Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ah, diddums!

Today's Guardian has an article on poor, middle class Brits who moved to rural France when the pound was high but now have trouble making ends meet. Apparently some of the poor dears will have to move back to where they came from (Immigrants! Immigrants! Where's the lynch mob? - sorry, wrong newspaper!), as the current exchange rate makes France more expensive to the tourists they catered for, though there's no mention of the fact that when they sell up, the same exchange rate will get them far more pounds than they would have earned six months ago. Interesting, too, that nearly all the article is devoted to whining Brits, and only the last two paragraphs quote someone French.

I've very little sympathy, to be honest. These people have been pricing locals out of the housing market for years; now the party's over and maybe that's not entirely a bad thing, especially since so many of these properties were second homes and only occupied for part of the year anyway. It's the locals with nowhere else to go when their businesses suffer who I feel sorry for.

But it's an ill wind, as they say. Mme la prof and I plan to take full advantage of the 1:1 (almost, at the time of writing) exchange rate when we pop over for Christmas. I see it as us doing our bit to prop up the British economy (and no, we're not buying a run down cottage in the Scottish Highland - we want to spend out holidays somewhere warm!). Maybe the Guardian would like to interview me....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

BBC gets it wrong about France

It seems the BBC has now joined the tabloid competition to see who can make the most fun of the French with this smug piece about "heavy legs", which is supposed to prove that France is a nation of pill-popping hypochondriacs, as opposed to the hardy Brits who just grin and bear it. Strange, then, that whenever I sat in a GP's waiting room in the UK, I would see a big poster saying "Antibiotics don't work on colds", though just why stiff upper lip, "mustn't grumble" English types would need such information escapes me. Maybe it was in case any French people walked through the door. Ho hum.

Madame le Prof explained to me that what the French call "jambes lourdes" is, in fact, the early stages of varicose veins, which explains why some people only feel it in the summer. You'd think a BBC journalist in France would have bothered to find this stuff out before sending a report back to her editor. It's true that the French have a reputation for consuming lots of medicines, but she could at least have done a serious piece on it rather than this hatchet job.

For once there's no form at the bottom for me to "have my say" and put them straight on this one, which is ironic considering the morons who the BBC usually allow to broadcast their vile, reactionary, ill-informed and, erm, idosyncratically spelled rants to the world via HYS. At least I no longer pay a TV licence.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Great Red Spot

A couple of weeks ago, an email went around the department saying that they had just bought a stack of laser pointers that we could use. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I immediately snapped one up.  It's great for pointing out stuff on the board while standing by the student who you want to answer a question ("What's the tense?" while pointing out the -ing ending, for example, eliciting the response "Er, passé?").

Now I've discovered an even better use for it. Now, any student trying to surreptitiously text a mate or or do the sudoku¹ will suddenly find their phone or paper illuminated by a red spot, as if an assassin was about to shoot it out of their hands. It's amazing how quickly they put their toys away, and I don't even need to say anything.

I wish I'd had one for school last year.

¹ These free papers have a lot to answer for. Students never used to turn up with newspapers back in the days when they actually had to pay for them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Today a student told me I looked like Paul Scholes.

Absolute rubbish.

I mean, I wouldn't be seen dead in a Man Utd shirt.

M. le prof

Paul Scholes

And, yes, I know I've been silent for the last 2 months. More to come, I promise....

Edit: Thanks to Mme le Prof for pointing out this page wasn't working in Internet Explorer. If you didn't see the picture of the man in red, you might want to install a decent browser like Opera or Firefox

Friday, September 26, 2008

A black and white issue

The rooms I teach in are split 50:50 between blackboards and whiteboards, and I'm really not sure which I prefer. So here are some of the pros and cons, feel free to add any I haven't thought of:


White writing on a dark background is probably easier on the eye.
Chalks don't slowly run out; you don't end up with a bag full of chalks that work for five minutes if you store them vertically for long enough.
You can shut everyone up by dragging your nails down the board.

Dark clothes quickly lighten up (on the other hand, you can annoy goth students by making them write on the board)
Your hands get all chalky.
Chalk dust up the nose leads to dry, crusty bogies all day.


Clear, contrasting colours. I always use a different colour for phonetic transcriptions, for example.
You can use the board as an OHP or PowerPoint screen and write stuff on top (though check it isn't reflecting right back into the students' eyes)
The pens get you high (can anyone recommend a brand?)

