Today is Thursday. Which means, it’s been a LONG DAY. Cue: lengthy blog post.

Starting work at 9am and finishing at 6:30 may not seem incredibly incredibly long or abnormal. But for me, it’s my most tiring day teaching. From teaching 3 year olds to 9 year olds – it’s not a particularly easy day. OVER 120 children I *teach* today. No lie!

Luckily (ha) I admit I have TEACHERS sit in on some of my lessons (in the school) for discipline issues – yup, so that the children will be more well-behaved. And I can tell you, these kids are WAY more calm with their proper teachers around. C’est impressionnant, la difference!!!

Teaching, is a skill. But I used to think, you either have it, or you don’t. And me, I told myself, well I just didn’t have it.

Like a crazy person, I decided to go for the ride anyway. But I can see now, that it is a skill. And my, am I impressed by everyone who goes and teaches! And like I said before, who teaches well. This year I’ve learnt and grown I imagine, yet if I was to continue the teaching adventure, well, I’d still have a lot of up-hill trekking to do.

However, I’m afraid my year as an English Language teacher for kids is nearly at its end. Very nearly. In just a few weeks, I will possibly be jobless… (Penniless too?? Let’s not go there…)

This is where the real adventure continues though… the adventure called LIFE.

This is my story! I’ve just got to write it well.

And I am incredibly thankful for this past year, that I have had this opportunity, a beautiful carefully hand-crafted part of God’s plan for me, and that I’ve stuck it out til the end. Advice to first year teachers – don’t give up! I’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it here now: the first year is the hardest! (I can’t really say as I can’t compare years, but I feel like it’s true!)

I’m gonna take a lot of memories away with me, mostly the happy ones, but also those most trying times.

Something as simple as a lil three/four year old inviting me over to his house (“Maitresse, tu peux venir chez moi!”), and of another sayin that I’m the most beautiful teacher in the school (ha),  and then the many love-filled hugs and bisous, beats all those hopeless feeling moments when you feel like the whole class is against you – little beings being little beings – disobeying, throwing things, running around, or trying to escape – and basically turning your classroom into a zoo.

But these kids, well obviously,  they’ve taught me a lot. And I’ve learnt to love them – and will miss them too.

WELL. Sentimental post just about over!

‘ll just leave you with this sentimental poem by William Martin; and be off with me….(job-hunting and cold Sweet’n’Sour chicken awaits…)

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

By William Martin


I’m Still Standing, Yeah Yeah Yeah

Okay, so it has been A WEEK. It’s over, thank goodness. I think it went pretty fast too because there wasn’t much preparation to do – because it was revision week etc. In the classes in the centre, we had to basically revise everything we have done up to now. Only problem – the parents came along to OBSERVE. This is quite a nerve-wracking experience. After say, just over 12 weeks in this job (with very little experience before hand) and then I have people OBSERVE the way I’m teaching their own kid, or kids. Let’s just say, it’s not the most pleasant experience, especially if one or two children start playing up and there’s my inexperienced self failing to gain control in front of expectant parents. My credibility gone down the drain…gulp. But I got through it! Woop! Well more or less, I have one more hour to survive with said parents watching me like hawks…

At this present time, I am, as usual, (not good I know…) but quite BEHIND with my work. This is not helped by the fact that I have pupil evaluations to do. Which also, I’ve never done before, until now. This is furthermore not helped by the fact that I barely know these kids. I mean, I teach over 200 a week. And some kids, I see for only half an hour a week. HALF AN HOUR times 12, well that equals 6 hours. So, I’ve seen, for example 75 4/5 year olds for a grand total of around SIX HOURS. Even less, cos of the two weeks holiday I already had. And now what, I’m expected to say how much each one remembers from that 6 hours, and makes notes on how much each participates and behaves? I can barely remember their names after spending half an hour a week with groups of 15 at a time.

I’m gonna have to make badges for the next semesters so that my next evaluations will be a lot easier. Sigh. Gotta learn the hard way.

Although I may be drowning in a pile of yet to be sorted paperwork and the like, I have many things to be thankful for. Number one – CHRISTMAS IS VERY SOON, and more importantly, THE HOLIDAYS! I don’t feel very happy actually that I move around quite a lot during the holidays; it’d be nice to stay here for a week or so to enjoy simply being here or travel a bit in France, and not rushing from place to place with work constantly there in the back of my mind. But at the same time, I know I will love catching up with different family members. And at my Mum’s place where there are less people about, I’ll enjoy that quality time with her and my twintwin, and some downtime to myself.

