Tuesday, 6 September 2011

SE FENDRE LA PIPE. To break the pipe. (To laugh.)

Sooooo I'm still alive. Just. I have never had a job with so many nerve wracking first days in all my life!!! I'm now sat here chilling with a kir (champagne with a drop of creme de cassis) I'm not an alcoholic I swear it's just that out here the alcohol is the same price as water which would explain why wherever I go no matter what time it is if I am offered a drink more often than not it involves alcohol! Anyway tonight there was a celebration in my house so the champagne is from that, plus of course there was bread and pate... It's a hard life. As usual it was 3 Frenchies et moi celebrating round the impromptu candlelit table but I LOVE sitting and listening to them talk and for the most part I'm starting to understand what they're saying, not to mention where I would normally say English words and phrases such as yes, hello, goodbye, ok, thanks, I'm fine, how are you, good etc etc I find I'm automatically speaking in French! Even with the children I'm supposed to speak in English but if they don't understand it helps to be able to say the two languages side by side and so surprised myself by being able to say to them phrases such as listen, watch what I'm doing, no talking, in a line, hurry up, everybody, be quiet, follow me, do you understand, ok... (ha the usual!) in both languages with next to no thought so I'm not doing too horrendous but it still seems a long way off. Although my friend whose little boy is at the school has informed me that the children think I'm Spanish/Italian, but then the Parisians think I'm Asian descent! I've heard that before I guarantee I'm pure English! Although my mum informs me my granddads family fled France during the Hugonot revolution and went to Ireland where one became a ballad singer (is ancestor may explain a LOT!) and another became the mayor of Cork, so after all these years I discovered I am just a little more exotic than the black country/welsh I thought I was :) i also had an ancestor go down on the Titanic but he was a steerage passenger so don't get too excited. Just our luck... Anyway enough ancestry I think it's my hair, they are fascinated with my hair out here and half the little girls have already had their hands in it...

Anyway first days... My first day as Thursday last week (which was sans les enfants) that went fine, then there was the first day avec les enfants (Monday) which was tiring but fine. Then there was my first day actually TEACHING les enfants. I'm actually writing this on the night of that day, it's over, done, I survived! Phew.

Although don't get me wrong even on my way into school I was imagining falling in front of cars and all sorts anything that could happen between here and getting there that would get me out of it! Now that may sound drastic but you know sometimes when you sit down and imagine yourself doing something? Well I couldn't even begin to remotely visualise or imagine standing there in front of a group of children teaching sport. Until tonight.

I'd be lying if I said it was easy, I start at 09:30 so the children have already had a class with their main tutor before they come to me and so I got there at 09:00 (I hate rocking up last minute I like mental prep). Went down and checked the stade (running stadium) mentally thought about the lessons for the day some more, triple checked the walk time to and from the school-stade and then headed up tothe school to wait in the empty corridor surrounded by all the coats and bags for when the children came bursting out the classroom and were left in my care. I have to say the wait felt akin to bengsat. In the dentists or how you feel when someone's having a baby and you are waiting for the news... That apprehension, nervousness...possibly excitement.

My first class was very much trial and error I mean there was only so much I could plan having not met the children and having also never taught a bunch of French children when I don't speak French. Worse my first 2 classes of the day were the youngest years in the school so there English is pretty much nil! There were things I had planned which they couldn't get or completed faster than I had allowed for but that's ok until you try you don't know! Also there were times I merely had to remind myself that it wasn't that they weren't listening but that they couldn't understand me so rather than feeling despondent at their blank faces it was up to me to be clearer in my explanations which when I finally got it right was rewarded with a nice burst of happiness as they were happy they got what I wanted them to do and I was happy that they got what I wanted to do. Win win.

The stade is massive and I planned to just work on one portion. One teacher recommended that a previous sports teacher made any children who were naughty do a lap whilst they continued with the class. I agreed d'accord...except it became pretty clear that the children were fascinated by the track and actually WANTED to do an entire lap. So there went that idea, however I discovered in the afternoon after I ran a lap of it with the older children at their request (and their PE lesson was 2 hours long... 2 hours can you imagine??!! I couldn't but somehow survived that too) they discovered a lap of the stade was rather tiring, therefore all future classes can begin with a lap and once they know it really isn't all that. Much fun it will set the bench mark for "you misbehave?" off you go see you when you've done a circuit...

AnywY enough school for now I'm going to backtrack. It was a great weekend that saw me getting out into Paris on Sunday with my friend Jean-Charles. We went to the 13th arondissement (the Chinese district) and had an awesome lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant nd also I was introduced to this native drink:

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It was almost like a desert it was really sweet and had sweets in it, very interesting!

We had a good drive round Paris (driving round Paris has to be one of the scariest things EVER there are no rules, I always joked if I ever got a car I would TOTALLY go for a drive round the Arc de Triomohe at the infamous 'Place de l'Etoile' (which incidentally is the only place in the world you aren't insured, if you have been to Paris I guarantee you stood there for 5 mins at least watching the traffic and either waiting to witness an accident or filming in the hopes of getting something worth £250 on you've been framed) but having seen some of the quieter roads.. Maybe not. The French have this crazy 'priorité à droit' rule, I believe something like 1800+ drivers die a year defending this rule! Basically in a built up area a car on a road or already on a roundabout MUST give way to a car that wants to pull out onto said road/roundabout who will be coming fast and not looking because it's their right. Comprends? No me neither.

