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Private students

To earn some extra money, I advertised for private students on Craigslist. I currently just have one, though I’ve been so busy that I’m not sure I’d want more.

Meet Patrizio – an Italian man in his 30s, Patrizio is working in Paris for a year on a company project. Why is he learning English and not French? Because he isn’t planning to stay here (his wife is still in Milan) and he thinks that English will help him more in the future.

I have two 1.5 hour lessons with Patrizio a week, and I generally let him run the show – after a ten-minute chat about what has happened since we last saw each other, I tell him about everything I have on me and ask him what he’d like to do.

Generally it’s listening with comprehension questions, but the week before last I started bringing in grammar exercises that I had photocopied from The Business, Upper Intermediate. I said we could start doing grammar on alternate lessons, and we did tense revision exercises.

The next lesson I had forgotten his folder, but I had my iPod so figured that we could just do listening, especially since I’d already said that grammar would be every second lesson.

Patrizio said, “okay, but next time – grammar,” looking at me as one might look at a child when giving important instructions.

So I brought in my folder the next lesson and took out some exercises on comparatives to do.

“No, I wanted to do this,” Patrizio pointed at the tense revision exercises we had done previously. “You said that there were more exercises in the back of the book.”

I smile, “yes, I said that there were extra exercises in the back of the book if I thought you needed to do some extra work on something.”

“But you said we would do grammar.”

“This is grammar,” I said, “there’s more to grammar than just tenses.”

He stubbornly insisted on doing tenses. I opened my bag and took out the books I had on me – Market Leader, Advanced, Market Leader, Pre-Intermediate and The Business, Pre-Intermediate. I turned to the back of The Business where there were more tense review exercises, and told him that he could write the answers in pencil and I would photocopy them for him when I was next at the office so he would have a copy. But, as soon as he saw the book was Pre-Intermediate and not Upper Intermediate, he didn’t want to do it.

Grammar rules don’t change depending on your level! I tried to explain that the work would cover the same areas, but he wouldn’t have it.

“Okay, we’ll just do listening today and I’ll photocopy it for next lesson,” I said.

“Good, now write yourself a reminder so you don’t forget,” he instructed.

One of my students giving me orders? I raised my brows and obligingly took out my diary. “Photocopy tense review exercises for Patrizio,” I said as I wrote.

“From The Business,” Patrizio dictated.

Dictation now? I’m usually quite tolerant with my students’ behaviour and think I’m reasonably adaptable, but I don’t think I should be treated like a child.

So I punished him by giving him listening activities that were above his level.

This morning, I went to his place for the next lesson, triumphantly brandishing the exercises he had asked for.

“Ah, good,” he said and put them aside.

“I thought you wanted to work on them today,” I said.

“Oh no, it’s just for my revision.”

Then why did you give me so much grief?!

I restrained myself from saying this and punished him with an hour of exercises on comparatives and superlatives.

Beware my wrath :p

Skeletons in the closet

Every Tuesday and Wednesday I visit Noisy-le-Grand to teach students at Groupama.

The office is huge, with several buildings attached by first-floor walkways which surround a large courtyard. This means that our students usually pick us up from reception and escort us back there after class.

Today Bruno, one of my elementary students, was walking me back to reception and he commented on how confusing the building was. I told him that, having been teaching there for over two months, I thought I was getting used to it.

“No, it’s very complicated,” he assured me, shaking his head. “Do you know that someone died?”

I gasped, “really?”

“Oh yes,” he nodded seriously. “They found the skeleton in one of the rooms.”

“No,” I grinned, knowing I’d been had.

“Yes,” he insisted, “it was a skeleton with a name-tag.”

I was so proud – he told a joke in English.

Student feedback

Last Tuesday, six of my students finished their courses. At the end of each course, each student needs to complete a Fiche d’Appreciation – an appreciation form (in English – a feedback form).

The form consists of three tables:

Course Insufficient Satisfactory Very good Excellent Without Objection
Rhythm and duration of the course
Group consistency
Satisfaction compared to initial expectation
Communication of the objectives of the course

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Pedagogy/ organisation Insufficient Satisfactory Very good Excellent Without Objection
Appropriateness of the materials for your professional needs
Appropriateness of the materials for your level
Variety of activities
Availability of the teacher (responding to questions, difficulties, etc.)

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Subjects Insufficient Satisfactory Very good Excellent Without Objection
Grammar
Professional vocabulary
General vocabulary
Oral expression
Oral comprehension
Reading
Writing

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The tables are followed by these questions:

  • What did you particularly appreciate during the course?
  • What suggestions could you give to make the course more effective?
  • Have you progressed as you would have liked during this course? And, in which areas?
  • Any additional comments?
  • Have you put the skills you learned to use in your profession? How?

Last week I received four of the six fiches. Anne-François’s was lovely – she ticked ‘very good’ for every category except for rhythm and duration, which was ‘excellent’. The only comments were that she would have preferred not to do the course over the summer, because she missed lessons for holidays. Anne-François was the only one of my three upper-intermediates at class last week, so today I was still waiting for the others to send in their fiches. I wasn’t worried – it had always been my favourite class.

Next I received Sandra’s. It was okay – everything was ‘satisfactory’ with a ‘very good’ for rhythm and duration. She also commented that she appreciated the focus on vocabulary (vocab’s easy to work on – I have a piece of paper for vocabulary in each of my students’ files and write down new words every lesson. At the end of the lessons I quiz them – it’s a great way to use up a spare 5-10 minutes).

Unfortunately, Samya and Florence’s fiches weren’t very complimentary. The Pedagogy/Organisation section was all ‘satisfactory’, but the rest of the fiches alternated between ‘insufficient’ and ‘satisfactory’. Luckily I wasn’t blamed for this – due to each of them having holidays at different times, they both missed about half of their lessons and were not able to progress as much as they would have liked – but it still wasn’t very nice to receive. I decided to hold onto these ones until my meeting with Renée from BTL today, so I would have a chance to defend myself.

Today’s meeting was just titled ‘course feedback’, so I assumed it was a regular meeting that happened with new teachers when their first courses finished. However, when I saw that both Renée and Paul were meeting with me, I started to worry that I might be in trouble. Renée and Paul are BTL’s pedagogical coordinators.

They sat me in one of the classrooms and told me that a fiche had been sent in that had ‘insufficient’ marks on it. I felt myself blush – another one?!

