Monday, March 17, 2008

Things I don't get

I learned something that really, really surprised me today. One of my big complaints about this program is that they don't give you any teaching materials, except for the basically useless Mallett Pedagogique. So I've been whining for a while now about how much easier it would be if they just gave us books, why do some schools have books and others don't, why don't they really support English education in this country, blah blah blah.

I've been participating in a "groupe recherche action anglais" - it's a group that reunites teachers who are interested in how to teach English to maternelle through CE1 (preschool through second grade) and I've always noticed that the teachers talk about "I bought this in Paris for x amount of money" and I thought it was pretty bizarre that they were always buying it themselves. Shouldn't it come out of the school district budget? So today I finally asked about it and they told me that in France textbooks aren't bought by the school district, they are bought by the teachers. Each teacher is given a certain amount of money to spend (I think they said it's like €25 per student!!!!) and they use that to buy all classroom supplies and textbooks and workbooks for the kids, which means that they have to spend a lot of money out of their own pocket. They complained about it but said that at least they can choose whatever book they want to use instead of in the US when the school district decides on and buys the books. I was completely shocked. What messed up country doesn't allocate enough money to buy BOOKS for their students???? I find it really ridiculous. So of course I had to look up how much the US and France spend on public education. As a percentage of total government spending, the US spends 15.3% of the budget on education, whereas France spends 10.6%. And at each level of education - primary, secondary, and tertiary - the US spends more per student than France, most markedyly in primary education. The US spends $8,243 per student at the primary level whereas France spends $5,236. I'm not remarking on the quality of education, just the amount spent. Think of what an extra $1000 per kid could buy in France! So much for trying to get complete sets of English education supplies in each of my schools....

And don't even get me started on their choice of books to use teaching English. I keep getting shown the Cup of Tea series and I think it's pretty bad.

Another thing, or person really, who I don't get is Pantsless Neighbor. Yes, we continue to have pantsless encounters. When in public places he's always wearing pants but in the lycée he just doesn't. At least we haven't had anymore encounters where he was in briefs! Maybe he's taken to wearing boxers just for me, so he doesn't have to run and put on shorts when I happen to show up? But why wouldn't he just wear shorts anyway? I mean, I'm the same way about wanting to change out of my jeans at the end of the day but I always put on pajama pants or sweat pants, I don't just wander around in my skivvies and answer the door half-naked!

Then there's his bizarre status of being sort of a friend, but not exactly. We've been spending a bunch of time together recently because of the recent municipal elections. I mentioned that I was interested to see what goes on in France during the elections so last weekend I hung out at the newspaper office while they were getting the vote totals for all the tiny little communes here, and of course we had to discuss the elections on the hall after th final results came in (him without pants on, comme d'hab) and then on Sunday he took me to the mairie (city hall) to see what voting is like (pretty similar to the US but no machines anywhere to be seen). So because of all this we have finally exchanged numbers so that he could tell me when to come over and where to meet, etc. Good sign. And I had thought that yesterday (Sunday) when we went to the mairie that I was tagging along while he took pictures, but it turned out that he just took me because he thought I was interested and he had nothing to do there on official paper business. He's really busy with the paper all the time, so it was super nice of him to just take 45 minutes or an hour out of his day to drag the dumb American to the elections. But he rarely shows any initiative to see me, except for this election stuff, and I get the feeling that if I didn't knock on his door or run into him in the hallway every once in a while he wouldn't make the effort instead. Is it because French people are so private that he feels awkward about knocking on my bedroom door? Or does he find me annoying and wish I would just go away? It's not like he's unsure if I'm in my room, all he has to do is look out his window and see if my light is on! Also, at the lycée we never bise (the kissy kissy thing) but when we met up at the mairie we did. Do we not bise at the lycée because he's pantsless? Or maybe I was just lucky enough to be housed next door to someone who is just as awkward as all the people I went to college with (my university is famous for having lots of awkard people)! I just can't figure these Frenchies out. Insights are welcome.


Monique said...

Cup of Tea really is as bad as it looks. One woman on the CD has such a terrible accent, I swear she might be mentally challenged (that's the nicest way I could put it).

Le Tigre said...

Yeah, the lack of materials is pure hypocrisy because the French education system is supposedly meant to be uniform so that the education you recieve doesn't differ from school to school. Of course, that's just 'republique' propaganda. I have spent quite a bit of money on materials. Only one of my schools had any materials at all, basically just an Eye Spy book and I photocopied the whole thing. Grrrr.

Au Soleil Levant said...

Monique, I feel like all the accents I've heard anyone play on any CD are terrible. I don't know why they think it's easy for kids to understand whacko British accents. Oh, and I was looking up EFL books online, and guess what country produced Cup of Tea? France. Figures!

Le Tigre, we could complain about this program for days and not run out of things to talk about! That's a great point about uniform education though, I didn't even think about that. It totally blows the entire philosophy behind public education out of the water. What I want to know is where is the money they should be spending on putting supplies in the classroom going? Travel vouchers to pacify frequent travellers after the strikes, perhaps?

Samantha said...

If it makes you feel any better, the average American teacher spends at least $500 out of pocket per year buying school supplies for his/her classroom.