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



Spring weather

March has been a month of very unsettled weather here in Clermont-Ferrand (and indeed most of the country) as we headed into Spring. After my weekend in the Alps with Dom that I wrote about last post I haven’t had any weekends away. I’ve been waiting for a fine weekend! We have had some incredible weather just not at the weekends!

While I have been unable together away I’ve been enjoying my time in CF hanging out with friends and planning my next adventures. Highlights have included going out for St Patrick’s Day dressed as an Irish flag (somewhat strangely I have a green skirt and an orange cardigan here with me in France), and watching a few matches from the 6 nations as well as general hanging out with friends.

I haven’t completely failed to get away however as in the last week I have been to Paris for the Nicki Minaj concert with Laura and Emma some fellow Kiwis and I’ve been on a day trip to Le Puy en Velay (and I must say the weather was incredible). In Le Puy I climbed a few basilic formations and checked out the cute city.

You might wonder how I’ve managed to fit those in within the school week. Well classes here are almost done for me, I have three weeks left of teaching but plenty of my classes sitting exams so I actually only have about 10 classes left! 

I have a couple of blogs coming up about teaching and French schools and another one about cultural differences I’ve noticed. Look out for those coming soon!

Tomorrow I am heading away for four days as I only have to teach on Thursday this week! More about that trip in my next post.

Until next time,

Amanda xx

A quick induction into teaching

I ended last week with some observing of classes and hearing about what I will be expected to do with my students and classes. I also got some more life admin done.

On the weekend I went out clubbing with some of the other assistants and had a wonderful night out! I didn’t think I would be able to keep up with all the early 20’s assistants, but I danced as hard as the rest of them. Sunday was terrible weather and was spent looking around some free attractions. On the first Sunday of the month galleries and museums throw open their doors and welcome everyone in for free.

Monday was the start of teaching for me. I had several classes lined up but a few were cancelled as the teacher was off sick. So my first experience of teaching was being left with a group of ten 15 year olds who really didn’t want to be there. All I can say about that is teachers in France are (and are allowed to be) much more strict than back home in New Zealand. On Tuesday I had two groups of wonderful terminale (final year) students. They had to watch a movie trailer (The Boat that Rocked) and then discuss and summarise the main points. After Mondays 3 missed classes, I had two more cancelled as during one they were sitting a test and the other was going on a field trip. My last two classes I just got to speak about (and test my knowledge on) New Zealand for an hour each to a group of BTS students (mostly 19 and 20yos). In general the students were really curious and I got lots of really interesting questions like “What is the average wage?” Thanks to my background at Statistics NZ for helping me answer those curly ones!

Next week I have more classes with a little more freedom about what to ‘teach’ (mostly will just be sitting around chatting, sounds like my kind of job) and then it is school holidays! But first this weekend I am going to Paris. On that note, I’d better go pack.

Amanda xx