In various forms and languages, my life for the past week has been full of greetings, handshakes, “enchantée“s, declaring my nationality/state/where you can roughly find that state because no one has heard of Indiana, my age, what I studied in school, what I’m going to be doing here. I’ve been introducing myself to employers/staff members at my school, to rooms full of students, to French people I’ve met, and to other English assistants I’ve come across. At this point I almost want to just put my information on little handouts and just pass them around to save time and breath.
That being said, all of this means that I’ve had quite a full week of doing new things with new people. Tuesday was my first day at my lycée, my high school/community college/technical school where I will be teaching. I went in for a few hours and met important administrative persons and my fellow teachers, most of whom spoke to me in English given that it is the subject they teach. Which was nice, although by the end of the year I’d really like to be able to converse with them in French. Wednesday was my Academy (school district) orientation, so I shuffled off to some school in the middle of way-far-away-from-me-ville and we had a whole 8 hours or so of information being thrown at us, meet and greets, and practice coming up with lesson plans and whatnot since the program is well aware that most of us are not at all trained teachers, and some are even still students themselves. Our lunch that day was served at a school cafeteria, and oh. my. GOD. We literally had a gourmet meal. AND THAT IS WHAT THE STUDENTS EAT EVERY DAY. It put America to so, SO much shame, I can’t even describe it. Plus, given that we’re all adults, the program also provided each table with a nice bottle of wine. Long live France, I say.
Thursday I began introducing myself to classes and observing. Supposedly, anyhow. My schedule is a bit crazy and honestly makes no sense to me whatsoever, I work all kind of random hours on random days and only see certain classes every other week but see other classes on the same day of the week consistently. Actually I’ve got the most god-awful schedule of any assistant I’ve met so far, I think it’s because I’m actually teaching like…9 different classes perhaps? Most students are teaching 4 or 5 and just have each class a bit more frequently than I do. But my school hasn’t had an English assistant in a long time, so everyone wants a piece of the native English speaker I suppose. (What good it can possibly do for their students when they only see me for an hour every week, I’ve no idea. I can’t possibly imagine how I’m going to get them to progress.) In any case, my first class was with older and generally somewhat high-level intermediate students. However they were mostly dead silent after I did my introduction, so I asked them a few questions about themselves and then sat back to observe, and STILL they were silent, even when the teacher reverted to French. I think she said the article they were reading was quite difficult for them (it was indeed high-level) and my presence probably made them nervous. The following class, however, was for students with a bit of a lower level but MUCH more enthusiasm. They had a great dynamic between themselves and the teacher, all of them being aged about 19-22 (again, they put technical schools and community colleges under the high school systems here) and were very willing to talk to me, so much so that I actually spent the entire class period answering their questions rather than observing. They will definitely be a favorite class I think, they were quite fun, but luckily I’ll have a smaller group of them because I can see the whole class at once being a bit difficult to get to focus. Friday I was supposed to observe a class in an annexed building (thus actually at a different train stop, although within the same town) but it turns out my hour there actually starts AFTER their class ends, so I got there in the last 10 minutes for them with just enough time to introduce myself before they scurried off. That group is super, super advanced, they are all students preparing for really competitive exams to get into top universities, so I will have to up my game quite a lot with them (I’m thinking of introducing satiric English via The Onion. Yes, I am allowed to do that.) I’m looking forward to the challenge, to be quite honest. In general I’m more excited than I thought I would be, although it’s going to take a LOT more extroversion than I usually put out to teach every day.
The weekend has also been busy, Saturday someone or other from the assistants in Paris/the outlying regions organized a picnic for all of us to meet and greet, and I ended up with a group of students/graduates who are “assistanting” as it were all from various places in the UK, and we extended our picnic into quite a long a night of drinks and really good conversation all around, and I’m hoping to get to see all of them again in the near future as they were really a hilarious and delightful group. Plus, you know…accents and British-isms. Slash Scottish/Northern Ireland-isms. All of the linguistic fun. 🙂
It’s off with me for now though, I’ve got more classes to meet in the morning and also another training session tomorrow afternoon, so I need to prepare myself. Another busy week lies ahead…