By far one of the most challenging experiences to date, I have found myself back within the deep nowhere of France, upon the tallest hill known to man, teaching English. Let’s see how this goes.
The school I am working in is remarkably different to what we are used to in the UK. It’s an apprentice school for those wishing to become pastry chefs, confectioners, chocolatiers, bakers, butchers, hairdressers and carpenters. A considerable number of students are my age, I even encountered several students in their thirties with families, those who had previously pursued other careers and decided on a change. Often students came from unsettling backgrounds, had done badly in their previous education and came here for a second chance. Here subjects are taught with patience and small doses of discipline. And the aspect that I find most interesting is that students divide their time between paid work and study. Two weeks at their placement, the third at school, and so on. This means that every week I am with a fresh set of faces. I must say, I think we could learn a lot in the UK from this system. Granted, motivation levels in English class are often low, as is normal in many schools, but when I was present in the practical classes, the focus and commitment from the students was remarkable. I was particularly surprised by how ambitious they are:
“What do you want to do in future?”
“Within ten years I will be the best chocolate maker in France”
“I will be living in America, running my own restaurant.”
Why not ey. If you ask me right now what I want in future, it will go something along the lines of “Erm.. In a position where I can realistically afford a comfy flat in zone 2 and an entire wardrobe from Zara.” But that’s just me and my cotton wool head.
Let’s not forget the teachers, they are remarkable. The only English teacher is a saint, and what’s more, she really, really cares. Every day is a battle to motivate these kids to realise how important their grasp of English needs to be, that (unfortunately) they are unlikely to progress further in their ambitions in the world without it. I shuffle my feet uncomfortably at the side of the class during these moments, with my lazy French conversation skills and memories of GCSEs springing to mind. We don’t really make the effort back home do we?
Oh what a lazy, lazy nation we are.
What am I reading? Hunting and Gathering – Anna Gavalda
What am I listening to? Alvays – Archie, Marry Me
What did I eat? Duck confit, served most days in the cafeteria 😉