So as I write this I’m sitting on the boat waiting to leave France. I finished my year as a language assistant a week ago before spending a couple of days away with my parents but now it is time to say ‘Au Revoir‘ to France for the time being. This year has been amazing and better than I thought it would be and I was a little sad to leave my schools. From the chorus of ‘no’s’ and ‘please stay’ to all of the lovely pictures and gifts that I got from my three schools it certainly made it a little hard to leave. Along with that I had to leave the girls in the apartment not knowing when we would see each other in person again, the problem with us all living in different countries. Travelling to a different country not knowing who you are going to be staying with can be hard, you never know if you will get along or how the year will go. I was very fortunate that we all got along so well and became like a little family, moaning about school problems together and going on day trips to avoid boredom setting in. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to pass the year with.
Before setting off to be an assistant I didn’t really know what I would be doing and the idea that I had was not very accurate so lets talk about a few things you might want to know before becoming a language assistant. Of course as I was in France the paperwork and ‘l’adminstration’ was complicated, I think they must have a form to fill out for every little thing that goes on in society so be prepared. From the schools to health insurance to the infamous CAF you will probably spend half of your time filling out forms that you have already filled out a thousand times before. Also be prepared to have about 100 photocopies of every document you have because you never know when they might asked for ‘your mother’s mother’s birth cert‘ or something ridiculous. Once everything is filled out be prepared then to wait an eternity for a response, they aren’t going to rush, sure they take 2 hours for lunch so that stamp on that form can wait until tomorrow.
Another thing to note is to not be fooled by the name of the job ‘assistant de langue’, of course literally translated this means language assistant and when you hear this you think yes I’ll be in the classroom assisting the teacher with English. Well that is what I thought as well but let’s be honest that’s not what I was doing. I was basically the teacher for 30-45 minutes which when you arrive the first day is very daunting, thinking you will only be helping a little bit but are actually teaching the whole class when you have nothing prepared is certainlyone way to start the experience. Let’s just say that after that I was lesson planning every week to make sure that never happened again. The old favourites of Simon Says and Bingo are great when you have no idea what to do. I would say be prepared to be in front of a class of 25-30 eager kids staring at you waiting to say something. Preparation is key and I wish someone had told me that before I came over, would have made my first week a little easier.
Even though I had many days when I would come home to the apartment and have a moaning session with one of the girls about the french school system in the end it all worked out. When you see the progression in even one child from the day you come in to the day you leave. Maybe they have a little bit more confidence when they speak or can proudly say ‘My name is‘ then it all makes it worth it. As I told myself there is only so much that I can do in the short time that I am there but I can give them the basics and make my classes as fun as possible. Those were the things that made the experience, everyday walking into the school to a chorus of ‘Hello Emma‘ and ‘Are you doing English with us today?’ to meeting my kids on the street and hearing the whispers ‘C’est le prof d’anglais’ as explication to their parents who were looking at me strangling thinking who are you saying hello to my child.
I would certainly recommend being a language assistant to anyone who is doing a foreign language. It is a great way to travel and see a new country, you only work 12 hours a week so you have plenty of time to explore. You will get to meet some amazing people in the other assistants who you will party with having only said hello to them once about 2 months ago at orientation. You will get to have some amazing classes basically acting like a child again, that is if you do primary and of course there were people who did not have the best of experiences with their classes but for me it was all positive. It true that there may be days when you really just want to shake the kids when after 4 months of doing the same to questions every class and they still don’t know, or when your teachers are just getting on your nerves or nothing is going right but hang in there. In the end you will look back and think that they were the things that made the experience and made you a stronger person for sticking it out.
Alors c’est au revoir pour le moment la France mais je reviendrai , c’est sur.
So this week I think Draguignan finally decided it was October because up until now the weather has been pretty good but for the last week it has been windy and raining and just generally pretty crappy. This week was the beginning of the holidays of Toussaint so I only had school on Tuesday and Wednesday which was nice. I spent the week talking about Halloween and trying to explain the traditions that we do. We got there in the end with the use of flashcards,me explaining things about a thousand times and also acting things out like an idiot. I can now see that this year is going to be part teaching and part me acting like an idiot but hey if the kids learn something by the end it will be worth it. I am also still like a celebrity in the schools, every time I walk in I am greeted with a chorus of ‘hello‘, it is very nice I have to say but I wonder how long it will last until the novelty wears off.