The pens slowly run out.
Some kid will always get a pen of their own and write rude words on the board.
Said kid will always use a permanent marker so you have to sand blast the board before you can use it again.

So, as you can see, it's pretty even at the moment. Interactive whiteboards are fun until the computer freezes and you have to call out the IT bod for the fifth time that week....

So, any teachers want to add any more arguments either way?

Edit: Madame le Prof has reminded me that non-techie teachers have been known to ruin an interactive whiteboard by writing on it....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Divine intervention?

You may be aware that the Pope has taken up our twice-divorced President's invitation to visit the country. It was nice to see him shaking hands with the pregnant-out-of-wedlock Justice Minister and the openly gay Mayor of Paris.

Pity the big guy upstairs responded by sending floods and setting fire to the Channel Tunnel.

This is a serious test of my lack of faith.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

C'est la rentrée

Today I started my new job teaching Business English to first and second year university students. No classes yet, this was just meetings and telling students what to expect. I also got to see my office for the first time - I get my own room with desk, PC, filing cabinets and the previous occupant left and old portable CD player. Woo! Now all I need is a kettle and a chilled drinks cabinet.

Anyway, before you all go "you lucky b*st*rd, you're teaching motivated adults", a quick word about the French higher education system:

There are three types of institution you can go to:

1) The elite "Grands Écoles", which are very selective. You have to spend two years doing Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Écoles before sitting a competitive exam to get in. If you pass, you get in, if not you can join the third year of a degree course.

2) The Institut universitaire de technologie or IUT. They are also selective and offer two-year professional courses. After the two years, students can do an extra year to "top up" their diploma to a degree.

3) If you can't get into either of the first two, there's always university. If you have a Bac, even if it's not in a related discipline, you can still get in; it's not selective but the drop out rate in the first year is so high that the end of year exams are effectively selection. It's very much the poor relation of HE.

Guess which one I work for....

Anyway, I can't really complain as although the students may not always be the the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, it's an improvement on surly teenagers and the holidays are even longer. And I shouldn't get things thrown at me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ready to go

Following on from my vivent les vacances post about six weeks ago, I can safely report I got through steps 1-3 pretty smoothly, except for building the flatpack wardrobe. It's huge, made of MDF and weighs a ton; I'm sure MDF is made from the cores of neutron stars. Ever wondered why you never see HDF? It's because it collapses under its own weight into a singularity before they can make anything out of it.

Anyway, with the new school year just over a week away, the annual moan about the cost of sending kids to school is beginning in earnest. Even though the government does make extra money available, there's always someone who says it isn't enough, and the news always pick up on the "cost" of la rentrée as though parents needed to buy a whole new set of things every year. I hate to sound like an old fart, but in my day I had the same set of rulers, calculators and stuff for all the time I was in secondary school; I didn't need a new pencil case and schoolbag every September. They even include the cost of new clothes, which I could understand if French state schools had uniforms, but they don't (even then, when I was at school you got a blazer several sizes too big when you started secondary, it just about fitted when you were 13 or 14 and only just covered your elbows by the time you sat O-Levels) and it's hardly an extra cost, unless the kids would run around naked and barefoot if they didn't have to send them to school.

OK, I'm being a bit frivolous, and I'm sure there are plenty of families who really do need extra help. I can particularly see the sense in extra help for students in vocational colleges, as they often need to buy specialist gear even though they often come from the poorest families (as in most countries, French middle class families consider learning a trade at 16 to be for other people's children). But it's still got to be cheaper then giving up work and home schooling the little darlings.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Drama at the Tour de France

In a dramatic development today at the Tour de France, nobody failed a drugs test.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A sense of entitlement

I am now officially a professeur titulaire! The results of the evaluation my placement year were posted on the internet yesterday.

Not that I was that worried given the favourable inspection report and so on, but I can now say I'm qualified to teach in the French system. But since Monsieur le Professeur Néotitulaire d'Anglais is a bit of a mouthful, I'll stick to being MLP for the time being.

Apologies for the awful quality of the screenshot; click on it for the high quality version.!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Vivent les vacances

Last week was the end of year staff meeting and meal, so now I'm officially on holiday until September. I keep being asked what I'm going to do for the next couple of months; the plan, in no particular order, is:

1) Get married. Yes, I'm making an honest woman of Mme le Prof, or she's making an honest man of me, I'm not sure which. Not that there was anything particularly dishonest about what we were doing before, of course. Still, it makes a good knees up and we might get a few presents out of it, which will come in handy for (2) and (3).