After seeing the sights of the 19th and 13th I headed back to Chessy to meet an old schoolfriend and her husband who were here on holiday, haven't seen her for about 15 years so it was awesome to catch up and go for something to eat in the Disney Village before heading home ready to start dying inside about Monday.

Not before 3 of us were beaten by 'The Elvis' however:

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The view from the bus stop, awful huh? I hate living here :)

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I didn't sleep much Sunday night, when I did I mostly hoped I wouldn't wake up and woke up pretty much on the hour every hour... Then if course when my alarm went off I just wanted to switch it off and get more sleep but I got up, very zombie like showered, got my paperwork together and started out on my journey to school. It's a lovely walk perfect for calming me down however it's all uphill:

Part 1: I know it doesn't look like much of a hill especially to my Torquinian friends but TRUST me this bugger is gradual and goes on forever and then snakes off round a corner.

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Oky then just when you think you're at the top, this snakes off up and up and up too! Again annoyingly looks flatter in this pic than it is I swear!

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Okay the hills aren't as bad as torquays but after a year in flat London it's a shock to the sytsem.

As it was day 1 with the children really wasn't that bad! We saw class after class mainly to introduce ourselves and make sure they bought all the necessary equipment for English from their 'fournitures scolaires' list sang some songs, played some games (SUSSED out who you would need to keep an eye on and who seemed good!) et voila the day was done! I was on lunch duty and the children generally are supposed to speak English with me but the vast majority of CP class (year 3 in the UK) don't speak any English at all so when I was at lunch and they were excitedly asking me questions in frnech and I corrected them... Well they COUDN'T ask me in English so it was either employ a good English speaking child or listen really hard. I actually surprised myself at how much I understand, because they are small they very carefully pronounce their words and I noticed the way they shape their mouths when they speak it's very pouty apart from 'e' sounds when they really pull their lips back to like a smile so this helped with pronunciation. Because they are little and uncomplicated I got asked basic questions like where I was from and my name and do I have any brothers and sisters... Good start! However then I came across the older children who will be off to big school next year, these guys are basically tweenagers so before I'd even been introduced or had a class with them I was getting yelled at across the playground

"miss he looooooooooovvveeeeessssssss yoooooooooouuuuuuuuu,"
"miiiiiiiissssssss do you have a boyfrieeeeeeeeeeend??!!"

Oh joy hormones. I'm pretty sure worse is yet to be asked....

So I went home Monday night with the same headache I had Friday but I'm not sure if this is child or lack of caffeine related? The tea out here is sooo weak and I got used to living in Starbucks in London so there has been little to compare here!

Anyway day 1 done I decided that as I was well prepped as I could be for the classes Tuesday then Monday I couldn't turn down the offer to go along to a training session with the Aigles de Meaux American football team.

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These guys had to do a 45 minute jog before they even started their fitness session so my mate who is one of the coaches decided I could learn how to throw and kick an American football whilst we were waiting! It was a great night, it was good to watch some sportsmen at work, it was great to have a throw and kick around and I just love being on the sports field it's such a positive and energising place to be! Plus me and 20+ guys... Who am I to complain. It was brilliant listening to all the commands in French and I find myself understanding more and more. Still not great at speaking it but I recognise so many words now which is a great start!

Almost forgot there is another reason why my job is AWESOME see the pic below... Well the yellow bits are when im on holiday and I'm getting paid for those:

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I got back late, finished the days emails to friends and then went to sleep somehow as knew that Tuesday was going to be the biggest challenge. Which brings me up to today!!!

This morning seems like a year ago when i strolled through the gates and into school with my ipod shuffle on as usual and as i rounded the corner the theme from Kill Bill started to play .... Very very apt.

I had the 2 youngest classes in the morning then what is UK year 5 in the afternoon who I have to say were an absolute dream which is just as well as I had a 2 hour lesson with them!!! 2 hours is a lot! But I did it, so managed 4 hours of teaching PE and then a 45 minute English enrichment class and then I was pretty much ready to die, or at least I thought my legs might drop off, honestly the curriculum dictates athletics till October so I'll be legging it around doing running and jumping and throwing til then and then 4 weeks(maybe less) from now workshops start! Now I'll be teaching dancing for these soooo add an extra 45 minutes of dancing onto today and you'll have just an average day at work! Wowsers I'll have to make sure I take extra good care of myself but there's a real sense of achievement with 20+ young children high fiving you and getting them to move in new ways and seeing them achieve things physically they may never have tried before. Watching them learn new things and running round playing with them and being all enthusiastic watching them bounce around after you, it's exhausting when they've gone but the satisfaction of flopping down in the grass with them and everyone giggling after legging it round for nearly 2 hours and looking up at the sky on what was such a gorgeous afternoon, I felt this massive sense of achievement & long may it last. I love my walks home too, it may not be so pleasant in winter but everyday I walk through those school gates and look over at Disneyland, then I stroll home past the terribly quaint and very pretty stereotypical provincial French properties in these picture book perfect tiny very french villages and through the French countryside, stopping at the boulangerie for my fresh baguette knowing paris is but 30 minutes away and usually listening to a spot of Rufus, with songs such as 'le coeur de Parisian' 'complainte de la butte' and 'I'm leaving for paris' ringing in my ears I can't not smile to myself. Life is what you make it.

Anything is possible

Karen x

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