Surprisingly, it was from Olivier. Sweet, quiet, polite Olivier, from my group of upper-intermediates, who always finished his work before the others, and never complained. Who always was the most active in discussions, and understood the listening activities on the first try. I never expected that he would have anything bad to say. Olivier, if you ever read this – you hurt me bad. :p

Paul explained that BTL calls students who have ticked ‘insufficient’ boxes, so they can get an explanation. He then outlined his conversation with Olivier to me:

  1. Olivier had complained about the level of the materials being too low and said that he finished before the others (I admitted this was true, but also said that I had inherited the book from a previous course. “Based on his level, it looks as though this was the right book for him,” Paul said as he flicked through the paperwork).
  2. He complained that we used the book too much.
  3. He said there was insufficient oral comprehension work. (“When I asked him if there was listening every lesson, he said yes,” Paul told me, “but he said that he wanted more.” To this I replied that halfway through the course I’d been asked to do more listening, and I’d started bringing in podcasts from outside the book, and told them about the different podcasts I’d been using, and what seemed to work well.)
  4. He said there was insufficient oral expression (“Again, when I asked him if there was listening every lesson, he said yes,” Paul told me, “but he said that he wanted more.”)

So I’m not really sure what I did wrong . . . luckily Paul and Renée seemed to be on my side.

Paul then took out another piece of paper, and explained that after a new teacher’s first two months, BTL emails some of our longer-term students for an informal review of the course.

(I discovered this last Wednesday when Joelle, one of my Groupama students, showed me an email she had received, looking rather concerned.

“BTL sent me this email,” she said, “and I did not want to respond until I showed it to you.”

I briefly looked at it – it was a short email in French, just asking Joelle for an opinion on the course. I told her that I didn’t know anything about it, and secretly wondered if another student of mine had complained.

“Just tell them that you think I’m wonderful,” I said with a laugh.

“Okay,” she nodded, “I will say that I love you, but I hate this book!” she pointed emphatically at her In Company, Intermediate.

“That’s fine,” I said, “because I didn’t choose it for you.”)

Paul had put the feedback onto one page. Four of my students had responded (Joelle wasn’t one of them), and everything they said was surprisingly lovely.

  • Marie-Maud (advanced student, mid to late 20s) – Jolie’s course corresponds with my needs, and she is perfectly attentive to all of them.
  • Stephane (upper-intermediate student, late 30s/early 40s) – the tone is positive and the pace well prepared, matching my requests. Jolie is a serious and likable teacher.
  • Latifa (elementary to pre-intermediate student, late 20s) – at present, I’m satisfied with Jolie’s English course. The contents of the course correspond with my needs and Jolie is always available to listen to my questions.
  • Bruno (elementary student, 50s?) – I am very satisfied with the manner in which my English course is unfolding. Jolie has proven that she has a lot of teaching skills. She has adapted her course to support my situation, my level and my needs. She reformulates her speech in different manners as many times as is necessary for me to understand, and is very patient and calm. She follows a process that responds to my speaking and listening needs, and brings exercises to fill my grammatical gaps. So, at this stage, I am very satisfied.

I left the meeting with a big smile, feeling honoured to have these people as my students.

Saying goodbye

My first regular classes were on Tuesday July 6th. I had three classes – Groupe Prima at 9:00, Sandra at 11:00 and Groupe Lazaar at 1:30.

Today was my last day with these students, and it feels a little strange to know that my time with them is already over.

For Groupe Prima I prepared a lesson about Paris, starting with a podcast about an American girl’s view of Paris from podcastsinenglish.com, some extracts from Almost French by Sarah Turnbull, and part of an interview with Stephen Clarke about his new book – M is for Merde.

Unfortunately only Anne-Françoise showed up (I think this was due to today’s metro strikes). I was a little worried about only having one student – the success or failure of this lesson depended on the conversation, and I’d taken three extracts from Almost French so each student would have something to talk about.

Luckily it was a subject that interested Anne, and the conversation flowed easily, covering clichés, obesity, changing ways of life, table manners and even the court of Louis XIV.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t put as much effort into my next lesson with Sandra. As the last lesson was only an hour and she was at a lower level, we did exercises about stress from Market Leader Pre-Intermediate. Though, with a lot of urging her on through the grammar (past simple and present perfect verbs) and trying to figure out where our respective occupations would fit on a list of the most stressful occupations, it ended up being a pretty punchy hour.

Groupe Lazaar was the lesson that was really concerning me, for the following reasons:

  1. It had been one month since I last saw them, due to holidays
  2. We’d only had one lesson with both of the students together, so I wasn’t sure what the dynamic would be like (being the summer holiday period, I had seen Samya for three lessons and Florence for four)
  3. I don’t think Florence likes me much
  4. They were handing in their Fiches d’Appreciation (appreciation forms – used for student feedback) today, and I was worried I wouldn’t do well due to Florence not liking me and each of them missing a number of lessons

So I made an effort to plan, what I hoped was, an interesting and varied lesson. Knowing that Florence didn’t like Business English, I planned a lesson about food. We would start with a news lesson from Onestopenglish about the fall of Burger King, then I would give each of them a half-completed crossword to complete by giving each other clues for the missing words, then we would do some listening from a case study about Valentino chocolates from Market Leader Pre-Intermediate.

However, when I reached their office on rue Montmartre, Florence had lost her voice! My dreams of a lively final lesson filled with conversation and laughter had vanished – whenever Florence tried to say anything, every rasping wheeze was an effort.

So the news lesson didn’t work to well – we did it, but it was uncomfortably quiet – but the crossword ended up being a lot of fun. Anytime they tried to give clues or translations in French I’d call out “English!” and some of the descriptions they used were really unusual, if ineffective (Samya tried to describe ‘rice’ to Florence by talking about Rice Krispies).

I’ll let you know how I went on the Fiches d’Appreciation once the last couple have been sent to me – of the ones I received today, one was surprisingly good and another was disasterously bad, so hopefully the last couple bring the average back up.

Called to the principal’s office . . .

On Thursday I got in trouble for the first time in my teaching career (it took less than two months – go me). The short story is that I cancelled a class and the student complained to BTL (my school).

If you want the long story, read on.

On Thursday August 19th, I discovered that I would have to go to London for an afternoon (for reasons that shall remain undisclosed for the time being). On my calendar, the most suitable day was Tuesday the 24th, as I had a class at 9:00-10:30, and another at 4:30-6:00. I asked a couple of girls in the teachers’ room about cancelling classes, and they assured me that most students didn’t mind rescheduling.

