I teach in two elementary schools. They are in the same little town, 20 minutes away from Orléans by bus. On Mondays and Fridays, I teach in MJ; on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I teach in LJ. Here are pictures of LJ:
This is my bus stop, across the street from LJ. It’s the little yellow pole towards the far left:
Also, in case you were wondering, that white-dash down the middle of the street acts as an opposing-traffic lane-dividor. So it’s a two-way street. Normally in the U.S., a dashed line like that would indicate that the traffic goes in the same direction; but that street isn’t a one-way.
LJ is very pretty. According to my coordinator, it’s an old establishment. In fact, on the outer wall of the school is engraved in stone, “Ecole des filles” (School for Girls). But now, it’s a co-ed school.
LJ is built like a little fort. The buildings that you see behind the garden are administrative buildings, but classes are not held there. Behind those buildings is a stone wall with a wooden door that is locked at night. When you walk through this entrance, you enter a courtyard with a playground. This courtyard is bordered by the classrooms. So, basically, the school “building” is a four-walled structure enclosing the playground. Whenever I leave the school, I have to ask for the key to open an exterior door set in the stone wall. Once outside, I lock this door and pass the key through a classroom window to the teacher waiting inside. Honestly, it’s like working in a baby castle, haha. But the classrooms are quite modern inside. I would take pictures, but I don’t think it’s allowed.
As for MJ, I don’t have any pictures of this school yet, as lately it’s been raining every time I teach there. MJ’s architecture is similar to an American elementary school- it has one building with 3 floors that houses all of the classrooms. However, it has one thing that many U.S. schools don’t- a locked gate enclosing the school. If ever I come to school after they’ve locked the gate, I press a button and speak to the directeur (principal) through the intercom for him to buzz me in.
Security in French and American schools are different. French security measures tend to be physical- locked gates, high walls, etc.- whereas American security measures are more…administrative, I’d say. U.S. schools tend to have only one main entrance where people can enter while the rest of the doors are locked. Visitors enter through the main door and have to see a secretary to get a guest name badge. However, in all the schools in France I’ve been in (I saw 6 while during orientation, including the 2 that I teach at), guests haven’t had to wear name badges. Or check in at any office. I haven’t even seen any secretary offices to serve this purpose. Only the directeurs have offices, but in France, principals teach classes, so they’re not always in their office. Granted, in the 6 schools I visited prior to starting working, I was shadowing an English teacher. So perhaps that’s way I didn’t need a name badge or anything. But I still find it weird.
So what lessons have I done so far?
The kids love learning colors with the ice cream cone. What I do is distribute the colors to ten children, then call up volunteers to help me find a certain color. (“Can you help me find the red?”) Once the volunteer finds the right color scoop, he or she holds it up, the entire class repeats the color, and we put it on the board with a magnet on top of the cone. (Another thing…blackboards are magnetic in France. Weird. Lol.)
I found a song online called “Little Green Peas,” sung to the tune of “Little Indians.” (1 little, 2 little, 3 little green peas). I made flashcards with little green peas on them, and we sing the song together in class. The song was a bit harder for me to teach than I thought it would have been, but it’s good for the children to absorb the new vocabulary. Many of them knew how to count in English perfectly well, but did not grasp the concept that the words (one, two, three, four) are associated with actual numbers (1, 2, 3, 4). For example, in the beginning before I taught numbers, some of the kids would try to count the scoops of ice cream in English, and they’d be counting “5, 6, 7!” when there were only 3 scoops on the cone lool.
The color cards were for a coloring sheet we did with numbers. I drew bubble numbers and made copies for my 1st and 2nd grade classes. I would ask a kid to come up to the front of the class and pick a card. Whichever color he/she picked would be the color that #1 number would be colored, and so forth, until we colored all 10 numbers in. I was proud of coming up with this lesson, because it incorporated both numbers and colors. The school district doesn’t give us lesson plans. They simply give us guidelines of what they want the children to learn in a year and a list of possible books that may help us.
& Classroom commands.
So far, I’ve been slowly incorporating these commands into our classes. I’ve only showed them at the end of class, and played Simon Says with a few of my older classes. I haven’t dedicated an entire class to commands yet.
I have four 1st grade classes, two 2nd grade classes, one 4th grade class, and one 5th grade class. For the older children (4th and 5th graders), the teachers usually give me more of an idea of where they want the lesson to go. The 4th and 5th graders can read English already, whereas I’m not allowed to show the 1st and 2nd graders anything with English writing on it because they’re still learning to read French. I’ve done Halloween vocabulary, the body parts, and American culture with the older kids. This week, I’m going to do a lesson on time. I haven’t brainstormed how I’m going to go about doing this yet, but I’ll take pictures if I make anything crafty.
Preparing lessons is actually kind of fun sometimes…I like crafting new projects and letting the creative vibes flow lol. I don’t think I’d be able to be a full time primary school teacher though. I wouldn’t have the discipline for it. I truly admire elementary school teachers now– they have to master at least four disciplines: literature, history, math, science– and teach them in a way that is understandable to children. All while maintaining order, because kids can get crazy and out of hand sometimes. Being a teacher takes sooo much patience. And self-discipline. The hardest part of lesson planning for me sometimes is just sitting my backside down and doing it.
As for the children, they’re lovely. They really are. I do have two crazy classes, not going to lie; in those two classes, it’s an effort to properly teach the kids “My name is ___” because they’re talking so loud. Not all of the French children are little angels. But to be honest, the rowdier classes are always hilarious in retrospect. In one 1st grade class, we were playing “Hide the number.” The little green pea cards were on the chalkboard sill, and I would call a child up to hide a card while everyone else’s eyes were closed. The rest of the class had to guess which card was missing. Well. Let’s just say 6-and-7-year-olds are cheeky peekers and avid tattle-tales. During one round of the game, a little girl shouted out, “Sophia’s looking! She’s cheating! She’s cheating!” I answered in French, “You’re cheating, too. How do you know her eyes are open? Close your eyes, Lisa.”
Then there was the 2nd grade class where the kids were talking so loud, even their full-time teacher grading papers in the back couldn’t get them settle down. Usually I can get a class to calm down if I say, “On va jouer un jeu maintenat, alors il faut que tout le monde garde le silence.” (We’re going to play a game now, so everyone has to be quiet.) Most times, this tricks them into being quiet, even if we’re not about to play a game until 20 minutes from then (lol…I’m turning into my mother). But for the louder classes, usually they stay quiet for about 2 minutes, someone fidgets, another person coughs, and then it becomes rambunctious once more. But hey, it’s only 2 out of the 8, so I’m not complaining! Let’s just say whenever I come into the school courtyard in the mornings, the little hugs and sticky bisous help make up for it. Oh, kids! It’s hard to get mad at them sometimes. But I do have to find a way to restore order in my rowdy classrooms. Some teachers swear by getting them to put their heads on their desks, or by getting them to clap their hands together, and then on their knees. Well, we’ll see.
Take care, everyone. xo