Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Assistant de Langue en France

I have had this post in draft mode for weeks, trying to organize my thoughts because I just don't even know where to begin with to describe my last month or two with TAPIF. As much as it's been beyond confusing and, at times, seriously stressful... I am still so happy that it has given me an opportunity to combine my two greatest passions in life.

I guess you could say that confusion has been the presiding feeling over the last few weeks. I came here assuming all the schools and their administrators would have already figured out when they wanted me to teach, what grades, and what classes. This was not the case. We actually started this discussion after I met with my assigned schools and from there it was difficult for them to all decide when would work best for them.  Luckily, it all was resolved after a month of back and forth and I received a definite schedule.

Today, I had my first day of teaching in one of my schools-- it felt SO good to get back to teaching. When I think about it, I haven't been in a classroom as a teacher in at least 5 months. It is always such a rush to be up in front of my students and be able to get them excited about what we are learning. It definitely put me in a great mood to be back doing what I love again.

I had prepared a bunch of new speaking games, writing activities, and even a powerpoint to present. Sadly, the computers at this particular school are so old that either Powerpoint ran too slow OR it hadn't even been installed. After talking to le directeur, we decided that I would just bring my own laptop to connect to the projectors next time. I spent my TWO HOUR lunch at the school and ended up talking with a girl who is student teacher for most of the time, though I had brought my Kindle-- just in case!

In this particular school I was initially told that I'd be mostly working in the CE2 and CM1 classes, where the kids are probably between 3rd and 5th grade. At the last minute though, I was also asked to work in the younger classrooms (maternelle) where the kids are 2.5-6, but this will mostly consist of reading stories, playing games or singing songs. Should be interesting!

In addition to the two schools I am teaching at, I'll also be teaching through Skype. This portion of TAPIF seems to be in the early/testing stages, so it's been a little bit more unclear as to what is expected of me. However, I start next Monday with the online portion, so I guess I'll end up learning as I go!

Despite some of the confusion and stress that comes with starting a new job, moving to a new country, or in my case both, I have been so lucky to have such wonderful people in my corner to help me out with all the bumps. Of course, my family and friends are on this list and they've been amazing as of late, but in addition to them-- all the school administrators, teachers, as well as the administrators through TAPIF have been nothing but considerate and helpful. I know I can call or email any of them at any point with any concern and know they will do their best to help me out. Most of them even offer me rides home and go out of their way to make sure I get home safely after a meeting or teaching.

In addition to this, la inspectrice of my district, who oversees the majority of schools in my little region, has made it a point to help us with our schedules so that they are not too complicated. In fact, she even went as far to indicate to the schools that the language assistants working in her districts are not allowed to work Fridays-- wow!-- so that we can "bien profiter" and have a chance to travel while we are here.

Because not all of us assistants have the same administrators handling our positions, I have heard some horror stories about difficult commutes or scheduling difficulties where some of my friends are jumping all over the place, some every day of the week! I am very grateful to have received the schedule I now have and to have someone looking out for me and my time in France. Now that it's all finalized, I can give you all a better sense of what my days will be like for the next 7 months.

7-8am Au Pair work; 9-11:15am and 2:15-4:30 Skype Teaching; 6:30-8:30pm Au Pair work

7-8am Au Pair work; 9:30-11:30am and 1:30-3:30pm Teaching in School in Saint Chamond 6:30-8:30pm Au Pair work

7-8am Au Pair Work; No Teaching; 5:30-8:30pm Au Pair Work

7-8am Au Pair Work; 9:30-11:30am and 1:30-3:30pm Teaching in School in Rive de Gier; 6:30-8:30pm Au Pair Work

7-8am Au Pair Work; No Teaching; 6:30-8:30pm Au Pair Work

8am-12pm Au Pair Work


Not bad, right? And in between those hours and planning for my teaching, I feel like I am kept occupied enough, but still have enough flexibility to enjoy life here.

And, as a quick au pair update, I've smoothed over some of my concerns with la famille and things seems to be back on the right track-- especially now that I have my own room and bathroom (photos to come). They've told me they are more than willing to move my hours around in case I want to go to a happy hour or go to the movies some night during the week. They also keep offering me their manual car, but I am still a little nervous to take it out on my own in case I run into problems.

It is a bit harder living in the suburbs, but I think I can manage for the 7 months that I have left... especially once I am comfortable with the car. After all, that's not a lot of time, and living with the family has afforded me many more opportunities to practice my French and even travel, in addition to some serious financial security. Plus, it's nice to come home to a family that cares about how my day was and is able to help me when I need it! It's even better now that the kids have begun to listen better and we (the parents and I) are actively working on improving the discipline when issues do arise.

Overall, life in France has been pretty good. I have found myself much more homesick this time around and I am not entirely sure as to why that is, but I have always been told that living abroad provides a constant roller coaster of possible emotions-- so I am just trying to ride it all out. But the packages my family have been sending definitely help (hint, hint!).

Luckily, I also have a lot more traveling to look forward to and will definitely continue to make an effort to even travel by myself to have some "me time" on occasion. It's so nice to be only a train ride away to a new and beautiful city! Currently, I am looking into going a few towns over this weekend for a day trip with one of my friends. The weekend after, la famille and I are going to Paris for the dad's birthday. Of course this will include some sightseeing, but we are also going to Disneyland Paris for a day for the kids-- though I am kind of excited to go back as an adult, as well.

Clearly, my next post will be travel related :)

Things I've Learned:
  • Teachers can wear JEANS to work! Which means I can wear jeans too! Happy day. 
  • Movie theaters offer popcorn in two forms-- salé (salted, but no butter) or sucré (sweet/sugary). I was caught off guard when they asked me which one I wanted because I just assumed it would be the same as back in the U.S.
  • Apparently, middle names aren't AS common in France. One of my friends was confused as to what my last name was Pemberton or Victoria, because he had seen both on Facebook over the years... hello cultural difference! My two au pair kiddos have TWO middle names though because they were both given grandfathers' names in addition to their first names.
  • Keeping up a checking account and credit card account in the US as well as a debit account is proving to be complicated. In order to be able to continue paying for my American credit card as I use it, I pay through my American debit account... but because I am receiving my salary through my French debit account, I of course need to do a wire transfer from my French to my American debit account in order to have enough funds to pay for my American credit card. WHEW. At least I am building up good credit, right?
  • The French equivalent of saying cheers with a drink in hand is: Santé. This essentially wishes you good health. More importantly though, I learned that it is absolutely necessary to look each person in the eye and say it to them individually-- same rules apply during a large dinner party, trust me, I experienced it!

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