Tag Archives: English Language Assistant

And So Begins Another Year

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Wow! It has been a really long time since I’ve written about my life and my adventures. It’s hard for me to believe that it is already the middle of October! The past five months of my life have been among the best in my life. I’ve never been happier and I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent nearly half of the year (?!?!) traveling with some of my nearest and dearest friends and family. I plan to dedicate a significant amount of time to blogging about all of my adventures, but that is going to be a huge undertaking, which I shall commence next week, when I am on vacation.

Here’s a quick overview of my late spring/summer/early fall endeavors to pique your interest:

  • 3 continents visited
  • 13 countries visited
  • 6 states visited
  • 2 friends came to Europe
  • my mom and I spent 5 weeks exploring Europe together (and both made it out alive!)
  • returned to France for a second year of teaching

When I write it, I still can’t believe that this was my reality for so many, many months. I am currently back in France and have begun my second year of teaching English as a Second Language. This year I am in one collège (middle school) and one lycée (high school). So far I am loving working in the high school and am very excited about everything that this next year will hold for me. In addition to teaching, two of my dear friends will be getting married at the beginning of the month, so I will have the opportunity to attend a French wedding and the opportunity to celebrate their very special day.

After tomorrow, I am on vacation (already). As I’ve only been in France for a few weeks and I’m still acclimating myself to my French life, I will not be traveling anywhere for this vacation. Honestly, I’m a little sad to not be taking advantage of this opportunity to explore another new country/city, but am secretly relieved to have a staycation after such an intense summer of traveling. However, I am planning a long weekend away somewhere during the month of November, followed by a real vacation in December.

Here’s to another unforgettable, absolutely amazing year in France!

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Enjoying some limoncello in Venice. Cheers!

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The End is the Beginning

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The original reason I came to France will be finished at the end of next week. I have four days of teaching left, and then it is over. Luckily, I will be remaining in France at least through the summer (and hopefully for another year). As my time as an English assistant is coming to a close I am getting really excited about all the potential adventures that lie ahead of me. In May one of my close friends is coming to France. I’m so excited to be able to share my new life with a friend I have known for years.

The more time I spend away from my family and friends the more I realize how much we actually have in common. It turns out that Chris is equally crazy and likes to do ridiculous things while traveling. When I was in college it was very difficult for me to find friends who liked traveling as much as I did, and also friends who liked to do the same crazy things. One of my closest friends in college was the first person I found with exactly the same traveling style. I’m talking itineraries planned to the minute, typed and put in paper protectors, and then put in a binder for reference throughout the trip. (Not to mention the three back-up copies, just in case…)

It’s funny how time, distance, and growing older changes a person. While I still like to do my research and plan my trips, I have found that I am a much more conservative traveler than I used to be. I think back to 2007 when I was a young and stupid student. I had no experience traveling alone while abroad, but I didn’t let that stop me. I forced myself out of my comfort zone and made friends (an extremely difficult and awkward task for me) and planned a week-long adventure through three countries. I managed to book train and plane tickets, reserve hotels, and make an itinerary of what we were going to do. Looking back, I have no idea how I did. There is no reason I should have been as good at planing these trips as I was. In a week we managed to do Paris, Barcelona, Rome/Vatican City, Venice, and Paris again. It’s crazy when I think about it, and I have no idea how the 21 year-old me knew what to do. Perhaps it was that I had a virtually unlimited budget (thanks to my very generous family), perhaps it was because I knew everything would work out eventually, perhaps it was sheer luck. Whatever it was, I’m currently trying to channel it as I am preparing for three very important visitors.

Luckily, Chris is very organized and has several awesome ideas for our adventures throughout Europe. We’re currently in the planning stages and I’m getting really excited. I’m not going to say exactly where we are hoping to go, but it is quite a lofty goal and I truly hope that we can make it come true. I’m also really excited because Chris has already been to Paris, so he only has a few things he would like to see/do there, and they are things I’ve only done a few times.

My next visitor will be my best friend (again!). Needless to say, there are not words to describe how excited and happy I am for her to come back to visit me. We’ve recently discovered that we have some sort of cosmic connection (i.e., my asthma flares up, her asthma does the same; her fingers go tingly/numb, mine do the same). It’s quite freaky, but is yet another example of how we are virtually the same person. We’ve begun trying to plan our adventures, but it’s still very uncertain. The one thing we must do is visit Monet’s house in Giverny. After my adventures with Chris are planned, I’ll begin coordinating with Jeannette about our adventures.

