My Teaching Duties

You asked for it, you got it!  “My teaching duties” had the most votes in the poll at the right (you can still vote, by the way!  I’m always adding new options as I think of them!), so it must be what you all want to hear about!

If I had to sum up my experience teaching here in two words, they would be FUN and FRUSTRATING.  Teaching the kids is really fun- I’m a welcome change from their normal teacher and subjects, so the students generally like it when I teach, and I get to do a lot of cool topics.  For example, recently I’ve done several lessons on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  However, it is also frustrating.  When I was a student teacher, I felt on top of my game.  I knew all my students, I knew exactly when I was going to be in class every day, and I was mostly in charge.  Here… it’s pretty much the exact opposite.  I do have a weekly schedule, but it’s constantly changing, and I have so many students that it’s basically impossible to learn any of their names, which I hate.  Plus, it’s difficult to get to know any of my students or classes well because I’m only with them one hour a week, if that.  I’m working on it though, which allows me to tailor lessons to a class’ specific interests and ability level.  For example, I know I’ve had at least one class in the past that’s all musicians and dancers… once I figure out which class that was, I would LOVE to do a lesson tying into that, like a Christmas lesson all about music!

Sunset, taken from the courtyard of Massena.  The hill in the background is the Chateau.

Sunset, taken from the courtyard of Massena. The hill in the background is the Chateau.

In my set weekly timetable, I have 11 hours scheduled.  I’m technically supposed to work 12 hours a week but that’s just how it worked out with my schedule- we allowed one hour for random classes that teachers would like me to come into.  However, I would say I never work exactly 12 hours in a week, it’s always a little more or a little less.  My school doesn’t stress about me being there my required numbers of hours in a week, which is great, and in turn I don’t complain about weeks that I’m there more.  There are three classes a week where I trade off every other week, so that means I have 14 classes that I see regularly (every week or every two weeks), and then almost every week I go into at least one other random class just to talk on a specific topic or as a “special treat” (I tell you, the kids love having me there!  The benefits of being young and “cool,” haha).  If I have an average of 15 students in a class, that’s 210 students that I see regularly, plus all my extra random classes… that’s a lot of students!  No wonder I often see my kids around town.

The other evening I was walking to the tram stop and a group of 3 boys was walking toward me.  I heard one of them say “C’est la prof!” (“It’s the teacher!”) as we approached each other and then one of them was like, “Salut!” (“Hi!”) and we had a short exchange as we walked by each other.  I’ve also seen some students some other random places around town and it always surprises them to see me out and about.  They always enjoy saying hi to me though, most of the time in English!  Many of them say hi to me as they see me walking around school too.  It makes me feel good that they say hi to me, even when I don’t recognize them!  I just smile and say hi back.

Photo of Massena at night, taken from the tram stop.

Photo of Massena at night, taken from the tram stop.

I do a variety of different things in my classes here.  For the first couple of weeks, it was mostly me introducing myself and having them ask me questions- boy, did I get tired of talking about myself!  Oh and I suppose I should note, this is all in English.  Some classes are a lot better in English than others, but they’re all proficient enough to carry on a basic conversation.  I always make sure to talk slowly, write on the board, use gestures, and check for comprehension though.  The only French used in the classes I teach is to explain English words they don’t know, or when they speak French, I respond to them in English.  In some classes, I’ve been having one-on-one or one-on-two conversations with the students.  In one class, it’s just been chatting so far, just to make them more comfortable with conversation.  In another class, they do a presentation on a certain theme and explain a text of their choosing with it- this is to prepare them for the new English oral part of the Bac (which I’ll write more about if I do a post about the French education system).

Lately, I’ve been teaching more classes on my own.  The teacher is always there, which is nice for when they don’t know an English word and I don’t know the French word for it.  On that note, I CANNOT imagine trying to teaching English as a foreign language to a group of people whose native language I don’t know.  That would be impossible.  So anyway, the teacher is always there, but I mostly run classes on my own, usually for an hour at a time.  I present on different topics; many times, it’s on facets of American culture, like holidays, the education system, or the elections.  Sometimes I teach on topics that they have been studying, like Frankenstein, Hemingway, or famous scientists.  In one class, I did a lesson on tongue twisters to help them work on their pronunciation, and this week to work on modal verbs (can/should/would/could/etc.), I did a lesson with detective stories.  It really just depends on what the teacher wants me to do.

Another photo from the tram stop by Massena. Yes, that’s a Ferris wheel!

As I mentioned at the beginning, teaching here can be frustrating… the worst part is figuring out my schedule.  Often times, the teachers don’t need me in a certain class that I’m scheduled for, but they don’t tell me (I get it, they’re busy, but it does frustrate me sometimes).  I have taken to emailing all the English teachers every Sunday.  I include what I have down for my schedule for the week and what, if anything, each teacher has asked me to specifically prepare.  Then I ask them to tell me if they don’t need me any of the hours I have down, if they need me more hours, or if they want me to prepare something special.  This has helped quite a lot, but there are some teachers who don’t check their email and therefore don’t email me back, leading to me showing up when I’m not needed (happened this week!).  But that doesn’t happen nearly as often now as it did in the beginning, which I’m grateful for!

Well, that’s all I can think of to share right now… what, if anything, are you still interested in hearing about in regards to my teaching duties?  Oh, one more thing: the students I work with are anywhere from age 15 to 18, with a few 18-to-20-year-olds, and have been studying English since they were about 10.

Let me know what else you would like to know!  If you’d like to learn more about my school and see more photos, you can check out this post.

Categories: Teaching | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “My Teaching Duties

  1. I was wondering if you were teaching lycée…. I’m in a collège and find it similar although different because 1) my french skills are probably worse than yours, and 2) obviously my kids’ english skills are quite low sometimes, especially the 6ème and 5ème (6th and 7th graders). Because it’s middle school, some kids are just little shits although I think they are overall more well-behaved than middle schoolers at home, at least from what I personally remember about middle school.

    Also, my teaching has been different because generally I am not teaching the whole class at once for the whole hour. It has varied from 3 students at a time for 10 minutes each, to half the class for 25 minutes, switch to the other half for the last 25 minutes. I rarely have the entire class for the full hour, except when I did my intro, and some classes for halloween and thanksgiving (the lower level ones).

    Some of my 4ème and 3ème euro (the optional advanced english classes) kids are SO good though; I really enjoy working with them. In one class we are doing Grease, and the other is doing Treasure Island/pirates. (both the ideas of the profs, not mine) In general, what I teach is the prof’s ideas… or at least their general idea. Some are very specific like “here is a powerpoint of photos for you to use. ask them the questions about what people are doing in the picture and they should respond using usually, always, sometimes, rarely, never” to “can you help them practice pronunciation of a dialog” to just like, “can you do something about pirate vocabulary” (which I turned into a powerpoint of Pirates of the Caribbean characters and their jobs on the ship).

    I have 12 scheduled hours but I’m not entirely sure I’ve worked an entire week of 12 hours yet? I know the past three weeks I had classes off because either a prof (I work with 6 different ones) was sick or the classes had mock exams and/or a seminar to attend about like school violence or something. Also, the weeks I’ve done the training courses I’ve not worked full weeks either. Not to mention the vacations!

    • Yeah, I’m really glad I don’t have collège because it would be way harder to communicate to the kids in English. Do you ever have to talk to them in French? Until today, the only French I’ve spoken with my kids (at school) is just occasional words that they don’t know in English, but today I had 4 kids in a classroom by myself and I spoke to them in French a bit at the end. But I’m nervous/shy to speak to my kids in French! They’ll laugh at my accent!

      It sounds like your teachers give you waaaay more direction than mine. Sometimes they’ll give me a particular topic to prepare whatever I want on, and sometimes they’ll tell me I have an hour to do whatever I want. Also I’d say I more often work fewer than 12 hours 🙂

      • I think they give more direction because for most classes, except the euro sections, they work out of the textbook. I’ve done everything from have you got a pet?… to I get up at 7 o’clock, I take a shower at quarter past 7,… to practicing directional dialogs (excuse me, where is ABC? go straight and turn right at XYZ street). ETC.
        And then around different holiday times, they want me to talk about things (halloween/thanksgiving/christmas etc) like that too, as a cultural lesson.

        This week I took some initiative in my 4eme euro section and didn’t ask the prof what I should do, and planned something myself. I did a treasure hunt around the classroom with island/pirate vocabulary we learned a couple weeks ago, and whoever found the treasure, got stickers. (Also, I learned that in fact 14 year old are not too old to REALLY WANT shiny stickers as their prize.) I like having direction in the lessons. Planning something completely from scratch is hard for me, especially because you know, I don’t exactly know what all the kids know and what they don’t know (and even in the same class some are way better than others), so I don’t want to plan something out of their ability range.

