I honestly can’t remember the last time I did a personal post where I just wrote my stream of consciousness and what was going on in my life, so I guess I’ll just lay it all out and talk about my experience during the 2018/2019 school year.
Getting my Master’s in Études Anglophones
I began my Master’s program at Université de Bordeaux Montaigne in September of 2018. My Master’s Focus? Anglophone Studies. I know, I know, why go to France to study English? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. The program is not focused solely on literature or English pragmatics, but rather, covers a wide variety of subjects (like civilization courses, film studies, etc.) Plus, studying in France is astronomically cheaper than studying in the U.S. I only paid around €250 for the entire year. Though, France did pass a law to increase tuition prices for foreign students, which some universities have rejected. I should be fine for this upcoming school year (since I started the Anglophone Studies program when tuition prices hadn’t been raised for foreigners) but we’ll see how tuition prices go when I move on to the doctorate level.
At the undergraduate level, I majored in International Relations and minored in French at UC Davis. Going into the Master’s program, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would write my Master’s thesis on. But, after taking some classes and finding my mentor professor, I have a much clearer idea and have begun researching. The Master’s thesis is officially due sometime in June 2020, but the earlier it gets done, the better of course. And because I want to do a Ph.D., the thesis and grade I get on it are pretty important.
My university experience in France was very different than the experience I had back at UC Davis, for a number of reasons. I could go into them in another post if you’re interested in hearing about them! What I will say is, the French style of teaching felt a lot harsher to me than I was used to with American or British professors. I did get good grades my first semester though, and I’m still waiting on my second-semester grades, which I think will probably turn out fairly decent.
Working and Studying…English Assistant: Round Three
I am no stranger to being an English Language Teaching Assistant! My first experience was through TAPIF. I then applied directly through the Rectorat and had a great experience working at another high school. Each time I was an assistant, I only worked with one school rather than having my 12 hours a week distributed among multiple schools.
This school year, however, I was not so keen on working as an assistant. I was worried it would be hard to juggle with studying and babysitting. Which, I would later find out, it definitely was.
I was babysitting around 6 hours a week with the family I had first worked with and completely adore when I came to Bordeaux through TAPIF–which isn’t a lot of hours, but it was a good side job to have while studying.
I had been contacted by the Rectorat a couple of times, seeing if I was interested in working as an assistant again. But, the schools that needed assistants were not in Bordeaux and were located in neighboring suburbs or cities that would have been pretty complicated to make work with my schedule.
I completed my first semester, going to classes and babysitting. Luckily, none of my class hours interfered with the babysitting hours.
But, as the first semester was coming to a close around mid/late November, I was contacted by the Rectorat again, asking if I was interested in working at two middle schools in Bordeaux. While I was getting by okay with babysitting, it would have been more comfortable to be earning a bit more money and it would be good to keep that connection with the Académie, so I told the Rectorat that I had very limited availability (which I did) but I would contact the schools and see if they were interested in working together.
I had never worked at the middle school level in France and I had never had my contract split among two schools before. There were a few communication bumps and misunderstandings before getting my contract settled, but eventually, it was decided that I would work at the two schools. I started at the end of December, during my last week of classes. This meant that I was beginning a new work contract when all of my final papers were due. It was a crazy week! But I got through it okay and next thing I knew I was flying to the U.S. to visit family for Christmas.
The second semester came around and there was no way I was going to be able to go to my classes at the university and manage working two jobs at the same time. The university I go to isn’t actually located in Bordeaux, it’s in Pessac which is about a 40-minute commute from where I live. And the middle schools I was working at were not at all close to each other and around an hour away from the university in different directions. Plus the babysitting area I needed to be in was far from one of the middle schools I was working from but not too far from the other…I was a little all over the place. This wasn’t my first time working while studying. It wasn’t that the hours I was working were a ton, but the commute really made me lose time and made me feel less productive.
I applied for approval to miss my university classes and study as a “non-assidu” student. What this basically means is that you are only graded on a final exam from the professor. And while you cannot attend the class in person, you either read the class materials or study the documents a professor posts online, it really depends on the professor. I met with each professor at the beginning of the semester to explain my situation and they were all understanding. I did attend the classes that I could every now and then, but that didn’t add up to very many. But, when you are registered as a “non-assidu” student, your absences don’t count for anything as your sole grade is based on a final exam. I still don’t have my official grades, but I think I probably got around the same scores as my first semester. I definitely preferred being able to actually attend classes though. It didn’t really feel like I was a student when I couldn’t attend classes or lectures and that made it hard to get into the mindset of studying and preparing for an exam. But I am really appreciative of the professors I had who made themselves super available for meetings and made sure I was following along the class the best that I could.
Working at those middle schools was very different compared to the experiences I had working as an assistant at the high school level. In the past as an assistant, the teacher would often stay with me and we would work together during the class. Or, the teacher would send me max 10 students and I would work alone. But, the teacher gave me some guidelines on what they wanted me to be working on. I also was given tours of the schools I was working at and shown where the bathrooms were or the coffee machine for example. But, at the middle schools, I just began working right away. I didn’t even know where the bathrooms were for a good few weeks! And the teachers didn’t have a chance to introduce me to the staff, so sometimes my presence in the break room was questioned or the office gave me a hard time when I tried to enter the school. At the high schools I worked at before, the teachers guided me around and introduced me to the staff so this had never happened before.
At Middle School 1, there were a lot of behavior issues among students. They would fight in the halls, get violent with each other, often insult each other. And teachers were very aware of this and would send me a max of 6 students. If I ever had serious behavior issues with a student, the teacher took it very seriously and wouldn’t let that student come to my class again. And the teacher had clear guidelines of what they wanted me to work on or worksheets they wanted me to complete with the class.
At Middle School 2, students weren’t violent but like with any middle school, there were behavior issues. I only worked with one teacher and I wasn’t given any guidelines. It was “do whatever you want” my classes were around 15 students. This was a little bit challenging as finding relevant material for each different class and exercises to do with them could be difficult at times. There were also behavior issues here and there. At the beginning of the semester, the teacher told the classes if I had any behavior issues with a student they wouldn’t be allowed in my class anymore. Even though there were some students who had not behaved very well in my classes, this warning wasn’t followed through and they continued to be sent to me. I had more behavior issues with the older classes but the younger classes I had were really motivated and really fun to work with.
Even though it wasn’t always easy, I am grateful for the experience and I did learn a lot about myself and being in a middle school setting. And while there were definitely some challenges, it was really nice to see a student improve and get more comfortable in the English language. I honestly think the behavior issues I did deal with were when a student felt really nervous or uncomfortable speaking English, which is totally understandable.
Applying to be a Lectrice and finally being accepted
I’m not going to go too much into depth with this because I plan on doing a separate, more detailed post but the short story is, I’M GOING TO BE A LECTRICE! Which means I will be teaching at the university level this upcoming school year and I am so excited!
My ultimate professional goal is to be a university professor in France so I’m thrilled to be moving on from being an assistant and to get this experience in a university setting. I’m also really excited to work with university students!
It was a long road to get here though and I was given my good share of rejections before finally being accepted for a position. But that’s a story for another time.