I am currently about three weeks into working at my school in Wattrelos, France. I can almost say Wattrelos with confidence now (seriously so difficult haha)! After moving into my apartment and getting settled, I scheduled a visit to the school with my Prof référent. This way, I got to meet my contact in person finally, see the school grounds, meet the other professors I’d be working with, and see what the commute would be like.
Getting to my school from Lille was completely new to me. All I knew was that there was a bus somewhere in Roubaix… When I got off the metro to find the bus, I asked the info-guy where I could find the bus to Wattrelos. Upon hearing my terrible pronunciation of Wattrelos, he asked where in the city I was headed. This man proceeded to pull up my school on Google maps and make sure I knew where to go! Once I reached the school, the kindness of strangers only continued! Every colleague I met was asking how I have been doing getting settled, if I need anything, etc! Several professors have offered to drive me in from Lille when our schedules match up.
Cité scolaire Émile Zola
So far, I absolutely love my school! Not only are my colleagues amazing, everyone here is friendly and welcoming! Zola has several sections of students: collège, lycée, lycée professionnel, and BTS. This means I get to work with students from age 10 to 17! We haven’t quite set a fixed schedule yet because I had two training days from CIEP my first week which interfered with my ability to see classes. I will be assisting with classes on Monday-Thursday, splitting my time between middle school classes and high school classes. Oh heyyy three-day-weekends! 😛
French schools are pretty different from the US. I observed classes for my first week to get accustomed to the way classes normally are. I am still learning about the various high school paths and options here at Zola. It’s a bit confusing! I learned that lycée professionnel is a specialized high school with students that have a focus in sales or some other occupation that they would like to pursue after completing their baccalauréat.
My biggest confusion starting here was that the grades are backwards from what we use in the US! Middle School (collège) is grades 6ème, 5ème, 4ème, 3ème – what I would normally call 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th. Then High School (lycée) is grades 2nde, 1ère, and Terminale – what I’d call 10th, 11th, 12th. After about a week, I’ve pretty much accustomed to which grades are which. I am super thankful that I only work in one location! A lot of assistants have to split their time with different schools… and then commute to each of them!
I forgot how young middle schoolers are! I absolutely adore working with the 6èmes; they are all 10-11 and usually a little shy at first but so curious! In one of the first classes of that age that I met, they were speaking to the Prof in french and said “she’s young right?” My colleague made them ask me in English how old I am; after I said 24 one little boy said under his breath, “ohh but that’s actually quite old!!” He didn’t realize I understood French, and I couldn’t help bursting out laughing! This adorable lil student was so shocked by how ‘old‘ I am!
Working with so many age groups definitely keeps things interesting! No one class is like another. High school students were a bit intimidating to me at first because a lot of them are tall and I’m so little! I was also a little nervous that they’d be more rambunctious, but they actually are fun and generally very respectful! One class has given me a few french artists to check out since I like rap. 🙂 Being closer in age to them definitely helps to relate a bit more, and they love to hear what shows I watch etc. One class actually made an introduction video for me saying welcome and introducing themselves before I started at the school!
It’s pretty adorable, several students asked me if it is difficult to live here or if I had a hard time adjusting. They’re also pretty concerned that I don’t have family here and that I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Lille. 🙂 I made sure to tell them that I have friends close by and I’ve been making friends in Lille so I’m not lonely!
Some of the funniest questions students have asked:
Have you met Barack Obama?
Where can I get a haircut in the states because I like yours?
Have you seen movie stars?
Are you really American? Show us your ID and credit card!
A lot of students ask about Donald Trump and the elections, which is understandable. One student asked if I own a gun! This initially surprised me, but I realized that they hear a lot about violence in the US and they are learning about gun control. There is an elective class that I may help out with that is studying cultural phenomena like “The American Dream.” I am really looking forward to helping out with that!
My students are really excited to say “Hello! How are you?” whenever they see me. It’s a small feat, but the fact that they are excited to practice English with me even for a second is great! In a way, it’s a little bizarre. I now see how the foreign exchange students at my high school must have felt. It’s like being a mini celebrity! ((Ohhhh she’s American!))
I now have two weeks off of work! So many holidays here! I’m bummed because I actually really enjoy working at Zola! But, now there are two weeks of adventures to be had. 😉