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How I became an English teacher in a French high school

Since Fall 2018 (roughly around the time I stopped writing regularly on this blog…), I’ve been venturing into the complicated, sometimes arduous journey of becoming a qualified English teacher in French secondary schools. In the handful of Facebook groups I participate in, I field a lot of questions about this, because many former teaching assistants are interested in staying in France after their assistant gigs are over. While there are several ways to get into teaching in France, in this post I want to lay out the path that I took !

TYPES OF SCHOOLS

First things first, there are several different types of secondary schools in France, and it’s important to understand the differences, because the recruitment process is different for each.

I. The first type of school is public schools which are run by the Education Nationale, the Education ministry of the French government. For teaching assistants that went through TAPIF or British Council, this is the type of school where you worked. If you have EU citizenship, you can be recruited for public schools via the concours (see below). Otherwise, you can apply to be a contractuel or a long-term substitute teacher. Contractuel positions are based on availability and can last anywhere from a few weeks to a full year. The requirements are usually at minimum a bachelors degree. Apply at your local rectorat.

II. Secondly, there are private schools “under contract” aka partially funded by the Education Nationale. These schools are primarily Catholic, but some have other religious affiliations and others are secular. If you are EU or non-EU you can be recruited into these school via the concours. You can also apply for suppléances which is the Catholic school system’s name for contractuel. You can apply to do suppléances with the organization SAAR in your region.

III. Finally, there are private schools with no government affiliation, including independent schools, some international schools, Montessori programs, etc. They each have their own individual hiring processes and requirements. I recommend contacting them individually to find out more.

In my case, I took the concours in order to work in the second category of schools : Etablissements privés sous-contract avec l’Education Nationale. So, that’s what this post will primarily focus on.

While it’s true that something like 80% of privé sous-contrat schools are Catholic, I wouldn’t necessarily let this deter you. As a certified teacher, you are hired and paid by the Education Nationale, not by the diocese, and as such, you are never required to participate in any of the religious activities at your school. In all of the Catholic schools where I have worked, the religious aspect has been pretty understated; apart from the odd crucifix above the white board and a chapel on campus, they have usually felt more or less like regular schools. While the population might be slightly less diverse than in a public school, keep in mind that private school tuition in France is far more affordable than American private schools, so they’re not just reserved for super rich families. All types of families choose to send their kids to private school for a whole variety of reasons.

THE CONCOURS

In order to teach as a professeur certifié in Education Nationale affiliated schools (types 1 and 2), you need to pass a series of competitive exams, called the CAPES concours. This ONLY concerns schools with Education Nationale affiliation. All other schools, including language schools for adults, have separate, unrelated recruitment processes.

Since France doesn’t like to make things easy, there’s an additional hurdle : only those with an EU passport are eligible to take the CAPES and work in public schools. This is because public school teachers have a special public servant tax status, which is reserved for EU citizens only. For everyone else, there’s the CAFEP concours, a completely identical exam which gives you access to teach in the second category of school : établissements privé sous-contrat. Luckily, the requirements needed to sit the CAFEP are rather simple : you must have completed (or be in the process of completing) at least one year of post-graduate studies in any subject.

The exam itself is in the process of being reformed, so my info will very soon be out of date. But in 2018-2019 when I took it, it was a four-part exam : 2 written exams sat in March, followed by 2 oral exams taken in June. The written exams focused primarily on showing technical mastery of the English language and knowledge of anglophone culture via translation, explanations of English linguistics, and an essay of literary or historical analysis. The oral exams were focused a bit more on teaching skills : after analyzing a text or video, how would you connect it to the school curriculum ? How would you introduce it to students ? What activities would you put in place to help students improve or extend their skills ?

Between the 4 parts of the concours, it’s split roughly evenly between English and French, so having a sufficient level of written and spoken French is a must. According to the recently announced reform, the parts in English could be even more reduced… affaire à suivre !

WHY TAKE THE CONCOURS ?

The concours is NOT the easiest way into teaching in France, in my opinion. It normally requires hours of preparation, not to mention the exams alone last a combined 16 mind-numbing hours. However, it comes with one very enticing advantage : guaranteed job security (and relatively easy visa support) !

