10 October 2010

Celebrity Status

Friday was by far, one of the longest days I've had in a long while. I left the house at 7h35 to make sure I had plenty of time to find my school and make my 9h00 appointment with the consillière pedagogique, Véronique. What stressed me out was that I only had her name and the address of the school. Unlike the schools I'm familiar with in Renton, schools here have several gates and the main entrances are not clearly marked. I cautiously walked into a building and the teacher there didn't recognize the Véronique's name but explained how to get to the director's office. Even the director's office isn't marked, so it took me a minute or two to find it but I wound up being exactly on time. 

Not knowing what I was in for, I figured I'd either be there for a brief meeting or it would be a day long gig. Fifteen minutes in, Véronique left and I continued to meet with Nicolas, my (gorgeous, Belgian, but married) director. I think I'll enjoy working with him; he is really friendly and très sympa. He told me I'd be there all day, observing several classes and meeting some other teachers. I was introduced to some teachers and their classes and, oh man, all eyes were on me! I felt a little awkward standing there while they stared and whispered but it's okay, because they were super cute!

I forgot how many recesses there are in elementary schools; holy cow are they LOUD! I haven't been around that much noise in a long, long time. It's exhausting! After la récréation, I was dropped off in a class to observe a history lesson, just to see how the class is run. The little boy sitting in front of me kept turning around to try to impress me by showing me how well he could say "thank you!" and then proudly told his friends that I could speak both French and English. I bounced around a few other classes and was given the chance to speak for myself in two of them. In one, I introduced myself completely in English and was scared when no one responded. Not a word. Then the teacher asked them in French about what I had said and their hands all shot up in the air. Whew! Except I had to kill their excitement that I don't live in Washington D.C. but in Washington state.  

I really enjoyed meeting the other teachers I'd be working with. Everyone seems really friendly and helpful and excited to welcome me into their classrooms. I can tell that I'll get along well with them well. I ate lunch dans la cantine with a few of them and was amazed at what I saw. Not only was the school lunch a balanced meal, but there was a ton of food (plus larger portions offered for the teachers) that is on most days, supposed to be quite tasty. I was surprised to see that the kids kept coming up to ask their teacher if they'd eaten enough of their food to go to recess - usually the answer was no...

After I finished eating, I made a big mistake by going into the bathroom. I was very surprised at the set up: a row of stalls on the side walls and the back wall with a row of urinals, sinks in the middle and a toilet paper dispenser at the entrance (not inside the stalls). So boys, girls, and teachers all use the same bathroom. I don't know about you, but I was quite uncomfortable when I was swarmed by a crowd of students as I was washing my hands. They had a million questions to ask me in French - "you're the new English teacher? Do you speak English? Are you American or British or Canadian? How do you say this...." Their curiosity was cute but I'd have preferred a different location. There were a few little boys especially interested in my weekend plans and they wanted to make sure that I had a good weekend. It was adorable. Once I learn to cope with the noise and fatigue, I think I'll quite like it here! 

At 4h30, school got out and one of the teachers offered to drive me to the metro station to catch my tram. It was really nice of her; she actually said any day that I get off at 4h30 she'd be happy to do so! I met her daughter who's in middle school, so maybe she and I will even practice English/French together! All in all, it was a good day and I'm excited to go back! 

Friday night was a story in itself... let's just say that parties in our apartment are disastrous and will not be permitted in the future. I didn't get to bed until after 3h15 and I was not in the least bit happy about it. : (

la consillière pedagogique - the pedagogy liaison or counsellor
très sypma - very nice
la récréation - recess or playtime
dans la cantine - in the cafeteria

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