First of all...you may be asking, ‘why did Marissa move to France for 7 months?”.
I thought that explained my job pretty well.
So, I’ve showed you some pictures of Strasbourg, where I live. Now I’ll show you the little town(s) where I work!
I work Monday-Thursday, so I take the train four days a week (down south) to Barr and Heiligenstein. Still have to look up how to spell that one every time.
Barr, where the high school is, has about 7,000 people. Heiligenstein, where the middle school is, has about 1,000. The train ride to get to work takes about 40 minutes, but it's worth it to not live in the middle of nowhere.
The schools both look pretty new, especially the middle school. They look pretty much exactly like American schools (from the outside, at least).
I haven’t walked around Heiligenstein at all (not sure there’s really anything to see there anyway...), but I did walk around Barr the first day I was there and took some pictures.
My first thought was that it looks straight out of Beauty and the Beast. People even say ‘Bonjour’ to you occasionally as you walk by (that did NOT happen when I lived in Paris). No singing yet, though.
This is my favorite picture because you can see a mountain in the background! I had no idea there were even mountains close to where I would be in France. Geography fail.
The mountains around Barr and Heiligenstein are the Vosges Mountains. They kind of remind me of the Appalachians, because they’re not super high but they’re very green and beautiful. I like mountains like this much better than a certain desert state’s mountains (*coughutahcough*).
Here’s a picture I took from a window in the middle school because I liked the view. Pretty trees, and rolling hills! And a vineyard.
So more about my job...
I’ve only had 2 weeks of work so far. I’ve only had to come up with own lesson plan once. I did some observations, and then spent a lot of time introducing myself to all of the different classes. Most teachers had the students come up with questions to ask me about myself (all in English). That was usually pretty entertaining.
Some of my favorite questions they asked me and conversations we had:
“How many weapons do you have?” (alluding to the fact that they think all Americans are gun-crazy...)
“Do you like Obama?
“Is it because you’re racist?” (no child, that's not how it works)
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Why don’t you want one?”
“Have you a domestic animal?” (translation: do you have a pet?)
“Yes, I have a dog.”
“Why like you not cats?”
“What are the pros and cons of America getting involved in Syria?” (haha, I love how an 8th-grader is informed enough to ask this question)
“I want to hear you try to speak French.”
“Is that a question?” (in case you're wondering, I did pander to them and show off my French)
“What do Americans think about French people?” (I had to answer that one delicately, haha)
In general, their level of English is really impressive! But they have VERY think accents. I’m learning how to decipher what they say. Their accents are so adorable though! I’m teaching in classes that are the French equivalent of 8th-12th grade, so obviously there’s a wide range of abilities. But I must say that in general, the students are very smart and are advanced English speakers.
I would also say that these students are much calmer and better behaved than American students. They really have them whipped into shape over here. My favorite is how the students stand at attention at their desks until they greet the teacher and the teacher gives them permission to sit down.
Besides teachers being stricter (last week a girl got in trouble for coughing before she finished her worksheet hahaha how dare she), they divide students at the beginning of middle school (? I think) based on academic performance. Students that don’t get good grades, have behavior issues, or have special needs are in different classrooms or different schools. So all of the students I work with are the high-performing kids.
I still don’t have a full understanding of the French school system. Still learning!
One thing I like about French schools is that they have lots of vacations. After working for 2 weeks, I now have 2 weeks off. I wrote this post on my train ride to Italy!! Now I'm hanging out at my hotel in Florence, and since I finally have good internet I thought I'd post this.
So when I get back to work, for the most part I’ll be teaching lessons to about 10 students at a time, with the goal being teaching them about American culture and getting them to speak a lot of English with me. After the break, the high school teachers want me to teach about European immigration to America and talk about where my ancestors are from, and the middle school teachers want me to talk about Thanksgiving. Should be an adventure.