Sunday, 1 December 2013

A week in the life of an English teaching assistant in France

I really wanted to do this post just so that future assistants or applicants can get a real feel of what day to day life is like for an English assistant in France. 

I'm not working in my school's today, but this is usually the day I find out what topics my teacher's would like me to prepare something on for Tuesday and Thursday's classes at my main school and what I'll do for my other school on Wednesday (I get to do whatever I like with them). I brainstorm activities I think might be interesting and know exactly what I'm going to do with them before Tuesday. I prepare worksheets and slideshow presentations or find videos I think will work well. It usually takes a while to come up with activities for all your classes, but it's not an overwhelming workload and definitely gets easier as time goes on.

The walk home from the bus stop
This morning, I get picked up at 7:40am by a teacher who lives in the same town as me which saves me having to catch the bus or train to school! The car ride is always a bit awkward because my French isn't awesome yet and he knows no English, so we listen to the radio in silence together. Once I get to school and 'faire la bise' with everyone, I have just enough time to print of worksheets/photocopy and cut everything up before the bell rings. Depending on if it's Week A or B, I have 3 or 4 hours of classes in the morning leaving me the afternoon free. I always have lunch at school on Tuesdays because I get a nice warm meal and dessert for a couple of euros, which is unbeatable. The whole cafeteria lunch thing is a real novelty for me every week (as we don't have this in Australia), though always proves to be a bit embarrassing because I fail at knowing the french names for the more obscure vegetables and meats, so it's always kind of a mystery what I get. This is the time where I try to talk with the other teachers and the students shout my name from across the room to say " 'ello Cora!" I usually leave towards the end of lunch to catch my bus (which is always late.. it's France!) I get home, relax, have a small dinner and then make sure everything is packed and prepared for tomorrow's lessons.

I teach 3-4 hours at my other school in the morning and have the rest of the afternoon off. I get picked up and dropped off today which is awesome. It's kind of nice finishing early because I get to have some free time before my mega busy day on Thursday. Wednesday is usually the day where I do my shopping for the week. The supermarket, which is aptly named "Cora" is about a 5 minute walk away, which is really handy. I usually stick to a pretty strict shopping list. It's usually frozen vegetables, baguette, nutella, cereal, tomatoes, avocado, eggs, pasta, rice and tuna. It's pretty basic but keeps me full and the bank balance healthy. I carry my bags home, popping my earphones in, and it's usually the moment where I realise that I'm alone leaving in France, doing all these ordinary, wonderful things. Be it crushing autumn leaves under my footsteps or keeping my balance on the slippery snow, or breathing out steam on cold days, my little french life in all its simplicity brings a smile to my face and makes me happy. 

My biggest day of the week! I work 7-8 consecutive hours today, depending on the week. It starts at 7:20am when I get picked up and finishes at around 6:30pm when I take the train home. I leave when it's still dark and get home in darkness. It's the only day where I have to go between schools, which are a 25 minute walk away from each other. It's good exercise but a struggle on those ridiculously cold winter days in Northern France! I once walked in -13 and felt like I wasn't going to make it haha! Today is the day I treat myself to McDo as I spend most of my lunch break walking between schools and it's the only place where I can get food, fast. I've fallen in love with the Big Mac here and the Daim McFlurry (seriously having withdrawals from it after coming back to Australia). I'm so exhausted by the time I get home that I usually fall asleep quite early. The only thing that gets me through is that I know I'm going to have the next 4 days off... woo hoo!

Even though it's only 12 hours of work a week, I look forward to Friday to just be able to relax and know I have the rest of the weekend to go out and do things. I usually Skype home on Fridays as getting the time difference right and it be a good time for me and my family is easier when I don't have to work. I wake up at around 10am to Skype and usually have breakfast while talking to them. Afterwards I'll just chill at home watching tv, planning trips or keeping busy as all my other assistant friends are unlucky and work on Fridays. Depending on what I have planned, sometimes I take a trip somewhere from Friday to Monday, but usually I don't take too many weekend trips as I save for the very generous 2-week school holidays we get every 5 weeks or so.

The weekend! I catch up with friends or other assistants who live in my town where we just chill at each other's places, go out to dinner or a bar, take a walk around town, go to the park, go out shopping or clubbing in Lille or go to a festival etc. Some weekends are more exciting than others, but life works the same here as it does back home.. so not every weekend is going to be filled with some magical adventure. The winter was long, which prevented a lot of outside activities, but when it snowed we built snowmen and when it finally got bearable outside, we took walks in the 'sun' and just enjoyed the change of the seasons and the coming spring. Weekends were also cool for going to the bakery or the markets and getting all that fresh bread, desserts and cheese!

Hope this little itinerary helped all of you out there! If you have any questions or would like to request a post for one of the many posts to come this December, please comment below!


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