Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting Into the Groove

Salut mes ami(e)s!

Ah... everything is starting to come together, and I can finally give you a nice update on the last couple of weeks of my life (Mom, I know you are thrilled)! I wrote briefly last week about the house and about getting started in my schools, but now I can give you a little more info.

So, the house. It seems to finally be in a fully livable state! We have all of the essential furniture and appliances, and all of our roommates but one (Roman, who will be moving in next week). AND, most importantly, we finally have gas (for heat and hot water!) and internet!

Here are some pictures:
My bedroom (yes those doors lead to a balcony!)
Our living room
View of the street from my balcony
 Cute, isn't it?

So now about my schools. As I think I may have mentioned, I am working in three elementary schools in downtown Valenciennes. I've visited all three and have spent the last two weeks observing at two of them. All of the teachers and faculty seem really nice, and I am excited to get to work. The French do education a little bit differently, though, so I will have some adjustments to make. First of all, the school day is from 8:30am until 4:45pm, with a two hour break in the middle when most students go home for lunch. This works out really well for me, because I live within walking distance of all of my schools, so I too can go home for lunch (and maybe a nap!). Also, there are no classes on Wednesdays in the elementary schools, so that will make for a nice break in the middle of the week. The second big difference is vacation time. I will have about 8 weeks of (paid!) vacation during the 7 months of my contract. Our first break is for Toussaint (all Saints), and begins the last Wednesday of October and runs through the first week of November. As of right now I am planning a trip to Brussels and Amsterdam for that time. The third (and biggest) difference I have noticed about the French education system is how strict the teachers are. Monday I was observing with a teacher, and a student was playing with his pencil case at his desk. Without a word, she walked over to him, picked up the pencil case, and threw it out into the hall. Later, this same student was playing with pencils and other stuff on his desk, so she walked over to his desk and simply pushed all of his stuff off onto the floor with her arm. A few minutes later, still undeterred, the student was flipping through the pages of his math book while the teacher was lecturing at the board. She was pointing to things on the board with a yardstick, and when she noticed he still wasn't paying attention, she whacked him on the head with the yardstick! It seemed a little extreme, but I had to stifle a giggle, because this kid kind of had it coming. In addition, French teachers are definitely not afraid to yell at their students. An example of some shrieked dialogue from a teacher I observed today (in French of course): Everyone shut up! You are unbelieveable! What? Am I speaking Chinese?! Put your things away, you are wasting my time! Every Thursday you put me in a bad mood because you are such a horrible class! Shut up now! The next person I hear speak will go directly to Madame M*****'s office! Theo! GO! Alexi! GO! Get out of here!" I have witnessed something similar to this in almost every classroom I've been in. I don't know if the that's just the way things work around here, or if the teachers are a little burned out, or what, but again, this was an unruly class that kind of had it coming.

Tomorrow I've got a big meeting at the Inspection Academique (basically the HQ for the school district) to do paperwork and learn how to teach these crazy kids. I had a similar meeting last week that was so useless and boring I was contemplating escape via the third story window, so I'm not exactly looking forward to this meeting either, but if I can get through it I should be able to begin actually teaching next week. I'm really anxious to get into the classroom and show them what I can do, because I know they don't have high expectations of me, and I'm looking forward to surprising them.

But, yeah, that's pretty much the update for now. I'm missing friends and family a WHOLE LOT, so send me an email or get on Skype and say hello!


  1. Dear Sarah, first let me apologize profusely - I may be the worst friend in history. BUT I'm so excited for you and I am TOTALLY JEALOUS of this house you have! I need your E-mail address, young lady, because I will certainly be E-mailing you. I deleted my Facebook (a little haphazardly), so I don't have a way to dig up your contact information. My E-mail address is brockesd ; send me your Skype username, too!
    Love you, miss you, so jealous of you!

  2. Wonderful post...your mother thanks you. Kate could give you some really good tips on classroom management. I'm glad you finally have hot water. Sounds like you now have all the essential amenities. Looking forward to hearing more. Love you WHOLE BUNCHES. Can't wait to come and visit.