The past three days have gone by quickly. On Friday, I had my last day of pedagogical training, thank goodness. Much of it involved myself and about 20 other assistants crammed into the same cold room at the Maison Departemental de l'Education in Saint-Ouen-L'Aumone. First, we were made to sing "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around," by German Smackdown Lady to simulate (again) how it feels for little French children to be instantly immersed in a foreign language. Naturally, this went over with no smirks and no laughs from anyone.
I ended up sitting next to Cigs, who is one of the only three gentlemen in my grade level and region. Cigs smokes and rocks the leather jacket, scarf, and messenger bag look. He also just graduated with a degree in French from Tulane, and so we were both chatting about how even if we'd wanted to teach high school kids, the government would've never let us since we've got stronger language skills. He and I and another fellow, Pittsburgh, probably have the best speaking skills out of the assistants in our region. Cigs is also passably attractive, but terribly quiet, and I can't figure out if he's because he feels some sort of douchey superiority complex, or if he's just really shy. I also can't tell if he's gay, since that's always a likely probability (I hate to say it) with any male French major, at least in my experience.
Now Pittsburgh, I like. Pittsburgh just graduated from NYU and has moxie. He arrived to training two hours late because he wanted to sleep in, which he, of course, did NOT tell German Smackdown Lady. Rather, he stated that he'd missed his RER train, which is, in all honesty, plausible. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh is hilarious, adorably happa, and someone I'd like to get to know better.
Other highlights from the two days included a coffee and soup vending machine that made ghetto fabulous cafe au lait and cafe noisette for 40 eurocents--Canada 2 and I were joking that it was our crack, and we'd go and get hits of caffeine at break times--and a small bakery and deli around the corner where we'd all congregate and buy sandwiches.
Saturday I spent taking care of administrative things; I'm happy to say I FINALLY have a bank account, and can now get on with life and paperwork. I ended up running errands with Charlotte, and afterwards had MacDo (yep folks, that's McDonalds) in France for lunch. You can order on a computer here, and they even have falafel on the menu! The french fries are nowhere near as good, though. I read the rest of the afternoon since I'm under the weather and spent the night in watching Avatar for the first time entirely in French with the kids. Emma fell asleep on the floor and at midnight Charlotte took her up to bed.
Today is a beautiful fall day, in the mid-fifties with sunshine, so I went to the National Domaine of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which is a regional forest nearly the size of Paris. I ran on some cozy trails, which brought my stress level down. I've been overwhelmed with what I'm supposed to be doing next week in my classrooms; it's still so damn confusing.
I have never before appreciated how much more efficient the U.S. government is than the rest of the world. France is a bureaucratic nightmare, and because of that, I and the rest of the 9 month assistants have no effing clue what we're doing. The main difference between us and the 7 monthers is that if you're in for 7, you're simply an aide to the teacher in the classroom. If you're a 9 monther, you ARE the teacher. You make the lesson plans, you are responsible. The problem with that is that a) my two schools HAVE NO materials for English, which means I have to make them all, and I'm not getting paid for a single second of prep and b) my kids are far behind where they theoretically should be since they have learned English from teachers who have been mandated to teach it without speaking a word of it.
It's also horridly inefficient because France imports new assistants every single year. I can't imagine how much of a paperwork nightmare it must be, and I don't understand why they don't just start to train ALL of their elementary school teachers to teach English over--oh, say--the next 20 years or so. Cigs and I agreed that we'd be much more useful training teachers to teach English since we're both basically fluent in French, but alas, it's not my choice.
France's language teaching theory is all screwed up too. If it were up to me, the first thing these kids would learn would be the alphabet, in English. However, as German Smackdown Lady puts it, "we MUST adhere to the guidelines set forth by the European Council on blah-de-blah-de-blah," and so instead, I have to teach them pre-determined sets of vocab and phrases in a four part process: 1) listening 2) memorization 3) reading 4) writing. Ugh. Can it be next weekend yet?
Otherwise, life is pretty good. I'm settling in and finally getting a grip on things. I'm just praying that the kids don't murder me on Monday and that the transportation strike that's slated for Tuesday actually happens, because if it does, I don't have to work, which gives me more time to figure out what the hell I'm doing while getting paid to sit at home. Also, a shout-out to the Bears who killed UCLA this past weekend in football americain for a fabulous homecoming!
A toute a l'heure.