Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Back to school at 21?

I write this as I look out onto my lovely balcony…and see lashings of rain. Yes even in beautiful La Rochelle the sun has the odd day off and everyone must hopelessly search for his or her umbrella. Waking up at 7am for class this morning didn’t improve this dreary Tuesday either.

To backtrack a little, I started work two weeks ago (I’m a English language assistant to students aged 14-22) and the shock was just, well, shocking. Needless to say, it was thankfully NOTHING like ‘Entre les Murs’ (for those who aren’t familiar to modern French cinema, do watch the trailer or read a synopsis of this film. You will then be glad, like I am, that my school really isn’t like the one that is featured.) Compared to common groups of dim youths in the UK who hang out everywhere apart from the classroom they’re meant to be in, these pupils are the complete opposite. Suited and booted, bloused and heeled – and then there’s me looking like a pansy in my yellow flowery top. Note to self – go shopping and try to purchase clothes that adults wear to work. My lycée (sixth form equivalent) is a vocational school so the students are either training to become sommeliers, waitresses, chefs, maître d’s and other fun professions such as these. Naturally for me it means participation in wine class, cookery class etc. - Basically a recipe to put on 5 stone during the year. Bienvenue a France!

Upon meeting my first class, at 8am by the way, there was chaos and every sort of noise you could expect from a group of 15-year-old French students. From one direction you could hear ‘HELLO!’ and another ‘Qui est-elle?’ Obviously for me this is all very daunting, walking through a corridor of masses of students looking at you as if you resembled an oompa loompa. Anyway, turns out that this class is super excited to meet me and by the end of a funny interrogation as to whether I have pets, if I have a boyfriend, what my favorite colour is and if I speak French or not, I have a couple of admirers and girls who want to go shopping with me. I can safely say I feel like I’ve conquered my first class regardless of the fact that they can really only say words in English mingled with the odd ‘ah merde’ or ‘comment je dis ça en anglais?!’ which by the way for those of you who aren’t so familiar with French is ‘oh shit’ and ‘how do I say this in English?!

Along with teaching 15 year olds, my other students can range up to 22…AWKS seeing as I’m 21. Well it seemed awkward until we got onto the topic of what their favorite drink was and because the older ones can drink, we discovered that we had a mutual appreciation for whiskey. This proceeded to an entire 20 minutes of discussing whiskey, the Scottish whiskey trail and the horrors of binge drinking in the UK to which they thought was highly immature and childish. If only they could spend a night in Leicester Square…