Tuesday, October 4, 2011

...did a 10-year-old just ask me for my number?

Today was my first full day in school! However, I was only observing; next week the actual teaching part will start. That’s when it will get really interesting!

Monday was the first orientation for all of the teaching assistants. I was impressed to learn how many assistants are in Rouen alone, with many more throughout France (I think over 5,000 total). Here, there are assistants teaching English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, German, and Italian. I made lots of new friends and found out that many other assistants are living quite close to me! During the 7-hour orientation, most of the paperwork we are currently supposed to be submitting to the school district/French government was explained, we met crucial contact people, and learned some teaching strategies. All in all a great day

Anyway, back to TODAY – with the kids! I spent the entire day (from 8:30 to 4:40) at my first of two schools I’ll be teaching at. It was fascinating to first observe the differences between schools in France and America. There are many.
View from the train window during my commute to school

Discipline in French schools is not taken lightly. It is a joke in Europe that the kids in America are in charge of the adults, as it is quite the opposite here. All of the following are my observations from one school, so they are, of course, generalizations.

When a child spoke out of turn, they were yelled at loudly and told to be quiet (as in, we could hear other teachers yelling from down the hall). Rulers were rapped on desks more times than I could count. Ridicule and mockery were used freely, though not by all. If a child asked a question that had already been asked earlier, they’d hear, “If you had been listening before, you would have heard!” and the question would go unanswered. Posture in chorus in no joke, hands by your sides! The children addressed their teachers as "Maîtresse", basically, "schoolmaster". The principal is called le Directeur (headmaster) or la Directrice (headmistress, which was the case today). When she entered a classroom, all the students stood and became quiet until she gave them permission to sit; They addressed her only as "Madame la Directrice". Here, the adults are in charge – end of story.

The students were ages 6 to 11, and I spent 45-ish minutes in 7 different classrooms. There are two 20-minute recess breaks throughout the day, and we have from 11:30 to 1:30 for lunch. Yayy, Europe! However, most of the teachers at this particular school work up until 12:30, some even later.

My very first classroom! Apparently "be there by 8:30" in France means 8:40ish ;) 
Now, more about the kids! The younger children were around 6-7, adorable, and pretty tame compared to the 10-11 year olds, who were quite eager to show off their English. In one class, they were describing colors of animals, such as, “Zee bird ees red!” (The bird is red), or “Zee horse ees bleu!” Not too shabby and endearing to boot! In my Q&A session, one child even asked me what my number was. I thought I didn’t have to worry about those kinds of questions in elementary school!!

In French, a casual/cute way of saying hi is “coucou!” I heard a lot of “Coucou, Hannah!” in the hallway, followed by whispers and giggles. It’s hard for me to get into teacher mode and remind them to respect the rule of silence in the hallway when all I want to do is talk with them! All in good time though. At recess, a group of girls approached me and asked if I’d be coming to their class later. I showed them my schedule and told them to see if their teacher was on the list. She was, and they all giggled excitedly and then scurried away. I had a great albeit exhausting day. I can’t imagine how tired I’ll be when I’m actually doing more teaching!! I can tell I am going to get attached to these kids, though J

I love cooking in my little apartment!
Tomorrow I do not have school as the children never have school on Wednesdays, but Thursday I have a full day at my second school, and Friday is split between the two! Now that I got a lot of the paperwork out of the way on Monday, I can focus tomorrow on doing some more errands and preparing teaching materials. For now, it's time for a yummy dinner and some sleeeeep!

If any of you have ideas on how to teach young kids English, or about American culture, feel free to share them with me!

A bientôt J


  1. So interesting to hear about how different the teaching cultures are!

  2. It's crazy - I definitely would have cried if suddenly my teachers acted like that, hah