2015: A Countdown

As 2016 rings in with a POP and then santé over Champagne, I realize that I’ve accomplished a lot in this past year. And on top of my accomplishments, I have a lot to be thankful for. There’s no better way to show my accomplishments and gratitudes than through numbers, so, here’s my 2015 countdown:

15 primaire classes taught (via the TAPIF program) at primaire schools in Marseille. Who would have thought I’d be teaching English overseas?

One of my students made this for me during a leçon about how Américains children celebrate Valentine’s Day.

14 Juillet in Aix-en-Provence. This was my third time celebrating Bastille Day in France; yet each time I celebrate it, it comes with new memories and a better appreciation for French culture (and not to mention the feu d’artifice in Paris).

13 [yummy] desserts Provençal nicely settled in my tummy (see this post for a more detailed account of the 13 desserts).

La pompe à l’huile (in the centre), une mandarine, une figue séchéeun nougat blanc, une datte, une noix, une amande, une noisetteun calisson, un morceau de chocolat, une pomme (apple), une poire (pear), un nougat noir (it’s behind the pompe).

12 hours a week of helping ELL/ESL students acquire English (I started out in primaire and now I’m in secondaire).

11 after school English classes successfully taught (over a period of 2 months) at The English Bubble.

10 friends and family who gave Rachel clothes at my Baby Shower…(I won’t even begin to count the number of clothes she has in addition to those from the Shower – Thanks to my brother and my sister-in-law as well as several friends who gave us two suitcases and two cardboard boxes full of clothes…as I mentioned above, I have a lot to be thankful for – baby clothes aren’t cheap & aren’t put to use for very long, either).

9 months of pregnancy survécu (survived). I’ve even documented my experiences during each trimester here, here, and here!

8 airline flights successfully taken. Being cupped up inside an airline cabin isn’t my ideal way of spending 9 hours…But, the destination(s) is are worth it.

7 nouveaux restaurants essayés (Aix-en-Provence and Illinois):

  • Burger Bar (la Maison du HanDBurger) (Aix-en-Provence)

This place sells handmade burgers & offers three types of burger meat: beef, combination beef & lamb, and chicken. I opted for the beef and it was amazingly delicious. There’s one downside to this restaurant: They gave us a jug of water that had dust and hair in it (it must’ve been sitting out). Aside from the water, it’s a great place for an Américain who’s missing a nice, juicy handmade burger.

Les Ravioli Japonais (aka Fried pork dumplings).

This is one of the most friendly Asian restaurants in Aix – the server even gave us a free house cocktail (I was pregnant, of course, so, the server gave me juice instead)!

Le porc au gingembre.

This restaurant offers huge, savoureux plats Asiatique – I was barely able to finish mine!

  • Ô Zen (Aix-en-Provence) *****

This restaurant is an Asian buffet! It’s expensive, but the food is delicious and plentiful (even the sushi is up to par!). We chose this restaurant on Halloween – it was a fantastic idée!

Tucked inside the Morton Arboretum, this restaurant offers healthy and delicious lunches, though, they come with a price! Most of the food is organic, locally grown, and free-range.

The highlight of this restaurant wasn’t the juicy, tender BBQ, it was the truffe mac ‘n cheese (ok, they were both beyond delicious!)! It’s also situated across from a frozen custard restaurant called Lickity Split Frozen Custard and Sweets. What better way to settle BBQ than having frozen custard for dessert?!

Nestled between Pulaski and Roscoe, this restaurant équatorien offers huge, delicious plates! Plus, there’s often musique on Saturday’s.

6 successful English leçons on how Américains celebrate holiday’s (Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Noël).

5 months of waiting…and then I finally received my titre de séjour (residency card)!

4th of July in the U.S. I introduced mon chéri to a typical Chicagoan Independence Américain Day Party (see this post for more on my trip to the U.S.). 

3 cities in 3 countries visited for the first time: Stockholm, Suede; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Amsterdam, Netherlands.