2) Move flats. I'm about to become a real Parisian, not just a suburbunite. Wooo!

3) Find and build furniture. The new flat is unfurnished, so I eagerly anticipate spending much of August building flatpack wardrobes. What fun.

4) Start new job. I've found a job teaching Business English to university students, which should be safer though probably less fun to blog about. We'll see in the autumn anyway.

So that's probably it from me this summer. The whole country pretty much closes down over the summer months, so I'll be back in September. In the meantime, have some classic Alice Cooper:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

La bon pro-non-see-a-see-on

There was an interesting article on Language Log today about phrasebook pronunciation; that is, the transcriptions that are supposed to help tourists say the phrases correctly. If you know French, try to work out what these are supposed to be:

poo-vay-voo muh deer kawN zhuh dwah deh-sawN-druh
oo ay lah stah-seeyoN duh may-troh
zher per trons-por-tay ma vwa-tewr sewr ser ba-to
pwee zha-vwar ewn a-vons der kray-dee
oo sawng lay areh der kar
kawnbyang der tahng dewr ler vwahyazh?

Now check:
Language Log » Phrasebook pronunciation, or, kawnbyang der tahng dewr ler vwahyazh

Of course, the main problem with phrasebooks is that even if you can make yourself understood, you probably won't understand the answer. I've always made a point of getting some books and tapes from the local library and learning a few phrases at least a month before going on holiday. Nobody expects tourists to be fluent but they usually appreciate some effort.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Paying to hit the pupils

Back in February I blogged about a teacher who was in the news for slapping a pupil. His trial was today and he's been fined 800 euros for "aggravated violence". The maximum sentence is 75,000 euros and 5 years, so I suppose he got off fairly lightly.

The judges noted that he was an experienced teacher and the pupil wasn't a fully-grown 18 year old in a difficult area, which I suppose is a fair point. The article doesn't mention if the judges had anything to say about the father's reaction; you may remember that the kid's father was a gendarme and had the teacher arrested and held for 24 hours, which was probably a bit excessive. You'd think a policeman would understand what it's like to take abuse from members of the public who don't expect any comeback, but apparently not.

I also find myself wondering how much I'd be prepared to pay to slap some of my little darlings. 800 euros is a bit on the pricey side; two of those and you've got the price of a fortnight's holiday abroad, but would that be as satisfying?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

School's out

The last lessons were today. Rather than tell you about it, I'll let this rather good picture by Ronald Searle paint 1000 words. OK, so they weren't wearing uniforms and the teachers don't have canes any more, but you get the idea.

It's taken from the excellent Molesworth series from the 1950s and still available from all good bookshops!
I hope this plug will get me around copyright restrictions, but I'll take the image down on request

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sloths, lemmings and sperm

Today I got a note from a parent who wanted to know why her son had such a poor grade in English this year when he'd done well in the subject before. The accurate response would have been something like:

Since your son and the girl in the row in front decided that they were destined for each other, they have become as motivated by schoolwork as a couple of sloths on valium. She has enough natural talent in the subject to see her through; unfortunately, your son does not, with the entirely predictable result that his grade has plummeted faster than a lemming strapped to an anvil. Frankly, it's a miracle that the sperm that conceived him managed to reach the egg, never mind develop into something that could be arsed to leave your womb.

Of course, the actual response was something along the lines of He has great potential and is capable of getting excellent results in the subject.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Clin d'œil, clin d'œil, coup de coude, coup de coude!

The BBC seems to think the most newsworthy aspect of President Bush's visit to France is that he thinks Sarko's wife is a bit of alright. I wonder how his interpreters translated that?
"Votre femme? Est-ce qu'elle va? Vous savez ce que je veux dire? Ne dites plus!"¹

At least he got his history right, finally remembering French support for the American Revolution (which he seemed to have forgotten around springtime 2003). But the fact that he considers him "interesting" and "full of wisdom" probably says more about the US president than his French counterpart.

