Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

"I'm back in the saddle again. I'm back! Ridin' high, ridin' high, ridin' high."

Yes, I've been channeling Aerosmith this week, because sometimes you need a little rock and roll to maintain your sanity.

Six weeks of teaching left. I can hardly believe it. My kids still have school until the end of June, so they're not even thinking about summer, but I am about ready to wrap up this whirlwind of a school year. I dove back into classes head first yesterday, and of course they've come back at me with everything they've got. Just before break, some of my students took a big exam over all the English we've learned so far this year. The results were... disappointing, to say the least. The ones who've got it really have it, but the rest... not so much. After some good reflection and discussion with the teacher I work with with these kids, I've determined that these results were not due to lack of effort or efficacy on my part or the teacher's, but rather the fact that our kids simply didn't put in the study time required to really master the vocab. And at the elementary age, you can't really expect them to "study," but the teacher tells me that the ones with the worst scores are habitual offenders on the homework front, and that I shouldn't beat myself up about it. And I'm not. I know I am a great teacher and that I have been working with these kids to the best of my ability, especially given the language barrier, so... tant-pis.

As much as I am anticipating the end of my "tenure" here, though, I'm beginning to realize that there are a lot of things I will miss about this place. I won't miss the small town lifestyle, rude service in restaurants, or the general refusal of most French people to give a damn about anything that doesn't directly affect them and their vacation time, retirement age, or work week length, but I will miss a lot of the little things. For example, most mornings I start my day at Ecole Cariot, about a 7 minute walk from my house. To get there, I have to pass by Ecole Froissart, a school I work at in the afternoons. Since I always pass Froissart just before school starts, I see a lot of my students and their parents on their way into the school, and hearing "Hel-Lo Sar-Ra" in their cute little French accents never gets old. I love the way all the little girls run up to me on the playground when I arrive, to give me bisous (the kiss on each cheek greeting), and how they notice any time I change my hair, wear makeup, or look particularly nice and tell me "Vous etes tres jolie aujourd'hui, Sar-Ra!" (you look very pretty today, Sara!). In essence, I love that they love me. And I will miss the teachers, too. Well, most of them, anyway. I have griped in the past that this job is not very fulfilling, and it isn't, but I have really come to develop a rapport with some of the teachers, even ones I don't work with directly. They're always interested in how I am doing, where I've been traveling, whether or not Joey is my boyfriend (something my kids always ask me, too, and which has become a running joke with Joey and me), and what I will do when I leave France. In the absence of true "roots" like I have at home, having such a supportive and interested community of adults around me has been a wonderful thing.

I will also really miss my roommates. Especially at meal times. I realized last night that some of my happiest times here have not been in Paris or Brussels or Amsterdam, but right at my own dinner table. We're all very busy and have different schedules, so we don't do a lot of things together, but dinner is almost always a "family" affair. We sit and chop vegetables together, munching on scraps, and sipping wine or beer while we chat and cook. We take our time eating, talking and joking with each other in French and English, and the incidence of laughter-induced wine out the nose is at an all-time high (it burns like hell, by the way). It's just such a great feeling of conviviality and community, and I will definitely miss that when I'm gone.

But enough sappiness. I've still got time left to enjoy, and I fully intend to do so. We've had several days of beautiful sunshine and rising temperatures, which has been a welcome change from our normally dreary, rainy days, and my parents and sister will be here in two weeks to visit. Life is very good, for the moment.

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