Wednesday is a half day in France meaning that the children finish school at half past eleven. This is very different to Scotland as school runs to and from the same time every day. It felt very strange leaving the school at this time. However, it did allow me to recharge and go into the next two days feeling energised. It was a supply teacher that was in on this day which proved a challenge for me as she didn’t speak English. I attempted to use my French, however, this was a very difficult morning. The language barrier meant that I didn’t have much involvement in the day, I merely sat at the back of the classroom and observed. This supply teacher usually takes the class on a Monday as Amélie, their normal teacher doesn’t work Monday’s. This means that I am going to have to improve my French in order to be able to communicate with this teacher over the coming weeks.
The children followed the same structure and the day before, having both maths and French in the morning. I have noticed that the do the same things in these subjects everyday however it become progressively more difficult. The children are always very engaged and always offer answers when the teacher asks. Having now seen them with two different teachers I have noticed that they do not act differently with the different teachers. From experience in Scottish primary schools, children may act up or work harder when they are confronted with different teachers. This further emphasises the level of respect children have for their teachers in France. They do not test the teacher’s boundaries and misbehave. However, despite this I believe that the supply teacher had a much stricter approach with the children than Amélie. The tone of her voice was stern at all times and she didn’t allow talking during lessons. This made me feel slightly on edge as the children were so well behaved and didn’t require this approach. This allowed me to consider the way in which I will approach lessons when I begin teaching. I believe that positive reinforcement and a smile goes a long way.
On Thursday I found out that I am going to be involved in the class radio project. They will be planning and recording a radio sequence. Part of this will involve an interview. I will be asked questions by two of the children in French and I will be required to answer in French. I was very worried when I found out as my French is not very strong. I was worried about the pupils’ reaction to my lack of French coupled with my Scottish accent trying to pronounce French words correctly. However, during the week two of the children sat with me to discuss the various questions that I will be asked and also helped me to formulate some answers. This was a great opportunity for me to involve myself and talk to the children more about their studies. It also made me realise that although I am there to teach them, they are also teaching me. The children are very patient with me and try to help when I struggle with the language. This is another reason that I feel so at home in the school. Although at times I have felt embarrassed due to my lack of French, both the children and the teacher help and are not judgemental. I am looking forward to being involved with someone within the class that is different from merely teaching English.
The structure of the day was very much the same as previous days. One thing I noticed was how studious the children are and how every child completes their homework. It is clear to see that all of the children enjoy being at school.This is so refreshing to see, as during my placement in Scottish primary school that this wasn’t the case. Many children would not turn in homework and every day at least one person would be absent from class. In my school in France the class has been full everyday thus far. This emphasises how successful the French education system works. Although there are certain aspects that I disagree with, the way in which they run schools obviously works very well. This has allowed me to understand more about French culture and values. I am very interested to see over the coming weeks if what I have seen for far continues as we grow closer to the spring holidays.
I was unsure at the beginning of the week if the children were excited to have me in their class or if they thought of me as someone who just sits at the back of the classroom and observes lessons. However, when the teacher explained that they would be doing an English lesson their response was “Avec Briony?”. I was happy that they were so enthusiastic about me teaching English and understood that I was going to be a part of their class for the next six weeks. This was the first time that I was able to sit with groups of children on my own and assess their knowledge of English. I was nervous at first because I didn’t know how the children would react to me teaching English as I was foreign to their classroom. I played a sound game where thy had to match up jigsaw pieces that had the same sound. I found that most of the children picked this up very quickly, however, there are some sounds that we use in English that are very difficult for the French to pronounce such as H and WH. I found that when I introduced words that they were unfamiliar with, they repeated them in a Scottish accent. This was because they were merely imitating the way in which I was saying each word. This was all very new to me and it was very interesting to see their reaction to the game. When they grasped a new word, they were very excited. This was very rewarding as I was helping them to develop their English language skills without any help form the teacher.
By this day I felt very comfortable in the school and felt as though I had been there for more than a week. The children began to greet me in English and I did my best to talk to them in French. I believe that over the coming weeks I will be able to build relationships with the pupils as I become more confident teaching English as a foreign language whilst also improving my French speaking skills. The language barrier will prove to be an issue however, my goal is to be able to overcome this and eventually be able to converse with others in French confidently. I am looking forward to the various lessons and activities I will be involved in over the course of placement. I couldn’t be happier about how my learning from life placement has started.
One thing I feel bad about is not being able to learn the children’s names. I am usually someone that finds it simple to learn names in a classroom, however, this has proved difficult in France. I have never come across any of these names before and the pronunciation is very difficult. I hope that as I progress through placement I will be able to remember names whilst using the correct pronunciations. The children have also found it difficult to pronounce my name which allowed me to understand that it is difficult to pronounce names that are uncommon in your country.
Overall, I have had a very successful first week in Orléans and I am looking forward to the coming weeks. I aim to develop and progress as I go whilst gaining further insight into the French education system.