My first paid day began on the 1st of October 2014. Before I arrived in France, I presumed this would be when I would start work. However, it turns out that orientations were that day and the schools that you were placed in would tell you when they want you. Some of my friends started the day after orientations, some have been told they don’t need to start until November, after the Toussaint holiday for the French.
One of my schools asked me to come in on the 9th of October to begin teaching. That was cancelled. My other school asked me to start on the 10th of October. That was also cancelled. Finally, on the 13th of October, the next week, my main school decided not to cancel on me and let me start!
After not receiving a complete timetable from either of the schools, and not being contacted by any of my colleagues to let me know if I needed to prepare anything or wether they actually wanted me, I decided to just go to the school at the time suggested by the teacher I’d been in contact with.
I ran around all morning and turned up at the school sweaty after power walking in twenty-five degree heat, unsure of the classroom or teacher I would even be with. I went to get the keys to access the classrooms and then went to the main office to see where I should go. The receptionist told me that the teacher was off that day so class was cancelled.
I made a snap decision to stay in the school and head towards the teachers lounge for English teachers as my next class was only an hour later. I met a teacher who I would be working with on Wednesdays who said that she was just about to take this class and asked if I would like to introduce myself for a couple of minutes at the beginning.
I followed her to the classroom in an extremely nervous manner, trying to hold my posture and stay calm. Thankfully most of the class were in New York on a trip so I was met with around nine students who were keen to speak English. I told them about myself and they had some questions about Dunfermline, Glasgow and Glasgow University. We spoke about the Independence referendum for a while as well as apparently a lot of French classes had been discussing that as it happened.
I had a very good hour with the students and at the teachers request, we swapped numbers and Facebook’s so we could meet up outside of class. I considered my first hour of ‘teaching’ a success despite it being a different class than originally planned and considering I was only supposed to be with the students for five minutes!
I walked back to the English teachers lounge to find only one person had turned up. The teacher had forgotten to tell her students that I was teaching them before the holidays but one of the students had taken it in to her own hands so that she had the English speaking time, which I hugely appreciated. I took her and her friend in to a separate class and we simply just chatted about everything, as friends would. The teacher told me to let them leave after half an hour but we ended up staying there the full hour and again, swapping numbers so we could go for drinks over the holidays.
I left the school after my first two hours feeling very whole and happy as it had completely exceeded my expectations. I was supposed to have another two hours in the afternoon but one of the hours was cancelled because the teacher was away with Irish exchange students. My next hour was not for three hours so I headed home and emailed her to make sure she definitely needed me, considering the experience I had had up until that point.
I received no email in return from the teacher but decided to go back to the school anyway, in the hope I’d have another hours experience with the kids. I could not find the teacher anywhere but another teacher took me to her working in some random room in this huge school. I was greeted with her apologising saying that she didn’t actually need me that day as it was the last week of school.
So, I walked the half hour walk back home feeling a little deflated. I had really wanted to have the extra hour of teaching and I knew I only had a few hours left this week.
There’s a few things I’ve learned from my first day of ‘teaching’: half the teachers in schools decide they’re ill in the last week of school, teaching is not as scary as I had first thought, classes will constantly be cancelled meaning my weeks will never really be full and I know that I do actually enjoy being in a school environment as a teacher.
I feel the day was a part success as I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching and getting along with students. It was a very strange feeling being the authority figure. It was easier than I had previously thought to gain their respect and be the ‘teacher’ but also allow them to trust me as a friend or as someone who is closer to their age than their teacher.
All in all, I wish the French system wasn’t so relaxed so that I could have more teaching time but I was still happy with the day. I now know I’d also like to do extra hours of teaching to earn some extra money and I’m becoming more and more sure that I’m doing the right thing by being in the beautiful city, living out my dream.