        I don’t normally speak French to the kids. The professors don’t often use French either, typically only for disciplining and explaining very complicated things. I usually understand the kids when they ask me a question in French, but I always reply in English (esp if it’s just a yes or no question), unless they are asking me “what the french for blah blah?”. I use very basic classroom English and any new vocabulary is accompanied by pictures, particularly with the younger kids. I will also after explaining something and showing a picture, ask them “What is X in French?” to make sure they understood. Also, youtube is my friend with them as well. Showed videos from Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and Christmas lights on a house timed to music, for example, which they really liked.

        • I showed them that video too!! The one of the Christmas lights set to Trans-Siberian Orchestra music?? They LOVED it! I do the same thing with French… they ask a question in French, I answer in English. I haven’t done anything too fun like a treasure hunt though… maybe I’ll have to think about it, but I’m afraid to do a lesson that a teacher might think is just “fun” and not worthwhile.

          • The video I showed was like a dance remix of Amazing Grace haha.

            and I’d actually like to do more fun things because some of the stuff the teachers want me to do is so boring. The treasure hunt was really fun but also informational because they had to listen to the directions from me in English and remember the vocab we learned a couple weeks ago, words like shark and quicksand and coconut trees. (which btw I now know the French for all those words lol)

            • Teaching here is mad improving my vocab! Thanks to my Christmas lessons I now know the words for reindeer, poinsettia, mistletoe, fireplace, gingerbread…all high-frequency words I’m sure!!

  2. I’m enjoying reading about your experiences…and am trying to picture how I would have handled it if that were me, 35 years ago! What a marvelous experience all around.
    One fun experiment: try to get the French kids to pronounce the word “squirrel”! (The French equivalent is just as hard for American kids to pronounce) but it’s a fun word to talk about. Keep up the reports, I love to read them!

    • So glad you’re enjoying it! Being here is definitely an experience. Luckily I haven’t had anything too difficult to handle!

      You know, I actually remember you saying that in high school and have made them say it! Funny the things you remember. I’ve found they have more trouble saying the th sound, like “months.” As far as I go, I can say “écureuil” no problem, but “structurel”… forget it!

  3. tammy mcgreer

    Missing you Kelsey. So glad your enjoying yourself there. But will be glad when you come home. Love you Aunt Tammy

  4. Lori

    Kelsey, I love reading your posts. So, out of curiosity, are the students respectful of you? ya know how kids here are re: sub. teachers, do you have to deal with any of that or do your students seem to be more mature than kids here? Do you find you have to rely on speaking French all day long or is English spoken more than I would think? Do you have time off for holidays i.e. Christmas, New Years etc.? Thanks for all your info and allowing non-family people to read your blog…. I thoroughly enjoy it…

    • So glad you enjoy them! For the most part, the students are pretty respectful. I have a pretty good school with motivated, well-behaved students- like I said, for the most part! They’re still high schoolers and they chat during class and there are a few that are obnoxious or like to make trouble, but most of the time the kids are really good for me. I’m a welcome change from their normal teacher and I usually do more fun things that are different from what they’re used to. So that helps.

      I don’t know if they’re more mature… I know in my roommate’s school, he has a lot more behavioral issues. What I have noticed here is that learning is much more student directed… they’re not spoon-fed. Teachers often overlook sleeping in class and don’t drill into their heads what homework is due the next class. They tell them once, and they better listen- if they don’t, too bad! I’ll talk about more in the French education system post, whenever I end up writing it.

      At school, I speak mostly English, because I teach in English and I work with all English teachers, so they mostly talk to me in English. Sometimes French though. Whenever I go to a store, or a restaurant, post office, grocery store, etc., I speak French. Sometimes, they hear my accent, or don’t understand me, or I don’t know a word, and they switch to English if they speak it. I would say most people working in the service industry speak at least some English, because this is such a touristy area.

      I had 2 weeks off at the end of September (when I went to Germany and London), two weeks off for Christmas (my parents are coming), two weeks off at end of February (my bf is coming), and two weeks off at the end of April. Whew, massive comment! I hope this answered all your questions! Feel free to ask more, I like answering and you’re giving me ideas for future posts 🙂

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