I have been in France for exactly 3 weeks now, wow. Time sure flies. Here what those first weeks have looked like:
I arrived in Avallon and got settled into my apartment. It is very large, though a bit outdated. My roommate, Natalie, seems nice- she is the Spanish assistant, and is from Lima, Peru. We seem to get along well.
Annabelle, the English teacher who is my ‘responsable’ (the person at the school in charge of me and my duties) is super nice and has really helped me get settled. The first few days she took me to the supermarkets (there is one close to my house and a much larger one on the edge of town) and explained a bit about the town and the school. The school is located on the outskirts of town and it’s about a 30-40 minute hike to town- there is a valley separating the school from town, so there are two different ways to get to the center: there is an easy route that is long and goes around the valley and a short path that goes through the valley and is very steep… either way takes about the same time. The first 4 days or so I pretty much just slept and wandered around town. Jet lag hit me really hard on this trip, though I’m attributing that mostly to the fact that my body was already out of whack from the kidney stone.
That first Sunday I was here, one of the other english teachers, Jean-Marc, and his wife Veronique, took me to lunch at a very fancy restaurant, and then to a nearby tourist town to walk around for the afternoon. We had a really nice time, and they are such a sweet older couple.
Beginning that Monday, I started to meet some of the students. School here is set up very differently from in the US. Everything after primary school is considered secondary school: there are 4 years of Collège and 3 years of Lycée. They are numbered in a descending order:
At the end of Terminal, all students must sit for the Bac, a national exit test that is very difficult and determines if they can go to college.
There is also an option to stay at the school for 2 years after taking the Bac, to receive a BTS, which I gather is somewhat like our associates degree.
So, Lycées are divided into the lycée général, which leads to college, the lycée technologique, leading to short-term studies (Im not sure I get this one), and the lycée professionnel, a vocational qualification leading directly to a particular career. General and technological education courses are provided in “standard” lycées, while vocational courses are provided in separate professional lycées. I’m still trying to figure out if my school has all three or just the first and one of the others… In Lycée général, students choose a general direction for their studies after their Seconde year- Science, Economics/Social Sciences, or Literature.
Really, I’ve found that French Lycée is much more like our college than high school, especially the last 2 years. The students must have decided what they want to do with their lives way earlier than Americans. It doesn’t seem extremely easy to change your mind later.
Anyway, so I spent most of that first full week getting settled into the school and meeting the students and other English teachers (there are 5). This last week I did much of the same, and at the beginning of the week, we sat down and set up my time table. I would have started teaching after that was completed, but since vacation started at the end of that week, the teachers decided it would be easier if I just start after vacation is over (the school year has 4 vacation periods- Toussaint, Christmas, Winter break, and Easter, and each vacation lasts 2 weeks)
On the 16th I had to go to a larger town nearby, Auxerre, for a meeting with the other english assistants in my department (I am in the French department of Yonne). It wasnt the most necessary meeting (I didnt learn anything new or extremely helpful), but it was nice to meet the others, and we had a good time together.
Since vacation started, I haven’t done very much- its been nice to be a bit lazy 🙂 Plus, I’ve been trying not to spend much money because I leave tomorrow to go to London for 6 days, which I’m pretty excited about. I will be staying with a friend from church, Ann, who moved there at the beginning of the year. I’ll fill you in once I get back