It snowed a few days ago here in Amiens (although it melted the following day), and since yesterday it has been absolutely freezing. I’m from the Midwest United States, so I am not exaggerating when I say that (my three years in Omaha bring to mind many not-so-fond memories of the snow and the cold). Last night, it dropped to 16 degrees Fahrenheit (-8 C), and even in the middle of the day, it is now only 27 degrees (-3 C). I have ventured out as little as possible in the past week since I’ve written my last post.
Now I can finally say, after five months, twelve weeks of classes, and many an exam, exposé or written dossier (or all three!), I have finally finished my first semester! It’s time to break out the sparkling grape juice and do a celebratory dance… until classes begin again next Monday. I had my last two exams last Monday and filled eight sides of paper all in French about various theoretical and linguistic topics relating to H.P. Grice’s maximes of communication and the argumentative strategies of Albert Camus. Hopefully I won’t have to retake those exams, but I won’t know those grades for a while. I also finally finished my linguistics dossier on English words (anglicismes) used in French food and cooking vocabulary: think cookies, donuts, ketchup, and other such things (whereas they, conversely, have contributed about 60% of all our culinary words, such as bourguignon, à la minute, au gratin, etc.). Now all I need to do is wait and see if I passed my first semester or whether or not I will need to prepare make-up exams in June for the classes for which I do not have the passing 10 average.
On a professional note, I at last know what is required of me in order to teach in a French middle school or high school! This Wednesday I traveled to the neighboring town of Beauvais to attend an info session on l’enseignement catholique in France. As a non-ressortisant(e) de l’Espace européenne, that’s to say, neither a French nor a European citizen, I am effectively barred from teaching in public schools because that requires the fonctionnaire status – as a government civil servant. Which means, although I only want to teach my native tongue to 12-18 year olds, I would still be considered a “government employee”, and as a non-European, that is not a possibility. I can always re-apply to be a public school teacher in four and a half years, upon receiving French citizenship, but in order to remain in France during this time, I need a job. One of those lovely Catch-22’s that you so often encounter in France (See Jennifer Lee’s delightful essay on French Catch-22’s or on Teaching English in France). Luckily, for those willing to jump through a bunch of hoops, there is a solution: private schools.
However, don’t expect to just show up in France and find a French high school willing to hire you – not if it’s “sous contrat de l’État”, that’s to say, funded and reglemented by the government, which the majority of the legitimate and mainstream schools in France, private or public, are. No, in order to get hired by a private school, you must have completed both years of your Masters (I’m in the process), pass both the épreuves d’admissibilité du CAPES (the June written teaching exam, I just signed up for it) and the épreuves d’admission du CAPES (the oral exams scheduled for 2014), follow classes of specific pedagogy and work as a student teacher for a minumum of 12 weeks, and get the approval of the regional Diocese in order to both student teach and be hired full-time. Not to mention the permission of the regional office for the region’s schools (le Rectorat) to teach in France even in private schools. And eventually, pass through the requirements for applying for a work permit (titre de travail) at your local préfecture. As 70% of all private schools in France “sous contrat” are Catholic schools, I am going to follow the procedures and begin my long journey between now and becoming a teacher within the regional school district of Catholic schools. After all, the students learn exactly the same things in the classroom as they do in public schools. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be a student teacher come September!
I’ve had a last few rounds of delicious meals with my German, Tunisian and French friends before my two close friends leave tomorrow for Germany, before embarking on other adventures. Tonight is their fête de départ at the same African café-bar where I myself had my going-away party in 2011!
By the way, it’s been exactly two years since I first arrived in Amiens… How many things have happened since!