yesterday was my first day observing the schools at which i’d be teaching. i awoke a little nervous, somewhat excited, but mostly incredibly tired, because i had only gotten three hours of sleep. and the sun still wasn’t up when i peered out of my balcony doors – never something i like to see. or, not see. so, probably not the best start to the day.
despite my best (albeit somewhat sluggish) efforts, i didn’t make it to the train station at the time i should have, which put the entire morning in Rush mode. however, when i tried to make my first train connection – RER A from nation to RER B from chatelet-les halles, the train was nowhere to be seen. there was a major strike in france on tuesday, so my mentor told me not to bother trying to come in (the RER B always shuts down during strikes) but i’d thought by thursday it would be running again. i’m a bit ashamed to say that for a few hopeful moments, rubbing my eyes, yawning, and squinting at the small television screen in the station displaying all the delays and non-running trains, that the B would still be down and i’d have no choice but to call my mentor to tell her the “bad” news, then promptly take the A right back to nation and gratefully climb into my warm bed.
no. to take the B, i’d have to take the 4 to gare du nord and connect from there. ALONG WITH 385392027 OTHER PEOPLE. to say we were packed into the train like sardines in a can is an understatement. i didn’t even need to hold onto a pole to keep my balance – there was a solid wall of people surrounding me on every side. and there was no change when we pulled into gare du nord – the crowd was unbelievable. marching along, pressed into a tight pocket of space between the grumbling man on your left with his sharp cornered suitcase, the plump mother on your right pushing a stroller holding a squealing baby, stressed-out businesswoman shoving you from behind, and insouciant teenagers right in front…a couple times i made the mistake of looking around, just to confirm that there was absolutely no way out of this – but forward. it took a couple deep breaths (a questionable idea, in a crowded train station, i must say) to keep my claustrophobia from making an unwanted appearance.
finally, finally, the crowd thinned and spread as everyone took off in different directions to their destinations, and i followed the signs for the B bound for mitry-claye, not in the best mood. by that point, i was Officially Late, and i hadn’t even made it to aulnay-sous-bois yet. after finding the train and getting on, we waited for about ten minutes for it go, and i succumbed to sweet sleep for a few minutes…not quite the same standing up. still. just closing my eyes felt good.
i made it to the school just before their first recess, which meant that i’d missed my first round of classes. the man who opened the gate for me didn’t seem too concerned, however, and took me to see the directrice, who told me which classes i’d be assisting in english, and then told me i could sit at the staff table until recess ended. i nearly collapsed into a seat, grateful for a break. it was only a couple minutes to ten, and i felt completely battered. i hadn’t even met any kids yet.
the next hour or so was a whirlwind of classrooms, curious faces regarding me, teachers looking at me like “so, why is she here, exactly?” and a very small amount of english. and confusion. lots and lots of confusion. now that i was there, i realized how much i didn’t know – how long was i supposed to stay in each classroom? how exactly were these lessons supposed to be structured? how am i expected to assist these teachers in teaching english if they don’t speak any english themselves?!?!
i was able to get the exact times of my teaching sessions, which was nice. the directrice seemed just as confused as i was, though, and said she’d call my mentor to confirm everything. i have to say, the communication between the schools and our actual employer is not the greatest – i know a lot of other assistants have been experiencing similar, or worse problems.
at 11:30, my time at that school was over, and i walked out, feeling distinctly shaken, overwhelmed, and starving. good thing i had an hour and a half to find my next school – i figured i’d get a little lost, but i could get lunch on the way and be fine.