Archive | January, 2012

Teaching English in France: Take 2

29 Jan

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.

Another view of Rennes

25 Jan

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.

I like this photo because I think the city feels timeless and classic.

I pass this building nearly everyday and forget to notice how grand it truly is.

What he loved most about this building is the dome on the roof.

"Les Colombages" - never cease to amaze, especially coming from a country so young.

Renne's modern side.

This house is on a slant...

A very cool corner of Rennes I had not seen until he brought me.

Est-ce qu'il y a des Bretons qui puissent me dire ce que cela signifie?

Le jardin du Thabor - big beautiful park in Rennes!

I've visted Thabor before but never saw these tiny huts... they house lots and lots of larger birds.

La Cathédrale de St. Aubin

This may be my favorite photo - such a beautiful view of Place Ste. Anne

He loves statues - this one is in memory of the soldiers of the two World Wars.

I would have never seen this fountain if he hadn't shown me this walk he took one day when I was teaching.

street art on the canal

I love this wall now. Dominic told me it reminded him of all the World War II movies he's seen.

Happy New Year!

12 Jan

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:

Le Père Noel à Rennes

Les illuminations à Paris

Les Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Place Vendôme, Paris

Place Vendôme , Paris

Parc Montsouris, 14e, Paris

Cygnes noirs, Parc Montsouris, 14e, paris

Rue Daguerre (rue piétonne) et les marchés français, 14e, Paris

Rue Daguerre (rue piétonne) et les marchés français, 14e, Paris

Rue Daguerre (rue piétonne) et les marchés français, 14e, Paris

Christmas in Rouen

Rouen Cathedral

L’endroit où on a brulé Jeanne d’Arc, Rouen


 du réveillon, chez des cousins, Rouen

Fois gras maison, Christmas Day, Rouen

Cool « colombages », Rouen

Cool « colombages », Rouen

Le Mont St. Michel

Calvados shop, French countryside

New Orleans Saints vs Atlanta Falcons, full re-plan, on TV in France!

Pont Pegasus, Bénouville, Normandie

American Cemetary, near Omaha Beach, Normandy

Omaha Beach, Normandy

New Year's Eve in Paris 🙂