2 games of Belote won (let’s not get into how many I’ve lost)! Finalement, I’m starting to “master” the game…

1 newborn bébé. (Yep, I’ve survécu giving birth!)

So, I know it’s the time of year to make résolutions, but I’ve decided to look back on what I’ve accomplished (a lot has to do with teaching, and that’s ok because it’s what I love!) and what I have to be thankful for instead. Sure, I hope to have a wonderful year with my new famille, but I wouldn’t consider that a résolution…it’s a Given! ♦

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Peace for Paris

The sun was shining a happy, bright smile through the small window in the door, but the mood in the room was anything but. As I glanced around the room at the 20 or so porcelaine faces, making eye contact with puppy dog eyes, I knew we wouldn’t be having “English time” today. And, this time, that was OK.

I work in a lycée (high school) that has a Musulmane student population of 90%. For this very reason, there were several teachers who didn’t know what to expect in a discussion on the events that unraveled on Friday, Novembre 13.

In my English Literature classe, the students had “we need to talk about this” written all over their faces. And, I’m glad we did. It was intéressent to discover what Musulmane means to them. The entire classe strongly agreed that those who participated in the murders on Friday, Novembre 13, were not really Musulmane. I was so satisfied with how the students tackled the discussion that I left the school with a feeling of satisfaction: They are the next génération to govern the world…Thank God!

After the murders on Friday, I really began to lose faith in humanité. We, as humans, have come so far – we started out as neanderthals and now we have moving pictures, we can communicate with one another through various technological outlets, and we can travel long distances quickly. Yet, we’ve come to a stand-still. All we have to show for this humanité is hatred, control, manipulation, and mass murder? What is wrong with people? Are we, as humans, bored now because we have “too much”? It’s really depressing. Thankfully, my students have been able to restore at least some portion of my faith.

This article offers a great explanation of the Peace in Paris image that has become a symbol of unité throughout France, social media, and the world. My students questoined why the Tour Eiffel was used. They are still so innocent: They didn’t know that the world views France as the Tour Eiffel. They all laughed when the professeur joked, “Would you rather see Notre Dame de la Garde? Or, the Vieux Port?” For my students, France is so much more than the Tour Eiffel…and even more than any monument in Marseille. They are proud to identifier as French even if they have a heritage that started elsewhere. They built their lives in France – they were born here, they are French. They refuse to let terroristes take over their country. Now, all the future génération needs to do is figure out how to approach the problem and then to fix it. To them, I say, “Bonne chance.”

This is my city coming together to show support…even though we are 8 hours – driving – away from paris, we were all touched. ♦

 

L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

Lesson plans: The one thing that encompasses the lives of nearly every single teacher. Sometimes, they’re easy to create; othertimes, they’re a…bitch. Don’t get me wrong, I love creating leçons. But, when it takes the entire week to “perfect” 1 leçon only to have to modify it to the point where it no longer looks like your original idée…well, it’s exhausting.

Bienvenue to la vie d’un professeur.

French teachers!

Teaching is an exhausting career, but it is more rewarding than exhausting. Je l’aime !

There’s one thing I’m thankful for: edTPA is a mémoire in the past.

In Illinois, all student teachers must complete the edTPA. Basically, this consists of filming yourself teaching several leçons and then cutting the film to 10 minutes. Then, you follow written prompts provided by the state to prove student learning and to show how you modified the leçons to fit student needs (and paying at least $350 to Pearson to evaluate the film and the explanation). There are 3 parties (at least in 2014, there were 3 parties), which take several hours days to complete. After completing that, making leçons in France was a cinch (though, still time-consuming).

