Tag Archives: School

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!

To Dreux We Go!

To where you say?

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Dreux is a small city of just over 30,000 people about an hour west of Paris.

I’ve got to be honest, when I got an email from my school contact claiming I was assigned to live in Dreux, I hoped it was fake. Dreux doesn’t have any chateaux and I’d never heard of the city before. I’d been crossing my fingers for Tours again, but alas.

HOWEVER, this turned out to be a GREAT thing. My teacher contact notified me that I would be able to live at the lycée (high school) for FREE (to be determined if it is actually free) which means I don’t have to go through the arduous process of finding my own apartment and applying for the CAF (a government fund you can apply for to subsidize your rent) Free is also an extra good thing once you find out that with TAPIF (the program I’m employed under) I only make about 780 euros a month. So every centime (penny) I can save means another centime I can use towards travel/wine.

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Get ready for lots of Game of Thrones gifs this year.

PLUS, I’m super close to Paris without actually being in Paris. I’ve already lived in the capital so I’m looking for a different experience this time around. BUT I have so many friends who live in Paris it will be very cheap and easy for me to visit them on the weekends.

I’ll be teaching at a college and a lycée professionelle in Dreux. Aka a middle school and a vocational high school. So the experiences will be quite different AND I’m super excited for both of them, so I can get a different taste of the different public school systems.

Some questions I’ve been getting:

  1. Are you moving to France permanently?
    1. Nope. My contract is for only 7 months. I have the option of renewing the contract one more time IF I want to, but I have no plans yet so I should be back in the US by May.
  2. Are you going to teach yoga in France?
    1. TBD on if I can learn all the yoga words in French.
  3. Are you going to marry a French guy?
    1. Do I even need to answer this?

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      So Daenerys, when you start your new job in Westeros are you going to marry a Westerosi?

4. I hear you only work 12 hours a week on this program. Is this true/what will you be doing with all of that free time??

1. YES. I have a 12 hour work week. (Probably why I’ll be making very little money) and so I plan to fill my free time with writing and yoga. I have a rough goal going of writing 3 more novels this year. Yes. You heard me correctly. It might turn into 2 novels with shiny edits, it could increase. Either way I’ll be keeping myself very busy!

I have 10 days left before I leave. 10 days left of yoga teaching, novel editing, packing, and saying goodbye to family & friends. It’s starting to become real.

I’m moving back to France!

SUBSCRIBE to follow along. I also have Instagram for all the yoga pictures, but travel pictures will probably go up too.

La Rentrée: My First Week at the Sorbonne

Of course there are other buildings next to it, but here's my "campus"
Of course there are other buildings next to it, but here’s my “campus”

I made sure to get to my first class, “Introduction to the Cultural History of the Middle Ages” early.  French students? A French professor who will probably hate me immediately? A class all in French? Saying I was nervous would be an understatement.

Can we go back to summer now?
Terrified would be a better word.

The first class was a CM, Cours Magistral, or a lecture style class. It went surprisingly well. The professor, thankfully, had a powerpoint to go along with his lecture so I understood most everything he said when he was talking about the Franks and Visigoths. I even talked to a girl after class! Making French friends? I sure hope so.

Unfortunately, a CM is only about 1/2 of the actual course. The rest of the course is a TD or Travaux dirigés, also known as a seminar of sorts with a teaching assistant and only about 50 students instead of the 200 in the CM. Of course, the only grades you get are in the TD from your teaching assistant so when you end up looking like this during your first TD:

Uhhh what?
Was that French?

You might have a slight problem.

Thankfully my other classes went much, much better.

Which is frustrating because I signed up for a backup class just in case the Middle Ages course was horrible (and it was) and it turns out my backup class is amazing! The TD professor has the perfect accent, talks at a normal pace, and seemed really happy to have me there! Unfortunately, as it’s an analysis of very recent history, it also has a real life application to my major and career path… Why do I say unfortunately?

My inner Diana Bishop just really, really wants to learn what the heck went on all that time ago… and maybe a little alchemy.

Who wouldn't want to learn the symbolism behind this picture??
Who wouldn’t want to learn the symbolism behind this picture??

So I’ll probably go to all of my classes again next week and then decide which one to drop. Maybe the Middle Ages class was just horrible because it was the first day and she didn’t know what else to do besides name drop all of these philosophers? When she wrote Huizinga on the board I was terrified. It didn’t look like a French word at all so no wonder I didn’t understand!

The only bad thing about my other classes is that there really isn’t an assigned textbook. They each hand out bibliographies with dozens of books listed. One professor actually told us that there was no required reading, but if we wanted to do well we should read a few.

Optional, but highly encouraged, giant reading list?
Optional, but highly encouraged, giant reading list?

I don’t even know.

As far as meeting French students… I’ve had mixed results. I feel like it’s your average university setting: unless you reach out to someone either by smiling, offering up a pen, or flat out introducing yourself, most everyone will just mind their own business and leave you be.

They obviously didn’t hear or see my inner plea for French friends.

I guess I need to work on my adorable, help me vibe
I’m taking lessons from Stitch.

But it turns out I have another class with the girl I talked to after my Middle Ages class! I talked to both her and her friend for a few minutes about classes and then sat next to them in the lecture. So I’m even more reluctant to drop the Middle Ages class because I’m very slowly making friends!

That sums up all of the information I have on my classes at the Sorbonne since I’ll only be taking 2 classes at the Sorbonne and 2 with Sweet Briar. I’ve already mentioned in a previous post how fantastic my grammar class is- yes, yes you can use that adjective with grammar- but I haven’t talked about my other Sweet Briar class. It’s an art history class where we spend an hour and a half each week sitting around analyzing paintings and sculptures in the Louvre.

I might have actually twirled like that too...
I might have actually twirled like that too…

I don’t think much more description is necessary here. Our professor is funny and has a massive knowledge of art and the Louvre in general. Apparently, he noticed that a painting was gone from its usual spot so he went and asked a worker where it was. They then told him said painting had never actually been in the Louvre’s possession. So he told the worker that if they didn’t email him the location of the painting in three days, he would write an article saying that the Louvre had lost a painting (or was robbed).

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Where is she?

Needless to say, they emailed him the information detailing the painting’s new location. So kind of an Art Historian bad-ass. Is that an oxymoron?

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