Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NYE and life as an assistant

So just over 2 months later comes my next blog post...and needless to say, a lot has happened since! Came back to school from fall break, then we had Christmas break not long after and now back at school again...eager for our next break in February!

It was pretty upsetting having so little time at home (a total of 4 days) and so little time to see everyone, but now that I'm back in France, it almost feels like I never left-it was quite a whirlwind vacation. New years in Paris was so much fun and so good to see some fellow sorority sisters and Beverly- who I WISH lived in Toulouse instead of Paris!




All of us on New Years Eve!

It was only my second time in Paris- this time, I got to see a little more- but still not nearly enough! I spent an entire DAY in the Louvre (5 hours or so) and I was STILL rushing through the exhibits trying to see some of my favorite artists. If you want to know my opinion-the Mona Lisa? Totally overrated.



See what I mean?


Micaela and me in front of the Eiffel Tower-all lit up!


This is me, Micaela and Beverly in front of the Notre Dame-the line was too long so we didn't actually go in..next time! I'm in no rush to see everything - this is the second of MANY future trips to Paris!


Me and Micaela in front of the Louvre, main entrance- Paris by night is just magical, there are no words.



Now I'm back in Toulouse and trying to accomplish some new goals I have for the Year (I guess you could call them resolutions...)

1) LEARN FRENCH (my number one)- which means taking a french course (starting that next week), watching videos in french every day (thanks megavideo for that), actually studying and SPEAKING french (which brings me to goal #2)

2) make french friends!! it's actually a lot harder than it seems, seeing as most people here are already set in their groups of friends. but i'm going to make it happen this year! I'm determined.

I won't bore you with the rest, but those are the top two goals I have for this year...

It's frustrating because sometimes I feel like my French is getting a lot better and then other times (like when I'm trying to listen to a conversation 2 french people are having), I feel like I have gotten nowhere! Il faut parler DOUCEMENT, sinon c'est impossible de comprendre!
Hopefully I will eventually start to get the hang of it...

On another note...

Being a teaching assistant is so frustrating sometimes, especially at a lycée where the kids mostly just screw around during class and talk French to each other the entire time. SO annoying. I try and do stuff that I think will be fun for them (jeopardy, playing songs, games etc) but they definitely have learned how to take advantage of someone who is not their real teacher. I think that's how it is for all teaching assistants (especially in the lycée) but even so...there are some students who are SO sweet and actually seem willing to learn and don't talk in class/actually do their work and listen. But there are always the select few (mostly boys) who make it nearly impossible to teach. Agh so frustrating! Especially since I am so bad at disciplining people (especially high schoolers) and do not know how to yell/be even somewhat of a bitch to them. Which I definitely should be seeing as how many of them behave..

Then again, at the collège (collège students are middle school age and lycée is high school) where I teach, I have one class with a few girls who are SO well behaved it's like eery..they are so obedient and if they talk, it's only to whisper about what I just told them to do. I love it. They are so cute too and speak basically ZERO English. Which means I have to translate everything for them and therefore get to practice my French :) At the lycée, I only speak French to them if they are misbehaving or being loud or need translation for something/don't understand what I said in English...but at the collège, if I tell them to do something in English (anything), they have no idea what I just said-so I have to translate everything into French.

I have another class at the college with about ten boys and girls and I have to say...this group is even harder to maintain than some of my students at the lycee. At first, I had only girls and they were very well-behaved. But then, about seven boys entered the class and now, it is a madhouse. The boys will be running around, chasing each other, drawing penises on the board in permanent marker (yes, that actually happened), and overall, just being difficult. They have their cute moments though. This beautiful little thirteen year old girl said to me, "je veux vous ressembler" ("i want to look like you."). It was very sweet. Moments like that help make up for all the craziness!

One class before break, I asked my collège students to translate some French sentences into English. Every five seconds, they were asking "comment dit-on ____ en anglais?" This is the result of some of their work...

Elle le lui a emprunté (She borrowed it from him) became: She the him have to borrow.
Je l'ai connu en Italie au printemps dernier (I met him/her in Italy last spring) became: I the have to know in Italie. All of the sentences were like this...complete, direct translation. It almost seems like they have not taken English at ALL before! Apparently I have a LOT to teach them...

