Meet the American

I finally started work last week!!

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So to revise: I’m an English Language Assistant with the TAPIF program. What that means: I’m never supposed to be in a classroom alone with all 20 plus students and I’m not allowed to grade students. Really I’m here to be useful with my native American accent and my cultural perspectives.

 

My first week in the classroom was technically supposed to be observation, but I had an introduction powerpoint saved to my Google Drive that included my hobbies, where I was from, my family, favorite tv shows, movies, and food so several of the teachers had me present that to the class.

I definitely got a lot of reactions on the tv show/movie/food slides because then I was able to ask students what their favorites were.

Some things tend to be universal:

–People in France don’t believe yoga is a real sport either. (Because I’d always reply with “yoga” when they asked me what my favorite sport was. Sorry kids it is quite real!)

–Game of Thrones. Because well, come on, dragons:

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–And even French kids apparently find Steak Tartare (my favorite French food) disgusting, but tacos are universally appreciated.

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While there were several cultural differences in the classroom, what was most notable is how students can’t sit down in their seats before the teacher gives them permission. From what little I’ve seen so far I would say the French tend to be a little more authoritarian in their teaching, but then again maybe the teachers I work with are just strict?

BUT they do grade out loud, which is interesting to me. No hidden grades. When a student was giving an oral presentation the teacher took the time at the end to critique him and tell him what he did wrong rather than making notes and moving onto the next student.

The students all seemed to ask me or the teacher one question in particular though:

Student: “Madame, does Emily understand French?”

Teacher: “No, she doesn’t.”

Same Student looks at me: “Miss! Do you understand French?” (half the time this question was also in French)

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I am the guy on the left. 

Me: … Let me ignore that question and turn back to my PowerPoint so I don’t have to lie to you.

(Okay eventually during the week I just gave up and told them I did speak French. It was too difficult to pretend anyways! But I am there to speak English and it is technically English class so they need to be speaking English too)

Soon at the middle school I’ll start to get small groups of hardworking students to work with on anything I want/varying subjects from detective stories to job interviews.

Next week however… is vacation. Yes, you read that right. I will technically have worked for two full weeks and now I have two full weeks of vacation for La Toussaint. (All Saints Day/November 1st)

So on Saturday I’m headed off to Scotland (again) to visit my dear friend Hannah. ❤ I haven’t been to Glasgow yet, but I’m looking forward to all the curry chips (fries) and scones I’ll get to eat all week long. Then I have no idea what I’ll be doing the second week of the break, maybe I’ll just hop around France? If you have any ideas let me know!!

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Mama I made it!

Welcome to Dreux:

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View over the center of town on a very cloudy day
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The belfry at the center of town–the cafe with the red tents has the cutest little terrace in the back and they have cheap wine!

I’ve tried to condense the last week into a series of bullet points to make it as easy to read as possible. SO much has happened!

  1. I moved in

When I got off the plane I had the most massive customs line ever waiting for me (like seriously it took 45 minutes), but once all of that was over my teacher contact from my high school was waiting for me just on the other side! I’m really lucky that I didn’t have to navigate Paris with two suitcases to get to the train station because then she tucked me into her car and we drove to Dreux.

Then she gave me the low-down on all the gossip of the school the hour drive we had and when we arrived at the school she dragged me inside to meet the Principal (Le Proviseur) and half of the administrative team. Who were all quite nice and tbh I didn’t remember half of their names because I was so jet lagged. And then she brought me to my room.

Basically I’m living in the student dorms. They’ve reserved a couple rooms for teachers. It’s a tiny bit bigger than a dorm room, but not by much, but I have my own bathroom and a communal kitchen I’ll share with another language assistant and the nighttime workers who stay awake to make sure all the kids are in bed and asleep at curfew. All this is fine because it’s free. 

Yes you read that right. I won the jackpot in this town.

2. Welcome dinner

On Thursday my contact from the high school organized a welcome dinner at the Italian restaurant in town & I was able to meet many of the people who work there. (And not just the English teachers) I sat next to the science teacher who also participates in National Novel Writing Month each November so we ended up talking about books quite a lot, the teacher across from me had fun trying to make me say as many French cuss words as possible, and I drank soo much wine.

I was so happy I was able to speak with people, outside of the work context and just have normal conversations *IN FRENCH.* I find there’s always a little “trial” period when new people try to figure out if I actually do speak French before they try to speak to me, but at least I got a lot of that out of the way at dinner!

3. I’ve adopted a café

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Dreux doesn’t have a Starbucks. It’s that tiny, but it does have a cute little coffee shop that I’ve been to… 5 out of the 7 days I’ve been here already. The second day I came in they gave me a rewards card… and I’m over halfway already… oops?

The employees all know me… probably as the American, but well that’s fine.  Plus the food/coffee/wifi is great there.

Oh did I mention that I don’t have wifi where I live?

Yeah, they don’t want the students staying up all night on the internet. I’ve got a little bit of data with my international phone plan, but for now if I need to do any heavy internet use I have to come to this café.

Besides internet surfing I have gotten quite a bit of writing done there too!

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How could I not get writing done in a place like this?

 

4. I still haven’t started work yet.

We had our teacher’s meeting in Orléans yesterday, which was really really boring.

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It might have been useful… If I hadn’t already lived in France before, so I felt a little like Hermione. #beentheredonethat

They didn’t give us any new information or give us any instruction on how to work with students. To me it seemed like a meet and greet more than anything, but at least there was free coffee?

But yeah, I’m not sure when I’ll actually go into the classroom for the first time, so we shall see. Tomorrow maybe?

5.  Phone companies suck.

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I’ll just leave that one as is.

Compared to living in Paris I already love this city more. I don’t feel quite so anonymous here & I’ll be able to get to know people better I think because I see the same people every single day–even walking on the street!

There’s so much more that’s happened that just couldn’t fit into one blog post! If you’re interested in keeping up with me this year, click subscribe!