Thursday, 14 April 2011

Je ne suis plus assistante

Alors, my official last day as an assistante d'anglais is over. I had a little gathering with the English teachers this morning, and we said our goodbyes and exchanged presents. I had bought a few little things for the teachers as a thankyou, but I didn't expect anything in return! They bought me two novels and two MASSIVE books of French poetry, and a magnet map of 1920's Paris, which will be fun to examine in detail! They also wrote a lovely wee card, saying lots of nice things, and they told me I was the best assistant they'd had in years, and they wished I could stay for next year. So cute!

Then I had my last two classes. Denis, one of the English teachers, said he had to come with me to the first one because he had to tell the students off for misbehaving. It was terrifying. Denis is the nicest, friendliest guy in the world, and as soon as he walked into the classroom he let rip, fully yelling at the students, saying really harsh things that no Northern Irish teacher would ever get away with. I was scared, and it wasn't even directed at me! I'd heard about this strange French phenomenon of shouting at, ridiculing, even insulting students if they've misbehaved, but I'd never seen it. And I'm telling you, it was scary. Then, when he was finished, he turned to me and smiled and was like, "Thanks again Kristina, see you!" And left! Wow.

My second class was with my favourite students; six carrieres girls, who are soooo cute, and hilarious. We did a little exercise where they invented a character and wrote their life story, which they all did really well, and then we played Who Am I (the game during which another class didn't know Joan of Arc was French). Which they loved. Then at the end, their teacher Florence and the other half of the class came to say goodbye, and Florence took my address because she wants to write to me. Aw!

After that, I went to say goodbye to the Proviseure (I was particular about doing this from the start, because apparently last year's assistant left without saying goodbye to anyone, and they were super offended, understandably.) I gave her a little box of sweets, and she acted like it was the nicest thing she'd ever gotten (so sweet!), and told me I was always welcome to come and visit them.

And now I'm sitting in my wee bare studio, writing this post and wondering where seven months has gone. I can't believe I'm going home tomorrow, never to return to the little town of La Chatre (Well, at least for the forseeable future). Once again I'm feeling happy/sad. I'm going to miss the friends I've made, and the students, and the peace and quiet of small town French life. But I am SO EXCITED about getting home and back to normality.

It's been a bit of a suspended reality, being here. Because nobody has seen La Chatre (except Caroline), I feel like it's something special, just for me, unable to be shared with anyone. A whole seven months of my life, completely separate from everything else I know and have done. It's the strangest, most surreal feeling to know that, even when I leave, life will continue here just as it always has, and although I only spent a short time here, I think I've made an impression (however faint) on the lives of the people I've met. The teachers say I've restored their faith in the assistantship, and the students have learned where Belfast is, and what someone from there sounds like. The people I've met have certainly made an impression on me. They have shown me how kind, hospitable and generous of spirit the French can be, and completely subverted all the rumours I'd heard about the "cold, unfriendly French" I'd always heard or been told about.

I'm really grateful for all the opportunities and experiences I've had here, and I just can't believe how incredibly lucky I have been in my placement here. I'm still in a state of disbelief that it's come to an end and I'm going home.

A plus.


I just checked on the school's blog, and one of my students left a message about my blog post, saying thank you for how much he's learned with me, and that even though he's better at German, he thinks that if he'd had more classes with me he would be even better at English. He also said that he wants me to come back and be their teacher again, and I'm not allowed to forget them or he'll come and tell me off. And now I'm crying. *le sigh*

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Top Teaching Moments

1. Student : What's BEYATCH?!
    Me: ...It's beach.
    Other students: Haha, tu veux aller à la sallope!

2. Student: (spelling): g..h...t...
    Other student : T'as acheté quoi?

3. Me: Okay, give me some words associated with Valentine's Day.
    Student : SEX!

4. Student : What's the English for musclé?
    Me : Muscular
    Other student : Yes? Did you call me?

5. Student : My ass!
    Me: I don't like bad words in my class.
    Student : My buttocks?

6. Me: What would you change about the story of 'To Kill a Mockingbird?'
    Student : *hyperventalates*
The following moments took place during a role play between some of my favourite students, three Terminale L boys. They were playing a volunteer, a conscripted soldier, and a peace activist during the Vietnam War.

7. Peace activist : Ahh yeeeesss, I remember it well, I was at Woodstock in '69, during the quagmire of war... yes, I did, I ate a space cake....

8. Volunteer : You're a coward.
    Conscript : Yeah, like your mother.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Things are running smoothly, and yes I Must Be Mad.

So, the title says it all, really. Today has been good, in that I read the draft reference that Olivier wrote for me and nearly wept at all the cute things he said, I wrote an entry for the school blog that made Olivier's wife weep, and all three classes so far have gone without a hitch. I also got called "witty." Which was nice.

I am glad to say that I HAVE NO MORE SECONDES. EVER. *party*

I am so utterly relieved by this fact, you have no idea. They are the most unpredictable, volatile and downright scary age group I've had to teach, no joke. Some classes have been little angels, others the spawn of Satan. Mercifully, today's groups were the angels. I think Olivier deliberately intervened and gave me good ones, after last week's Hour of Horror, and they did pretty well.  Now I have an hour to kill before I go and check whether my two Terminale girls are going to show up, and then a lovely 8:30 start to look forward to in the morning. Awesome.

