That’s how I feel every day going to school. I feel like I am walking into a jungle filled with dark foliage and poisonous flowers and crazy flesh-eating bugs and scary monkeys, and no one gave me a machete. You could even venture to say I’m a lot like Katniss. So, I guess you could say it’s hard. The thing that’s really hard about it is the students’ ages; they’re in middle school, so they’re between 11-14 years old. Parents out there: if you never once considered putting your child up for adoption between the ages of 11 and 14 and then taking them back once they were good and done with puberty, you deserve to be sainted or knighted or at least get a raise at work. Because it is rough. Also, these kids know that I’m an assistant and not a “real teacher,” so they basically take this as a get out of jail free card. The set-up of this whole shindig is that I take half of a class for 30 minutes and do an activity them, and then switch. I have kids talking to each other across the room about me (because the teachers told me to tell them I don’t speak French (bad idea), so the students think I don’t understand what they’re saying…I think I might have to pull a fast one on them one of these days), and there’s always at least one or two students who straight up put their heads on their desks and sleep the entire time. No shame whatsoever. Also, I work at two schools, and I really prefer one of my schools to the other, which is a big bummer. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the work environment or teachers (well, it does a little bit, but that’s a whole other story). It’s just these darn students! Anyways, the point of this post was not to bitch and moan and kvetch, believe it or not. I’ve been asked for pictures of both my schools, and since they’re both pretty drab I figured I’d just describe them for you here and let your imagination run away with you. Who knows, maybe by the end of this post you’ll be envisioning me riding into class on a unicorn and using my solid gold trident to silence students. Then at least one of us would find what I do glamorous.
School #1: The school is surrounded by a huge gate, and the only way to get in is to be buzzed in. This posed a problem for me on the day I went to meet the teachers, as I had been instructed to arrive around 12:30, during the lunch break. Lunch break, meaning everyone was on their lunch break, including the two people whose job it is to buzz someone in at the front of the school. There was another person trying to get in at the same time as me, so I made a friend in the process. Eventually a delivery truck left the school and we were able to slip through the automatic gate. I found this really interesting/incredibly frustrating. What if someone needed to get buzzed in to pick up his or her sick child or to deliver information of the utmost importance (ummmm HELLO zombie apocalypse anyone?) but couldn’t get buzzed in because no one was there?! I really thought that there should be a shift system set up so that someone is always available to buzz people in. But, I digress. Back to the school. The school is extremely old. The teachers tell me that they have been waiting for the past 3 or 4 years or so to get funding from the government (because public schools in France are nationalized) and city approval to renovate the entire school, and maybe even change the location. A contractor recently found a huge crack in the foundation between the first and second floors, so there are certain classrooms which are actually physically unsafe for students and teachers to be in (I’ve seen one of them – the majority of the ceiling tiles were missing, and the beams were supported by scaffolding set up in the middle of the room). Also, the rooms are cold. So cold. It obviously is expensive to heat an entire building, so the school doesn’t turn on the heat until after the first vacation, which starts on Saturday and lasts two weeks. The only thing about this is that there’s a school rule that students have to take off their coats and scarves in class, so I do it too so they don’t think I’m a huge jerk. Brrrrrr.
School #2: This school is also gated in, but the buzzing-in process was much easier here. The school is also freezing, like the first one. Not conducive to someone trying to recover from a cold! This school is pretty confusing for me. A lot of the teachers like to joke that the architect either didn’t know what he was doing or was on drugs when he built this school, because it’s a little bizarre. The entire school is built in a circular shape, and the stairwells are ridiculously hard to find. Every time I try to find the stairs I feel like I have to have passed them at least three or four times before I find them smack dab in front of me. The circular orientation of the building also makes it feel like you are in a school of sardines in a European roundabout during the 5 minute transition time between classes. It’s virtually impossible to go against the current (literally), so even though rooms 124 and 101 are right next to each other (think the end of the circle meeting the beginning), you have to go all the way around. Ugh. Students will also take advantage of circle time and will do 2 or 3 laps to avoid having to go to class early. There are always teachers standing outside their doors, calling out students who they’ve seen pass by thrice already. There are also a lot of fights at this school, which is hard to watch because the teachers intervene only occasionally, so I feel like it’s not my place to do so either.
Both the schools also arrange a trip to England for the older students, similar to the trip to Washington, D.C. many schools take in 8th grade. One of my schools is on that trip this week, so there’s only one English teacher at school right now. The other school is thinking of taking their trip in March, and they’re going to see if I can go with them. That would be so cool (but not just because they’re going to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour or anything…).
À bientôt mes chéris, et gros bisous!
P.S. We finally got our credit cards and checkbooks today, thank the sweet, sweet lord! But my checkbook has the wrong address on it…Le sigh
P.P.S. First vacation coming up soon! Les Vacances Toussaint (All Saints’ Vacation) starts on Saturday and is two weeks long (can I get a Hallelujah up in here?). I’ll be going to England to visit some family friends, and then to Paris for a bar mitzvah. Woohoo!