In France (2014-2015), I taught English to students ages 6-12. Unlike my teaching experience in the U.S. where technologie was very present, there was a lack of technologie in the écoles publiques (level: primaire) in Marseille. Thankfully, I had my laptop and speakers. From my experience, creating laughable leçons is difficile without some form of technologie. For exemple, I showed vidéo clips in nearly all of my leçons. The students loved the clips because they combined engaging pieces of culture Américaine with songs. Honnêtement, songs are a huge succès at the primaire level (think: “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”…). Also, the clips were often hilarious and kooky. According to Steven Krashen, the best way to aquire a langauge is through memorable (aka laughable, culturel…) leçons (for further reading: Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course by Susan M. Gass and Experimental Psycholinguistics (PLE: Psycholinguistics): An Introduction by Sam Glucksberg and Joseph H. Dank). As an individuelle in the field of SLA, I agree. Krashen also coined the input + 1 theory. This theory is truly evident in the classroom. It’s the idea that in order for students to acquire the language, the teacher must combine the students’ current comprehensible level with 1 level above. If the teacher were to use 2+ levels above, the students would not acquire the language and might even create a barrier, known as an affective filter (for further reading: Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition by Steven D. Krashen). Being aware of the affective filter is the key in creating an atmosphere conductive to acquiring the language. Even things we can’t control such as rain tapping on the classroom window can negatively affect the affective filter. The important thing is to try and create a classroom with a low affective filter as best we can. This is one raison why I use vidéo clips: The kids love them, thus making them stay focused during the leçon.

In addition to using technologie, I also use skits. My main rôle was to focus on language output, so, I had students perform in pairs in front of the class. At first, students were nerveux, but once they realized that this wasn’t a test, they became more and more calm. Even my most timide student began raising her hand to be the first to perform! That is SUCCÈS in my book. 🙂 Language input (think: Krashen) is the first step; however, in order to assess the input, students need to create some output (think: Merill Swain). While I offered multiple output opportunities throughout the classe, the skits were the best because they enabled me to correcte the accent of every student (yes, I made everyone do it).

5 Must-haves in the primaire classroom:

  • Musique (whether it’s through CD, iPod/mp3 player, your own instruments and voice…musique is the key!)
  • Vidéo clips
  • Différente couleurs – for exemple, during a unit on the days of the week, I established a différente couleur for each day of the week. This helped students remember that in the U.S., the week starts with Sunday, not Monday.
  • Books – for exemple, one book that was an extreme succès: There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Pam Adams. With all books, I not only read the book to the students, but I asked questions. In one leçon, we didn’t even focus on what the book was about. Instead, we focused on what the old lady was wearing. The students certainly acquired the basics: jacket, socks, shoes, skirt, sweater, hat…just from this book. This prompted questions: “Why is she wearing striped socks?” And, “Is she a witch?” Once students acquired the vocabulary, I handed out a sheet of paper with 8 outlines of the old lady. Then, I said, “Old Lady #1 is wearing a bue jacket, a green shirt and two black and yellow socks.” The students had to color in the first old lady figure with the description. I did this for all 8 figures. At the end of the activity, one student for each 8 figures drew the old lady on the chalkboard as I described. In another leçon (with the same group of students), I had them guess what was going to happen next in the story. One thing to note: At their level of English, I opted for “ate” instead of “swallowed” because it was better for the students. In fact, they thought that “swallowed” translated to manger, which is not true (manger = to eat; avaler = to swallow). Half of them weren’t even familier with avaler. In a separate leçon with my 6-7 year olds, I used the book Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle. Not only did I read the book, but I asked questions: What animal is it? What color is X animal? Do you like X animal? Have you seen  X color of X animal? Do you have X animal as a pet? Yes = How many do you have? Is it a boy or a girl? What’s his/her name? No = do you have any pets? What’s your favorite animal?
  • A chalkboard/whiteboard and chalk/dry-erase markers (duh!) – I used the chalkboard for several things. For exemple, I wrote the date at the start of every classe (well, I asked students to give me the date and then I wrote it). Another exemple is that I used the chalkboard to play several games: Hangman (usually the first 5 minutes at the start of classe), Kim’s game, Where’s Waldo?, Pictionary, Hot/Cold…
  • Your sense of humour – for exemple, in a leçon on animaux, I had 1 student at a time stand in front of the classe and mimic an animal. Then, the other students had to guess the animal. We had a good laugh during this leçon. In another leçon, I played Simon Says with parts of the body (the kids love, love this game). Once the students were confortable with the vocabulaire, I began to show the wrong body part in order to trump the students (“Simon says, “touch your knee;” I touched my elbow). Also, I really got some students when I touched the right body part but did not say, “Simon says…”