I have a little nugget of excitement to share now. Queen's sent an email around with information about a French summer school taking place in Co Kerry in July and August, which needed activities organisers (animateurs) and teachers, to help out with 14-16 year olds and give them a Full Oirish Experience. Naturally, I applied straight away ;) It sounds a pretty sweet deal - a Teacher has three hours of classes, five mornings a week, for £12 an hour and full board accommodation, for ten days. Travel expenses are included.

I figured that after this year this summer school gig would be a piece of cake, and Excellent Experience to put on my CV (if I get the job, that is!). I could have applied to be an animateur, which is full-time for a month, but after reading that these folk have to do activities like abseiling, kayaking and hiking, I almost laughed out loud. There is NO WAY I could ever do these things, let alone in front of a groups of teenagers, who would laugh cruelly at my ineptitude. So I am content with being a sensible Teacher, and I'm glad the hours of nicking stuff off the British Council website will come in useful once again.

When I told Olivier about it, he said, "You must be mad." His concern was that, after spending seven months here and then a whole month of Spanish school in June, I would be exhausted, and the thought of voluntarily seeking work over the summer was utter insanity. Ahh, les français.

The lady in charge is going to phone me at home over the weekend to let me know if I've got the job or not. HOW EXCITING! My first weekend home, and I'll learn if I've to leave it again or not. Still, after seven months, ten days is nothing. So I am genuinely excited about this one, and really hope I get it! Wish me luck!

Sunday, 10 April 2011


Just letting everyone know that I am literally DYING for honey chilli chicken at the minute.

That is all.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Twenty Seven Weeks Down, One to Go!

Can you believe it?? I can't! This time next week, I'll be home in wee Norn Iron. And I cannot WAIT to be back. But still, I'll miss everything that goes on here; the market on Saturdays, the cafes, the comings and goings of the school and students and staff. The teachers have been so kind and lovely, which has really made these seven months easier, and the students have been great (with the obvious exceptions!).

 When I looked back over all my blog entries and saw this one, I was blown away by how fast time has flown. I have spent seven whole months in a foreign country, on my own with exception of that one brilliant week that Caroline came to visit, and I've come through okay! Before I came, I couldn't see past this year; I couldn't imagine doing it and coping and coming out the other side feeling both relieved and grateful. Relieved that it's almost over, that I've succeeded, that I don't have to worry about it any more. Grateful for the experience, for the people I've met and the things I've done, and mostly, for the knowledge that teaching is something I can do, something I'm good at, and something I want to keep doing after I graduate. I never thought I'd say it, but my time in France has been some of the most valuable in my life. It's given me direction, a goal, and the drive to go for for it, and not give up until I get it. After all, if I can do what I've already done this year - moving to another country, on my own, living independently and succeeding in another culture, using a different language and having different customs - then I can do anything.

Twenty seven weeks down, one to go. Bring it!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


So, I had a dramatic day yesterday, and the Drama is still ongoing today.

One of the English teachers had asked me to take his secondes and run through Shakespeare in Love, starting and stopping the DVD and having them answer questions. Sounds easy enough, right? WELL, the catch is, the class in question was 30 low-level secondes. Wonderful.

To be fair, the teacher had asked me if this was okay last week, and I had said yes, because he has been really great and nice, and I figured I'd do him a favour. I also figured discipline wouldn't be a big issue, because I take half of the normal class every other week and they are generally well-behaved.

What I didn't know was that to this normally well-behaved class there would be an addition of another half-class of secondes. Now, this class, which I had between Christmas and February vacances, were the single most horrible class I've ever had. For example, one boy made fun of my French and refused to work, preferring to spit on other people's paper and throw things around the room.

Cut to the class; PANDEMONIUM. I shouted and yelled, telling the bad ones to sit down and be quiet (which they ignored), and generally had a terrible time of it. Until twenty minutes in. What I didn't know was that the teachers had stationed two surveillants in the classroom next door (obviously to provide backup!).. One of them appeared at the door and took the worst boy out of the class, never to return. This shut them up for about ten minutes, then they started up again. I managed to quieten them down a bit, and another surveillant came to the door to check that I was ok. I said I was managing, and he said he would be next door in case I needed him. Which was great. I kept the door open and told them that if the surveillant heard them he would come back and they'd be in trouble. They were quieter, but refused to do the work, saying they didn't understand anything blah blah, even when I explained, then translated the questions for them.

At the end of the class, another lovely surveillant came to tell me that I have to write a report about what happened, and why things went so wrong. Which I have done. I also told the two teachers whose classes I had what happened, and they were appalled. They said they were going straight to those classes to tell them off and give them detention, and that they were so sorry I had to deal with it, that it was completely unacceptable. They also told me to put down the names of the worst troublemakers, and depending on the decision of the CPE (who I spoke to as well - she was disgusted), they could get suspended from school. They said that if it had been a simple case of being disruptive, they would just get detention, but because they had been making fun of me again it was a far more serious disciplinary issue, and suspension was the normal course of action.


I've to hand in the report this afternoon. I'll keep you posted on what happens next!