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?