With these 6 things (but, not limited to just these 6), you can create an environment with a low affective filter that is conductive to learning. Also, working with primaire students has its benefits: They’re generally eager to show off their ‘English skills’ to you and thus are good during classe. When they don’t listen, they are easy to punish: “Because you continue to talk without raising your hand, you will now sit/stand in the corner.” “Because you continue to chat with your neighbor, you will now go sit next to your teacher in the back of the classe until I say otherwise.”

Those two techniques seemed to work for me. ♦


This is part of a blogging challenge: Topics ranging from A-Z. You can follow my challenge by clicking on the links below:

A: Adulthood: The Age of Absolute Ambiguïté 

B: Bilingue: La Vie is Better Being Bilingual

C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

D: Death: Dealing with the Décès of My Dad

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

F: Food: Fancy or Faulty in France?

G: Going: Going Going Gone!

H: Home: My Heart Has Two Harbors

I: Interests: Intelligent, Insightful, Incredible!

J: Joy: La Jalousie is Overcome by La Joie

K: Khimar: Kind and Kooky Knitted Clothing Traditions

L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

M: Musique: The Many Musicians Making Love on the Streets of Aix

N: Naughty or Nice?: Not Only Noticing the Différences, But Also the Similarités Between France and the U.S.

O: Obéi: Only Open to Obeying the Rules of the Road in…

P: PACS: Passionate Partners Pledging L’amour

Q: Questions: A Queen’s Quest for Clarté

R: Raisons: Riding on the Pony of Real Reasons (to Take the A-Z Challenge)

S: Study Abroad: Smiles and Sadness Set the Scène

T: Travel: Time to Hit the Trail!

U: Under the Influence: An Ugly Upward Climb Until Reaching the Summit

V: Vulgarité: Venturing out into the Vast and Voluptuous World of Cultural Différences

W: Walking: The Wise and Watchful Médiéval Wanderer

X: Xenial: A Xenodochial but not Xenophobic Host in France

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

In Octobre 2014, I started teaching English at three écoles primaires publiques in Marseille. I discovered this job after months of online research – finding a teaching job in France is not an easy task for an Américain(e) without proper working papers. The jobs are there (mainly in the privée sector), but employeurs are reluctant to take on the task of hiring an Américain(e). So, when I found that TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Professional in France) was an option, I was delighted! It took quite a bit of work to apply for the programme (proving my level of French, finding professors to write recommendations (in French, of course), writing a composition, in French, about why I deserve this opportunité…), but I was determined and as it turned out: My hard-work paid off!

So, how was the endeavor of entering into the French écoles primaires publique system? Well, to make this post go as smoothly as my time spent in the écoles, I split it into catégories:

French Teachers:

As an Américaine, you can’t enter into the teaching field in the publique sector without working in conjunction with other French teachers. To be a réal teacher in France, you have to pass the CAPES test (a test similaire to the APT, TAP, and content area tests in the U.S. except it’s 100x more difficile, or so I hear). To take this test, you have to be a French citoyen.

I worked with 16 French teachers. Only 2 of the 16 teachers I worked with spoke English at a decent level. The rest tried…they really did. It was almost as adorable as listening to my 6-year-old students speak English. The French teachers helped ease the transition into the schools. Even though, there was some confusion at first about my rôle. When it was English time, I took over each classe (except three classes where I worked side-by-side with the teacher) as the English Teacher. I made my own leçons and used my own matière. In most classes, the teacher and I decided the thèmes together and then I wrote the leçons.

