…and secondly, the work side!
I've now been at school for three and a bit weeks (one observing week and two teaching weeks), and time has flown by. My twelve hours are spread 4 monday, 1 tuesday, 5 thursday, 1 friday, and 1 to stack up and use in the second half of my contract (after january) on specific practice for oral exams. The tuesday and friday hours are both 8.20-9.15, which means a very early start (metro at 7.30, which is always a sardine tin although not a business-man in sight), but also a nice early finish leaving me the rest of the day to get on with other things, or plan my next lessons! The English teachers at school are all lovely in their different ways, although slightly confusing because they all want me to do different sorts of things with their classes, some give me totally free choice, one actually prepares my lesson for me, others like to discuss topics to do with them…some like me to base it on what they're currently doing in class while others want it to be complementary. The classes I have are:
Seconde, Première and Terminale "Euro"–yr 11, yr 12, yr 13 classes doing the European Baccalaureat which means they learn (and take exams in) history and geography *in English*.
Première and Terminale "Renforcé"–yr 12 and yr 13 who have chosen 'further english' as one of their Bac options
Première and Terminale S, L: "Normal" classes of yrs 12 and 13, who are doing sciency bacalaureat or literaryish one.
The classes I have are almost entirely half-classes (and I then get the other half the following week), so between 8-15 students. 15 is quite a big group, 8 much much more easy to work with, although 15 can make for good team games. Although a lot of what I am doing reminds me horrifically of what I used to have to do in assistant lessons, I'm not quite doing just conversation, but lessons about cultural topics with the main emphasis on oral work. It's fun, but it's very strange being the teacher and realising that only four years ago you were in the same position as your class. Especially when you can see things both from the teacher's position and the student's, and you realise how much you never thought of at school…Odd. But satisfying when it works and they are interested and keen.
The Euro classes are the nicest. The renforcé classes, strangely, are the worst. The most annoying thing is that by the time they get into 'première' the kids seem to have got utterly bored and/or have had all imagination drummed out of them, so I actually often find the seconde are nicer to teach. The French system of 'laicité' means that you are constantly treading a thin line as soon as you start talking about politics or culture…which, as an assistant, is exactly what one is asked to do. Also, as a result of never really having been educated about other cultures or viewpoints the students find it really hard to empathise with other groups of people and to imagine themselves into situations.
They are taught, endlessly, about America. They know almost nothing about Britain apart from the usual stereotypes (it always rains and the food is disgusting but the people were quite nice). This too seems rather bizarre to me, and so this year is going to be a British culture intensive course. If you can think of anything particularly fun or quirky do suggest it! To French students, France is the centre of the world (of course) and so I was amused to be asked the other day "why do you have a french name?"
The school system is bizarre in that, in a lycée the size of hills road (well, nearly–over 1000 students) there are no departmental offices or corridor pigeon holes, so no way of contacting teachers outside lessons, nor is there anything like form-time or registration, at which the class might gather and be given general information by their class teacher. What there are are "CPE" (conseiller principal d'education) who are employed full-time to do registration admin (given them on a slip by every teacher from every class) and to deal with disciplinary issues. It's all rather different.
School choir is amusing, as they are putting on dido and aeneas (purcell) in English. But the music teacher's well-meaning english pronunciation is rubbish. I am making friends with the girls who do singing at the conservatoire, and we are laughing about it together (and trying not to gang up *too* much on the poor music teachers).
So far, apart from introducing myself to the classes, I've done lessons on the english school system, Britain's place in the E.U, Gandhism, Hallowe'en, Tongue twisters, W H Auden "Stop all the clocks', Ambitions and dreams, 1920s America, Green Living, English houses, The history of Cambridge (town), and multiculturalism in Wembley. To name but a few.
More news soon: time to think about what to do tomorrow morning!