Saturday, January 19, 2008

That was a long week.

And thank goodness it's done.

School was okay. The students are progressing slowly and are understanding what English class is all about. I did have one lesson completely blow up in my face. Their teacher Sylvie said "It happens. Don't worry. Not every lesson is going to be perfect." It is SO nice to have the support of my teachers. They are such nice people. I really need to create lessons for the next weeks that are more student-centered. I'm tired of talking, they're tired of writing, and I think we're all getting bored. I have a great Valentine's Day lesson for my third and fourth grade classes, but I need something more engaging for my fifth graders. Also I'm discovering that my two fifth grade classes are on entirely different levels. Sylvie's class is just...well, they're not all that bright. Christophe's students, on the other hand, remind me a lot of Rhonda's Spanish IV classes: I can do anything I want with them and they will give me the benefit of the doubt and just go along with it. At least they try! Sylvie's class is chatty and they give up much faster. Anyways. I really really like this job. If it didn't require relinquishing my American citizenship, leaving my family and my home, and getting a French degree, I'd stay and be a real elementary English teacher. This is a sweet job.

That brings me to another point. I'm very frustrated with the comments I've been hearing from other assistants. Teaching is a profession. We take it seriously. Not everyone can teach. Heck, even I doubted my abilities and before that even refused to entertain the idea of teaching. I'm not very good at it and I see the mistakes I make every day, but I still take this seriously. I really question the wiseness of taking on this job without an interest in teaching or children. If you've never taught before, this is not exactly the kind of first experience that will make you like it. If you've never stayed in France for an extended period of time before, this is not the kind of experience that will make you comfortable. This is a real job, and people take you seriously. I'm just very disappointed in the amount of preparation - pedagogical, linguistic, and cultural - that people have done prior to this experience. Honestly, how do you expect to teach without ever having learned how to teach? How do you expect to succeed and be happy in France without really learning about the language and culture? I've watched a lot of baseball but that doesn't make me a catcher for the Yankees.

Speaking of learning about the language and culture, we had a dinner party on Wednesday. Ben was at the post office in November and overheard a woman with a strong American accent. Her name is Vicky, her husband's name is William, and they have lived in France - specifically just outside of Ussel - with their 23 year old daughter Juliette since Bush was elected seven years ago. They describe themselves to the French people they meet as political refugees. Neat. So Ben invited them over to have dinner. Vicky got even more excited when she heard about Rocio and Rocio's family, as Vicky spent years in Colombia (before the drugs) as a Spanish teacher. So we had a Correzien liquor made from the root of some flower. It was awful and apparently no one buys more than one bottle in their lifetime it's so bad. Dinner was quesadillas made from real corn tortillas courtesy of Juliette and salad. Dessert was pistachio ice cream and Mom's Christmas cookies and Oreos! It was an interesting evening: American conversations have so many codes, the most important one of which is to not offend your conversation partner. I spent the majority of the evening talking to William while he said my parents were selfish for owning a Suburban, that Sarkozy is awful for France, that I should stay in France for at least three years, and that the French are negative people. I disagreed with virtually all of this but as this was an American conversation, I couldn't find the words to express myself. I also got the impression that the entire family needed a good French civilization textbook. The entire evening was very confusing: Rocio speaks French and Spanish, her mother speaks only Spanish, David speaks Spanish and English, Juliette speaks French and English, Ben speaks French and English (and sort of Spanish), Vicky speaks English and Spanish and sort of French, William speaks English and sort of French, and I speak French and English and Spanish. Add in the fact that Ben and Rocio and I speak exclusively French to each other. I couldn't figure out what language to speak to anyone. It was quite possibly the most confusing dinner party I've ever been to. But it was enjoyable for the most part.

On Wednesday I attended a junior year French class. I am looking forward to more of these! The teacher, Madame S (it's long and Polish) is very sweet and accommodating, and her students were appropriately intrigued. Hopefully there will be more French going on in my life now.

My private tutoring student called on Wednesday evening and left me quite possibly the clearest French voicemail I've ever received. There was a school skiing trip on Saturday that she wanted to go to and as it would interfere with the English lesson (or vice-versa), could we please reschedule to Friday evening. But of course! Unfortunately, the lesson I prepared didn't go so hot. We did financial profiles of a fictitious company and of Citigroup. There was entirely too much jargon that I had to look up myself (what's private equity?), and she didn't seem to like it much. I'll find something better for next week.

I found a job in New York. I applied and contacted the group, but that was yesterday. The job was posted in November so I'm not sure when they wanted to fill it, but it's only perfect for me. I can do EVERYTHING :)

Today I went to the famous Bergeron pastry shop to buy the fig pastry I kept seeing. This shop is famous because it makes Les Chocolats du Président because President Chirac lives a few kilometers from here in a huge chateau protected by the Gendarmerie whose barracks are between the high school and School Three. Got that? Yes. I got home and Ben asked, "So are you done for this weekend? That's all you said you had planned..." Hahaha, yep. We also have one and a half bottles of wine to work through, so we'll keep busy :)

Life is pretty damn good.

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