My spécialité is in Foreign Language Education, so, as a result, I’ve worked with quite a few teachers in the U.S. For the most part, the teachers I worked with were gentil and somewhat helpful (my cooperating teacher was the most helpful). I discovered that French teachers were pretty much the same only much more honnêtes upfront. For exemple, French teachers don’t dance around the sujet if they have a problème or a suggestion about a particular piece in the leçon. They aren’t rude about any critique, either, though, if you’re super sensitive, then it’s possible you might take a critique the wrong way. My experience with U.S. teachers has been that when there is an issue, they talk about it behind your back. I’d rather sort out any issues face-to-face than play this ‘you’re perfect (but I hate you)’ waltz. Perhaps this is one raison why préfère la vie in France to la vie in the U.S. One thing I should note is that just like not every Américain teacher is “fake” up front, not every French teacher is as pleasant to work with as were my teachers – they were fantastique! Unfortunately, not every English assistant/teacher has had the same type of chance, or luck, as have I; however, this is a small few (like less than 1%).

The French primaire classroom: 

I never had my own classroom, which proved frustrating (see: TAPIF: An Ugly Mess). But, I still had accès to everything in each teachers’ classrooms. The classrooms in France are similaire to those in the U.S.* There’s a huge blackboard, each student has desks, the walls are covered with student work, there’s a corner for reading and relaxing, each student has his/her own cubbyhole… I could go on and on. There is one main différence, though: there’s a mini stage that sits just beneath the blackboard (that took some time getting used to). I worked in 16 different classrooms, so, I never got the chance décorer at least a tiny part with my students’ work.

In the schools I worked at in Marseille, there was a lack of technologie (and money, in général) in the classroom. A few teachers had projecteurs, which made the leçons much more interactive and interesting; however, for the other classes, I was forced to print a lot of images and use magnets to attach them to the blackboard. This was kind of annoying, but there was nothing I could do about it. France is still in the stage of equipping all of its écoles publiques primaires with the latest technologie (such as SMART board – I love the SMART board and I wished it was available when I taught during the 2014-2015 school year).

French students:

I worked in a city: Marseille, which is not too différent than Chicago. For exemple, it has its “south side” (which is actuellement in the north) and it has its Lincoln Park (which, I’d say, is situated at the port). The students acted how I expected them to act: “tough” but innocent (I worked with primaire students). It was obvious which students had older siblings because these students acted “tougher” and dared to ask me the meanings of vulgar words (plus, during a leçon on famille, I discovered that they had older siblings). I never told them the meanings; however, I did tell them that the words were vulgar and not to repeat them.

By the time I entered into the écoles, the écoles had already been in session for a month! So, the students already had their rythme. I jumped on this, though: We wrote the date in English at the start of every class and I underlined all headings in red (I never used a ruler, though, and this apparemment shocked the students). The students were sage when it came to writing: They always wrote in cursive and double space. Any time I wrote anything on the board that they had to copy in their notes, they always had questions about it. Obviously, I didn’t write in cursive…well, in fact, I write in combination cursive/print, which can be confusing to the French primaire student’s eyes. So, I spent some time re-writing ‘e’ and ‘d’…But, it was to be expected. I swear, the French (even at this level) have such pretty handwriting!

Students like to help the teacher, so, at the end of every classe, I had several students beg me if he/she could clean the blackboard. It got to the point where I had to promise certain students that they could do it ‘next week’.

French Principals:

Honnêtement, a principal in France does the same things as a principal in the U.S. In France, the principal is called le directeur/la directrice. The directeur/directrice handled any conflicts with parents, conducted meetings, made my schedule, and gère, or ran, the school. I worked at three différentes écoles, so, in turn, I worked with three différents directeurs/directrices. They were all very gentils and even recommended me to the CIEP (Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques) for the renewal of my contract.