I just know that those hols will go fast. But I guess, that is life. And some people don’t even have HOLIDAYS! I’m the lucky one here.

Still not 100% health-wise, which doesn’t surprise me in Lilleland. Not got that much of a cold now, but coughing every now and again, and my ears are not right. But I can hear! I just would like to get a doc to check them out… but again, these irritations are not serious ones, so again I have a lot to be joyful about.

I’m going to go swimming methinks, tonight. After I finish my “reglisse menthe”. Have you tried it? You should, it’s very calming! The weather at the moment is quite representative of the north NORTH FRANCE methinks: grey, cold and rainy. But oh well. Feels like home, then, I guess.

Bisous mes amis.

A plus!

The Stars Shine Brighter

“When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” Psalms 61:2

Ok, Lille, just tell me, WHY are you so cold now? One second you’re all fine and I can walk around in my average little shoes without a hat, and the next second you go all freezing on me. So I’ve got my boots and new winter hat at the ready, and I’d be wearing my gloves and big orange woolly scarf if I had them with me! Thanks Lille for the nice weather, and for giving me YET another cold. Sniffle sniffle.

The coldness isn’t stopping me from binging on the Ben and Jerry ice-cream I am currently indulging in however. Hm.

Just needed some time to myself. Which happens to be me here, blogging. After tomorrow, I have two weeks til the Christmas holidays. I can’t wait! (As usual…) I am so excited to just run back home. It will play out like the scene in The Sound of Music, me running home to The Hills Are Alive!!! Home is so different from being here – it will feel like a real relax, I hope, besides the prep I’ll have to do.

Tomorrow I have one less lesson than usual, because I took the class on Tuesday instead of tomorrow – appaz Father Christmas is visiting the school tomorrow. Ya know, as he does. He drops by for a panad every now and again.

I thought I had planned for tomorrow, but actually although I may have materials ready yes… no good games and activities have been thought of…

This week I have to do pupil evaluations. I am behind with that. A LOT still to do. Actually, as soon as I finish writing this blog, I think I should just spend an hour doing that for one class. Evaluations. Cos I mean, after that class, I have still got quite a few to do.

NEXT week, then, is revision week in the language centre where I work. Plus, parents will be allowed to come visit and observe my teaching their chillydren. GREAT.

Today, one of my lessons went really well. Yay! Well, for my standards I mean. The theme was the body, so I had planned,  for the beginning of the lesson a revision exercise, with a What’s in the bag? activity, using felt eyes, mouths, noses and teeth. Each child took one thing at a time, and then we all said each body piece.

Then, we do the classic musical chair flashcards game. Where they play musical chairs, and on each chair is an image (linked to whatever vocab we are learning). When the music stops, they race to sit on a chair, but also once they are sat down they shout out whatever image/piece of vocabulary which is on that chair. So today, we had mouths, eyes and noses.

Another activity we did, was making a face out of plastic fruit/food. This was “an idea of mine” to some extent – as I kind of stole it from a book where it suggested using real food to make a face. Okay, this has to be the last mouthful of Ben and Jerry’s. Wow, my tum is going to pop!

Anyway, so the kids made faces with plastic fruit and I took some photos on my camera of their “work”. And then they traced around their fruity foody face. After that, they did a worksheet, connecting body vocabulary to the correct image.

It’s funny though, I thought I’d have lots of time left over with that group and planned lots of other activities. But I felt like it ran really well, considering…

I also had younger kids today – it was more difficult to get them to make fruit faces. They wanted to go to the market, and cook pizza. Sigh. There were some, however, who did make faces with the fruit! Lots of kids in this younger group didn’t create their own fruit/food faces, but they looked at my example and aimed to recreate the same. It was interesting to see how different brains and ages work!

Songs for learning body parts? Well, the classic Head Shoulders Knees and Toes. Then there’s a song called 2 Little Hands – this one sticks in your mind! And I also like the song, 1 Little Finger. For the smaller kids!

I’ve eaten too much and I’ve eaten too fast.

Anyway…tonight I need to make sure I know what I’m doing for tomorrow. Joys! Plus the evaluations…so I shall be making myself a nice cup of tea shortly, after washing up my soon-to-be shameful growing pile of dirty dishes.

So that’ll be it for now. I’ll leave you with a few verses which I love because they speak to me in some way :

Habakkuk 3: 17 – 18:

Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls yet-I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

I like the little word, ‘yet’. Though there be no herd in the stalls “yet” – suggesting there will be, reminding us, that there is always hope!

