Archive | December 2010

Recon work

Having been lazy for a few months, a couple of weeks ago I decided to start replying to unread Conversation Exchange emails in my inbox. Last week, I met up with Patrice for a coffee near Opera after his Japanese class.

Yesterday we met at the same time, and he brought along Bernice*, another Australian teaching English in Paris.

As my only teaching job has been with BTL, I’m always curious about the conditions at other schools, so I took this opportunity to interrogate her.

Bernice works for Berlitz, where they don’t have a regular timetable with the same students every week, but only teach students for one class each course (so the students get 10 or 20 teachers over their courses). They don’t get paid for preparation time, but are expected to follow the course books, so don’t need preparation time. The teachers are expected to work for 35 units a week (I think she said a unit was 45 minutes, with 40 minutes of teaching and a five minute break).

Bernice works Monday to Saturday, and says that although she is supposed to have Mondays and Wednesdays off, the school usually books classes for her then.

So far, BTL sounds better to me. I like that I get to see the same students each week. Admittedly, a couple of them have been a little trying, but I generally enjoy building a relationship, and find that the better I know a student, the better I become as a teacher because I can plan more interesting lessons.

I also like having the freedom to plan lessons. Yes, course books are a godsend and I would really struggle to organise everything without them, but it’s nice to be able to take a break. As I told Bernice about how I use the Ethicist and BreakingNewsEnglish podcasts, OneStopEnglish news lessons (a few weeks ago I had great fun with the story about the Belgian skydiver who murdered her love rival), Mad Men extracts and Almost French extracts in my lessons, I rediscovered my enthusiasm for my job. I think it would be extremely different if I was constantly chained to the books.

However, the main advantage of working at BTL was the salary.

At BTL I earn €16.50 an hour. At Berlitz, Bernice earns €9.00 an hour. At 35 units of 45 minutes a week, that works out to €236.25 a week. That’s what I’d earn in 14.5 hours, and although I’ve had some slow weeks, I haven’t consistently worked that little since summer.

I think I might have to enlighten the other teachers at BTL – there has been lots of grumblings about uprising in the teachers’ room lately.

*Bernice’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity – and her job.

Time to go

On December 15th it will have been six months since I arrived in Paris.

And I feel ready to leave.

On November 17th my best friend in Australia emailed me to tell me she was getting married next May – I’m so happy for her, I think she and the guy are a great match and it’s nice to see her being taken care of after a few messy years. There was never any question about me going back for the wedding.

However, this has put a definite limit on my time in Europe. Some of the post-Paris plans I’d been tossing around included staying in Paris on a student’s visa and studying, or staying in Europe and teaching in Turkey and Italy for a few months each, and travelling in between.

Now that I’m definitely going back to Australia, I’m not sure I’ll have the finances for another return flight to Europe. This means that, if I want to travel while I’m here, I’ll have to stop teaching early.

The second reason for my decision is that I’m not sure how much more I can learn from teaching. Yes, I still enjoy it, but nearly all of my original students have finished, and I haven’t built the same rapport with many of the new ones. I’m also finding that I have fewer stories to tell – most of the things that happen are things that have happened before.

The third reason is related to my mantra. If I truly want to treat myself with love and respect, then I shouldn’t stay in a job that is no longer fulfilling because I think I should – if I was planning to do more teaching after Paris then I would have liked to have had a year’s experience under my belt, but now that I know I’ll be returning to Oz, I think I’ll get more enjoyment from travelling than teaching.

I also think that I deserve to have a career that I’m passionate about, and would rather focus on working on that when I get back home, and hopefully travel to gain more experience towards my career, rather than teach so I can travel (as a side note, one of the reasons I did the TEFL course was so I could travel, but it’s quite difficult to do when I live in Paris – the cost of living here eats up a lot of my salary, and I can be very frugal, and I also don’t have a lot of time to get away).

I’m quite happy with my decision – I’ve put quite a bit of thought into this, and it’s not a decision I made out of desperation in one of my mopey moments.

The only drawback is that it seems rather anti-climactic. I haven’t really had the big adventure for which I was looking. My French hasn’t improved that much (though BTL started giving us French lessons last week, so hopefully that will change). I also thought I’d be sucked into an incredibly French life here – chatting in French over hot chocolate or kir in cafés every afternoon, eating croissants for breakfast, going to sophisticated cocktail parties with my French friends – but although I have a couple of French friends and still do Conversation Exchanges every now and then, I still lead a largely Anglophone life. And I haven’t had an exhilarating romance with a fabulously wealthy and handsome Frenchman :p

That being said, I don’t regret anything I’ve done here – if anything I probably needed some quiet time to get back in touch with myself.

So at the end of the month I’m going to hand in my resignation and at the end of February (I need to give two-months’ notice) I’m going to head to Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul, Naples, Rome, Marseilles, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, and who knows where else!