As seen above, my endeavor of easing into French écoles went smoothly. From my experience, the teachers helped me the most! After all, I taught their classes (école primaire, remember?), so, if my leçons went smoothly, then, in théorie the rest of their day would go just as smoothly. This school year (2015-2016), I will be working at the secondaire level, so, I’ll be sure to write a post on the similarités and différences between primaire and secondaire. I’ll still be working in the same city: Marseille. ♦

*I only worked in écoles primaires, so, this post is focused on the primaire level, not on the secondaire level.


This is part of a blogging challenge: Topics ranging from A-Z. You can follow my challenge by clicking on the links below:

A: Adulthood: The Age of Absolute Ambiguïté 

B: Bilingue: La Vie is Better Being Bilingual

C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

D: Death: Dealing with the Décès of My Dad

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

F: Food: Fancy or Faulty in France?

G: Going: Going Going Gone!

H: Home: My Heart Has Two Harbors

I: Interests: Intelligent, Insightful, Incredible!

J: Joy: La Jalousie is Overcome by La Joie

K: Khimar: Kind and Kooky Knitted Clothing Traditions

L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

M: Musique: The Many Musicians Making Love on the Streets of Aix

N: Naughty or Nice?: Not Only Noticing the Différences, But Also the Similarités Between France and the U.S.

O: Obéi: Only Open to Obeying the Rules of the Road in…

P: PACS: Passionate Partners Pledging L’amour

Q: Questions: A Queen’s Quest for Clarté

R: Raisons: Riding on the Pony of Real Reasons (to Take the A-Z Challenge)

S: Study Abroad: Smiles and Sadness Set the Scène

T: Travel: Time to Hit the Trail!

U: Under the Influence: An Ugly Upward Climb Until Reaching the Summit

V: Vulgarité: Venturing out into the Vast and Voluptuous World of Cultural Différences

W: Walking: The Wise and Watchful Médiéval Wanderer

X: Xenial: A Xenodochial but not Xenophobic Host in France

All Good Things Must…

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I hate this quotation. I hate even more that, on the one hand, there is truth to it. For example, my work contract ended – meaning, I no longer teach 3 days a week in Marseille. In addition to saying goodbye to 16 teachers and 416 students, a lot of the friends I made through the TAPIF program will be returning (or have already left) to their home country (that’s a lot of goodbyes). Also, my visa has ended, so now I’m a touriste. Don’t get me started on how going from a working citoyen to a touriste has me cringing (it’s as if the diable ripped out half of my soul).

On the other hand, why focus on the “good things” that have ended? Why not focus on how this experience changed my life in so many positive ways and how these positive aspects will add more good things to my future? In this sense, not “all” good things have ended. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The positives that came from a year of living and teaching English in France:

  1. I gained overseas teaching experience, which I’ve already added to my C.V. (and I no longer have to take the bus ride to Marseille 3x a week! YAY!)
  2. I bring up examples of lesson plans that I used while teaching this year in English teaching and tutoring job interviews. This actually helped me nab a short job this month!
  3. I can communicate in Français! (I can discipline in Français, too.)
  4. I can speak using the Marseillais accent! (It’s not perfect; it’s in progress!)
  5. I know several Provençal word/expressions!
  6. I’ve accumulated several English children’s books that I’ll be able to use with Pitchoune.
  7. I’ve learned a variety of French children’s songs that I’ll be able to understand when mon chéri uses them with Pitchoune.
  8. I opened up a network of friends who enjoy French and France as much as me!
  9. I made a life with mon chéri and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂
  10. I’ve figured out the French bureaucratic system. (It still has its downsides, but at least I can be prepared for anything.)

So, although saying goodbye to so many people and experiences is depressing, my life is not defined by the sadness, non, not by any means. In fact, I look forward to more good things that lie ahead! ♦

TAPIF: Holiday Themed Lessons

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I wish I could say that all of my leçons begin with a theme – after all,  it makes the material so much easier for students to remember (and so much more fun)! But, there are some grammatical points that you just can’t pair up with a theme (that’s why I use songs and games!). I suppose for this reason, I overcompensate when a theme pops up…I totally endorse jumping all over EVERY U.S. (and any English speaking country) “HOLIDAY” when appropriate.