Unfortunately I didn’t know the student in question – I happened to be waiting for my first class with her while I was trying to organise all of this. All I knew was what Lisa* from the planning department had told me:

“She’s a bit upset because she’s had to change teachers over her last two cycles.”

I was taking over a cycle from another teacher who had already had five lessons with this student. The previous teacher’s notes had said that the book the student had was Market Leader Intermediate, but the notes covering what she’d done in the lessons all referred to units taken from other books, so I didn’t know where she was up to. I planned a lesson around a unit on Ethics. As this was unit 11, I figured I would be fine.

The student, Kate, arrived for her class thirty minutes late. I introduced myself and, when I took out the Ethics unit, she complained that she had already done it with Timothy (one of her former teachers) on a previous cycle the year before. I apologised and explained that I only had the notes from the current cycle, which said that the teacher hadn’t used this book.

Kate went into a 10 minute rant about how disorganised BTL was, how inconvenient it was for her to keep changing teachers, and how she had friends who had the same teachers for 2-3 years. “I have had four teachers in two years, and every time it is the same thing and they don’t know what the teacher before has done!”

“A problem with learning English is that teachers from outside of Europe are usually on limited visas, which means they have to leave at some point,” I explained. “Maybe you could request a teacher from the UK for your next course? That way you wouldn’t need to worry about their visa expiring.”

“Oh, but Timothy was English,” she said.

I shrugged helplessly.

She then asked me how long my visa was valid.

A bit taken aback, I replied vaguely, “oh, don’t worry, I still have a few months left.” (It’s valid until June 2011.)

“And how long will you stay in Paris?”

“I’m not sure . . .” I said. Regular readers will know that Paris has been a little bit of a struggle, so I still haven’t decided whether I’ll stay here for the whole year, and I didn’t want to lie to Kate. Moral of the story – always lie!

I then had the nerve to ask which chapter in the book Kate was up to, and she sighed and said that I should have had the notes from the previous cycle.

“Okay, let’s do some listening then,” I changed the subject and we spent the rest of the lesson listening to and discussing The Ethicist podcasts.

By the end of the lesson she seemed much perkier, so this was when I dropped the bombshell – I needed to reschedule Tuesday’s lesson.

Kate was not happy – “why did BTL schedule a lesson this day if you could not do it?”

“It’s my fault, not BTL’s,” I said, and explained that I hadn’t put the trip to London in my calendar, so BTL didn’t know. As she was going away for the second half of the next week, I gave her the times I was free on Friday and Monday, as well as my phone number. She took it and, although she didn’t look happy with the situation, she seemed to have accepted it.

I returned to the teachers’ room and sent her an email confirming my availabilities. Problem solved – or so I thought.

On Friday night she emailed back saying that the times weren’t convenient for her, so I figured we’d just push the class to the end of her cycle.

On Tuesday, I had a call from Lisa at BTL when I was on my way to Gare du Nord confirming whether I’d cancelled Kate’s class, as I’d left it in my calendar. I said yes, and that I was unavailable for the rest of the day. The trip to London went smoothly – the only hitch was that my (dying) phone refused to make or send calls – and I did everything I needed to do before I reluctantly returned to Paris.

I got back to my place in the 18th a bit after midnight, and my phone started working again. I had two messages and one missed call from BTL. I checked the messages and could hear Lisa from planning sounding rather stressed:

“Hi Jolie, it’s Lisa from BTL. I was ringing because, talking to you earlier, I realised that you’d said yes to an intensive this evening from 6:30 to 8:00, and now I no longer know whether you’re coming to do it or not, so I need you to ring me back urgently to let me know because otherwise I’m going to have to find another teacher. Please ring me back in the next half an hour. Thanks, bye.”

“Hi Jolie, it’s Lisa from BTL. Just letting you know that we’ve found another teacher for that intensive from 6:30 to 8:00. Thanks, bye.”

I’d completely forgotten. Generally the planning department puts new classes into our calendars and I’d forgotten to chase this one up when it hadn’t appeared.

I then opened my work email and had a meeting request from Renée, the pedagogical coordinator, for Thursday morning regarding feedback on a conversation that I had with Kate, the student whose class I cancelled.

Oh crap, I’m getting fired, I thought before I settled down for a poor night’s sleep.

On Thursday, Renée took me into one of the small classrooms at BTL’s office. She put a notepad on a table and said, “so, we’ve had a student complain.”

I nodded, “I assume it’s about Tuesday’s class?”

“Well, that’s one of the things.”

One of the things?! I balked inwardly – what else had I done?

“So why don’t you tell me about what happened on Thursday’s class from your point-of-view?” Renée asked, her pen at the ready.

I told Renée about how I’d made the mistake of preparing a chapter that Timothy had already done with Kate, and then opened her file to show that there was no record of this. I then said that when I’d asked Kate where she was up to in the book, she complained about how disorganised BTL was. I said that we’d had a listening lesson using podcasts after she’d finished letting off steam, and that I thought it had gone well from that point.

Renée told me that Kate had complained about me being unprepared and disorganised, but that I’d explained that, and said that Kate had said that I was unclear about whether my visa was running out soon, and that I’d implied that I might be leaving BTL.

I admitted that I’d been surprised about the visa question and had responded vaguely, but I didn’t say anything about leaving BTL.

Renée leaned back and asked, “so, are you considering leaving BTL? Are you happy here?”

I answered honestly, “I really love teaching and I like BTL, so I’m not planning to go to another school, but living in Paris is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have no money, because I just started working in July and didn’t have many hours, and I only have my current room until the end of the month and I haven’t found anything new yet, which is a bit stressful. Everyone keeps saying that September will be better, but it’s a bit hard for me to see that as I’ve only been working over the summer.”

Renée then started being very mother-like towards me – Renée has always been lovely, but I was expecting a stern talking-to, and this unexpected kindness caused me to tear up a little bit.

Renée told me that BTL often offers interest-free loans to teachers and said that they could help me with a deposit, and she also said that if I was desperate at the end of the month that she had a room I could rent for a week or two. I think my situation may have stopped her from being as harsh on me as she would have been otherwise – she didn’t even mention the intensive class that I missed, or the fact that I hadn’t been answering my phone on Tuesday.

She then reminded me that I had to book holiday leave through the official process – even if it was just for half a day – as then BTL would be able to cover classes, or make judgements about which students could be rescheduled. My judgement was off – BTL had to give Kate free lessons and a new teacher in compensation. I must say I’m a little relieved about her getting a new teacher – I think out next lesson would have been a little awkward.

So, from now on I’m going to be a very good girl and will follow the official process any time I want to do anything slightly out of the ordinary – then maybe I’ll reclaim the brownie points that I’ve lost.

*all names have been changed to preserve anonymity. And my job :p

Money

A couple of weeks ago I received my first month’s pay. It wasn’t much.

Due to July being my first month, as well as being during the summer, I only worked 51 hours. I’m on an hourly rate of €16.50, so that works out to €841.50. That ended up being €694.52 after tax.

I know that July was a slow month. However, I was more optimistic about August as I had 86 confirmed hours, after I’d removed classes from my calendar due to holidays. But they’ve been cancelling! The first week of the month I had 21.5 hours of classes. The second and third week dropped to 12.5 and 14.5 respectively. This week I have 13.5 hours. On the last two days of August, I have 9.5 hours confirmed, which bodes well for September, which is reputedly busy because all of the Parisians will have returned from their holidays.

But it is a little stressful not to know how much I’ll be earning in an average month. And, with a total of 69.5 hours, my August pay isn’t going to be as generous as I was hoping.

This is forcing me to make some difficult choices. Perhaps I won’t be able to do any travelling for a few months. Maybe I should consider a career change. At the bakery, I might have to choose a baguette instead of a croissant, because they’re usually the same price and I can make a baguette with some sort of spread last for two meals, whereas a croissant is only good for one (being broke is great for my figure). That being said – I was given restaurant tickets for July (10 valued at €5.60 each), which are good because they force me to buy food.

A warning to those considering teaching English in Paris – you will not earn much money. If you want to live like a king or save money from teaching alone, you’ll have better luck in the Middle East (where the pay is amazing with great benefits), or Asia and European countries where the cost of living is lower.

I’m now looking at ways to supplement my income – any ideas?

August 10 – A day in my life as a Business English teacher

I know, I know – I recently did a couple of posts about a week in my life. However, I have been persuaded to risk repeating myself for a great, selfless and noble cause.

. . . okay, maybe it’s not so noble. And it’s definitely not selfless. But I still think it’s pretty great – by writing about a day in my TEFL life, I can win a two-week holiday! Rate my post here. Just highlight and select the stars at the bottom of the page.

I wake up at 7:30 – strangely, always one minute before my alarm goes off – and get ready for my day. At the moment breakfast is a bowl of cereal, but when I’m a little richer I might splash out on daily croissants. At 8:15 I leave and take the metro (lines 12, 4 and 5) to Gare d’Austerlitz. From here it’s a five-minute walk to my first class.

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9:00-10:30, Groupe Prima, Upper-Intermediate

Having three people, this is usually my largest class. However, the two ladies are on holidays so I only have Olivier – I’m guessing he’s in his late 30s, but he still has the approval-seeking mannerisms of a school boy. Last week I asked, since he would be on his own, what he would like to work on.

He replied with ‘listening comprehension.’ Fair enough – I haven’t done much listening with this class because my iPod doesn’t like the audio tracks from this course book – although it plays them perfectly in iTunes, they keep skipping when I open them in class. This means preparation takes a while, as I search for suitable podcasts. I stumble upon two gems:

1 – The Ethicist

The Ethicist is a podcast of letters written to the New York Times asking questions about moral dilemmas, and their replies. Tracks are generally under five minutes and contain 2-3 letters ad responses. These are great for class because they can lead onto debates after the comprehension questions (so, was it a good idea? Was it right? What would you do in this situation), and can also spin-off into letter-writing exercises.

2 – NPR Story of the Day

This podcast discusses front-page stories, so we get to talk about news, and the episodes are quite short. This is advantageous because anything over about 4 minutes is too long for the students to digest.

So Olivier and I discussed three ethicist letters, an NPR podcast on US employment statistics, and a 5 min excerpt from a Cambridge Conference podcast on ‘Becoming Barbie’. Issues related to female stereotypes and beauty have always interested me, but I’m a bit worried about how Olivier, being a man, will react to an audio activity that mentions both breast and bottom augmentation. However, I reason that if I’m interested in a topic, it will be more interesting for the students, and my reasoning proves correct! He answers the questions I set, takes nearly two pages of notes and we have a great conversation about beauty, plastic surgery and feminism.

Admittedly, I was only able to do this activity because he has a very high level of English, but I think some intermediate students (even strong pre-intermediate listeners) could cope with The Ethicist and NPR.

My next student is on holidays, so I walk to Gare de Lyon and take the metro (line 14) to Saint Lazare, then walk to a replacement class on Rue d’Astorg.

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11:30-1:00, Guillaume, Upper-Intermediate

The receptionists direct me to the fourth floor and, when I leave the elevator, there is a gorgeous man waiting for me. He introduces himself as Guillaume and takes me to the meeting room where our class is booked.

As we do the getting-to-know you activity (a page in my notebook filled with circles, each saying a word about me – students need to guess the significance of each word, which makes it great for practising questions), I realise that he has eyes just like Eric Bana (swoon!). Miraculously, I don’t offer myself to him on the conference table and we get to work. The lesson follows a unit from his course book (In Company, Upper-Intermediate) on Information and Media. As a rule, I find lessons that just follow the book can be a bit of a bore, but this is a topic we’re both interested in, and the listening activities (which list several surprising facts behind newspaper headlines) provide ample material for discussion.

Afterwards I take the metro from Saint Augustin to Grands Boulevards (line 9), and plan to quickly by a sandwich before my 1:30 class. There’s a wonderful blue boulangerie on Rue Montmartre that makes the most heavenly sandwiches – I almost which I had class in this area every day so I could eat more of them! The bread is lovely and soft with a divinely crunchy crust . . . but my hunger is not to be sated! I walk past the little boulangerie and it is closed, with a steel door rolled down over the windows. I desperately pray that this is temporary.

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1:30 – 3:00, Group Lazaar, Pre-Intermediate

This is my least favourite class of the week. There are two students, Samya and Florence, but generally I only have them one at a time due to holiday and work commitments. Samya is lovely and talkative, and we get along really well. Florence is also lovely, but I don’t think she likes me much. In two of our classes she has been close to tears of frustration over the work, and she frequently snaps when she doesn’t understand something, and then rushes through everything afterwards. Even when I do lessons around topics that she has said interest her, we still don’t seem to build a rapport.

Surprisingly, today ends up being our best lesson so far. We start with half-an-hour of ‘have you ever’ (a card game with questions that begin with ‘have you ever’ on each card) before checking her homework on modal verbs and doing a section from her course book (Market Leader Pre-Intermediate) on negotiating. We try a negotiating role play, but she starts to get frustrated, so I ask whether she would prefer to do some listening, or some vocab.

She chooses listening and I play a podcast about stress and holidays – after she easily does the comprehension questions, we talk about the two-week holiday she is going on next week.

Next I’m back on the metro (line 9) and I travel from Grands Boulevards to Havre-Caumartin. I arrive at my school’s office at 3:20, which gives me plenty of time to plan Wednesday’s class before my 4:00 lesson. Yes – you read correctly. Wednesday’s class. Singular. Being August, many Parisians are away, including many of my students, so things can be quite slow.

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4:00 – 5:30, Magali, Pre-Intermediate

My final class of the day is with Magali, who works for Medecins du Monde, which means she has seen many incredible places and has many stories to tell. After a vocab quiz, a homework check and doing a few pages from a unit on Selling Online (Market Leader, Pre-Intermediate), we play ‘have you ever’ and have a great time talking about all of the things she has seen and done and tasted (some interesting dishes include caterpillar and some sort of flying marsupial!).

.

So on a Tuesday I start at 9:00 and finish at 5:30. As I only get paid for my teaching hours, I get six hours of pay for the day. That’s right – no paid preparation or travel time (though I do get partially reimbursed for my public transport costs). Based on the other interviews I had in June, this seems to be fairly standard and, as this is my first position, I didn’t have the leverage to negotiate a high hourly rate.

Being rather poor at the moment, I meet up with a friend after work for a walk around the 14th arrondissement and a late dinner of spaghetti with salmon. I wasn’t literally expecting plain spaghetti with a piece of smoked salmon tossed on the top, but I’m not one to complain about a free meal.

A week in the life of a new TEFL teacher – part 2

So, last Friday was a bit of a stressful day. I had two new classes in the afternoon, both in areas that I didn’t know that well (Genvilliers and La Défense).

Friday, 12:00 – 2:00, Latifa, Cella (currently working for EOS ITS)

My first class was at 12:00 and I knew that I was going to be late as I waited for the train. I had to get RER C, and RER C (overground train which goes to the suburbs) only runs every 15-20 minutes during the day. Having missed the last one by a couple of minutes, there was no way I’d be on time. However, having been told that if you’re less than 30mins late in France you are still considered to be on time, I assumed that 5mins or so wouldn’t damage my reputation too severely.

At 12:05 I arrived at the right station, Les Grésillons. As I left the station, I started to worry – it was an industrial wasteland. Across the road was an empty factory with a barbed-wire fence. I turned left, and reached the right road after a couple of minutes. Across the road was another closed factory – number 279. I needed number 222. To the left of the factory, I could only see vacant blocks – squares of green grass, fenced-in rubbish, or abandoned housing projects. To the right, there was another factory. I turned right, and started to get anxious – there were no street numbers! The building went on and on – there were cars parked on the street, but I don’t know where their owners were as there were no sounds emerging from the factory’s broken windows. 12:15 – I walked on, still searching for street numbers, and hit the end of the road. I’d gone the wrong way!

I did an about-face and powered-on in my suit and heels, determined not to lose any more time. I passed number 279, and marched past vacant block after vacant block until – finally – I saw an ‘Alliance’ building. The company I was looking for was called EOS ITS, but I figured that I could at least ask for directions here. I went through the gate and saw the number – 222.

After apologising profusely to my student, Latifa, and offering to add an extra 10mins to our next three classes, we got to work. Latifa has the lowest level of my students, though you can’t actually tell it by talking to her. Her general conversation is very good, she can make herself understood very easily and I haven’t had to use French to explain anything. However, she has forgotten the alphabet and days of the week and many simple things – so she probably learnt English at school and hasn’t used it since. I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of lessons with her – although the topics we cover are very basic, I love going over the basic grammar. I love grammar in general – it’s the only time I really feel like I’m teaching anything. The rest of the time my students are just putting it into practice.

Friday, 3:00 – 4:30 and Monday, 9:30 – 11:00, Valerie, Société Générale

Société Générale

I finished my class with Latifa at 2:10, to start compensating for the time I missed at the beginning of the lesson. As RATP told me it would only take 40mins to travel from Les Grésillons to La Défense, I figured I still had enough time to be early.

However, I didn’t take into account that I might be stressed and my brain wouldn’t be working properly.

Société Générale is one of my school’s biggest clients – we mainly work with companies in the financial sector, and this is one of them. This means that I can’t mess up.

After reaching Les Grésillons, I realised that I might be late (again). Once again, I would have to wait 15mins

La Défense - Grande Arche


for the RER. But I didn’t panic – I figured I could just say I was stuck in reception. I hopped onto the train and looked at the map of the RER to confirm at which station I needed to change. Neuilly – Porte Maillot.

Now, because my brain wasn’t in the best condition, I read the map as if I was travelling from a station called Porte de Clichy, instead of Les Grésillons. Because of this, when I hit the next station (Saint Ouen), I thought I was going in the wrong direction and bolted off the train and across the platform onto the train going in the opposite direction. As I walked through the doors, I asked a man whether the train was heading to Porte Maillot. He told me it was, and I sank into a seat, relieved.

The man then approached me and gave me a bit of paper, saying that he and his children were starving and needed money for food, etc. He did a lap of the carriage then returned to me. I don’t usually hand out money (mainly because I don’t have any, but also because you see so many of these people on trains that your sympathy starts to wear thin), but I decided to give him a couple of Euros because he’d been so nice to give me directions.

After I gave him the money, he told me that I was, in fact, on the wrong train. Apparently Porte Maillot was in the other direction!

I was not happy. I started having a rant in my bad French:

“But I asked you the question whether this train went to Porte Maillot, and you told me yes! Why did you tell me that? Oh God, I’m so late.”

The train pulled into Les Grésillons and I went back to the platform where I had been waiting 10mins earlier. 2:40. Time to call my school. I called BTL and explained what had happened and they were surprisingly understanding – they offered to call my student for me and let her know I would be late. After another few minutes I hopped onto another train, and stayed on until I was supposed to get off. I then switched to the metro, and got off at La Défense – Grande Arche.

