I am writing this from my 12:50 train from Elbeuf to Rouen. I caught the 7:40 bus to the metro to the Rouen train station this morning, and took the train into Elbeuf for the first time. Yay public transportation! Elbeuf was slightly more charming than Google Earth might suggest, but I believe the fact that it’s sunny (yet again!) today makes everything look nicer.
I also met my contact person, Nicole, who is basically seeing me through this whole process. To say that she is nice or helpful is a gross understatement. She met me in her car at the Elbeuf train station, to her office, and then took me to each of the schools where I will be teaching, introducing me to the teachers and the students. She even bought me lunch before I caught the train back to Rouen! I tried to insist that was not necessary, but she would not have it.
I met all of the teachers, about 15-20 between the two schools, and I introduced myself (in French, for now!) to “my” future students. They are no older than 11, some as young as 6 in some classes. I had imagined that I would spend my time in one classroom in one school, and in one classroom at the second school. However, the plan is that I will teach one day per week at each of the schools, meaning a full 6-hour day at each school per week. I will go around to each classroom and spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour in each of 5-9 classes.
This situation would be ideal because it means I only have to travel from Rouen to Elbeuf two times per week; the cost would add up quickly if the commute were several days per week. Also, if the teachers at the two schools accept my proposed schedule, I will be working in one school on Thursdays and the other on Fridays. This would give me a Saturday-Wednesday weekend! I could get used to that J
For the most part the students seemed receptive albeit a bit reserved at first, understandably so. They are excited to have somebody all the way from the U.S, and I hope I can be truly helpful in developing their accents and their confidence in saying simple English phrases. Some of the older students in the second school were raising their hands and demonstrating their English skills. I got many a “Hello!” and “My name is!” as well as colors, numbers, etc. This makes me so excited that they are already enthusiastic. I left to a chorus of “Gouuudd byeee!” in the last class I visited. I have a good feeling so far.
The teachers themselves were incredibly welcoming and happy to have somebody to help them in teaching English. I was worried that they might feel as if I was stepping on their toes, but it was quite the opposite; I even enjoyed a café in the teacher’s lounge while they took their post-recess break.
Back at her office, Nicole called several landlords for me and actually secured me a meeting with one of them for later this afternoon. Though I am confident in my French in casual conversation, a telephone conversation with a landlord is a completely different story! It’s all business, and if they feel that you are unsure of how the ‘system’ works, or sense a naïveté about you, you could get… hoodwinked, to put it nicely! As I listened to her navigate her way through the conversation, I was immensely glad that she offered to call for me. I would have been lost.
Next Monday is the assistants’ orientation, and Tuesday and Thursday I observe one full day at each school, along with a half-day observations at each school on Friday. The following week, I officially begin my assistantship. This week, however, I continue my apartment search, open a bank account, buy my weekly/monthly/yearly (who knows yet) train/bus/metro passes, and generally get settled. Whew!
Knowing I have somebody to call if I need help is an immense weight off my shoulders. Nicole told me that if I have any troubles at all, or if I am unsure of anything about the apartment, to call her right away. As they say in French, “j’ai de la chance!” - I am very lucky!
I am crossing my fingers about this apartment viewing later, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I guess I’ll know soon!
Edit: While writing this, I missed my stop to Rouen by 25 mins. Oops! So I got back on a train in the opposite direction and arrived in Rouen in time to see the apartment. It went well enough, we meet again tomorrow to go over all of the paperwork! Wish me luck again! :)