Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I rang the academie today to find out what was going on. I was actually quite impressed that they took less than five minutes to pick up the phone and I only got passed on once (the Ministry of Education keep you in a phone queue for an hour, then pass you around until finally you get through to someone who tells you another number, only for you to realise after hanging up that they've given you the one you originally dialled).

Anyway, they told me they still haven't placed me, and I should ring back at the end of the week, but at least they actually know who I am. In French, when they send you somewhere it's called an affectation. I've never actually wanted to be affected by an employer before.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How the French Government had me certified

No news about where I'm going to work, with less than a week to go. I'll give them a call tomorrow if I find time. In the meantime, here's part one of how to pass a Capes (the Certificat d'aptitude au professorat de l'enseignement secondaire, I think).

The first stage is the written exams: one essay in English, another in French and two translations. The essay in English is OK if you've done your homework: you get an extract from one of the set books, or a document about the civilisation topic, and you have five hours to write a commentary on it in English. Survivable for native speakers who don't mind writing essays, but take a good supply of water and chocolate to keep you going.

Next there's the essay in French. This will usually be Le/La/Les [insert noun here] dans [insert set book here]. So, Le savoir dans The Scarlet Letter, Le fromage dans Coriolan or Les escargots dans Sherlock Holmes. Although the study guides tell you there's no one way to approach this question, it helps if you can do French style, three-part essays. If you can't, this is more an exercise in damage limitation - try not to say anything too stupid and leave plenty of time to check your verb endings, adjective agreements and preceding direct objects.

The translations are like the ones you did at school, but harder and usually literary but no more than 100 years old. The best preparation for these is probably to read a lot.

If that sounds hard, it's because they're trying to eliminate most of the candidates. If you look at the paper and go "Whaaat?!? Who the hell knows that?" and collapse in a sobbing heap, you're buggered. You just have to plough on and hope enough other candidates are doing at least as badly as you. And that's just the first hoop.

At this point you may be asking "What's the point? Does this have anything to do with teaching?" This is like a seal saying "What does balancing a ball on my nose have to do with getting a fish?". If you want the fish, get balancing and stop asking questions. Now, some would argue that testing ball balancing skills might actually be a fairer way of choosing teachers, on the grounds that you might actually select candidates who know how to keep the kids amused for an hour. That is, of course, an extremely narrow minded view because it ignores cross-curricular issues; if all English, French, Science and History lessons consisted of teachers balancing balls on their noses, the kids might get bored. And that would never do.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Welcome to the blog of Monsieur le Prof d'Anglais (Henceforth to be known as MPA). A language teacher by trade, I emigrated to France a couple of years ago and taught English in universities. I could have started blogging then, but there are so many "EFL teacher finds foreign ways so amusing" blogs already that I couldn't really see the point in another.

I bit the bullet and sat the dreaded Capes test last summer, and, much to my surprise, passed first time. Since I already have a valid teaching qualification (a PGCE if you're interested), I don't need to go to teacher training college in France; I'm going to do what they call a stage en situation to become fully qualified in this country, which is basically a full time work placement in a secondary school. An excuse to blog! Yaay!

The one thing I don't want to end up doing here is moaning about France. I'm actually pretty happy here, and Madame le Prof d'Anglais (MmePA for short) isn't the only reason. There's cheese too, not to mention trains that don't cost an arm and a leg.

Anyway, I have one week to go before the start of term, and I'm still waiting to be told where I'm going to be teaching. Everyone I know tells me this is perfectly normal and not to worry. It could be anywhere in my local academie (administrative area for education purposes), which takes in everything from concrete jungles to leafy suburbs. Ho hum.

More news as it happens, and thanks for reading.