Earlier that day I had been getting directions from the other teachers at school (it was one of the reasons I was late for my first class). They told me to take the exit of the shopping centre, and then explained how to get to the building. They didn’t tell me how to get through the shopping centre.

Quatre Temps, the shopping centre at La Défense, is huge. I’m talking Chadstone big – probably larger. This means it doesn’t have one entrance/exit, and I didn’t know which one to take. I managed to get through it without much difficulty – and, although I didn’t choose the most convenient exit, I was able to orient myself once I was outside and easily found Soc Gén. I was only 30mins late.

My student, Valérie, was lovely. She is having two lessons a week, so I see her on a Friday afternoon and Monday morning. She’s very attractive and has three daughters who she likes talking about – we did a lesson on brands and she loved telling me about not letting her daughters have branded clothes, etc., because she wanted to ‘keep them simple’ (i.e.: stop them from becoming vain). She loves going over grammar, and picks things up really quickly (I know – I’m easily won over), and she hates getting English phone calls.

Valérie is an SP2 class, which means that 30-50% of the material in our lessons should be things she brings in from work. She has to host a meeting in English later in our course, so we’ll probably work on that then, but so far she hasn’t had many ideas about things we can work on. That was until yesterday – when I got to her office she was in a panic because one of her associates from Hong Kong called and she couldn’t understand his accent. She told me that she dreads getting phone calls in English and always avoids answering them, because she prefers to be able to listen to the message a couple of times and then email them back. As an example, she had saved a couple of messages for me, so it looks like we’ve found our SP2 work!

Monday, 11:30 – 1:00, Xavier, Société Générale

After I saw Valérie on Monday, I met Xavier. From his test, I know that Xavier has a very good level of English. This is all I knew – I hadn’t been able to find any other information about what his job was or whether he had and previous courses and course books from BTL.

So I prepared quite a long lesson, so there would be plenty of backup material.

I needn’t have worried. Xavier’s course is another SP2 one. Having had classes with BTL before, he came in prepared with more material then I would go through in a week of classes. It turns out that Xavier is a financial lawyer (I know – holy crap). The material he brought in on Monday was for a meeting he had on Wednesday in Brussels with the European Payments Council (EPC). Apparently the EPC is having an argument with the European Commission about something to do with mandatory payment dates – from what I gathered, the EPC thinks mandatory dates are necessary, but the European Commission (EC) doesn’t want to enforce them due to the extra regulation this would entail.

So, after about 40mins of learning about this and what France’s position is, and what his role in the scenario is, I wondered what to do with all of the documents he’d brought in. There were hundreds of pages of contracts and legal correspondence that were on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting – there was no way we were going to get through much of it in one lesson. But he also needed to do some work on it before his meeting.

I asked him which document was the most important – it was a summary of the European Commission’s position. I asked him to read it to me and summarise it to me. We then went through some vocab that he didn’t understand (there was one I couldn’t help him with – some sort of bank account. I told him what the word he didn’t know meant, but I had no idea what it was in relation to finance), and argued about the EC’s arguments. I took the EC’s side (pretty easy, as the points were written for me), and he had to argue with me and explain why the mandatory dates were a good thing. I’m not sure how much he learned, but I thought it was useful to get him thinking about it some more before the meeting.

This Monday I’ll find out how the meeting went – I wonder if I’ll still have a student? :p

Tuesday and Wednesday went as per usual – I’ve had those students since the beginning.

On Thursday, my morning class was cancelled. Although this was logical (one student was going to be away for four weeks, and the other was going to be away for the next three), it means that my only income for that slot over the next month will be if I get some replacement classes. It’s a shame, because I really liked the area that class was in – it’s like a small village in the middle of Paris. Bercy Village is a group of 19th century wine warehouses that have been converted into specialty shops and cafes, and the neighbouring park, Parc de Bercy, is beautiful with a rose garden, trellises covered with vines and a number of water features. Luckily my Thursday afternoon classes are only one stop away, so I can easily wander around.

Bercy Village

Thursday, 1:00 – 2:30, Marie-Maud, Flammarion

Marie-Maud was another very advanced student. The most advanced of all of my students, I was worried that none of the books would be challenging enough, and that she’d spend our lessons bored.

Again, it seems I was worrying for nothing. Although advanced, Marie-Maud was lovely. Being in her late 20s, we had a lot to talk about and laughed quite a bit, and she enjoyed doing idioms. She said her priority was to go practice her grammar (no wonder I like her), especially her tenses, though I didn’t notice her make any mistakes.

This seems to be a common concern for many of my students – they want to do a lot of grammar revision, and they want me to correct their mistakes. This is all very well and good, but it borders on being paranoid, as they don’t actually make that many mistakes.

All in all, things are going well. Because many of my students are going on holidays over the summer, I have a number of replacement classes coming up over the next few weeks – I’m a bit nervous, as I seem to prepare better lessons once I know my students, but it’s all a learning experience!

A week in the life of a new TEFL teacher – part 1

I loathe waking up. That’s probably not the most optimistic beginning, but I never want to get out of bed in the morning. I cling to my doona until the last possible minute then grumble through my morning routine with a passion that I never had at home.

Once I’ve been on the metro for a few minutes and my day is officially unrolling, I perk up. I usually have a seat (I’m assuming this is because it’s summer and most of Paris is on holidays on the coast) and read. Between the metro and my classes I pull out the appropriate dossier for the class, so I can show the receptionist my students’ names in case she can’t decipher my accent (this happens frequently).

I usually wait in reception for one of my students to collect me, and during that time I go over my lesson plan. After three weeks of teaching my plans have shrunk dramatically – originally I wrote over a page of dot-points on activities with discussion questions and estimates for how much time each exercise would take. Today my lessons had single paragraph plans. As long as I have spare material on me and know what I want to cover from the course book, I figure I’ll be fine.

Last week my main concern was that I wouldn’t have enough work – on my first week I worked 11.5 hours. On my second I worked 4.5 (Bastille Day cost me 5 hours). Being on an hourly rate, I knew that if this continued I wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in Paris. My calendar for next week is below. Look how it’s grown! Grey and purple appointments are regular classes (grey is SP1 – meaning general business English, purple is SP2 – meaning general business English plus English documents that the student provides from his/her work environment). Blue are replacement classes or intensives (replacements are when other teachers are on holidays and intensives are 30-hour courses that students do over a week at my school’s office – if I get one of these it’s usually only one of their morning or afternoon classes, not the whole week). Green appointments are to be confirmed.

