Today is my mom's 50th birthday! Happy Birthday Momma!
I didn't feel completely out of my comfort zone until Monday. On Monday I got to wake up at 6:00am and take the métro to Corbeil-- the town in which I will be teaching-- for the first time. It was a dark and rainy day. "That's Paris," you say, but it had been sunny and beautiful every single day until this Monday. What a strange day it was, and it absolutely must be documented. I must warn you now that I found it difficult to stay focused while writing this story and as a result I have inserted many digressions. I hope it is not too hard to follow...
First of all, I completely screwed-up what should have been a very simple commute by getting on the métro going the wrong way... twice. Somehow, though, I managed to make it to the Corbeil train station on time.
(Side note: as I was typing just now my computer decided it wanted to become a French keyboard and typed the previous sentence as such: So,ehoz; though; I ,qnqged to ,qke it to the trqin stqtion on ti,e:... I digress. I didn't know my computer was smart enough to become French, but why would it choose to do this while I am clearly writing in English?!)
Anyway! At the train station I met Alana (another English language assistant from Toronto who is very nice) and my Conseilleuse pédagogique, Françoise, (the woman in charge of making sure I am well integrated into the school). We hopped into François's very French car and drove around the medieval town while Françoise blabbed on and on about the town's history in French (mind you, it is before 9:00 in the morning and I had only had a cup of instant coffee in the morning so my brain was not ready to focus on computing a foreign language).
After a stop at the administrative building, Françoise took us to the Picasso elementary school where Alana will teach. When we arrived the directrice (equivalent to an American principal) of the school offered us coffee and cookies and we chatted about assistant life for what seemed like a couple of hours. During this time as well as the rest of the day I started to realize that Françoise is the type of person who likes to (a) make comparisons between people, (b) talk about people after they have left the room, and (c) appear as though she is much more nurturing and caring than either of the previously mentioned characteristics permit. Otherwise, everyone at Picasso seemed nice enough, but it was not my school, so I was a bit anxious to see what JM would be like!
JM elementary school. It's a "temporary" building next to the lot where they plan to build the real Jean Macé elementary school. This temporary structure has served as the school's primary building for many years, I learned when Françoise pointed this out when we arrived. She kept saying things like "This school is not as innovative as Picasso!" in a sarcastic tone, suggesting that it was JM's fault that they didn't receive the funding for video conferencing. I had a feeling we wouldn't be sipping café with the directrice for 2 hours at my school...
I met the directrice, and she is very excited to have me at the school. Françoise and the directrice, Monique, took me to the teacher's lounge for lunch. The teachers were sitting at rectangular tables arranged in a circle, and they looked stressed as they tried to eat lunch and prepare lesson plans during their 2 hour lunch break! When they saw Françoise walk into the room with me and the directrice they did not look pleased. In fact, they had no idea that I was coming. WELCOME TO FRANCE!
So the teachers and Françoise proceed to have a 20 minute spat about why I was there and how frustrated they are that they have to fit me into their already hectic schedules. Don't worry though, I could tell that it wasn't a personal attack, but seriously... I came all the way to France and they have no idea what to do with me.
The teachers gossiped with me during recess (they are all very very nice AND funny) and told me why they detest my conseilleuse. They made me feel very welcome in the school, though I'm still not sure exactly what I'll be doing there. I read the story "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?" to the students (7-9 years old) during one of the classes and they found me absolutely fascinating. Their English is very basic, but the brave ones like to come up to me and say "Hello!", which sounds more like "ello!" and ask me what my name is. It's amazing how something so easy for me can be so interesting to them!
I feel that there is so much more going on, but I can't possibly write about all of it. I have met so many interesting people this past week!