I just wish I had more hours at the collège-I only teach there 2 hours a week and the rest of my hours are at the lycée. Quite unfortunate. It's also pretty funny because many of my students (and non-students) at the lycée have been friending me on facebook - I give them a limited profile (so they can't read this for instance!) but it's pretty funny regardless. It's definitely a weird relationship I have with my lycée students because I am not that much older than them (much closer in age to the students than I am to most of the teachers) but they still use "vous" with me and call me "Madame" (so I am presumably somewhat of an authority figure). But at the same time, they definitely don't act like it most of the time...Like shouting "I love you," "you are sexy!" (yes, they actually say those things. ha) or various things that are definitely not student-teacher appropriate!

Whereas at the collège, I am at least 10 years older than all the kids (weird! makes me feel really old...) so they actually see me as an authority figure (as far as I can tell..). It's also nice because all the collège students are only taking my class because they WANT to. It's like an extra curricular activity; they can choose to do a number of things, including sports, but they chose to take my class and learn English! Working in the collège is just a much better experience overall. One of the English teachers at the collège (who organized all my hours with me) is SO nice and speaks perfect English -I honestly didn't think she was French when I first met her! She has been so sweet, always asking me how I am and if I'm happy in Toulouse-and she even invited me over for dinner and to spend the night at her house on Monday night. She is the only teacher that has really reached out to me since I've been here - it was so nice to see a real French home and have a nice home-cooked meal!

Back to the students..It's so weird because in France, almost EVERYONE smokes in lycée- I walk outside the building and all the kids are smoking. It's disgusting, but for some reason, smoking is the cool thing to do here. Apparently a lot of them start with weed and then move on to cigarettes so I guess that's how it starts. But it's so weird seeing kids no older than 14 or 15 smoking already! After class, one of my students asked me "vous fumez?" and I almost felt really weird saying "nope." When I was asking some of my students what their hobbies were, one boy replied: "Girls, smoking..." - yes, smoking actually counts as a hobby here! Not sports, but "smoking." I thought that was pretty funny/kind of sad.

High schools in France are just so different from American high schools because the groups are much less cliquey and there is a LOT less division between the students. They all seem to get along with each other and I honestly can't tell the "popular" crowd from the "nonpopular" crowd. They all sort of look the same! I was explaining to some of my classes stereotypes that often exist in American high schools (goth, jock, prep etc) and one of the English students was asking me if it's just like the movies portray it and if there are that many cliques/divisions between American high school students. I told her that that existed to a certain degree...and she was just saying how that doesn't really exist much in France - that there are definitely some students dorkier than others but everyone really gets along and those stereotypes/divisions are pretty much nonexistent. I know that at least in my high school (and I'm sure many others), people were very concerned with labels and wearing designer clothes/having expensive things. She said that that sort of thing does not really matter and people are not at all concerned about labels or having expensive things-that doesn't make a student more or less popular. It was pretty refreshing to learn that outside of the US, that cliquey division between students and general materialism is not really present. Don't get me wrong-there are lots of things I love about American high schools - for instance: sports are much more important in high schools back home (no one seems to really play sports competitively here-it's so weird! I guess smoking takes up too much of their time...). But when it comes to high school social life, I think Americans could learn a thing or two...

JERSEY SHORE INVADES FRANCE. I'm sure most of you have at least heard of this show...it's pretty ridiculous. Also not exactly the best portrayal of American society...Anyways, after making several facebook statuses quoting some of the ridiculous statements from that show, one of my French facebook friends goes "I just watched the jersey shore- is this what American people are like??!!" This was like 6 weeks ago. Then just yesterday, HIS facebook status reads "Jersey Shore-I love american people!!!" hahahah. Funniest thing ever. Just to imagine any French person watching this show - I can barely even picture it. I tried to convince him that the majority of Americans are NOT like that, I promise! Hopefully there are not many other non-Americans watching that show-that sort of trashiness should only be viewed by Americans, haha.

OK I'm off to go buy a baguette! Yes, I am in France.

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