1. If you have no idea what I'm talking about:

Monday, June 09, 2008

RIP old friend

Last weekend my watch finally gave up the ghost after 21 years. It was a birthday present when I was still doing my A-levels, so it's been with me all my adult life. I had it through university, it came with me to every country I've ever visited, it just survived being pogoed on during a Dread Zeppelin concert in Edinburgh when it was only five years old, and a former girlfriend was forever telling me to replace it - over ten years ago.

I can't think of anything else I possess that goes back that far. I have a bundle of cassettes that follow me from house to house, but I never listen to them, and all my old books and Viz annuals are still at my parents. So replacing it is a serious break from the past; it's almost like replacing a finger. I keep checking the time and seeing the wrong watch on my wrist.

If the new one lasts as long, my next watch will probably be a retirement present. But I doubt they make them like they used to.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Summertime blues

With the summer holidays less than a month away, the conseils de classe season is entering full swing. For the uninitiated, a conseil de classe (literally "class council") is where all the teachers of one group of kids gets together along with the principal (or deputy), pupil and parent representatives. Each pupil is then discussed in turn, and we decide collectively who moves up to the next year and who has to repeat. For a class of 28 kids, this takes a while. And I have to do this for each class I teach.

But before the conseil, the teachers meet up for a preconseil ("pre-council", "coucil of war" or "meeting-about-the-meeting" depending on your preferred translation). And all this on top of our normal teaching load plus end of year marking as all reports need to be done in time for the conseil.

Of course, there are still classes after the conseil, but the kids are well aware that the decisions have already been taken so our ability to threaten them is severely diminished. So sense of impunity on their part collide head on with the tiredness on ours, with fun consequences for all.

But all anyone outside the profession ever notices is the long holidays. Let's see them survive the job without a long summer break.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The return of the pink bunting

My town is decked out in bloody pink bunting again, like it was in February. Unfortunately it's still not being used to string up the mayor from a lamp post. It's to remind us of Mother's day, just in case we hadn't noticed the ads in the shop windows.



One of the great things about living in France is the food, so when a colleague gave me two free tickets to the Salon Saveurs des Plaisirs Gourmands last week, I jumped at it. We ended up spending far too much on saucisson and, of course, cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.

One stall had years-old cheeses that Mme le Prof said looked like they'd been dug up by archaeologists in Pompeii. Still, the one we got was very nice, if a bit strong. I may miss English sausages, but I'd miss French cheese more if I ever moved back.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Another of Sarkozy's "reforms"

According to this article on the Nouvel Observateur, the Education Minister would like to create an agency for replacing teachers who are absent (through illness or maternity, for example). What's worrying about this proposal is that the replacements would be students or student teachers.

I really don't know where to start. If experienced teachers find some kids hard enough to work with, what chance does a 22 year old fresh out of university have? But the worst thing is that the ministry already has 50,000 qualified supply staff on its books, but often they aren't used because the current system is so badly organised. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I spent the first couple of weeks of this academic year waiting to be placed while the kids had no English teacher for a fortnight, while one of my supply teacher colleagues found her post by ringing around the schools herself because she got tired of waiting for the academie to tell her where she'd be working.

You might have thought that the sensible option would be to try to find out why the current system isn't working and put it right. Apparently not. Much better to set up a new agency with young, inexperienced, unqualified or barely-qualified staff on its books. What I'd like to know is whether these student teachers will be pulled out of their lectures to go and teach, or whether they'll have to wait by the phone all day as current supply teachers do. Either way, no doubt they'll be a lot cheaper, which is the only reason I can think of why any sane person would seriously propose it. And in practise I doubt it'll be any quicker than the academies at finding replacements.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More teacher strikes

I thought school looked a bit quiet today. According to unions 55% of teachers were on strike today against the reduction in the number of posts.

It's not like me to break a strike, but being a Brit I'm used to having a ballot beforehand so it just didn't feel right.Now I feel like a scab. I definitely should join the next one.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The curse of Monsieur le Prof d'Anglais

I moved to Spain in the 1990s and Aznar got elected.
I moved to France and Sarkozy got elected.
I popped back to England for a few days and look what happened.

Can anyone recommend a nice, quiet cave somewhere?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The president is a w*nker

While teachers in England strike over pay, teachers and pupils in France have been doing the same thing for several weeks now. Not over pay, but over plans to reduce the number of teaching posts by not replacing retiring staff.