Because the concours is a competitive exam, each year they only admit the number of people as there are positions available. For example, in 2019 when I took the CAFEP, only 151 candidates were accepted across all of France. Once you have the concours, the Education Nationale is required to offer you a job somewhere in one of their schools ! This means, however, that you don’t have full control over what school you end up at or what grades you teach, at least not at first.

For me, I knew that I wanted to teach in a school environment (as opposed to looking for work in a language school or after-school program for example). My background is in teaching primary school, but this was less appealing in France, since I would also have to be responsible for teaching math, science, PE, French…. and I wanted to focus only on English as a foreign langue. I hadn’t done any post-grad, nor did I have a U.S. teaching credential, so I wasn’t a very competitive candidate for jobs at International schools or universities. Above all, I needed to find a way to secure a work visa in order to stay in France. With all of that in mind, the concours seemed like a no-brainer. I don’t regret my choice at all, though in retrospect, I was definitely underprepared for the immense challenge of being a first-year teacher inside a completely foreign school system !

HOW DO I PREPARE ?

In order to pass the concours, it’s not necessarily sufficient just to be a native speaker of English (although that can give you a small edge over other candidates). You also have to be well-versed in the format of each exam, and what the jury is expecting. In order to understand each element of the concours, the “Rapports de jury” are required reading. This is a massive document published every summer, in which members of the jury that grades the concours explain step by step what things they were looking for and point out common pitfalls or mistakes that candidates made in the previous year. There are also plenty of concours prep books you can buy online or even in most French bookstores.

Because I had not already completed any post-grad studies, I decided to enroll in a Master MEEF (Métiers de l’enseignement, de l’education et de la formation). This is a Masters program specifically designed for future concours candidates, and consists basically in very rigorous test prep. While this Master was absolutely useful in passing the concours, it’s not essential. You can sit the concours with at least 1 year of post-grad in ANY subject (even non-English or non-teaching related). I will write a separate post about my experience doing the MEEF, as I have a lot of things to say about it…

WHAT NEXT ?

So, you meet the minimum requirements to sit the concours. After months of preparation, you sit the exams and….you pass ! Now what ?

The year after you pass the concours, you automatically become a student teacher, or professeur stagiaire. This is rather unlike student teaching placements in the US, where you integrate a school for a few months and are guided by a mentor teacher who eventually lets you lead lessons and units on your own.

No, this is a total trial by fire method of learning : from day 1 of the school year, you are given 8-10 teaching hours for which you are the SOLE English teacher responsible for your classes. You have a mentor teacher in your school who serves as a point of contact or a resource when you need it, but otherwise you’re more or less on your own. Alongside teaching part-time, you are also automatically enrolled in a year-long teacher training course at the university. I’ll talk more about this training in my post about the MEEF… The silver lining of this extremely intense process is that the student teaching year is paid full time ! I earned roughly 1,400 euros per month after taxes as a student teacher.

If you do the CAFEP and will be teaching in a sous-contrat Catholic school, you will need to go through a brief screening process called the préaccord / accord collégial which is organized by the SAAR in your region. Your teacher training course will also take place at a Catholic university (ISFEC), rather than a public university. I’ll detail more of these differences in my post on the MEEF.

After surviving the année de stage, if you didn’t totally screw up, then you become titularisé or officially certified, and it’s time to get your first permanent teaching position !!

WHERE WILL I TEACH ?

The placement system for private schools sous-contrat is a little bit convoluted, and there’s a lot of luck or strategy that can go into it. Basically, each region publishes a list of all the positions that are likely to be available for the upcoming year and you can make a list of up to 12 preferences. You send off your CV and cover letter to those 12 schools and you might have an interview with the school principal. Then, all the principals get together with the rectorat and they dole out the jobs based on an order of priority (teachers with more tenure first, etc). Because the principals play a larger role in the affectations, hitting it off well in your interview can sometimes give you an edge.

While they are required to find you a job somewhere in France thanks to the concours, everything depends on what is available in the region where you want to be ! So if there aren’t enough available hours in your town, you may be offered a post in a neighboring town, or you could be offered only a part-time job. It is highly recommended to join a union so they can represent you during these sessions and advocate for your specific situation and wishes. The caveat of this permanent job guarantee is that if you are unhappy with your initial placement and decide to turn it down, you lose the benefits of the concours (i.e. your right to permanent employment). After the first year, if you’re not happy with your placement, you can always try your luck again and redo the process the following year.

AS FOR ME….

After two semesters of preparing during the MEEF, I passed the concours in 2019 and did my student teaching in a high school in Toulouse during the 2019-2020 school year (#covid-student-teachers-class-of-2020 !)

This year I was offered 17 hours (just under full time) in a middle school and a high school, both in Toulouse. Each school is about a 30 minute commute from my apartment (less once I finally buy myself a bike!), and I feel extremely lucky to be able to stay in Toulouse (not the case for a lot of my former classmates) !

I teach five (!!!!) different levels between 6e (sixth grade) and 1ere (11th grade) and while I genuinely enjoy all my classes (on most days anyway….), I’m finding the rhythm of having five preps extremely challenging for my first year full-time. I see most of my classes 2-3 times per week, so the preparations feel simply never-ending. The light at the end of the tunnel is that next year, I will already have a TON of lesson plans ready-to-go, so I hope I’ll be able to relax a bit more and not have to take SO MUCH work home with me.

I hope this post is helpful for all the prospective teachers out there wondering how to prolong their stays in France. Keep in mind that the concours is not necessarily for the faint of heart. It’s definitely a long-haul engagement, so if you’re unsure if you want to stay in France long-term or if you really want to become a career teacher, then I would personally suggest weighing other options.

Again, this is just ONE of many paths into teaching in France ! Emily gives an overview of some of the others in her blog post here. I also recommend looking at the Education Nationale site Devenir Enseignant for more information about the different ways into working with the Education Nationale 🙂

Let me know in the comments if you need any clarifications about the concours and the different steps before and after taking it. I promise to do a write up about my time in the MEEF as soon as I can ! ❂

Six months gone by…

It seems like all of my posts recently have begun in the same way: “Wow, I can’t believe it’s been such a long time since the last time I wrote! Oof, it’s been a crazy couple of months – hard to find time to write! Yikes, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?!”

So anyway…. it’s been a while, hasn’t it!?

Last time I wrote, it was the beginning of June, I had just returned to the US from Marseille, and had a couple of days off before beginning 9 intense weeks of non-stop summer camp. Since then, I successfully finished that marathon of skits and crafts, I attended my best friend’s wedding, moved back to France, started a Masters degree, got settled in a new city, and even fractured a bone! So, yeah. I’d say that it’s been a busy couple of months!

So, here’s what you should know about what’s been going on with me since June:

  1. I still live in France.
  2. In September, I moved from Marseille to Toulouse, in the south west, near the Spanish border and Pyrenées (and just a quick train or bus ride to Barcelona, for anyone who’s thinking of their next vacation…!)
  3. It took me AGES to find an apartment in Toulouse. It was seriously a major nightmare, and an extremely stressful period, but I do now luckily have a roof over my head and even a washing machine !
  4. I live on my own in a teeny studio in a 5th floor walk-up. Although it’s not the most ideal set-up, and I have a terrible kitchen that takes 45 minutes to boil water (only a slight exaggeration) I’m enjoying living on my own for (almost) the first time (besides the 9 months I lived in a studio in my 4th year of college).
  5. They call pains au chocolat chocolatines here. I’m still not used to it.
  6. I’m not a language assistant anymore.
  7. I enrolled in the first year of a Masters degree at the University of Toulouse II/Ecole Supérieure du professorat et de l’education (ESPE) so that I can take a competitive exam in March that could allow me to become a full-time language teacher in French schools.
  8. It’s really freaking hard. Like 30+ hours of class time per week plus endless homework hard.
  9. I have classes in translation, literature, civilization, linguistics, pedagogy, and a variety of other classes that are meant to prepare us or the afore-mentioned competitive exam, called a concours.
  10. Most of the classes are taught in a mixture of French and English. Only a small handful are 100% in English, and a much larger handful are 100% in French.
  11. There are a handful of other anglophones in the Master, but I’m the only American 🙌 🇺🇸
  12. This week, an English professor marked several expressions as incorrect on an English translation I did, because they’re not used in British English… he gave me the points back in the end once I explained that they were correct in American English, but now I’m wondering if maybe I should learn British as a third language to help me pass my exams ???
  13. I fractured my toe at the end of October and while I officially stopped limping several weeks ago, I am currently living a 9-toenail life. (horrible gruesome pictures on demand!!)
  14. I only had to pay like 8 euro per doctor’s appointment. #thanksFrance
  15. I’ve been back to Marseille almost every single month and I STILL have stuff left in my old apartment to bring back to Toulouse…. Oh well, guess I’ll have to keep making trips ! 😀
  16. I wish I had time to really discover Toulouse the way I was able to discover Marseille. But going from working 12-18 hours per week to having a near endless stream of class/studying to do makes that difficult…
  17. The people in my class are generally really nice and supportive of one another, despite the fact that we will eventually be competing against each other for a limited number of jobs.
  18. They all speak English more or less proficiently… there are deffffinitely some interesting accents though! 😂
  19. I have managed to find a small group of friends – French and Italian – although we’re a very studious bunch, so even when we go to the bar or hang out outside of class, it’s usually to do group work. While I appreciate the low-key group study time (because studying by yourself gets sad after a while!), I do miss the zero-responsibility language assistant social life haha! I’m sure we will find a better balance once the looming concours is passed.
  20. Toulouse has been very much affected by the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protests just as much as Paris. There have been protests every weekend since November, and though they are mostly calm, there have unfortunately been several incidents of thugs (casseurs) who infiltrate the peaceful protests to wreak havoc.
  21. I got tear gassed in my own apartment. The police were trying to control a section of a protest that had gotten out of control and set off tear gas directly outside my building. The gas infiltrated the lobby just as I was trying to leave to catch a train to Paris so I could go home for Christmas… The gas’ effects were so painful, I thought I would be trapped in my apartment forever and miss my flight and have the worst, saddest Christmas of all time.
  22. I made it out, literally ran to the train station because the metro had been shut down, and made it onto my train with 2 minutes to spare.
  23. I spent Christmas at home for the first time in a LONG time! And my family hosted everyone for the first time EVER!
  24. My fam knows how to throw a good party !!! Complete with excessive Christmas decorations!
  25. Although I definitely enjoyed my time with friends and family, some of whom I hadn’t seen in ages, I’m not sure I fully appreciated the fact that I might not be home for a pretty long time…
  26. For the big scary concours, I have to do two 5-hour written exams on March 27th and 28th. If I pass, then I “get” to do 2 EVEN HARDER 3-hour oral exams sometime in June/July TBD. If I finish in the top 151 of all the people taking the same concours throughout the country, then I get a job for liiiiiiiife! (in France, at least)
  27. People keep asking me if my goal is to stay in France forever…….. My answer is that I really like what I’m doing here right now, and so I guess I’ll keep doing that until I don’t want to anymore. Maybe the U.S. will call me back to her sunny shores… maybe I’ll fail the concours and my visa won’t get renewed and I’ll have to make up a plan B… but for now, I like where I am and so I’m gonna keep doing that until I don’t like it anymore!

So that’s a somewhat comprehensive overview…….. I would love to write some more things soon, although I’m really not sure if I’ll have the time/brain power. But could you do me a favor? If you’ve read this and you’re in any way intrigued by what’s going on in my life, leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to read about!!! Want to know about applying to French universities or what it’s like to be a student in France? Want to know more about Toulouse ? or Marseille ? The gilets jaunes ? My teaching concours ? My classes ?? Tell me and I promise I will write it … eventually !!!! xoxoxo ❂

Hiking in Marseille’s calanques: part 1

Stretching along the coast from Marseille to Cassis is one of France’s most unique national parks: the Parc National des Calanques. Whether by sea or by land, the calanques are a must-visit if you have more than one or two days in Marseille. After two years here, I have explored many of the popular hiking trails through the calanques (though I’ve yet to visit them by sea… a huge dream of mine!). But despite my repeated visits, walking through the jagged, rocky paths of the looming limestone cliffs never ceases to be anything less than sublime. Here I’ve detailed several classic hikes that I’ve taken, all accessed by public transportation, thus ideal for tourists or non-driving people like me ! Be forewarned: not all of these hikes for the faint of heart… some of the trails are rocky, uneven, and have intense altitude changes, so be sure to take the proper precautions – water, decent shoes, more water, sunscreen. But if you are up for the challenge, pack a picnic and a swimsuit, and lace up your walking shoes! The calanques are sure to reward you with astounding landscapes and breathtaking beaches — all without ever leaving the city !

**Additional note: if you are exploring these hikes between June 1 and September 30, be aware that the park is more strictly monitored for fire prevention during the summer. Check here to make sure access is permitted before venturing out. If you want to check out all the possible paths and plan your own hikes, I highly recommended buying an official IGN map of the calanques. All trails and transportation options are extremely well marked and color coded! 

Calanque de Sugiton

Length of hike: around 90 minutes to the beach, slightly more to return
Difficulty of hike: ✭✭✩✩✩
Superlative: Most versatile, best WOW-factor

Sugiton

Sugiton is probably the most classic of all the hikes in this post. It’s the hike the Tourism Office recommended to me when I first asked about accessing the calanques by public transportation. It’s got everything you could ask for: stunning vistas, turquoise water, a sunny beach, and the possibility for a little cliff jumping. Plus, a large majority of the trail is paved, making it one of the less technically challenging hikes. Full disclosure to give you an idea of the trek: I’ve done this hike in sandals – though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, especially if you’re not very surefooted.

To access the trailhead, take the line 21 bus from either Castellane or Rond Point du Prado metro stations to the last stop in Luminy. (On weekdays, I prefer the line 921 Jet Bus, the express version of the 21). From the bus stop, go up the hill towards the Ecole de Beaux Arts and you’ll see the entrance to the National Park ahead of you. Follow the red trail markers up the wooded path. Eventually the landscape will begin to change and become more rocky, and you’ll arrive at the paved road. Continue descending, following the red blazes to cut through the switchbacks. The best part of this hike for me, is when you turn the corner and suddenly, BAM! the Mediterranean in all of its turquoise glory. Shortly after, follow the signs for the beach (Plage) to continue descending to the water. If you’d like, you can also turn off the trail a bit earlier to climb up to the cliff’s Lookout Point before heading down the beach. Sugiton has a medium-sized pebble beach, which can be uncomfortable without proper footwear, or you can also relax on the large sunny rocks facing the open sea.

Loop to Calanques de Sormiou and Morgiou

Length of hike: 1 hour from bus stop to Sormiou beach. ~2 hours to to Morgiou port and back to civilization
Difficulty of hike: ✭✭✭✭✩
Superlative: Most striking views

Sormiou:Morgiou

Sormiou and Morgiou are different from the more secluded Sugiton because they are both inhabited and accessible by car. Each has a mini port and are dotted with houses and cabins where (I presume) people live. As a result, the beaches themselves are a tad less magical than Sugiton – something about walking past a parking lot and a port-a-potty on the way to the beach sort of kills the romance of nature. However, the pedestrian-only trail between the two calanques takes you up and across the top of the cliffs and offers some of my all-time favorite views of the chain of calanques as it stretches down the coast.

There are multiple ways to access Sormiou by public transport, but I usually take the 23 bus towards La Cayolle from Rond Point du Prado and get off at the last stop: La Cayolle. When you get off the bus, you’ll continue straight down the street until you reach the Parking lot La Cayolle where you’ll see the trail head ! After entering the park, continue down the road until you see a trail veer off to the left. Start the climb, making sure to turn around at certain intervals for a sweet panorama of the dense city behind you. You’ll eventually arrive at the parking lot and beach of Sormiou. Take advantage of the comfortable sandy beach for your picnic or even a nice swim !

Once you’ve enjoyed Sormiou, it’s time to start the really fun part of the hike ! From the beach, you will follow the paths to the left to walk among the picturesque cabins. Continue to follow the red-marked trail up, up, and up until you reach the crossroad at the summit of the cliff. You can either choose to take the red path back down to the port of Morgiou, or the blue path which is slightly longer, but in my opinion has much nicer views, as it takes you to the far end of the cliffs towards the sea! I will admit to sometimes feeling lost on the seemingly endless blue trail – just keep going and eventually it will cross with a small trail marked with black blazes which will lead you down to the Morgiou beach. To finally rejoin civilization, follow the road and the red blazes until you find the bus stop line 22 Les Baumettes which will safely return you to Rond Point du Prado.

Calanque de Marseillevyre from Les Goudes/Callelongue

Length of hike: 1 hour from Callelongue to the beach at Marseillevyre
Difficulty of hike: ✭✩✩✩✩
Superlative: Least strenuous hike, Most interesting flora

I wrote about this hike last year!

Marseillevyre

The Marseillais call the tiny fisherman’s village of Les Goudes ‘le bout du monde’ : the end of the world. And for good reason; this neighborhood all the way at the end of the coastline is extremely isolated and tranquil. Just up the road from les Goudes is the calanque de Callelongue, an even smaller community with just a few houses and cafés. But it’s from Callelongue that you can very easily depart on a short and non-strenuous hike to a lovely mixed sand and pebble beach, with a pleasant familial vibe and even a tiny restaurant that stays open until it runs out of fresh water for the day (seriously!).

Because the starting point of Callelongue is “at the end of the end of world, the bus journey there is rather long, but you’ll get to see quite a lot of Marseille on the ride. If it’s summer, you can opt to take the Maritime Ferry from Pointe Rouge to arrive at Les Goudes by boat ! Otherwise, take the route 19 bus from Castellane or Rond Point du Prado all the way to its terminus at Madrague de Montredon. From there it is possible walk to Les Goudes and Callelongue, but it will roughly double your hiking time. If you’re more pressed for time, take the number 20 bus through Les Goudes to the terminus at Callelongue. From there, walk to the right around the row of restaurants to the trail head. After a short rocky climb, the walk plateaus and the Mediterranean stretches in all directions before you! Follow the red and white trail markers for around an hour and you’ll eventually arrive at the beach where you can rest your feet and stop for a picnic and a swim! This hike is right at the beginning of the calanques, so the cliffs are not quite as massive and striking, and the landscapes are much more wild and filled with fascinating Mediterranean flora. It’s a different vibe, but certainly not any less impressive! See for yourself !

Coming soon: part 2 ! ❂

How about an update

Hey there gang ! So I managed to participate in a full TWO days of the March Slice of Life Challenge, and haven’t found much inspiration to write since… Not because I haven’t been doing inspiring things – au contraire ! I guess I just haven’t been motivated to put them down in writing.

Anyways, lots has happened since I last wrote and I hope I’ll soon find the motivation to tell you about some of them. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few general updates and photos to flex that writing muscle again! Since March, I went to Athens with my best friend, my parents came to visit me in Marseille and Paris, I finished my 3rd (and probably final) teaching contract with TAPIF, I applied to three French university Masters in teaching and have been accepted to at least one of them, and have been generally enjoying my drastically reduced work hours in the gorgeous landscapes of Marseille 🙂

So now, on to some…

Recent Highs & Lows

Highs of the recent weeks would definitely be being able to take maximum advantage of the glorious outdoor spaces Marseille and its environs has to offer. With friends, I was able to hike in the Côte Bleue to the north of Marseille, the îles Frioul, the Route des Crêtes in Cassis as well as a few old calanque faves. I’ve learned how much of an outdoor person I am – just spending the afternoon in a park, at the beach, or taking a walk is extremely pleasant and can turn my meh days much better ! Maybe it’s because the summer air doesn’t feel like walking through a swimming pool…. (And don’t worry, I’m currently working on a post to share directions for some of my favorite hikes!)

Lows mostly have to do with the school year winding down… My time at my schools ended very anti-climatically with a couple of my colleagues completely unaware that I wouldn’t be coming back. The real cherry on the cake happened on my very last day of work. Many people have since told me they have had literal nightmares about getting sick while in the middle of teaching and, well, I can now say with absolute certainty that I would not recommend it. What started off as a truly lovely day, where I showed my classes the finished books we had written together and colored pictures of Washington, went rapidly downhill after lunch. In the middle of reading a rowdy class of 2nd graders “Larry Loves Washington, DC” I started to feel a little rumble in my stomach….not the good kind. I tried for as long as possible to hold it in, wanting to at least finish reading the story, before I had to straight up sprint to the bathroom where I saw my lunch for a second time…apparently the veggies in my pasta had gone off and my stomach spent the next 40 minutes or so getting it all back out. Luckily my colleagues were all super understanding, let me off the hook for my last 2 classes, and after about an hour I felt fine and even got my appetite back almost right away. I met my friends at the beach and ate plain bread and drank gatorade and took a nice long nap.

In the Kitchen

In much more successful kitchen experiments, I have been going all out on different kinds of salads now that it’s picnic weather ! I made a delicious chicken salad using a rotisserie chicken, a greek-inspired pasta salad that is really similar to a pasta salad my mom always gets at the grocery store deli, and a super simple potato salad ! I loved these recipes because they were flavorful, somewhat flexible, much cheaper to make homemade, and made huge batches so I had food for several days with minimal effort. Will definitely make all of these again!

IMG_3355

What I’m Reading

I have been absolutely dreadful about reading recently… Every book I pick up, I haven’t managed to get past the first 100 pages, even though they’re books I like and have been wanting to read for a while. I’m thinking of starting a middle grade or YA book series, something easy to read that I’ll enjoy and can read quickly, to get back into the habit. I’ll take any and all suggestions in the comments ! In the meantime, I have a ton of great books waiting for me on my kindle once I finally get my reading stamina back : The Power, Uncommon Type (a book of short stories by Tom Hanks), The Song of Achilles, and lots more !

What I’m listening to

Hardly a week has gone by that I haven’t listened to Janelle Monae’s newest album Dirty Computer in its entirety. Her music is so funky and fun, and this album in particular has gotten particularly politically pointed. I love that she discusses without shame sexuality, feminism, blackness in such a bold way. I still haven’t watched the full visual album, but I have heard it is equally as stunning !

Although the French rapper Orelsan has been on my radar for a while, I never really listened to much of his music. I decided to give a few songs of his a try, and really quite enjoyed them. His big hit right now is La Pluie, which he produced with Belgian superstar Stromae (please write more music 😩) and I also enjoy some songs by his group Casseurs Flowters.

What I’m watching

After the big social media uproar over the cancelling of Brooklyn 99, a show that wasn’t even on my radar until then, I decided I had to check it out for myself. Luckily, the first 4 seasons are on French Netflix and thus began a multi-week binge of the entire series ! You guys it really is so good. I’ve been a huge fan of Andy Samberg since middle school and he is so great in the show. I’ve always had a soft spot for procedurals, and this comic take on shows like CSI or Law and Order is just delicious. The writing gets better and better each season and I’m looking forward to watching the 5th season and eventually the new 6th season which will thankfully be aired by NBC.

New Words

As I explained in my previous update post, my roommates and I have been curating a post-it note dictionary wall of expressions in many different languages (but especially French & English). Here are some recent additions:

to cut the cheese = péter

poireauter = to hang around
faire poireauter qq’un = to leave someone hanging, make someone wait
(poireau is the French for leek, so this verb is especially funny)

ahurissant / être ahuri(e) = stupefying, dumbfounding / to be stupefied, dumbfounded
(My roommate loves to teach me words that are extremely difficult for English speakers to say, so she can laugh when I repeat them 15 times incorrectly. Another least favorite is feillu, or leafy)

That’ll never get old = On s’en lasse pas

Knock yourself out = Fais-toi plaisir

Avoir un coup de barre = to crash (in the sense of suddenly being very tired)

Et voilà voilà ! More stories soon, I hope ! ❂

Those who can, teach

There’s a pervasive notion, especially among expat communities that I’ve noticed, and that has been getting under my skin more and more recently. The idea is treating teaching English as a side hustle, something you do to support your lifestyle abroad even if it’s not something you actually care about or even like. This is a concept I have heard repeated in TAPIF or Expat groups, by bloggers, even by some of my own friends, and it’s something that, especially recently, makes my blood boil !

I have seen countless assistants arrive in France with absolutely no desire to teach, coasting along through their placements with the bare minimum effort and spending the rest of their time planning their vacations to every corner of Europe. Now, I will admit this is okay for a language assistant. It’s a short commitment and it’s designed to be a mobility program : they expect you to take advantage of being in Europe! If you don’t take the job seriously…. tant pis. It’s not like you really have any real responsibility anyway.

Where it really gets me is when people say things like “Well, I really don’t see myself teaching in the long run,” “It’s just not for me,” even “Ugh, I honestly hate teaching,” all the while applying for teaching jobs in universities or language schools because “it’s the easiest job to get, the easiest way to a visa.”

I wish those people would realize how disparaging that is towards career teachers. Teachers are some of the most passionate people in the world. Especially those working in schools. They are constantly learning, they recognize the hard work and effort it takes to be effective, they put in extra hours to reach that one struggling child, they understand the enormous responsibility they have to their students to not phone it in.

My own mother has been a teacher for more than 25 years, is CONSTANTLY learning new methods and experimenting in her classroom to find the best ways to teach her students. Her work is her passion, and as a result, she is an incredible role model for her students and even her colleagues ! And despite all of her experience and passion, she STILL sometimes has doubts about whether what she is doing is adequate, about whether she’s really cut out for teaching.

I myself really love teaching, have accumulated a lot of experience over the years, but still have some anxiety over choosing to go into the field full-time because, well, I believe teaching is something you should be 100% committed to. To me, it’s not a side gig or something to pay the bills; it’s a huge responsibility. Would you really put TEACHING in the same category as walking dogs, babysitting, mowing lawns, driving for Uber, bagging groceries, ripping movie tickets ???

Look, I believe in letting everyone make their own choices. I’m not going to tell anyone to stop working in education, and certainly I won’t stop anyone from giving teaching a try to see if it’s something you enjoy and feel good at. And I don’t mean to insinuate either that all of the people who have said that teaching isn’t ultimately for them are only doing the bare minimum and then punching out. You can care about your work and also know that it’s not what you’re ultimately cut out for. But I think it’s a big old shame that teaching is such a disparaged profession that we have started to approach it as something people do when they can’t find another option, that they try for one or two years before moving on to something better, because “– what, like it’s hard?”

giphy

Yes, Elle Woods, it is hard. Just ask a teacher ! ❂

Sun sun go away

It’s official. The French weather authorities crunched the numbers and determined that Marseille was the sunniest city in France in 2017. Our 3,110 hours of sunlight beat out Nice (3,047) and Corsica (3,036 in Solenzara).

So a weird thing about living in Marseille is that I am constantly complaining about how much sun there is, especially in the winter. I am 100% here for sunny, warm days you can spend lounging on the beach or drinking rosé on a sunny terrasse. But when it’s cold and sunny, you sit inside all day wishing you could be outside, but knowing you won’t last more than a half hour at most before giving up in favor of warm toes. And when that freezing Mistral blows, no amount of sunlight can make me go outside.

This is where I really see the value of lousy weather. Isn’t it sublime to curl up on the couch while rain lashes the windows and you take a sip of warm tea? Is there any excuse better than a massive thunderstorm to cuddle under your covers until 2pm, thinking about the soup and cookies you’re going to make later? After all, how could you possibly go out in weather like this?!

On the other hand, is there anything more embarrassing and low-key demoralizing than spending that same afternoon in your pajamas, wistfully staring out the windows at the beautiful blue sky every 20 minutes and wishing you had the motivation to get dressed and venture out? What’s worse than having the motivation but finding upon finally leaving the house that the wind has picked up to speeds so fast you can barely walk two blocks without being pushed off the sidewalk?

I realize arguing for worse weather is a pretty hard sell. But sometimes I just wish the weather would go all out: please either be stunningly gorgeous, or disgustingly unpleasant. Choose one. It’ll make it easier on the rest of us ! ❂

Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate