. We would have parties on the weekends and go dance. At the same time, it was a difficult year because this is the year when I severed my ACL in a skiing accident, which meant it was the end of my ballet practices and practicing on pointe, making my year really difficult. I owed my independence to the fact that I could navigate between my dad’s house and my mum’s house with a motorcycle, but during the time of this knee injury, I felt totally stuck. I tried to speed up the recovery, but an ACL tear is no fun. So, it was a big challenge to feel stuck for half of that year. I was a senior in high school at 17, so I was also preparing for the French nationwide secondary education diploma, which gives you access to university, so it was no joke. I was a philosophy language major and had to decide very early on that I wanted to specialize in that because that’s the way it is in France.

Sports and extracurriculars:

Mainly ballet. At that point I had been doing ballet for 13 years, but the skiing accident in the middle of the winter when I was 17 totally changed that. So I was mainly doing physical therapy afterwards. You know, it was a big deal at the time to have surgery.  

Did you imagine yourself as a teacher?

I knew I wanted to teach since I was seven years old. It’s interesting because it’s almost a calling. I knew I wanted to teach and I knew I probably wanted to teach a language. I loved the idea of majoring in philosophy in college but since our system is very different from yours, the French system is way more rigid, I knew I wouldn’t have the possibility of switching and I knew that the careers in philosophy were very limited. So I opted out for language and applied linguistics to the teaching of a second language.

Advice for current students:

I would like students to think of their academic lives in terms of lifelong learning, as a lifelong attitude investment towards learning. Don’t limit yourself to your college admission because of the competition, you have to look further down the road and at the bigger picture. Follow your passion and things will fall into place. You are lucky enough to study and attend school in a very flexible setting and you can transfer, and you can change majors endlessly, which we couldn’t. We had to be very sure of our choices because there was no way we could end that and modify. Because you have this advantage, you shouldn’t let the statistics of attending absolutely this school versus this other school spoil your joy for learning. And I feel like really when you’re secure that way, the rest falls into place. You then become an interesting candidate because you become a passionate candidate and not just figures.

Friendships and relationships:

My friendships were very very meaningful. Especially after negotiating my parents’ divorce, which was a mess. My friendships were two different sets of friends, the high school friends, that were dear dear friends; we were very involved in political life, very involved in the school life. I loved school, I mean we loved it! Can you tell? On the other hand my motorcycle friends and that was a lot of solidarity, it’s very interesting because at that time it was a little cliquey according to the type of motorcycle you rode. We were in the Italian Motorcycle Club Owner’s. Whenever you needed a part (we rode some vintage bikes,) you had a serious chain of solidarity that organised. I still travel with motorcycle parts to France because some people still have some vintage bikes, that they need parts for, that are sometimes easier to find in the States. My first relationships and first loves were definitely motorcycle riders, for years. We would ride together and leave on vacation together, it was basically like living another life. It was easier for my parents also to live their new married lives, the more oxygen they had the better they were- and me too, so it worked for everyone.

Funny stories?

I would get to class with my hands black, trying to be on time but I had a problem with the sparking plug that I needed to attend to. So I got into my Spanish class, and I got kicked out right away because I had grease all over my hands and I was trying to make a point, I am on time. I promise I washed my hands, I just needed the special paste that has sand in it to be able to take it out, but I can still be present. “No, no, you’re not, have you seen your hands? Go, I don’t want to see you today.” There were funny stories all the time because we were very goofy, on a Saturday night at 10 we would say “Should we go have a swim in the Mediterranean? It’s only two hours away.” And that’s what we would do.