Here’s another:

1 Peter 5:10

May the God of all grace, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.

Have a good week. Smile through the dark patches. Because it’s by being in the dark that we see the stars shine brighter.

Squashed Tomato Diaries

I’m so excited. Because now, it’s THURSDAY. You know what that means?  It means I’ve survived nearly a whole week of my new job. Okay, it’s true, in the end some workshops didn’t even begin this week – they may not even begin next week, as there is talk of adding yet MORE pupils/hours to the list… (Just so you are up-to-date – my teaching timetable includes classes and workshops in a primary school, and sessions in a language centre).

Anyway. I shall give you a brief (which will probably turn into a long) update. On the job front. Quick note: I have my passpass card! Which means I can travel on metro, bus and tram for 22.50 euro a month as much as I like! No longer spending 9 euro for every three days (ish). Phew.

Back to my update. Monday, was Monday. I think maybe I already posted about Monday? I’ll have a check.

HOWEVER Tuesday was another thing altogether. So I had only the one hour of teaching on Tuesday, a small group of 3 children. It’s strange, yet refreshing, to go from teaching *trying to teach* 15 children in a school setting, to teaching 3 children in a language centre. Obviously with only 3 children to teach, there have to be many more activities planned, and sometimes different/adapted activities too!

Yesterday, was Wednesday – my first complete day working at the language centre. I had 2 sessions with 2 year olds from 10:15am. This was interesting, as one parent of each child remains with the child for the session. I worked with Sid, the puppet, and a few songs and books, and we played hide and seek in English and also had an Englishified Teddy Bear’s Picnic. I feel a bit odd saying that I’m getting paid for that.

And after that, I ate lunch at work, and then from 2pm I had three 1-hour sessions with children aged 3-6. I can tell you now, I don’t think teaching those kids is going to be easy. Firstly, the room I was in is FULL of kid-distractions. At first, you might think it’s a nice colourful kiddie room, with puppets, toys and all that. HOWEVER beware. Trying to teach 8 or so kids English, with my song preferences and videos and games and books, whilst there’s an Irish hat lying around, a bell to ring, alphabet fridge magnets, and a doll’s house? No chance. And some kids, they just don’t want to listen…

My final group in the centre was a difficult one too. I hadn’t realised that teaching the little ones in the centre would be that different from teaching the little ones in the school. HOWEVER, little children in a school setting feel more at ease I guess, as they have their friends and teachers around; whereas in the centre the kids have only just met one another and their parents are dumping them off in English-y surroundings, soon to be sitting opposite a random scary smiley face. So – I had three tiny tots sobbing/bawling in my final session, and trying to settle them at the same time as teaching other tiny ones is no mean feat.

Also at the centre, things work differently from in the school (as you may have guessed). Amongst other things, there are presence sheets to fill out and hand back to reception for each session, and all teachers must greet the children and parents when the children arrive, and then accompany the children back to the entrance afterwards, waiting for the parents to pick them up. With no break in 3 hours of teaching and greeting, it’s just a little chaotic shall we say. I know I’m going to forget something one of these days (i.e. something important…).

Today, was Thursday. Happy that it’s over, yet today was one of those, more enjoyable days shall we say. I’ve taught in the school for 3 weeks now, so this being my third week, I do feel more at ease there it’s true. WELL the same can’t be said for Monday, but for Thursdays I can happily say that. I do feel more at ease 🙂

It’s funny how selfish little ones are. One will start talking about himself, saying, ‘Bah, moi…’ and then you’ll hear 3 or 4 more little voices chiming in, ‘Bah, moi…!’ ‘Bah, moi…!’

To be honest, I’m really just a little bit overwhelmed. I’m happy now I’ve got through the week. Lessons planned and prepped – although having gone to the UK last weekend! Was up until 1am yesterday evening as after leaving work at 7pm, I just wanted a good old break from thinking about anything work. Didn’t start cutting out things for class until around 11pm maybe?

My personality is perhaps not suited to the teaching profession. I’m known for being: quite ditsy, quiet, forgetful, not the most assertive, sometimes unenthusiastic and kinda last minute. But we shall see how long we last!

Well that’s quite a long post and it’s nearly 11pm my time and I’ve not even eaten yet. Honestly, I just want to start dancing or swimming again but I feel I’ve no time to breathe!
Feeling just a little bit angoissée shall we say!

Synonyms of l’angoisse?