Last night, Nicolas Sarkozy gave a long interview to shore up his plunging ratings and, of course, the subject came up. There's a summary in Le Monde but for those of you who can't read French, basically he says he won't back down, that quality is more important than quantity and that his reforms make it possible to reduce the number of staff, without saying how. In particular, the question of how a high school teacher is supposed to teach modern languages to a class of 35 kids wasn't even asked! It's true that staff/student ratios in France are actually quite good compared to most other European countries, but that means nothing unless you take into account the hours worked: teachers in England teach 23-25 hours per week compared to 18 or even 14 in France, which means your average teacher in England can take more groups, making smaller classes possible in schools of comparable size.

But what really annoyed me was he says at the end of Le Monde article: Enfin, interrogé sur ses propos au sujet de l'instituteur qui "ne pourra jamais remplacer" le pasteur ou le curé dans la transmission des valeurs, M. Sarkozy a précisé : "Ils ne font pas le même travail". - OK, I know we don't do the same job (because what we teach is actually true) but can we really "never be able to replace a pastor or priest for teaching values"? I always thought school was exactly the place where kids were supposed to learn the importance of civilised behaviour, respect for others, the value of work and so on. And how does he think the children of atheists are going to learn "values"? Or maybe he doesn't. Even he couldn't be that stupid, could he?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A thorough inspection

As I said a couple of weeks ago, the inspector came yesterday to observe my lesson. This was really important for two reasons: firstly, I needed a good inspection to become a fully qualified teacher in France, and secondly, how well you do in inspections affects how fast you move up the salary scale. She'd chosen my toughest class during the final week of term, but about a third of them were away on a school trip that day. The she got stuck in traffic and arrived late for my lesson, and the kids, bless 'em, stood up when she came into the room!

After the class, the debriefing: this was about half an hour explaining the pay scales (it really does take half an hour to get your head around it, it's that complicated), an hour telling me stuff that I already knew from teacher training plus 15 years of teaching experience in other countries, and five minutes at the end on the actual lesson. She observed two other colleagues that day, and their debriefings were almost identical to mine.

Bottom line? "Your English accent is really good" (really?), "the kids obviously respect you" (because you were there and I'm bribing them) "it was a good lesson, you pass" (yyeeessss!!!) "and I'll raise your teaching grade so you'll go through the salary scale more quickly" (ker-ching!).

And the kids get Wallace and Gromit this Friday; that was the deal.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I saw it on a plasma screen in the local supermarket so it must be true

My local branch of Monoprix has those big TV screens on the aisles to show the latest offers. Now they've found another use for them. While standing in the queue, I saw that they've taken to displaying horoscopes on the damn things too. Nothing detailed, they just rate your love, health and money on a scale of 1 to 3 stars for the week. Not next week, this week.

I don't need my local supermarket to employ someone to read the stars for me, much less tell me how I am this week. Money? It's the middle of the month, the bills have been paid and I've enough to last me a couple more weeks. Health? I've got a bit of a cold and sore throat, taking the lozenges. Love? I can look to the stars but all I have to do is look to my left as I write this to see Madame la Prof is still there, there goodness. I make that two, two and three stars respectively.

If they didn't stock my preferred brand of coconut milk I'd tell the manager where he could stick his plasma screens and take my money elsewhere.

Monday, April 07, 2008

They grow up so fast

The other day I was teaching with Anglais sans frontière, a series of sketches in English on DVD which I got from a teachers' resource centre. The particular sketch involved a couple of photographers going to a TV studio to get a photo of a presenter.

One scene is set in the reception of the TV company, where this young lady works at the front desk.
For some reason, the boys in the class found her very hard to understand and needed me to repeat the scene several times. They also had to get very close to the screen as she spoke "so quietly that they couldn't hear". Strangely, most of the girls understood first time.

She reappears in later sketches as a shop assistant and tennis player. The makers of the DVD obviously think they've hit on a way of getting male adolescents interested in learning foreign languages. I wonder who they found for the Spanish version?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Betrayal of trust?

The other day I was in the computer suite getting the kids to do some exercises I'd created using the excellent Hot Potatoes package. Obviously, some of the kids thought it would be much more fun to check up on their favourite websites, particularly the ones with flash games on them, when they thought I wasn't looking...

