28 January 2009

Just my luck...

This morning I dragged myself out of bed determined to actually do something on my day off so I threw some clothes on and headed to the library knowing that if I gave myself time to sit around I would never leave. Literally that was it; I didn’t brush my hair or even put in my contacts. The library is pretty dark and grim anyways and normally there isn’t anyone there anyways so I wasn’t too concerned with looking my best. Not even a block away I ran into a teacher I work with. I have only run into a teacher outside of school one other time, ever. Then I proceeded to see five students with their parents before seeing another inside the library. Hopefully I wasn’t too scary looking.

In other news I have continued my string of bad luck here in France. I have yet to receive my new residency card and after weekly phone calls to the prefecture in Perigueux and being told “Oh, you’re an American. Don’t worry its coming.” I decided to visit the local sous-prefecture who actually can’t issue me a residency card as I’ve never lived in France before just hoping that maybe they knew something. Well, in fact they did. Back when I received my faulty card on December 3, I told them right away that day about all of the errors. They told me that they were sending a copy of the old card back to Perigueux along with new identity photos for a new card. On December 29, I got a letter saying I needed to bring them more identity photos which I did the next day. Apparently that was not all they needed. I also needed to sign my name on a little card so that they could transfer my signature to my residency card, but nobody told me about this. I didn’t get a phone call or a letter, nothing. So, all of the paperwork for my residency card has been sitting on somebody’s desk in Sarlat because they were too lazy to give me a phone call to come sign a little piece of paper. Oh yes, and last week I received a heating bill for 335 euros to add to the fun which combined with my rent is more than I make in a month. Considering I live in a studio apartment I highly doubt my heating bill is correct and after emailing my landlord about it she confirmed that it was abnormally high, but she is of course on vacation until next week. On the bright side I finally received a pay stub from OCTOBER which allowed me to finally get my student loans deferred. Oh France and your bureaucracy why oh why do torment me?

Another thing that is becoming rather annoying to me is the education system here. Last week I had a teacher from Bergerac staying with me for a couple of days so we were discussing the differences between French education and other countries. Admittedly there are many positives about the education system here, but what drives me absolutely nuts is how students here do very little thinking on their own. They mostly listen to the teacher, write down what the teacher says to write down in the specific color dictated, and then the memorize it. And they are very good at memorizing which is how the English curriculum is set up. They memorize the phrases for English class but if I slightly change anything it completely throws them off. Even if they know all of the words I’ve said, if I say them in a new context or order they can’t figure it out. The real problem is that they are terrified of making a mistake so they simply don’t try. Within the European Union there are standard tests taken at every school level to see how the countries compare and lately France has been on the bottom. Not because they aren’t smart but simply because if they aren’t 100% sure of the answer they’ll leave the question blank. Between all of my classes there is a huge difference in how willing the kids are to answer new questions and it is completely dependent on the teacher. There is one class in particular that is really bad and I know that it’s because the kids are terrified of the teacher. I can hear her yelling down the hall before I even get to the classroom. I don’t particularly like this teacher to begin with and she has a very annoying habit of correcting the children in English class when I’m there. Sometimes I’d like to ask her if she would like to take over, but I of course won’t because I’m a little scared of her myself. She also likes to call students over to her desk in the front of the classroom for tutoring sessions and she’s not at all quiet about it. I guess in general I’m getting very frustrated with everything about the assistant program. I don’t think that it really works very well at a primary level. Perhaps if I had ten kids at a time but with twenty or more and no training it can be very frustrating.

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