L’inquietude, l’anxieté…

In The Deep

So yesterday was only my fourth day of actual teaching. I know, I’ve barely started, yet I feel all I’ve been doing is going on about it. So far I have worked two Mondays and two Thursdays. For some reason, after my Monday afternoon classes I always feel a little deflated (or very deflated, if we’re talking about last Monday…) whereas on Thursdays I feel that things go much better. It’s almost as though Monday is my practise day, and by Thursday I’ve been able to adapt the lesson plan to make it better *fingers crossed*, as well as figuring out ways to better discipline the kids too (will come to that later).

Still feeling a bit like a squashed tomato, as everything is new. Next week I’m going to be teaching up to around I don’t know…20 hours maybe…? So we shall see how THAT goes. I can feel the butterflies in my belly already. Possibly not the best idea to spontaneously train off to England for the weekend, but hey ho. Family’s important!

The thing is though, I’m rubbish at motivating myself to do work. My dad’s always said, I’m a ditherer. It used to take me ages to start writing my English essays for example; and it’s not like I’m a student anymore, where if worst comes to worst I can just hand in my half written essay and hope for the best (yeah, failed that one!). This time, I’M the teacher, the one who has to know where I’m taking the children next – all activities and materials planned and prepped. It’s going to be an interesting ride!

On a positive note though, yesteday I enjoyed my lessons. Well, firstly I think I was just plain relieved that pupils weren’t sliding on tables and stacking chairs. Don’t ask. Although of course there were those who tried to misbehave and those who weren’t listening, I felt able to better control those situations. For example, if someone was not listening or if they kept misbehaving, I’d tell them to go and sit in the nursery corner for a minute, on one of the little yellow chairs which are lined up around a green furry rug. I gave one child the choice: yellow chair or Mr. So and So? After waiting a while for his response (he wanted to do neither of course)…he finally chose the yellow chair.

What made me happy, was how my classes ran quite smoothly yesterday for the four year olds. Even my first class with the children who are a little older ran quite smoothly too. Last week my timing was a bit all over the place, so hopefully I can learn from this week and last week and maintain good lesson structures.

If you’re working with little ones too, the little children really enjoyed the song, ‘We All Fall Down’. I also gave the little ones a colouring activity to do – we were working on Spot the Difference worksheets, where there was one picture of a man with a big nose and small ears next to another picture of the same man with a small nose and big ears. The children had to tell me the difference and I tried to stress the words ‘big’ and ‘small’ and revise a few colours when they were colouring. In my final group, the time quickly passed and everything seemed to have gone well; one little girl was speaking Frenglish by the end!

I’m hoping to introduce some kind of reward system for when the children are good – for praising them too, as sometimes all I feel I’ve been doing is trying to assert some kind of authority and telling the children what they can and cannot do. One new thing I managed to do yesterday was to ask the classes to think of their own rules, and then introduce the classes to some of my own – for example, when I say, ‘Everybody!’ I want silence.

I’m not sure if I’ll be teaching forever, but I feel like a lot can be learnt through learning to teach, that is, learning to teach well.

I’ve been asking for a lot of advice this week, from other teachers and leaders who have worked with children. I feel like I’ve thrown myself in the deep end a little, what with 1) teaching young children 2) teaching in French and 3) relying on little teaching experience i.e assistantships and Holiday Clubs. Either way, I guess here in the deep is where we find out whether we sink or swim. I’ll keep you posted.

New Lilloise in town

I have recently moved to Lille. To work as an English Teacher. For kids/primary schools. No teacher training. Just voilà, in a classroom of 14 chattery 7 year olds.

Not your cup of tea? Nah, didn’t think so.

Actually, I thought it wouldn’t be THAT hard. But with a sore throat, and my broken-up French, teaching these little ones is not quite that simple.

Tomorrow I will be teaching 5 groups of la maternelle (the tiny ones) for the first time in my life too.

Having been an English Teaching Assistant before, the preparation doesn’t seem too harrowing, at least not up to now. (Ahem, only my second day of work…) Although now as an official English teacher, I have the privilege of following the school curriculum and assessing the little ones at the end of every semester.

Maybe I’ll post a few snippets of the beginnings of my year as a teacher, as I start out as a baby and *fingers crossed* grow into a grandma. Otherwise, I’ll always remember that time I tried out as an English Teacher in Lille… but ended up back at home working in my lovely Tesco’s local.

We shall see how long I last here, shall we!

I’m off to cut out some name tags for my older groups. And then hole-punching and ribbon cutting are on the menu!

See you guys later maybe.

Oh, just a useful fact: I was once told that voilà derives from “voir là”. Intéressant, non?