My final visitor will be my mother. She has never been to Europe, much less left North America. When she was a child she and my grandparents traveled extensively. When I was a child, my parents took my sister and me on countless vacations. I consider myself very lucky to have traveled so much as a child, with my parents, grandparents, and aunt. The first time I left my mother was around six months old. My uncle was in the airforce and my grandparents would travel to wherever he was stationed and I would go with them. Ever since the first time I left my parents, there was no turning back. My family struggles to understand my passion for traveling and seeing the world, but as we all grow older they have accepted it and support my choices.

The itinerary for when my mom comes to visit is the most extensive and overwhelming. She will be in Europe for one month and we’ve been discussing the places we would like to go and the things we would like to do. I’m taking it little by little, and with the help of my Sharpies, I will figure this out. However, at this time I feel completely overwhelmed by the task of planning these trips. While my mother is here we will also be celebrating my birthday (the real reason that she did not have a choice about coming to France). This will be the second birthday I’ve celebrated in France, and they were both monumental birthdays. In 2007 I had my “21st birthday do-over,” as my real 21st birthday was quite uneventful. This year, I will be turning 30 (ahhhh!!!!!!). I am not handling this fact well, and am in fact practically in denial about only having a few months left in my twenties.

Below is a tentative list of the countries/cities I will be visiting between now and August. Here’s to hoping they all come true!

  • France: Paris, Versailles, Giverny, Èze, Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Normandy, Douai
  • Italy: Pompei, Venice, Florence, Almafi Coast, Pisa
  • Poland: Krakow, Warsaw, Zakopane, Wieliczka
  • Liechtenstein
  • Austria: Salzburg, Vienna
  • Switzerland: Zermatt
  • Turkey: Istanbul
  • England: Bath, Wiltshire

Here’s to the adventures of a lifetime with some of my favorite people in the world!

Timing in Everything

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I cannot believe it is already the middle of April and that my teaching contract for this year is done next Friday. Where did the time go??? This year has been an eventful year, and I will write a separate summary/reflection about my time in France. The purpose of this post is not the reflect on this year, but to ponder the options for next year. To begin, let me just mention how much I hate being an adult when it comes to times like this. I miss having my parents make decisions for me and not constantly worrying about what the ‘right’ decision is going to be.

Here’s what I know about next year so far:

  • I have applied for and been granted an additional year-long leave of absence from my permanent teaching position in Michigan
  • I have submitted all of the necessary paperwork to renew my current teaching contract in France for next year.
  • I just received an email from a position I applied for with the U.S. Embassy. I am being considered for a position teaching ESL at the university level in Vietnam.

This is a ton of information to process, and to be quite honest is extremely overwhelming. I feel like I have only recently become truly settled and comfortable in France. I thought that after living here for one year my wanderlust for France would have contained itself. Boy was I wrong! The opposite has happened. Being an immigrant in a foreign country is an eye-opening experience and really changes one’s perspective on immigrants and immigration. I am also constantly reminded how difficult it is to be an American outside of North America. Even with all the challenges I have faced this year, I am beyond content with my life in France.

While I haven’t officially been offered either position, just the prospect of having to make a decision is terrifying. Upon receiving the email that I was being considered for a position in Vietnam I was so excited. I immediately texted my mom and best friend. I thought I had misread the email, but I had not. After the initial excitement wore off, a panic attack set in. I cannot imagine my life in France coming to an end. The next several months are filled with friends, family, and crazy adventures. I have so much to look forward to that I cannot even begin to think about the possibility of having to give up my apartment and leave France.

I’ve already begun the color-coded diagramming process to help make this (potential) decision easier when the time comes. For the position in France I will be told anytime between the beginning of this month and the end of August. For Vietnam, I will know before the end of this month, most likely as soon as the end of next week. Needless to say, I am terrified and excited about what the future holds.

An adorable road I discovered when I got myself lost driving around the French countryside.

An adorable road I discovered when I got lost driving around the French countryside.