Class timetable

As each course is from 10 to 20 hours, this means I have guaranteed work for the next couple of months!

A couple of my classes don’t start until next week, but here are the ones I’ve had so far:

Tuesday, 9:00 – 10:30, Groupe Prima, Natixis

This is by far my favourite class. Having an upper intermediate level, they are very good at getting into debates and making jokes in English – we always end up laughing at some point. It also means I get to bring in newspaper articles and other supplementary material that’s too advanced for some of my other students. There are three students – Charlotte, Anne-Francoise and Olivier.

Olivier is the most advanced of the three – while the ladies are reading he goes onto the reading comprehension activities. When I brought in the news articles, he chose an opinion piece on the Russian spy story – I think many native English speakers would have struggled to summarise it accurately, but he did a brilliant job and managed to condense the contention into a couple of sentences. I worry that I don’t have enough challenging material for him, but he never complains. He sometimes seems like a school boy seeking approval.

Charlotte and Anne-Francoise are at a slightly lower level. Although Anne can keep up, she does take a bit longer to read and I worry about leaving her behind. Both of the ladies are tan with short blond hair, though there is about a 15-year age difference between them. We have had three lessons so far, and they have been late to all of them (actually, I was late to the first one, so I can’t really blame them) – on the second week they both forgot that they had class, and on the third week Anne happened to get to work while I was waiting for Olivier to collect me from reception. She dropped me off in our regular meeting room then left to get a coffee and returned 10mins later.

Tuesday, 11:00 – 12:30, Sandra, Natixis

Sandra detests the course book. On our second week it was just the chapter (Companies), but this week she announced that she hated the book and slammed it on the desk. Sandra has a beautifully coiffed Posh-Spice bob (sorry, I don’t remember the name of it) and always wears beautiful heels with skinny jeans and a top that shows off her cleavage. She has a pre-intermediate level of English, so she can converse quite well but has a limited vocabulary and pauses frequently. And she doesn’t like business English. As she doesn’t really use English at work, I’m going to try a travel-focussed lesson next week.

Tuesday, 1:30 – 3:00, Groupe Lazaar, Natixis

This class has two students – Florence and Samya. In the last three weeks I have had two lessons with Samya and one with Florence – I have yet to see them in class together. My first lesson with Samya was really good – although she was the same level as Sandra, her oral expression was much more fluent and she rarely had long pauses. She also was like a sponge with grammar – accepting whatever I said then putting it into practice. At least, that’s what she was like on the first week. Last week she had just come back from a week on the beach (she was so brown I looked anaemic) and her head was in the clouds. She was nowhere near as talkative and her English was littered with French phrases – I hope she’s back in the mood for work next week.

Florence was interesting. She was lovely, but a bit shy and I think she approached tears of frustration at one point when she couldn’t answer my questions (I’m not a mean teacher – I promise! I felt awful). I hope she’ll be a bit more comfortable when she’s in the lesson with Samya.

All of my Tuesday classes are in Natixis offices (Natixis is a bank) – in a week I have four different Natixis classes in four different offices. The company is huge! My Wednesday classes are in Noisy-le-Grand, which is in zone 4. This means I have to take RER A to the suburbs in peak hour – not fun.

Wednesday, 9:30 – 11:00, Joelle, Groupama

Joelle has an intermediate and loves to joke and talk. She told me that she likes doing written exercises but would prefer to do them at home and spend our class time talking. However, having seen her homework last week, I’ve realised that her speaking level is higher than her written and grammatical level, so she might not get her wish. She’s a bit difficult with regular classes. Admittedly, it is summer and people go on holidays, but she is going on two separate holidays, as well as missing a week for a doctor’s appointment and missing two weeks for work seminars – she’s missing seven weeks! I’m trying to reschedule them, but two weeks after her course ends she goes on holiday again! I’m not sure she will improve as much as she wants to.

Wednesday, 11:00 – 1:00, Bruno, Groupama

Bruno has a low pre-intermediate level. Although he’s friendly and likes to talk, he often doesn’t realise that I’ve asked him a questions. His listening skills need work (not just because he has trouble understanding me sometimes, but listening activities take us a long time), and he used Google translator for his homework. We also had some issues with ‘how’ questions in his first class. However, I think we had a breakthrough this week! I got him to answer the five w’s and how about a story he’d read in the news, and then did a worksheet and had him ask me questions – I think he gets it, but the true test will be how he goes on his homework, which is answering the questions about another article.

Wednesday, 1:30 – 3:00, Stephane, Groupama

This guy really reminds me of a young Daniel Auteuil (see the picture). I don’t know what it is.

Daniel Auteuil

But he really likes to talk. I mean really. In our first lesson, he spent an hour talking. He could have happily spent the whole 90mins talking, but I managed to twist what he was saying so it was related to the exercises I was doing. But I don’t think he really wants to do much work – he’s working on a thesis at the moment and also has a full-time job and four children, so I think English class is like a bit of a rest for him. He has done courses through my school before, and when I asked him what worked and didn’t work for him, he told me he liked the first teacher because they talked a lot and had coffee. He didn’t like the second teacher who was very academic and used the book.

Hmm . . . I want there to be some sort of structure to our lessons, but I also want him to like me. I ended up bringing in one of the News Lessons from the One-Stop-English website last week and he really seemed to enjoy it, so I’ll probably do more of that.

Thursday’s classes are in the 13th arrondissement, which I don’t think I’ve visited before. When I leave the metro I already know I’ll like working near here – there’s a park on one side of the metro and on the other there is a stone passageway that cuts through an arcade of cafés and gourmet shops – the feel is very similar to the Prahran market. And it’s so quiet as I walk down the paved pedestrian road towards the Seine.

Thursday, 10:00 – 11:30, Groupe Laudic, Natixis

I get to this office 10mins early and ask the gentleman at reception to call Daniel, one of my students. At 10:10, I return to the desk and he says that he couldn’t reach him. I ask him to try Antoine (my other student) as well. At 10:15 I call the office and tell them my situation – if the class doesn’t go ahead then I get paid anyway because the students didn’t cancel 48 hours in advance, but I need to wait here for half the length of the lesson before I can leave. Lisa (a lovely English girl who works in the planning department at BTL and has perfect French) says she’ll send the students an email. At 10:30 Antoine collects me, saying no one called him. I ask the gentleman at reception if he tried calling Antoine, but apparently he only called Daniel who is in a meeting.