Rather than telling them to stop, I tried another tack:
Me: That's an interesting website! Can I have the address?
Kid: Why, sir?
Me: I have a niece in England who might be interested in playing some games in French. (sorry, Colin) Maybe you could recommend a few more.
(Eager kid shows me some websites and I write them down)

Later on in the staff room:
Me: Mr IT person?
IT person: Yes?
Me: Here's a list of websites you need to block so the kids can't access them in lesson times.
IT person: Great, thanks!

If the kids find out, I'll have taught them that barefaced lying and manipulation is perfectly acceptable behaviour. But they probably knew that anyway.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

An Inspector Calls

Real life has been keeping me away from blogging again, mainly because of the time I've spent on teacher training courses and preparing a presentation for the final assessment.

I've also just found out I'm going to be inspected on Tuesday April 15th. This is the big one - the inspector is one of the three people who decides if I get to be fully qualified, so it's got to be good. Unfortunately for me, the class she's chosen to observe has some of the most obnoxious, disruptive little buggers in the year group (13/14 year olds), and it falls in the last week of term, when the kids' sense of impunity rises as teachers' patience falls.

It's not actually the last class of term with them as that falls the following Friday. So any suggestions on what I can bribe/threaten them with for the final day to get them to behave for the inspection would be welcome. I can't offer drugs or alcohol as the good kids will grass me up to their parents, but will Wallace and Gromit be enough to tempt them?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Vote for me

Local elections are this Sunday so I get my first chance to vote in a French election. I've been longing for someone from the cash-strapped National Front to try to push a leaflet into my hand so I can say "I'm not French but I can vote anyway. Na-na-na-naaaa-naa!" but haven't had any luck so far.

I did get a leaflet through the post though, and it's worth a read just because it shows how dim they are. While other candidates talk almost exclusively about local issues, the FN start by moaning about Europe. The worst thing they have to say about the current mayor is that he belongs to a pro-EU party. Apparently José Borroso will be quaking in his boots if the mayor of a reasonably well-off, middle class Paris suburb gets voted out.

So, how are they going to take on the might of Brussels if they get elected here? By, erm, planting more flowers, repairing a local lift and providing cheaper car parking for locals (even though they don't need their cars to go shopping round here, much less park them in town). They also want to redeploy the local CCTV cameras and arm the police with tasers (as soon as the traitorous sell-out-to-Europe pro-Sarkozy Government allows it), presumably in case any EU Commissioners should drop by.

Unfortunately they don't propose to hang the incumbent from the nearest lamppost with pink bunting, but then nor does anyone else.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ban this filth

Teaching unions here have just won a court case against the website (which I'm not going to grace with a link - go google it), which allowed pupils to log on and rate their teachers. The website's founders are pleading freedom of expression, and claim teachers have a right to reply (yeah, like we've really nothing better to do than log on to their website to see who's whingeing about us giving too much homework), but the judges have ruled that free speech doesn't cover the right of adolescents to go on the Internet and "name and shame" teachers just because we didn't give them good enough marks on their last assignment or gave out a detention for chatting.

In any case, each class already has a delegate and termly meeting for them to air their grievances, so why they need a website as well is anyone's guess. I suppose it gives them the sensation of having achieved something by tapping something out on a keyboard and clicking Send. You only have to look at how adults behave on the BBC's Have Your Say website to see that it's a bad idea.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Back to the drawing board

Following the President's wizard wheeze that I blogged about last time, a working group of educationalists and Shoah historians (i.e. specialists in the field who know what they're talking about) have unanimously rejected the proposal in its present form

Maybe now Sarko will stop telling us how to do our jobs and stick to what he's good at: insulting members of the public.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another bright idea from the President...

Regular readers will remember that last October, the President decided to inject a dose of emotion into history teaching by making teachers read out Guy Môquet's final letter. Now he's decided that ten year olds need to learn about the Shoah by "adopting" one of the 11,000 French jewish children deported to the concentration camps in WWII. Less than a year ago, during the election campaign, he was saying that schools needed to be freer, now he's telling history teachers how to do their job. Not only are the teachers up in arms, but historians and child psychologists too. According the the Education Minister, one in every two high school students haven't heard of the Shoah but I hardly think that this is the best solution. And this isn't the first time that he's announced an initiative before the debate. I wouldn't run a languages department like that, never mind a country.

