So as my time in France slowly comes to a close, I am slowly becoming busier and busier (school assignments, planning lessons, making arrangements to leave). I haven’t had much time to explore and make new posts.
However, in one week, in the good French way, there will be another school vacation! During this time, I will have the chance to explore many different towns in the South. I am very excited and cannot wait to show you what I see.
En France, il est populaire de voyager à la montagne pour voir de la neige et faire du ski pendant les vacances de l’hiver. Moi, j’ai fait pareil. Qu’est-ce que c’était chouette!
C’était ma première fois de voir tellement de neige et je l’ai fait dans les Alpes françaises ! J’ai eu l’occasion de rester chez un Louisianais (de la Nouvelle-Orléans même) qui est stagiaire dans un hôtel à Courchevel. Une prof m’a dit que Courchevel est la station de ski la plus chic et la plus grande de la France. Elle était comme je ai imaginé : des chalets couverts d’un manteau de neige, la poudreuse fraîchement tombée sur fond des beaux monts blancs.
Je me suis mise au ski et j’ai fait de la luge. En plus, j’ai goûté à la vraie fondue Savoyarde aux trois fromages, préparée avec de l’ail, du vin blanc sec et des « trois fromages » – du Beaufort (produit en Savoie, un département dans la région Rhône-Alpes), de l’emmental (un fromage suisse) et du comté (produit normalement en Franche-Comté, mais dans ce cas-ci, c’est du comté savoyarde). C’est très bon !
Voici quelques photos de cette expérience inoubliable.
In France, it is popular to travel to the mountains for snow and skiing during the winter vacation. I decided to follow suit, and I was amazing!
It was my first time to see so much snow and it was in the French Alps no less! I had the chance to stay with a Louisianan (from New Orleans even) who is interning in a hotel in Courchevel. Courchevel is the biggest and chicest ski resort in France. It looked just as I imagined: beautiful chalets covered with blankets of freshly fallen snow against a back drop of the white mountain tops.
I skied (one time, my first time) et sledded. In addition, I tasted the real “fondue Savoyarde”, made with garlic, dry white wine and the “three cheeses” – beaufort (produced in Savoy, a department in the Rhone-Alps region), emmental (a Swiss cheese) and comté (normally produced in the Franche-Comté region but in this case was comté Savoyard). It was so delicious!
Here are some photos of my unforgettable experience:
The second semester started of like the first, with one significant difference. Instead of feeling confused by my place in the classroom, my role with most of my new teachers is now well-defined: I am charged with helping the students prepare for things, specific things. In my class of BTS, it is their certificate exam this summer. For my terminals, we are preparing orals for the Bac. In one class of seconds, I am helping them work on a project about gender discrimination. With another, we are preparing for the Cambridge certificate.
These exams are quite difficult. Students are given a document. It could be an advertisement, a text, a cartoon, a role play. They are given 10 minutes to prepare and then must talk for 10 minutes. At first, the teachers told me to “practice” with the students. They’d provide a document for the student. He or she would prepare for 10 minutes and then come with me to play it out like an exam situation. I would be the stand in for the examiner. After the 10 minutes, the student would scurry back to class and I was to provide feedback for the teacher, including the range in which I thought the student would have scored had this been the real deal.
Ideally, each student should talk alone continuously for three to four minutes, after which the examiner, or me, intervenes to ask questions and deepen the discussion. The scenario rarely plays out this way. In fact, most presentations fall flat in around two and a half minutes. This, I find, is due to lack of a plan. The students are given 10 minutes to prepare, and I am not sure they know what to do during that time.
The teachers often look to the assistant to help the students refine and reformulate what they say. My question is: how can I correct them if they do not know what to say? There are many battles that come alone with the work of a language teacher. As a language teaching assistant, one has the right to choose which of these to take on. The one I’ve chosen is strategy.
Even when the teacher asks me to “play”, I more often than not abandon my role as examiner to offer tips to the student. It’s all a formula, and that is what I want the students to see. The information they need is right there on the document, regardless of its nature. They could easily, and with no loss of credit, burn through an entire two minutes of talk time simply describing the document in detail, which, of course, is something they are expected to do.
I work well using lists – my tasks always seem less daunting when I have them laid out in front of me – so I am testing this strategy first. I give the students a list of very straight-forward questions, almost an order of operations, to help them figure out what to say. For example, when looking at an ad, they must say who is advertising the product, what product is being advertised, and for whom is it being advertised, among other things. If they answer each question as thoroughly and detailed, which they are more than capable of, they will have plenty talk about on their own until the examiner takes over.
