As I finished my last week of work, I felt it was an appropriate time to reflect on the past seven months working here. Despite the difficulty getting settled in the beginning (thank you, French administration), I have had a pretty amazing year. I feel so lucky to have met so many amazing people! Although I am very happy to see my family soon, I’m really sad to be leaving this community. Lille has certainly become my home away from home.
I feel like I hit the jackpot with my school assignment. I really can’t envision a better group of colleagues to have welcomed me. When I saw I was assigned to secondary school (middle and high school) I was a bit apprehensive. Students at that age can be a lot to handle! However, all year long my students have pleasantly surprised me. Whether they want to talk politics or food preferences, I am happy to have driven a little bit of excitement in learning and practicing English!
This program has been everything I had hoped for and more. Of course, as you can see from my other posts, I had lots of time off to travel! But beyond that, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting tons of great people through my work and international groups in the area. There are several experiences I would not have had if it weren’t for my amazing coworkers and students at Émile Zola. Here are some of my highlights from this year:
Before I even started work, I got a video from one of the high school classes welcoming me! They each introduced themselves and some gave suggestions on things I could do in Lille. They even asked a few questions about me and where I come from! Though some students are more comfortable in front a camera than others, they each participated. Some even through in a dab or ‘Jul’ symbol at the end of their parts. 😀 It was really cute and made me excited to start work!
This particular class is a bit special for me, due to this video. They are a really fun group of students because they are very expressive and spontaneous. Later in the school year when my mother came to visit, she got to come to a class with them! She and I both participated in a debate about street art with the class. It was really fun – though they are always energetic, they were well prepared and argued a lot in English! My mom loved being able to see a class, and since that day some of the students still ask me about my family! <3
Recently I discussed with my prof référent that there is no proper English equivalent to an apéro. To me, it’s so french! At the beginning of the school year, one of the English teachers had a bunch of us over for an apéro – drinks and finger foods, a before dinner event or three+ hour evening event. This was when I was still feeling quite inadequate in speaking french, but they made sure I could still participate in the conversations! (Plus champagne tends to put you more at ease 😉 ). I got to meet my colleague’s husband and kids, plus some of the teachers at school I wasn’t as familiar with.
Throughout the school year we also had several lunch apéros in the staff lounge. All staff were included in these events, which was really nice. In December, the teachers organized a little advent calender – each day someone different brought candy and put them in their mailbox for every one to take. We also did a small white elephant gift exchange! It was super fun. I have really appreciated the atmosphere of the school. It makes for a much more pleasant experience at work!
Holiday Themed Classes
Within the collège, I worked most often with the 6èmes which allowed me to build a great relationship with those students. I got to see most of them nearly each week! Just before holidays we had a few themed classes – Halloween themed in October, Thanksgiving themed in November. I got to share with them a bit of my culture and family traditions for those American holidays. In December, we also had a class about Christmas for me in the States. We ended up putting on Christmas songs (in English of course!) and singing so loud another teacher popped in to poke fun at us! 😛
Attempting to explain what Thanksgiving is was extremely amusing for me. Several times over I’d have students asking – “so it’s like Christmas but for Americans?” Luckily, my coworker would help try to explain that they are two completely separate holidays. 😀 In some of my classes, I said that I was sad not to be with my family for Thanksgiving. The next day I went to school and found a whole stack of Thanksgiving cards in my mailbox from students!
Theatre Company Visit
One of my coworkers organized a visit from an English theatre company to do a play for the 2ndes. The play is written specifically for french students who are learning English. I got to watch the play with them – it was actually very funny! After the play, we had lunch with the actors and visited with them. They were each from different parts of the UK, and tour France presenting the play nearly every day for several months. In the afternoon, the company did a workshop with one of the classes, role playing and acting!
After having seen the play, my coworker had her 2nde classes learn and memorize a scene to act out in English. I had the pleasure of working with those classes to help them learn and practice their lines. The students really committed! I had way too much fun helping them practice. I don’t think I have laughed this much in any other class!
Evening at the Théâtre
My school organizes after school trips to see local plays for really cheap. In March, my coworker invited me to go along to a play with some of the students from Lycée Professionel. The play was actually really interesting – and though it was in french I was able to follow along! Afterwards, some of the students asked the writer/main actress some questions about the play and how she developed it.
Though the bus dropped us back at the school, a group of students wanted to get dinner with my coworker and I after the play! We carpooled to a student’s family restaurant. I rode with the guys because the girls wanted to ride in my coworker’s car. Needless to say, it was super entertaining! The guys showed me their favorite music and asked me lots of questions. Unlike in the classroom, I actually spoke in french with them. On top of this being a really fun evening, the Turkish restaurant had delicious food!
Last but not least, I got to go on a trip with the high school to the UK! We spent three days in England and one in Wales. The teachers and I stayed in a bed and breakfast, while the students each had host families. Somehow we were blessed with amazing weather all week!! I actually got a sunburn! In England! Throughout the trip I got to know a lot of the students much better, some of which I hadn’t worked with in class before. I also had a lot of laughs with my coworkers. I plan to write a separate post on this trip, so I will leave it at this: It was really a wonderful week!
Goodbye… For Now
What I appreciated most from working at the school was how candid each of my students were. Their shock over things that seem so normal to me was extremely amusing, and they taught me a lot about both my own culture and theirs! Coming to France to work was a dream come true. However, my students were all so shocked I would want to leave the US – which is a dream to them! It’s always greener on the other side, I suppose. Working with students from age 10-18 guaranteed that every day was nothing like the last! I thoroughly enjoyed working with each of them.
This year I’ve made some life-long friendships. I have no doubt that I will stay in touch with the friends that I have made during my stay. The sun may not shine so often in the north, but the region is so full of kind and welcoming people.
Quand y’a un étranger qui vient vivre dans ch’nord, il braie deux fois : quand il arrive et quand il repart.
I have applied to renew my contract for the next school year through CIEP. I’m really happy to say that I was accepted! Starting next October, I will be back in the region Académie de Lille – aka Nord-Pas-de-Calais. I can’t wait to come back!