As you read this, I am in a plane on my way to the States with Tobias. We are flying British Airways via Heathrow, so hopefully that volcano with the unpronounceable name in Iceland will keep quiet during our travels. So, as I journey back to my home country, I want to spend a little time sharing my last impressions of France and the end of my assistant teaching in Mantes-la-Ville.
Last week of teaching
As I may have mentioned, I only worked two days a week this past school year in France, as I was only allowed to work 12 hours per week. Because it was so far out in the banlieue, they scheduled me to work two full days – Monday and Tuesday every week.
On my last Monday of work, I only had to work a half day because of a field trip the kids at my morning school were on. I came anyway at 11:30, when I would normally be done teaching in the morning, so I could bring all of the materials back that they loaned me in the beginning of the year.
Some of my afternoon school’s teachers and the directrice were there to pick up some books and they drove me back to the afternoon school. They had told me last week not to bring a lunch with me on Monday because they wanted to have a party for me. When I arrived at the school, I realized that all of the teachers had pitched in and brought all sorts of delicious French specialties for a big meal together. There were two types of quiche (one with spinach and quiche lorraine, with ham),
The party was great! They even had a little apéritif before eating. And, in typical French style, there was wine – both red and white – and cider. They made kir with sirop de cassis and white wine. It was great! I had a glass of each. (Small glasses…didn’t want to be drunk at work! But I must say I enjoyed being allowed to drink at work! That will not likely happen in Germany or in the States!)
It was very special. I didn’t really add much to the conversation, per usual, but I had a lot of fun at this party. They dedicated a toast to me, and I thanked them for everything they’d done for me over the year. For dessert there was a clafoutis, a cherry dessert that I’ve made twice before at home. All of the food they brought was really delicious, and I was very full when the lunch break was over.
The afternoon classes on Monday were perfect. I did the normal “date / weather / how are you” ritual, and after that I taught them the game Heads Up, Seven Up. That’s a game I remember playing in elementary school and middle school and really loved it at the time. The French kids also loved it, and I had fun playing that with them.
Tuesday: the very last day
Then, on my last day of work, I was very excited to finish things up. I decided to spend all the class periods playing games with the kids. I taught them The Moose Song and they loved that. Then I did hangman with the phrase “Let’s play Simon Says!” And they all understood enough to be really excited about the answer and say, “Yeah!” (Well, they actually said “ouais!!!” and it made me feel a little bit like I hadn’t really taught them anything this year.) So we played a round or two of Simon Says, and then we transitioned into several rounds of Heads Up, Seven Up. Then, with 5 minutes left in class, I made them sing The Moose Song again, and then it was time to say goodbye.
I didn’t expect it, but I was a lot more emotional about saying goodbye than I thought I would be. One class in the morning cheered me out with “Hip hip hip hourrah!” and another class had just gotten dictionaries as a gift from their school before they enter middle school, and they wanted me to sign their dictionaries. (They got all their friends to sign them, too.) So I gave plenty of autographs, which felt pretty funny. The kids said they would miss me, and I wished them good luck with the next school year. What really hit me was saying goodbye to the kids in my favorite class in the afternoon school. It was the second class of the afternoon and they surprised me with thank-you cards they drew and letters they wrote for me. It touched me so much, and was so unexpected, that I cried. I went around to each of them and took their cards and said goodbye. That was really sweet. In the other classes, I went around to each of them and gave them a high five and told them goodbye individually by name. In another class, they had brought in some cakes and brownies and juice for everyone, and we had snack time at the end. A few kids asked me questions about my life and why I came to France, and where I was going next. That was nice to see their reactions to different things about my life. All of the teachers gave me la bise (you know, that French cheek kiss greeting) and asked to keep in touch.
The day was not without its problems, though. The one class that was horrible every day all year was also horrible for the last day. It wasn’t even fun to play the game with them and the kids were really disrespectful. I was SO glad to leave that class. And in another class in the morning, I had to break up a fight between two nine-year-old students. (Not surprisingly, these were the two most misbehaved children in the class.) For whatever reason — probably the after-effects of verbal arguments during recess — one kid back-handed the other in the torso. The other reacted very badly to this and yelled at him, and then proceeded to strangle him! I ran over and had to pull them apart. It was so crazy – why would this happen on my last day? Because life is funny that way, I suppose. At least it made for an interesting story, and the kids didn’t seriously hurt each other or anything.
Now that this job is over, and I know I most likely won’t see those students ever again, it’s a bittersweet feeling. But that feeling didn’t last too long, because there are too many other exciting travels coming up!