To my surprise, this tactic is working well. First of all, they actually copied down the questions I gave them. Secondly, they asked questions as we worked! There is nothing more satisfying to me at this stage than a student who is invested enough in what we are doing to ask questions. I am thinking that I will even type up the “formula” for all of my students. I can try to tell them something about how, next time I see them and we practice, I better not have to remind them about the method, but I don’t want to push it…
Tandis que tous mes compatriotes louisianais savourent les King Cakes (galettes de roi en forme de couronne faites de brioche au glaçage aux couleurs violette, verte et or), nous en France, on se délecte d’une tradition pareille : la Galette de Rois. J’étais contente de découvrir que cette tradition existe en France. Jusqu’à présent, rater le Mardi Gras et tout ce qui vient avec cette saison suscite le plus les sentiments de nostalgie et de mal du pays parmi notre groupe. Heureusement pour nous, on a quelque chose à nous réconforter.
Les galettes de roi françaises sont faites de pâte feuilletée fourrée avec frangipane (ma galette préférée), fruit (la galette de pomme ressemble à « Apple Pie »), crème, chocolat, etc. La tradition, qui célèbre l’Epiphanie, veut qu’on « tire le roi. » Une fève en porcelaine est cachée dans la galette. La personne qui « tire la fève » devient roi pour la journée et a le droit de porter une couronne en carton d’orée. Les fèves étaient, j’ai entendu d’une Française, originalement des bébés et symbolisaient le bébé Jésus, comme on trouve dans les King Cakes en Louisiane. Actuellement, les fèves sont souvent des personnages mais peuvent représenter n’importe quoi ! Il y en a qui les collectionnent.
(En France, j’ai plus de chance en tirant la fève que j’ai eue en Louisiane en tirant le bébé. J’en ai tiré trois !)
While my fellow Louisianians are savoring their King Cakes, we in France are taking pleasure in a similar tradition: La Galette de Roi. I was happy to learn that this tradition existed in France. Until now, missing Mardi Gras and all that comes with Carnival seasons has stirred up feelings of nostalgia and homesickness the most in our group. Fortunately, we have something that offers us a little comfort.
The French Galette de Roi is made of a flaky pastry and is filled with frangipane (my favorite), fruit (the apple one tastes like apple pie!), chocolate, cream, etc. The tradition, which celebrates Epiphany, calls for “pulling the king.” A porcelain figurine is hidden in the cake. The person who gets it becomes king for the day and wears a golden crown made of cardboard. A French lady told me that these figurines were originally in the shape of babies to symbolize the baby Jesus, like what we find in our King Cakes in Louisiana. Now, they are usually random characters but could be nearly anything. There are even people who collect them.
(In France, I have more luck getting the fève than I had in Louisiana with getting the baby. In fact, this season, I got three.)
Après avoir habité en Bretagne pendant trois mois, en fin je me suis rendue sur la cote, à la ville de St. Malo. St. Malo est une très petite ville dans le nord du département Ille-et-Vilaine dans la région de la Bretagne. Je suis restée dans La Ville Intra-muros, une vieille partie de la ville, presque une ile, entourée par une muraille qui donne sur la Manche. On a passé tout l’après-midi en se promenant entre les bâtiments et en dessus de la muraille. Le temps a fait très beau, mais pas aussi belle que la ville et la mer. Même les photos ne les avantagent pas, surtout pas le bleu breton qui est absolument fantastique.
After having lived in Brittany for three months, I finally made it to the cost, to St. Malo. St. Malo is a very small city in the north of the department Ille-et-Vilaine in the north of Brittany (the same departement as Rennes). I stayed in La ville Intra-muros, an old part of the city, practically an island, surrounded by a wall that looks onto the English Channel. We spent the afternoon strolling between buildings and on top of the wall. The weather was absolutely beautiful!… but not as beautiful as the town and the sea. Even the photos do not do it justice, especially not the Brittany blue that was just incredible to see.
Originally, I wanted to write a post about my teaching experience once a week. It’s been difficult, however, to find substantial material to discuss because my work week has been somewhat unpredictable. My schedule is ordinarily sporadic, but, for the first few weeks of November, I was not even able see most of classes. In some cases, the students were taking exams. In others, the professor was out. As a rule, assistants are not to be left in charge of the whole class, so to make up for teaching hours lost, the teachers would gave me alternative tasks to complete, such as acting out and recording a dialogue at home.
I last left off writing about my new-found teacher mentality and my decision to make planning and preparation a priority. Thus, each week, I kept my word and put forth a concerted effort to consult each professor and outline the session beforehand. In a retrospective self-evaluation, I gave myself a 9/10 for preparedness. As it turns out, having a plan was only half the battle.
The English classes I teach in France are organized differently than my French classes were when I was in high school. I remember concentrating on practical units, such as talking about family, travel, transportation, how to order at restaurants, etc. In France, the units are centered on very complex and exhaustive topics that can be difficult for even a native speaker to elaborate. These include street art, the suspense thriller and India. This caused me to overestimate the students’ speaking abilities, resulting in lessons that fell flat.
The primary example is when I brought the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s Thriller to one class of seconds and asked the students to watch the video and choose words that corresponded to “thriller” – words such as darkness, moonlight, scream, scared, etc. They were completely lost. Then I brought video clips containing no dialogue of Alfred Hitchcock scenes – one was the famous Psycho scene and the other was the final attack scene from The Birds. I was very excited about this one! I planned all night, writing discussion questions and researching Alfred Hitchcock, if anything just to open the door to this kind of cinema. I found out that the more excited I am, the more disappointed I will be. They were completely unimpressed.
In addition, my role (I say my role because each assistant I’ve talked to has a different experience from the next one) in the classroom changes with each professor. For the most part, I do just what my job title implies: I assist the teacher. They either, as with the seconds, ask me to find a specific kind of activity to work on separately with my small group of students, or I go to class with them and do any number of things for them. So far, I have recorded students’ assignments for the teacher to grade at a later time, supervised and helped with group work and just observed the class session. In other words, I haven’t done much teaching, and I haven’t felt very good about it.
The first semester is over which unfortunately means I only have three months left of my contract. It also means, however, that I get the chance at a fresh start with new classes and new teachers, as well as the opportunity to do work I feel better about. I already do feel better, in fact.
Just after the Christmas holiday, I began working on test preparation with one of the BTS real estate classes I talked briefly about in my first observation post. (They were out on internships for the months leading up to Christmas.) The students will be taking an important exam in June that determines future successes in this field. I work with students individually practicing the tasks they will be asked to complete the day of the exam. In this class, which is different from my experience in most of my other classes, I feel … useful. I will also be working with two new professors. I have already met with one and discussed the plans and goals for the upcoming semester. With his class, we will be working on an interdisciplinary project on discrimination. I am very interested to see how this will turn out.
I’ve noticed that these kids apply themselves more when their effort has a direct effect on a grade, a project, an exam, etc. In addition, the classes I will keep from last semester are much more comfortable with me know. They know that I speak French and can help them translate a word or a phrase into English, and sometimes they even have a little bit of fun. I am also more comfortable now. I know the system and am in a better position to make use of the time I have with the students.
I have got the hang of it now, and my goal is not to let myself get so discouraged when things don’t work out exactly as planned.
On dit que lorsqu’on passe beaucoup de temps dans une ville, on commence à ne plus voir toutes les merveilles qui existent toujours. Elles deviennent normales, peut-être banales. C’est soit au moment où on retourne après une absence, soit au moment où quelqu’un vient nous voir, qu’on voit de nouveau notre ville de la façon dont on l’a vue pour la première fois.
La semaine passée, mon copain est venu me rendre visite des Etats-Unis. Comme c’était son premier séjour en France, j’ai décidé de lui laisser mon appareil photo pour qu’il puisse nous montrer tous les petits coins de Rennes que je ne vois plus, ou bien que je n’ai jamais vus du tout. Les résultats de cette petite expérience étaient magnifiques !
They say that after you spend a lot of time in a city, you forget to notice all the marvels that exist around you. They become normal, even banal. It’s either once you return after a long absence, or once someone comes to visit that you see your city again the way you did the first time you saw it.
Last week, my boyfriend came to visit me from the United States. It was his first stay in France, so I decided to leave him my camera so that he could show us all the small corners of Rennes that I don’t see anymore, or that I might have never even seen at all. The results of this experiment were magnificent!
All photos are compliments of Dominic Colavito.
Voici quelques photos des beaux bâtiments qui se trouvent à travers Rennes.
Bonjour tout le monde !
J’espère que vous avez passée de très joyeuses fêtes … bonne année 2012 !
Je suis désolée d’avoir pris si longtemps d’écrire. Pendant les vacances de Noel, ma famille – ma mère, mon père et ma sœur – est venue me rendre visite. J’étais vraiment contente de les recevoir comme on a vu pleins de choses ! J’étais triste de les voir partir.
I hope you all had very happy holidays! Happy New Year 2012!
I am sorry to have taken so long to write. During Christmas break, my family – my mom, my dad and my sister – came to visit me. I was so happy to have them as we saw a lot! I was sad to see them leave.
Voici un résumé mes vacances en photos :
Highlights of the trip in photos: