The Emma-pire Strikes Back

Remember that one time I said I’ve have guest bloggers? Well, I’m finally having another guest post from the same lovely who wrote the first one, Emma! This is her short reflection on being back home and how convenient it can be. I can’t help, but agree with a lot of her points. Except the ground floor first floor thing, I’ve always thought the french were crazy for that point. You can find her other post here!

I have hit a momentous mark in being home from France: As of today, it has been one month and ten days. And I have to admit, I’m starting to feel a bit more… normal. I know that everyone talks about how hard it is coming back to the U.S. after being away for an extended period of time, but I always forget how true it is. And even though it has been a month and ten days, and I can maintain a conversation without taking too much time to find the right words, there are still a few quirks about the American lifestyle that I still haven’t gotten used to. Again.
1) The ground floor is also the first floor: After spending all that time in France thinking “Ok, so I have to go to the fifth floor, which is actually the sixth floor”, I now find myself climbing one flight of stairs, looking at the 2 marked on the wall and thinking “How funny. They skipped a floor and didn’t realize.” I’ve been thinking this subconsciously for the past month and ten days, and finally today it hit me: “No, stupid. You’re doing it wrong”. Good.
2) Six o’clock a.m. wake-up calls: Not from my alarm. No. Even though I now have a job (yes it’s temporary, but I’m proud and will shamelessly advertise this fact in this post!) and am taking classes, I really don’t have to be anywhere until noon. Even with a few hours in the morning to run or (more frequently) plan classes and do homework, I still don’t set my alarm until a leisurely 7:30. But without fail, 6:00 hits, and I’m wide awake. I can’t get out of bed on principle; I need my eight (ok, seven) hours! So I just… lay there. I mean, I’ve been sleeping on this schedule for the past 23 some odd years of my life. Why would nine months take all of that away from me? It’s cruel.
3) The radio: I can understand it. I mean, I did reach a level of comprehension in French that allowed me to understand just about everything (even group conversation of five or more people! Again, excuse me for my hubris), but I had forgotten the ease of driving around with NPR, understanding all the witty banter and inside cultural jokes and twists. Word-play is one of the most underrated arts in today’s era, but boy do you appreciate it after the pathetic puns you try to make in a foreign language (e.g. when trying to get a child to eat a kiwi- It’s a kiOUI, not a kiNON).
4) Streets: They are HUGE. I mean, you can park cars on either side of it and STILL drive through. And I don’t mean parking cars by driving up on the sidewalk to do so. I mean six inches from the curb and you can still get your SUV through. ‘Nuf said.
5) Drinking in peace: I’m talking water. Not only am I no longer harassed about having a water bottle with me when I’m out and about, I am joined by the majority of the population. Instead of being gawked at and asked why, I’m told “You should bring your water bottle. It’s a hot one today” by just about everyone.
So though this list is not exhaustive, it does give some food for thought. You never know what you may end up missing. Maybe it’s because they are so little and ingrained in our society that they make themselves particularly loud and obvious at this point in my re-integration. Of course I miss the food and the beer and the wine and the people and the travel and the history and the culture, who wouldn’t? But these subjects are still too painful to elaborate upon at this time. Give me a year, a month and ten days, and then maybe we can talk.

Lessons that worked- #3 Creative Writing Ideas

I’ve been thinking about what my most successful lessons were when it came to both my college and my lycée. And by far, providing creative writing opportunities won by massive landslides.
Towards the end of February, before the holiday, my cooperating teaching at the high school, was being a real gem. So, I decided to teach whatever the hell I wanted to instead of waiting for him to avoid emailing me back and putting my students through more improv speeches I created a short creative writing/story telling unit.

I began week one with them doing a creative writing exercise. I’m sure many of you have done this at one point in time during an english class. You bring out a blank sheet of paper and start a story. After an amount of time you switch papers with someone. I had them group in two and they passed their papers in a circle. I gave them 2-3 minutes to read and add to the story. This took a majority of the 50 minute class I had with them.

They loved it. There was lots of laughing, sabotaging and excitement. I had never seen this class more excited and engaged in an english class. After about 40 minutes, I had the papers return to the original writers and they read through their new stories. I collected them and told them the next week we’d be editing them and practicing telling them to the class.

So this gave me homework, which was fine with me. I typed them all and passed them back the next week. Again most of the class time was consumed by editing and grammar. I created an edit guideline/rubric, example: wc=word choice, sp= spelling, wo=word order, etc.

Afterwards, I had them read their stories to the class just as an ice breaker to being in front of a group.
For their homework, I printed out stories from around the world and passed them out. I asked them to try their best to memorize the stories for next week.

Week three, I came to class and we talked about traits of a good story teller and a bad story teller. Which turned out great! I made a simple graph and wrote down exactly what they said, which is a way of encouraging students to speak up more often. I asked them to think about people who are good story tellers or public speakers (Francois Hollande was not on the great speaker list, which I found hilarious).
I gave them time to practice, because I know frenchies track record with actually doing homework is quite low. I also brought extra stories because most students ‘lost’ theirs over the weekend. *le sigh*
It went relatively well.. except for the first half of my class. A group of girls were not being respectful listeners. I had to pull the talk on them and put them in their place. I had been taking volunteers until this point. I then had the girls go one by one

MUAHAHAHAH The power we gain as assistants!
The next group was equally as disappointing. There came a point where I asked students to raise their hand if they were really interested in English. 4 (not counting the two exchange students) out of the 13 in the class raised their hand. Ouch.
The next week, I was suppose to have them bring their own original story prepared for a “score.” Now as an assistant we aren’t really allowed to grade, but it always seems to happen one way or another. I mostly told them I’d score them to make sure they actually did what I asked them to. Tricky, I know.

Unfortunately, my real gem of a CT cancelled class that day. And then I only saw that class maybe 2 more times before I left for good. I wrote a cool rubric up and everything.final story rubric

So should you choose to include a story telling unit you can feel free to trick your students with this rubric haha. I also recommend planning for a longer unit. Include sequence word practice, more public speaking practice and story development time.

Le Brevet et Le BAC

Since I was no longer a teacher, my middle schoolers were allowed to add me on Facebook. I’m honestly surprised they hadn’t tried earlier. Turns out they forgot my last name. They were totally convinced my name was Erinne Erinne. Totally, small ones.

Now, something I noticed the past couple weeks flying around my Facebook, aside from collège drama, was studying and stressing over the Brevet test.

I had also heard from the kid I tutored while in France. He had a big presentation that would go towards his overall score for his BAC test the following year.

For most american/canadian/english/french learners, we have a rough knowledge/understanding of the BAC test. For many people I just equate it to a high school exit exam plus the SAT. But with a lot more importance. It does measure the quality of education attained by the student, but they can also determine different schools students could qualify to go to. Think of it as a placement test as well.

The BAC was created by the first Napoleon (Yes there was more than one) as the official diploma to enter universities. It was created to test all subjects taken by a student, and cannot be taken and graded for just one subject (except for some foreign languages.)

But over time, things got weird. Really weird. The BAC started shifting and evolving into something new.. actually three somethings. There became 3 types of BACs: L, S, and ES. Starting the first or second year in high school, students must choose a direction for their future classes, future university major, future job.. 16-17 year olds have to choose their future… Sounds scary to me.

Here’s how those letters break down:

L- Litteraire= Literature. Includes, languages, history, philosophy, literature, geography

S- Scientifique= Scientific. Includes, Biology, chemistry, math, physics

ES- Sciences économiques et sociales= Economics and social sciences. Includes, Economics, math, some french and foreign language, History, sociology

When it comes to general entry to universities, frenchies and anyone else will need a BAC score of passing to enter. Unless you want to go to their ‘Ivy League’ schools. Then you’ll need to take some more tests and be stellar.

Now to my surprise, I hadn’t really heard of the Brevet test. This test awards 3eme/9th graders a diploma if they receive a passing score. At the end of the year they are tested on 6 core subjects, and the final at the end of the year is three papers: French,

math, and history/geography. It is very similar to the BAC, in that, they are tested on their education for the past 4 years. It is a very holistic test. It often helps students, parents and counseling faculty to determine the route the student will take with their future; whether they’re an L, S, or ES.

Now, from what I gather, if you fail the Brevet, it does not prohibit you from moving up to high school. Nothing seems to keep students from moving/progressing in school, as grades don’t mean much, when there are two giant tests waiting for them at the end of their college and lycée career.

Which leads me to wonder how much teachers are teaching to the test.
Teaching to the test= Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 1.33.03 PM
This is an on going issue in the US, and it seems the rest of the world. We, of course, need standards to measure progress or effectiveness of our teaching. However, I think tests are not the most effective way of measuring those things. I’m a stubborn die hard researcher and will always value interviews over surveys, participant-observation over bubble sheets; things may take longer to compute, but the results are much rounder and fuller.
Teaching to a test takes away from creative learning and teaching. People are worrying more about test scores than being well rounded life-long learners. Now, test scores are extremely important! They can increase funding and aid to schools and districts, they can help you get into uni, they can also tell teachers where their students may be struggling.
But this leads way for those ‘good testers’ to excel and students like myself and my sister who don’t test well to fail. My sister and I depended on homework scores in our math classes to cushion our grades. We write and research our hearts out. We pray tests will be short answer or essay because there we can fully express our thought process.. fill in the blank or math tests (in general) are difficult for us. Of course we show our work on math tests, if it’s allowed. However, with standardized tests they look at the cold hard numbers. The questions asked for one correct answer, you got it wrong, you may have the work to show your thoughts and can easily find where you hiccuped. Doesn’t matter the answer is C, or D, or A, or B. No partial credit.
Again, those good testers can excel. We all know (or may be) that one person who can cram the night before and Ace an exam. It’s quite a skill to have, but does it mean the information cram can be applied and utilized to the fullest? Maybe? Not necessarily?
I don’t know. I can only hope our education system will get some much needed financial support and our everyday heroes (teachers) get some much needed love and support.
Finally, felicitation to my 3emes who receiving passing scores on the Brevet this week. Good luck to you and your impending choices for your future!

The Tour

In today’s stage of the tour de france, they road from the Coast of Pas-de-Calais into Lille! If you all are near a tv and get the chance to watch highlights or reruns definitely do! The bird’s eye view of Lille was lovely and made me miss le Nord!

Tomorrow the tour is going to be riding on cobblestones. Get excited, mes amis.

Visa appointments at the Consulates– TAPIF Tip #9

It’s been a while.

Again… sorry!! I’ve been in the finding-a-job-and-looking-and-crying-about-grad-school hustle. So far, one interview, and 2 rejections (plus all the online applications that just never seem to get back to you, Looking at you Starbucks.)

Now, future tapifers, your arretes will come. DON’T Stress! School in many regions just finished up. Brevet and BAC tests just finished and teachers are just as drained as the students. They will trickle in slowly. Smaller schools and academies will often get those letters out sooner than larger ones. I received mine in early august. Just a few days after I made my visa appointment.
However, being me, I had already acquainted myself with the consulate website. Being from Alaska, and living in Washington, I had one option of consulate, San Francisco.
Being an assistant is pretty sweet and means we don’t have to pay for a potentially expensive visa, like the spanish assistants (Spain equivalent of TAPIF). Downside, we have to go in person to our consulates and submit paperwork, the spanish assistants just send all of their documents to the consulate in an envelope. Seems like a better deal on their end, when some assistants have to pay airfare to get to the consulate and potentially pay for lodging. Just my opinion.