Last month was Valentine’s Day. So, what did we do during English time? We learned that Valentine’s Day is not only for lovers but also a day to say, “Thank you for being my friend.” A concept that every single French student laughed at (I had to calm about 200 laughing children within a matter of 3 days…I deserve a bonus 😉 ). Their laughter turned into happy faces when it came time to make Valentine’s Day cards. After all, who doesn’t like coloring?

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This year, I discovered that Valentine’s Day leçons are a great way to: 1. Introduce or review colors (if already covered). 2. Introduce or review numbers. 3. Introduce or review “what’s your name?” My leçons focused on reviewing the colors, which was needed for some of my classes (FYI the French have a hard time with Green and Gray – no matter how many times we work with pronouncing, understanding, seeing, and feeling the differences). I paired the color review with numbers. In some classes, numbers were review; in other classes numbers were a new topic. Due to the lack of time I have with the students, I printed out already made Valentine’s Day cards. I made a key using numbers and colors. After reviewing the directions as well as the colors and numbers, the students got to work on coloring their cards. Who knew that students would need 2 class periods to finish coloring 8 cards? Once the cards were finished, students walked around asking for each others’ names and how they’re spelled. The next step was filling in the “To” & the “From” & then passing them out to each other. It felt just like a U.S. elementary school as the students walked around saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Thank you for being my friend!”

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Now that Winter break is coming to an end, I’m stuck with the burden of making St. Patrick’s Day top Valentine’s Day. Somehow, I think the idea of the “Pot o’ gold” will interest students more than coloring. This holiday might be trickier as I explain the differences in how it’s celebrated (or not celebrated) among the English speaking countries, but it’ll be fun!

Holidays to touch on at the primary level during TAPIF (as TAPIF starts in October) include (this is by no means a definitive list; it’s a list that I’ve been able to follow given the time):

  • Halloween (great to pair with leçons on the seasons, colors, animals, and disguises)
  • Thanksgiving (great to pair with leçons on food, drink, and animals)
  • Christmas/St. Nicolas (great to pair with leçons on colors, numbers, seasons, weather, time, religious and mythical differences/similarities between France and the U.S., and food and drink)
  • New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day (great to pair with leçons on time and seasons)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (great to pair with leçons on history, important people, colors, and numbers)
  • Valentine’s Day/St. Valentine’s Day (great to pair with leçons on colors, numbers, and ‘what’s your name?’)
  • Birthday (great to pair with leçons on numbers and age)
  • St. Patrick’s Day (great to pair with leçons on food and drink, colors, numbers, counting money, seasons, time, weather, and religious differences/similarities between English speaking countries and France)
  • Easter (great to pair with leçons on animals, colors, food, and religious/mythical differences between France and the US)
  • May Day (a dying tradition in the U.S., but great to pair with leçons on shapes, colors, numbers, and tradition)
  • Independence Day (will have to be taught near the end of April, but every student should know about it. It’s great to pair with leçons on colors, time, dates in history, numbers, and food and drink)

This list comes with what I’ve already done with my various elementary English levels, what we will do (with the coming holidays), and what I see that we could’ve done (but haven’t yet). The “could’ve” will be more beneficial as I renew my contract for next year. It would be nice to add other holidays from English speaking countries other than the U.S., but with the amount of time I have per class plus the material that needs to be covered, there’s just not enough time to include topics I’m no expert about. It’s quite interesting trying to pair famous traditional holidays with topics that are required to cover at the primary level. What I wouldn’t give to teach in a high school, where I imagine most holiday and tradition leçons focus more on discussion and debate. But, I love my primary students as they make teaching so much fun…I wouldn’t change it for the world! Especially when they give me cute little drawings of n’importe quoi (aka things I can’t make out) and are excited to see me. Oh, and when they talk in English…IT’S SO CUTE! ♦

TAPIF: An Amazing Adventure

Teaching through TAPIF is both a frustrating and rewarding experience (see: TAPIF: An Ugly Mess). This post is dedicated to the reasons why I plan on doing TAPIF again next year.

