So what is teaching really like?

The whole point of my job here in France is to get the students to speak English. Getting most of them to speak isn’t the hard part, it’s getting them to speak English that is. They will happily talk all through class in any number of languages, from French to Spanish and Arabic.

It’s important to know the ages and types of students I have. I have 12 classes a week with half of these being with normal high school students (15-18 years old). The other half of my students are what they call BTS students here in France. They are essentially doing vocational studies post-school that are taught at the high school. These students range in age but most are 18-20 years old. They can study a range of areas but the students I teach are taking courses in Banking, Insurance and Marketing. 

The younger students are much easier to get talking, but as mentioned above they tend to natter away in anything but English about anything but what they are supposed to be talking about. The older students are more reserved and speak less, although being older I’m able to speak about more topics with them from talking about what they really did at the weekend (drinking and partying) to pick up lines in English.

For most of my classes a range of topics works well normally including some kind of activity or role play and usually including some kind of competition or game. I try to work on pronunciation each class with either role plays they present, reading out loud, tongue twisters or minimal pairs activities. (For a couple of my classes the teachers tell me what they want me to do with the students). Some of these activities are fun (and funny) for me for obvious reasons (bad French pronunciation) or because the students are a little crazy!

My most entertaining class is last up on a Thursday. They are terminale (last year high school students) literature, so they study English literature. This group is really energetic (read: talk a lot/noisy) and they have some crazy ideas. It’s from these classes that most of my funny stories come, I’m going to tell a few.

1. While doing an exercise where the students had to rewrite a small part of Romeo and Juliet into contemporary English one group asked if they could rewrite it as Beyoncé’s life. When they performed the play they also sung the chorus to the Destiny’s Child song ‘Say My Name’. These kids weren’t even born when that song came out, impressed!

2. I was asked to explain the difference in pronunciation between beach and b***h. French people struggle with this subtle difference.

3. The class had to write parodies of anything they liked. In one class we had: a Beavis and Butthead cartoon where they women instead of men (drawn too), Snow Black instead of Snow White (Snow black gets human trafficked in that ‘fairy tale’ – a little bit racist I know!), the Bible rewritten so God is a black guy called Biggy D, Barbie Girl (song by Aqua) rewritten into the real world, a parody of Aladdin where the genie was instead one of the students, the George Clooney Nespresso ad except the woman doesn’t care about George and only wants the coffee. 

There have been many many more fun and funny experiences I’ve got to enjoy with my students but I must say, I certainly don’t want to be a teacher. I praise what they do, but for me I don’t have enough motivation or restraint to stop myself from yelling at them when they won’t stop talking. I’ll enjoy these last few classes but I’m ready to get back to the office!

Amanda xx



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