I can’t believe I have been in France for three weeks now! It never ceases to amaze me how time flies. I started teaching officially yesterday, and wow was it challenging. I teach in 7 classes in the first school, though due to scheduling conflicts, I was only really able to teach in 5 this week. No complaints here :) though I'm sure we will have all the kinks worked out by next week.
The “teaching” basically involved simple games, such as “if you are wearing a blue shirt, stand up!” and “My favorite food is…” Sounds simple enough, but with 20+ kids in one room and a (semi) language barrier, things tend to take longer and be more difficult than expected. There was a lot of French spoken both by the students and me, as they are only 6-11 years old and not very advanced. What’s more, the only English they have been taught so far has been with very heavy French accents; their teachers are the first to admit to me that they themselves are not very strong in English. I found out later that after I left my first class, the students freaked out about how they couldn’t understand a word I said, as an American accent speaking English sounds incredibly different from what they’re accustomed to! Apparently “What is the weather today?” and “Waaat eees ze wezher todaaay?” are not created equal.
It’s been a while since I’ve been around so many kids at once, and I forget how silly and fascinating they are, and how crazy they can become when they are all together! At recess, there is a lot of pushing, running, screaming, scratching, climbing and crying – you name it. There is also usually a group of kids circled around me, asking questions, reciting the alphabet, or singing songs to demonstrate their English skills. I often end up finding a tiny hand in mine, as they like to hold hands with me and walk around the playground. It’s adorable, but I was surprised the first time it happened and couldn’t help but think, “Is this allowed?!” Much like the time a little girl in my class tried to “faire la bise”, or kiss both my cheeks, as is the common greeting in France.
I greet fellow teachers, friends, and most of those I’ve met at least once with the double cheek kiss. It was a little strange at first but surprisingly easy to get used to. However, a student had never attempted it with me! I was a little startled, and looked around for signs of shock or disapproval from fellow teachers or other students. Nobody seemed to mind or even notice! Luckily, I am high up enough that not many brave little kids attempt to reach me ;)
As I mentioned before, French teachers are strong disciplinarians. It has been difficult for me to get accustomed to that role, though I have been able to be stern without having to yell. I only have about 45 minutes in each class so hopefully I won’t have to deal with that too much. However, some kids really need to be watched, as I’m sure all the parents out there know!
Yesterday, one such little boy spent an entire class breaking apart all the things in his pencil case – rulers, pencils, and pens (he got ink everywhere), crumbling his erasers. I, the almighty teaching assistant, took everything of his away and, boom! Problem solved! Not. He started stealing various school supplies from the kid next to him, who then proceeded to cry, resulting in a shakedown and searching of the thief’s person and belongings. It was all very CSI.
Today and tomorrow are dedicated to errand running and lesson planning! I definitely have more responsibility in the classes than I had expected (as in, I got to school and the teachers said, “so what do you have planned for today?”), but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I have a few Halloween crosswords to make, and pictures to draw and label, but I think I’ll make it. Nothing can be more complicated than opening a French bank account! Still working on that….