Antoine is lovely and polite – he worked in aeronautical engineering before moving to banking. He explained why he switched industries (he needed a change), but I don’t really understand why – aeronautical engineering sounds cool! The lesson goes smoothly, but it turns out that Daniel will be away for the next three weeks, and then Antoine will go away for four weeks after that. This means that they will both miss a fair chunk of their 20 hour courses, and spend less than half of their lessons learning together. At the moment this course is back with the planning department, who will determine whether it should continue like this, or whether we should postpone it until September.

Thursday, 3:00 – 4:30, Muriel, Flammarion

This is the first lesson I have outside of the financial sector – Flammarion is a publishing company, so I’m immediately interested. Muriel is lovely. Her English tested lower than Bruno’s, but she seems to be much more adept than him at the exercises I set. What is interesting is that she is perfectly capable of having a conversation, but she has forgotten a lot of her basics – we ended up revising her numbers as well as her parts of speech. She picks things up quickly, though, so I think she’ll be okay with a pre-intermediate book, as long as I continue doing elementary grammar as a supplement.

I’m really surprised at how good I feel when I get out of our first lesson – she seemed so quiet and shy when she first approached me, and when the lesson started I was worried about it being strained and awkward. But by the end she has loosened up so much that I can’t help but feel buoyant.

I’m surprised by how much I enjoy teaching here – this was never a career plan for me, it was just a job I could do that would allow me to travel. But I do enjoy it – I love seeing the different parts of Paris and meeting different people, I like learning what students are interested in and tailoring lessons that they’ll (hopefully) enjoy, and I love that I’m making a difference, even if it is small.

First TEFL classes

I’d already done two two-hour intensive classes at my school, but intensives are planned by someone else so they don’t really count as real teaching. So the pressure was still on when I had to do my first in-company classes.

RATP (the Parisian public transport website) told me that I would need to leave at 8:15am to get to my 9am class on time. Wanting to give myself a bit of breathing room, I left at 7:55am.

If you look at a map of the Paris metro, the south-west end of Line 10 (the Boulogne end) breaks off into two parts, and joins up again for the last two stops. I originally thought that alternate trains took each route. Not so – trains going east take one branch, and trains going west take the other. I needed to change from Line 9 to Line 10 at Michel-Ange-Molitor, which is closed for renovations until July 27. However, as Line 9 also connects with Line 10 at the next station – Michel-Ange-Auteil – I assumed I would be able to change there instead. Not so – Michel-Ange-Auteil was on the wrong branch. I walked around the station for several minutes trying to figure out how to get to Gare D’Austerlitz, then realised that I would have to head back to Boulogne (basically going back the way I came for three or four stops), change there, and get a new train into the city.

Not to worry – I’d left early, so with this hiccup I should still have had enough time to get to the office by 9.

I reached Gare D’Austerlitz with 12 minutes to spare (according to the website, it would take 9 minutes to walk from the station). And I couldn’t find the exit I wanted. I could find the other four of the five exits, but not Quai D’Austerlitz (where the office was).

I stayed calm. I looked at the map of the area and figured out how to get there from another exit. Boulevard l’Hopital intersected with Quai D’Austerlitz, so I took Boulevard l’Hopital and turned left when I hit the river . . . the street sign said Quai Saint Bernard. I’d turned the wrong way. I quickly went back across the road I’d just crossed and was on the right place – Quai D’Austerlitz. I didn’t have enough guts to check the time.

I walked as fast as I could in my skirt and heels to number 47 and told reception that I had a class starting at 9. She looked for the names on her computer and couldn’t find them. I handed her some of my paperwork with my details.

“Oh, I’m sorry Madame, you’re at the wrong address,” she pointed to the address on my paper.

What?! Oh my God, I was already running late.

Luckily the right address was in a street behind Quai D’Austerlitz, so it only took a couple of minutes to get there. I went through the same routine with this receptionist (the clock on the wall said 9:10) and she said she’d call someone to get me. At 9:15 that someone came and, nearly twenty minutes late, the class was underway.

This was my first of three classes for the day (don’t worry – for the others I was a model of punctuality). The first one was great – the three students (two women and a man, two in their late thirties and one in her late forties) had an upper-intermediate level, so we got to joke around a bit and had a few laughs while still getting everything done. We did a unit on presentations, and there was an activity (not mine – from the book) where each one had to persuade the rest of us to buy a washing machine/dishwasher/coffee machine with our fictional social club’s money – I ended up pitting them against each other by getting them to argue why their product was better than the other ones, and watching the debates unfold was very entertaining.

My next class (which was at 47 Quai D’Austerlitz – I didn’t just make up the address) was with one girl who was pre-intermediate. Having only had classes with intermediate and upper-intermediate students, I was surprised at how much of a drop there was in her fluency. I think a lot of it is a practice issue, but I realised that I need to improve my vocab definitions (I have a habit of explaining words with more difficult words). She was also fun, but it was more difficult to figure out what interested her, and to figure out how to make the topics relevant to her.

My third and final class of the day was with two pre-intermediate girls, though only one showed up. She was lovely, and very receptive to grammatical concepts – we did some work on modal verbs and I was just able to give her some simple rules, and she accepted them, no questions asked. She then did the activities using the rules – after one of my intensive classes it was a bit of a relief, she just followed the rules and accepted that they worked, and didn’t really care about why. Unfortunately in this class I hadn’t copied the right audio files, so half of my lesson plan was gone, but I had a number of other activities on hand that I could use. However, this didn’t result in my most dynamic lesson of the day, and at 2:20 I was debating whether or not to give her some more work, or just finish a bit early.

The first lesson went from 9 to 10:30, the second from 11 to 12:30. The third started at 1:30. At 2:25 we’d finished talking and I said that I could give her another activity, or we could finish five minutes early. We decided to finish five minutes early, and it was only after I had left the building and was on my way to the metro that I remembered it was a 90 minute lesson and I’d finished it 35 minutes early. I know – my bad.

I thought about going back, then decided against it – 10 minutes had already passed, which meant that by the time I returned and we’d settled back down there would only be 10 minutes left (the real reason was that I didn’t want to look stupid in Paris and chickened out). So I went to my school’s office to prepare tomorrow’s lessons, and spent two and a half hours hanging out with other teachers in the teachers’ lounge – more importantly, I spent two and a half hours speaking English with fluent English speakers!

So the first classes have gone well, and I’ll try to restrain myself from writing again for a few days :p