Also this week after having a cold and then talking so much my voice gave out and by Thursday it was pretty much gone, luckily I didn’t have classes. It was a strange feeling because I talk ALOT and I thought I had built up a tolerance for talking but no , one week of teaching and it was gone. The old favourite of hot water and honey plus me not talking at all and it is back and right as rain which is good. It would be a bit hard to be an English teacher with no voice.
As I said we started our holidays on Thursday so we spent Thursday and Friday just relaxing and talking some time to recharge. We planned to head on a little trip on Saturday but the bus time tables just weren’t being our friend. We could get to our destination but then the bus back would have already left, there was no logic in it. Seeing as we didn’t have any plans I decided to head to the market on Saturday morning as I hadn’t had the opportunity to go up to now. Markets in France are one of my favourite things and I remember when I was on Erasmus we spent nearly every Saturday morning just wandering around the market. The sights, smells and sounds are amazing, friends gossiping away in french , the smell as you walk by the cheese stand or the sound of sizzling skin on the roasting chicken. The really are a feast for the senses and such a lovely way to spend a morning, especially when the sun us shining. I decided to get a chocolate éclair to treat myself which I have to say was an amazing idea. The French really do know how to do bread and cakes properly.
We have a little balcony in our apartment and as the sun sets right in front of it sometimes when you look out you can get the most amazing view of the sky all lit up. There is also a very large tree that is in the way and kind of blocks the view but it still looks amazing so I’ll forgive it, haha!!!
Now with the holidays we are planning on doing some trips so hopefully my next post will be filled with photos and my thoughts on new places. Also the good weather seems to have returned and as I write this the sun is shining so I don’t think they have really got the memo here that it is October.
This week was my first week teaching and it was an interesting experience. I spent Monday running between my different schools and calling people to try and figure our my time table as I hadn’t gotten it yet but once that was sorted I was good to go. I only work Tuesday to Friday from 8h30-12hoo which is grand. It’s nice to have Monday off so I can have a long weekend or if I plan any little trips I don’t have to be in school on Monday. Along with this it is great only working in the morning as I have my afternoons free to do other things.
So Tuesday I started and headed for my first school ready to get stuck in. Unfortunately they were not quite so ready for me so I spent the day researching Halloween for my classes next week which was a nice way to spend the morning. Wednesday I headed for my next school and got a shock when the teacher asked me did I have anything to photocopy. I confidently said ‘no‘ and began thinking this should be interesting. So I was just given the class to teach by myself and I had zero material prepared. It was probably the longest hour of my life with kids expectantly waiting for me to teach them and then the teacher just sitting at the back watching everything I did. To say I winged it was an understatement. After the initial introductions were done I noticed a poster of the body out of the corner of my eye and thought lets go with that. After some games of Simon Says and some verses of ‘head,shoulders,knees and toes’ the class finally came to an end and I let out a sigh of relief. Next up I had the youngest in the school who I think were about 4/5 years old so that was a little easier just going over the basics of ‘my name is’ and then some counting. The rest of the day went by with me making things up on the spot , but I don’t think anyone really noticed. When I came home I saw that I would have to get something prepared for class the next day and this year was not going to be like I thought it was. Thursday and Friday were spent in my last school with me asking ‘What is your name?’ and ‘How old are you?’ about 200 times I would say. I used the classes to get to know the children and gauge their level of English. Again it was a little intimidating having the teacher just sitting down the back watching you but they were all really nice so sometimes you just have to get one with it, act the fool and exaggerate your pronunciation of everything.
This week really has been an eye opener into what this year will be like. It looks like I will just be given the classes to teach by myself so planning is going to be key. I can’t be winging it for 45 minute lessons. Also I have to try and figure out going from one class with the oldest in the school down to the youngest and trying to make my lessons fun. Just talking to a class of 25 is not easy because after 10 minutes they start to get bored or it’s always the same people who will answer the questions. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll learn as I go and until then I’m just thinking back to all those times I went to school with mam and how she acted. Along with this I now know why my mam was always so tired after a day in school , I only teach for the morning and in the afternoons I am wrecked, so hats off teachers. With this after all my exaggerated pronunciation (which I’m sure looked hilarious) and talking so much this weekend I can feel the beginnings of a sore throat so I have spent it in bed taking preventive measures.
So that was the first week and it was interesting, I am certainly not a qualified teacher and don’t even know if the kids will remember anything I said but hey repetition is everything and if they can confidently say what their name is and how old they are by Christmas (hopefully) I’ll be happy.
Is it weird that although these kids are like more than 10 years younger than me I still feel too young to teach them? HAHA 🙂
Until next week.
No trips this week so here is a photo of Draguignan that I took my first week here.