La Toussaint Vacation

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Life in France is all about living in the moment and enjoying everything. I began my assistantship at the beginning of this month. So far, I have worked a total of eight days. Remember that I only work 12-hours each week, over the course of four days. This means that every week I have at least one day off, in addition to my regular weekend. I was just starting to get into the swing of things and develop a routine in both of my schools.

Last Friday was my final day of work for the next two weeks, due to All Saint’s Day (la Toussaint). It’s difficult for me to comprehend how it is possible for me to already be on vacation, when I have worked a total of eight days! I decided that for this vacation I wanted to visit somewhere in Europe I have not visited. After much research and changing my destination many times, I have finally selected my destination and purchased my tickets.

This coming weekend I will be in Paris. The husband of one of my college roommates is currently working in Dublin and has always wanted to visit Paris. However, he does not speak French and really doesn’t know what to see/do in Paris other than the major tourist destinations. I will spend 2.5 days exploring Paris and then I will continue my vacation by heading to a different destination.

After Paris I will be heading to Prague for 4 days. I have never been to Prague, so am super excited about this new adventure. It is also the first time that I have traveled to a foreign country alone. My biggest concern is not being able to speak the language. When traveling within France I am okay because I can speak the language.

So far on my list of things to do and see in Prague are:

-Charles Bridge

-Prague Castle

-Petrin Hall

-David Cerny’s public sculptures

-Church of Our Lady Tyn

-The Dancing House

-Old Town Square (Astronomical Clock, St. Nicholas Church)

Does anyone have any other suggestions for what I should see/do while in Prague? I’m always looking for additional ideas! I’m super excited for these new adventures!

Schools in France vs. Schools in America

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I’ve been working at my schools in France for two weeks and I’ve already noticed many drastic differences between schools in America and schools in France. Remember that prior to coming to France I taught in American schools for 6 years. Additionally, I had volunteered in American schools for 5 years. I have a great deal of experience with the expectations and standards in American education.

A little background about my teaching experience in the states. I have worked with students ages early-fives through seniors in high school. The bulk of my experience has been at the elementary and middle school levels. When I was an undergraduate my major was elementary education, but about half way through I realized my passion was actually working with secondary students. Being a volunteer is drastically different from being the real teacher, so I understand all the different capacities of working in a classroom.

I have also worked in a number of types of schools–rural, suburban, and urban. In all of these schools I faced similar challenges, which helped me to understand that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status face similar challenges. Since I began my teaching career in 2008 a lot has changed in the field of education. As all of my experience has been in American schools, I have very little understanding of what education actually looks like in other countries.

In my short teaching career there have been drastic changes to the ways in which teachers are evaluated, as well as the way that students are assessed. Every year the expectations placed upon me changed, without warning or explanation. Students were given standardized tests more frequently and for longer periods of time, beginning at younger and younger ages.

With changes to the curriculum and the implementation of No Child Left Behind, along with other types of legislation, the face of education has changed drastically, and in my opinion, not for the best. I also noticed that in America, we as a culture, are afraid of hurting the feelings of students or letting them know when they have made a mistake. Grades have changed, so an not to make students feel as though they were unsuccessful.

The learning environment in an American classroom is very different from that in a French classroom. In an American classroom the physical appearance of the classroom is part of how a teacher is evaluated. The classroom should be welcoming and promote student learning, with tools and other support materials visible throughout. Whenever a student contributes, her contribution must be acknowledged and praised in a positive way, even if the idea has nothing to do with being discussed. This is the style of teaching I have been used to for the past six years.

Now, let’s talk about my new reality. French schools are nothing like American schools. The learning environment feels cold and unwelcoming. The only teachers who have anything on their walls are American teachers. When a student volunteers, if her answer is incorrect, she is told so. There is no sugarcoating. You are either right or wrong. I’ve not once heard a teacher in France say “Good guess” or “Good try” or “Wow! That’s a very interesting way to respond.” Everything is black and white, you are either right or you are wrong. End of discussion.

The style of teaching in France is more direct, and as a result there is more time for actual teaching. Teachers are not afraid of hurting student’s feelings. I have witnessed teachers yelling at students and “shhhhing” them, which would never happen in today’s American classroom. Also, behavior problems are simply not tolerated and immediately brought to an end.

While I have only been in French classroom for a total of eight days I have learned a great deal about the differences between American and French schools. I know that I will continue to learn more as the year progresses and I am looking forward to better understanding another system of education as a result of this experience.