22.11.2007 10 °C
Had a pretty good day today but my last class was really chatty, just not listening and then moaning they don't understand...it seems all classes have these days and I wasn't too worried especially as earlier that morning 2 teachers had been praising me up, saying I was doing very well and would do very well to go into teaching one day. What was interesting to me was what one of these teachers then said at the end of her class' chatty lesson: "Don't worry yourself about it. You did well to be strict with the, you must be and I was until halfterm...but, some of them don't listen, some if them don't talk and it's their life you can't spend your whol life on their backs. If they're not distracting the rest of the class just keep teaching and they'll take what they can". I found this interesting...I'm not sure I disagree entirely with the statement but I guess it went against what I felt I should be doing which is giving every child the best possible chance to learn English and if they're not listening/not speaking they can't speak. These caused me to reflect on the other things I've observed in these first few weeks teaching particularly things which are different from what I've seen in England. I though I'd write some of these here but what I'd like to insist on is that I'm generalising a lot here from what I've seen, and to a certain extent, what the other assistants have experienced and I am sure things vary greatly in schools here as they do at home.
Perhaps the most evident difference is the lack of "artsy-fartsy" stuff...I've seen very, very little evidence of art, music or even much sport. One of my schools has a choir which is compulsory and within lesson time but other than this there are no lunchtime/after-school 'clubs' or extra-curricular acitivities. In fact there is little emphasis on self-though/representation; the focus instead is very much on "traditional" subjects and on writing and learning things by heart. On the other hand the children to seem to have a large number of visits to museums and "expositions"...the cultural aspect IS important here.
This lack of time devoted to "art" is shown in the schools themselves, even in the youngest classes the walls are pretty bare and they sit at traditional desks in rows...quite a contrast to seem of the primary schools I've seen in England recently where are even the ceilings are covered and I can't imagine how teachers start to keep control of classes where the children are sat in groups sometimes with their backs to the board! Similarly the playgrounds are real concrete jungles, very little for the children to do, especially when they have an hour and a half to two hours for lunch...they don't SEEM to get bored though. Life in general here is more "traditional", certainly more family-orientated and I wonder if children are happier/more used to entertaining themselves without piles of toys/video games. Certainly I don't think they watch as much TV as the average British child.
It seems to me that French schools do not have as much money pumped into them as at home. IT supplies are starting to improve but one of my schools still only has 1 or 2 computers in each room...much more like how things were 10 years ago when I was at school than how things are now with big computer suites, digital cameras and video conferencing! Also one of the teachers has told me that there aren't enough supply teachers in this area so that if a teacher is ill his/her class have to just be split up among the other classes...not very practical! Finally, the children all bring their own supplies to school...pencils, pens, colouring pencils, glue...everything is brought from home.
However, importantly, there are also similarities between the two systems: behavioral problems and an increasing use of evaluation and tests in the classroom.
ANYWAY, on other news all my bills are paid up...err..yay. The electricity worked out at about EUR17 a month.
Winter is arriving here; all those beautiful coloured leaves are starting to fall and the evenings are very dark. They still haven't turned on the lights but cards and gifts have arrived in the shops so Christmas is on the way. Happy Thanksgiving Americans; I'm going to have my first Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, :-)