Reasons why teaching through TAPIF is Amazing:

  1. It gives Américains (as well as other native English, Spanish, Italian, and German speakers from various parts of the world) a chance to live and work (legally) in France for 7 months.

  2. It introduces assistants to a different educational system. Who knew that elementary teachers in France stand on a small stage when they write on the chalkboard? It certainly adds new meaning to the idea that ‘teachers are performers.’

  3. It’s the best way for French immersion. First off, living in France will force you to speak French – even if you’re spending 12 hours a week teaching anglais, English. Secondly, most of the students will know very little anglais, so, speaking some French is often a requirement while teaching anglais. Especially, for those words that are hard to ‘show’ in the form of a gesture or an image.

  4. It enables the assistant to spend time exploring France. 12 hours a week leaves some room for exploration and travel. However, it’s important to note that assistants spend a lot of time outside of class (aka. outside of the paycheck) preparing for lessons (I spend about 5 hours extra a week). With this extra work in mind, I’ve had time to explore other parts of France such as cities in the south around Aix-Marseille (Cassis, Carry-le-Rouet, and Eguilles… to name a few) and Montpelier as well as Tours and Paris (in the north).

  5. It provides the assistant with adorable students! At the primary level, the students love you! They even draw you pictures, hug you, give you les bises, and try to show-off their limited English skills to you. They’re just so CUTE!

  6. It provides the assistant with an ideal work schedule. Every assistants’ schedules are different; however, no one works the weekend (woohoo!). I work Monday-Tuesday all day & Wednesday until 11:30 (class ends at 11:30 on Wednesday’s and Friday’s). So, my weekend starts on Thursday, though, Thursday usually ends up being my “un-wind-from-the-work-week” day (I lounge around a good portion of the day).

  7. It includes paid vacation time! Assistants get about 8 weeks of vacation during the 7 month work contract. That’s not including the random fériés (government holidays) that are placed throughout the school year. For example, there’s one on Armistice Day and there’s another one on the Monday after Easter (“Easter Monday”).

  8. It enables assistants to work with a variety of French professors. This is an advantage because assistants can start building a network, which could help the assistant find more or better teaching (or anything) jobs in France. This is perfect for those assistants who plan to stay and work in France once the program finishes. I’m lucky that my colleagues are nice and inviting. I’ve already had some of them refer me for various English teaching/tutoring jobs throughout Marseille.

  9. It prepares assistants for any type of “real world” work. Sure, assistants are only part-time; however, we have a full-time workload. I prepare lessons (for all elementary school levels) and then teach those lessons to about 200 students a week. I didn’t even have that many students when I taught French full-time in the US! Thus, the TAPIF program certainly prepares assistants for everything – whether it’s classroom management, working as a team or alone, or time management – the assistant is prepared for almost any type of work once the program finishes (often, other work outlets seem too easy). *On a side note, despite what Washington has to say about Américains working 2 years in a row, according to the CIEP, Américains can do the program 2 years in a row! Current assistants simply re-apply to the program by filling out this application on the CIEP website and then e-mailing it to assistant@ciep.fr or mailing it via post to:

    CIEP
    Département langues et mobilité
    Unité assistants de langue
    1, avenue Léon Journault
    92318- Sèvres cedex

The TAPIF adventure doesn’t end at #9 because I plan on working with this program again next year! I look forward to what next year will bring. The directeurs of my schools have told me that they will do what they can to get the CIEP to keep me in their schools next year, so, that’s a plus!

*Of course, my experiences with TAPIF are through teaching at the primary level in the Académie Aix-Marseille. Other académies may function differently, which is one reason why not every assistant‘s experience is the same.♦