While collaboration during the Occupation needs to be talked about, it might also be worth pointing out that 75% of France's Jews survived the war, hidden away by ordinary people at great personal risk. How about getting some of them to come into class and talk to the kids? Now that really would personalise history teaching.

An incident (follow up)

I got a note the other day from the mother of the boy I gave lines to. Basically it read "My son apologises but I don't see why he should have to do lines when the girl who insulted him wasn't punished. That's not fair."

My reply: "If he had brought the incident to my attention instead of taking personal revenge, I can assure you that she would have been punished, not your son." In my book you either dish out vigilante justice or go running to the cops, not both.

Teachers have enough trouble maintaining discipline as it is without the parent backing their kids up when they misbehave.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

An incident

In a class of 11-12 year-olds on a Friday afternoon:

Girl: (Screams)
Me: Why did you just scream?
Girl: (Pointing to Boy #1) He just pulled my hair!
Me: Why did you pull her hair?
Boy #1: She insulted my mother!
Me: Why did you insult his mother?
Girl: (Points to Boy #2) He told me to.
Me: If he told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?
Girl: (sobs)

Boy #1 got lines, Boy #2 got 10 minutes sat in the corner, girl had already got her hair pulled so I let her off.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Love hell

My local council has put up pink bunting and set up a PA system to play love songs all day in the street, while local businesses are putting up teddies and heart shaped cushions in their shop windows. I don't want to be churlish, but:
  1. Anybody who's ever really been in love knows that true love isn't pink, fluffy and heart shaped. If I bought Madame le Prof a teddy bear with a heart on to celebrate our love, she would, quite rightly, smother me to death with it.
  2. Anybody on their own probably finds Feb 14th hard enough as it is without the bloody council ramming it down their throats.

Local elections are next month, and as an EU citizen I'm allowed to vote in them. My vote goes to whoever promises to tear down the pink bunting and use it to hang the current mayor from a lamp post. With a pink teddy stuffed up his arse.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I've still got it

Today I saw my note administrative, which is a bit like an annual appraisal - you have a few grades and comments on your work, which you have to say whether you agree with or not. If you don't agree, you argue until you've negotiated something you do agree with, then sign it.

My comments section said something like "This young teacher from England has applied himself with enthusiasm and energy". I suppose I've been getting enthusiastic about giving out lines and have thrown kids out energetically, so I guess it's a fair reflection of my first few months in the job. And it was nice to be called a "young teacher" when I'm in my mid thirties!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Well it never did me any harm...

Real life has been keeping me from blogging, including two weeks of teacher training (during which the kids has no English apart from the homework I gave them - how are they supposed to take the subject seriously when teachers aren't replaced?).

Regular readers will remember how last December I set a new personal best for exclusions, detentions and lines. Today I set a record for fastest exclusion - two minutes before the lesson had even started. But I'd rather do something like that than end up like this poor sod, who is up in court for slapping one of his pupils.

For those of you who can't read French, it seems that the 11-12 year-old pupil insulted his teacher, who snapped and slapped him across the face. Even though he owned up straight away, and recognises he went too far, he spent 24 hours in custody and is up before the judges in March because the kid's father decided to sue. The teacher also admits to "slight" drinking problems; he tested positive for alcohol when arrested, but we don't know if he had a drink before or after the incident. Most commentators agree that it was wrong to hit the pupil, but the reaction is going too far. There's also a certain amount of insinuation that the fact that the father is a policeman has led to the case being taken more seriously by the authorities.

There's been a lot of talk in the staff room, and the general feeling among my colleagues is "there but for the grace of God go I". Though we'd all like to think we'd never hit one of our charges, everyone I've heard recognises that if they might do the same if pushed far enough. I've already seen one colleague reduced to tears (in the staff room afterwards, fortunately) and the general feeling is that while we don't want to bring back the cane and send them down the mines, some kids have a feeling of impunity which is only reinforced by a culture of rights with no corresponding culture of responsibility.

It's interesting that the Education Minister, without actually siding with the teacher, has said that he doesn't want the kid to go unpunished and has pointed out that teachers are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Not that it makes it OK for us to slap the little sods, but who knows, maybe the kid will finally learn that when you insult people, you risk getting hit. If that means he avoids getting his head kicked in when he's old enough to go to bars, some good might come of it. But if he doesn't, he'll get no sympathy from me.

Edit - the teaching union snes have set up an online petition in support of the teacher concerned.