Sunday, March 16, 2008


Thankfully this was a rather uneventful week, so no repeats of frantic and ridiculously long posts (I didn't realize how long that last one was until like just now. Wow, sorry to everyone who actually read it!).

I'm in the middle of my sixth month with this program, which means that I have less than three months of teaching left because we have another big break coming up next month and some random long weekends in May. I can't believe this program is almost over already and that time has gone by so quickly. I know the rest of is will fly by, and I'm both happy and sad about that. There are some things I really can't stand about living here. To be flippant I'll list the horrible UHT (ultra high temperature pasturization) milk at the top of the list, but also things like the train strikes, some French behaviors, and most of their medical system, just to name a few. In that respect I'll be happy to get back to the US (where there are also a lot of things I can't stand, but hey, at least they are part of MY country and I have the power as a voter to fix them. Can't vote in France).

But this week I realized that I have made some kind of a life for myself here. Like when I went to the bakery yesterday. I haven't been in there in quite a while because I've been buying bread from Monoprix but the woman at the counter still remembered me and asked how my French was coming along. And at Monoprix, where I've somehow made friends with one of the check-out ladies. And when the professor at the lycée who I'm friends with asked if we could start having coffee during the week and speak English together. And how I have figured out the Paris metro system and am really starting to know (parts of) that city well. And when my kids see me in the town and run up all excited to give little bisous. And how this week I realized that I think I finally have this lesson planning thing figured out. And when one of my CM1 monster-class kids gave me a drawing on which she had written that she hopes I'll be here next year too. And how much I like the vast majority of the kids I teach and will be really, really sad to leave them.

Which brings up the topic of renewal. Considering the fact that as recently as December vacation I really wanted to quit and go home, it seems ridiculous that only three months later I'm thinking about staying for another year. I honestly can't believe it myself. What has changed since then? I hated the same things about France then as I do now. I guess I have just gotten used to being here and tried to do more to make myself happy. A lot of it is that I don't have horrible treatment anymore, so I have more free time to enjoy myself and relax and not be running around crazy busy and stressed. The things that I like are the same: my job and the kids (most of the monster class excluded), the people I work with (not that we're close, but they're nice to me at least), being able to get to Paris easily, and getting to practice and improve my French. And to add to that, the fact that I do feel more comfortable being here. The big question is, do I like it so much that I want to stay for another year? I I did apply for renewal, even though at the time it was just to keep my options open, in case. Now it seems to have become a real option. Renewal of the assistant contract is actually pretty rare because they give the preference to new applicants, but I think I have a better chance than most because Picardie is not a very popular region. Fewer people want to be here, therefore fewer new applicants to take spots the renewers want. So I'd say my chances of getting renewed aren't so bad. But would I take the renewal if I get it? I would only take it if I got assigned to the same inspection and the same schools. But am I romanticizing the situation because I've had a good couple of weeks? Could I tolerate being an ex-pat for another year, especially during an election year (I'm a politics junkie)? Wouldn't renewal be punishing myself doubly, because it would be even harder to leave after spending two years with the same kids?

Lots of unknowns. Which reminds me of a great quote by Gilda Radner: Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.


Le Tigre said...

I've also asked to renew, but whilst it is going a lot better with the kids and I reckon if I did a second year I'd be a great teacher, a lot better than I've been this year, I just don't think I could hack another year of teaching children. I've asked to teach at an IUFM, and if I don't get renewed (I honestly doubt I will be able to) I'm not that sad about it. I will be more than happy to find other less stable means of work than this program I think. But it certainly is full of high and lows hey? I think it shows us our hidden strengths in a lot of I guess it was worth it.

Leah said...

So, I know this is kinda cliche, but when really will you get this opportunity again to enjoy all that France(and other countries!) has to offer? A second year would mean you getting to know even more people there and getting settled into life there. I think it could be pretty awesome.

FYI, you might have a lot of time to figure out this decisions because I don't know how it normally works in Picardie for renewals, but in Rennes you don't usually find out until September or even later! And it's not a guarantee...not, to be a Debbie Downer or anything, but just so you know to decide what you want to do IF you get the offer rather than when.

Also, are you sure you wouldn't mind teaching at another school? That way, you could get to know a whole new set of kids and it would be less difficult to leave than if you stayed on another year teaching the same kids. Something to think about. Good luck in whatever you decide and I selfishly hope you stay so we can all read about your adventures!

Andromeda said...

everyone says the second year is easier. think of how much time you'll save using last year's lessons! and if you are offered the renewal and turn it down, i think that counts as a second year, so you wouldn't be able to do it again!

but i applied to renew and would definitely take it, despite the major headaches, there is more to life than work that makes it worth staying!! there is a nice guy at the tabac who always makes a point to ask me something when i'm there, like today i bought a candy bar, he asked how much they cost in the states. for me too, little things like that make me feel like i have a life here and want to stay (and not just for the boy, though that does give france a few bonus points, lol).

Au Soleil Levant said...

Le Tigre - you definitely have had a horrible, horrible teaching experience in the primary schools and I don't blame you for wanting to switch, if I had to do what you've gone through this year I would absolutely not at all be thinking about renewing. No experience is wasted, but still, do they have to be such hard experiences?

Leah, there you go giving me even more good reasons to stay. See, this is the thing. I'm going to start taking classes in the fall if I am not renewed, so if I don't find out until September that's too late for me to be able to accept it. I guess I could wait it out with a job but the economy blows, in Michigan more than any other state, so I doubt that will happen, and I need to be doing something productive with my life. I guess it's also a way of trying to force myself into one choice or another.... as is only wanting to stick with the same schools. I'm terrified of ending up in a nightmare experience. Or what is more likely in Picardie, getting placed in some middle of nowhere town with no trains. So do I want to renew so much that I feel like being a pain to the rectorat? Je sais pas...

Andromeda, those little moments when someone recognizes me or whatever make my day! Good luck with your renewal, although it sounds like you've got some lectrice possibilities too! No doubt about it, this job would be a whole lot easier next year.