So this is the most important section of the SFO consulate website. Aside from the appointment making area.

6. Requirements

1. Original passport or travel document (+ ONE COPY of the identity pages).Your passport must have been issued less than 10 years ago, be valid for at least ten months and have at least 2 blank visas pages left.

2. One application form (the English version) filled out completely and signed by the applicant.

3. One ID picture glued/stapled onto the application form

4. the work contract duly stamped by the French authorities :

o For “assistants de langue vivante” : Your “Arrêté de nomination” stamped by the French Ministry of Labor (Direction Départementale du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Formation Professionnelle – D.D.T.E.F.P.) (original + 1 photocopy).

o For “lecteurs de langue étrangère” :

either a work agreement from French Office of immigration and integration (OFII). For more information contact the University in France that will host you or the OFII. This document is usually sent directly by the OFII to the consulate.
or a “protocole d’accueil” for scientist, to be provided by the university (original + 1 photocopy).
o In both cases, make sure you get these documents before coming to the Consulate.

5. One residence form duly filled out (upper part only)

6. A print-out of your e-ticket or online confirmation showing your departutre date to France—one way is ok, assuming your contract is at least for six months

7. A self-addressed prepaid EXPRESS MAIL envelope from the US POST OFFICE ONLY – NO FEDEX / UPS / AIRBORNE EXPRESS accepte

Print and copy all of the documents now. And get a bunch of passport size pictures. You will need a few during your TAPIF experience.

Two major pieces of advice:
1. Have a print of your receipt for your air ticket. They must have a date to ‘start’ your visa on.
2. You have got to bring this form for OFII and keep it safe. AND MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS WRITTEN CLEARLY. The OFII office in France will make your very important sticker based off of your form and if anything is spelled wrong or not dated correctly… well it’s not a good thing.

I would plan to go to your consulate around mid to late August. At the latest. From what I have gathered. As long as you have all your paperwork organized and in order, your visa will have a quick turnaround. Like I said in the past, I had my appointment on monday and then had my passport and paperwork back to me by saturday of the same week.

You should arrive a bit early, but be prepared to wait. This is an immigration/visa office and people will struggle. My appointment time was something like 2:30pm and I didn’t go to the window and speak to the lady till about 2:50 ish. Just due to french attitudes about time and people on the struggle bus. This didn’t matter much to me. I was prepared and it took 10 minutes for everything to be checked signed and have my picture taken… again. Seems redundant to bring in pictures and then get one taken. Whatever France. ha.

Now, be sure to print and make friends with your friendly neighborhood consulate. Try and connect with other assistants in your academie who are going to the same consulate or just other assistants! Chances are you will run into other assistants at your consulate while you wait.

If you have questions ask! Make sure you look through other assistants blogs and direct questions to your academies fb page as well.

Your arretes will come, you will get your visas and you will be in France in a matter of months!

So you didn’t get into Tapif:{

I’ve been waiting to write this post because it makes me sad! But there is still hope.

Unfortuntely, a lot of people did not receive those happytime emails in April. Future hopes were washed away with a short rejection letter. I know lot of you dreamt of being in France; France was your plan, you had to be here. Well, gottdammit, let’s find you a way.

Here are a few options:

Au pair-ing

Short-term volunteer based trips

Fulbright

Grad School

Lectrice

Backpacking adventure!

Now, hopefully, you all had back up plans in mind while waiting to hear from TAPIF. Although, I know for many this was number one, tip-top of the list, no other option.

Gap years are often encouraged for recent graduates so finding some way to travel or work will make you a more rounded (and competitive) candidate for grad school apps or when entering the work force.

A few friend were not accepted into TAPIF, but found an alternative method of getting to France. They became au pairs. Two are living in the suburbs of paris and another is near Nantes. The au pair programs are generally all the same. You interview with a family, submit a CV, resume, necessary documents to prove you’re not a criminal. You live with a care for children of the house, including house work and cooking. You receive an allowance, time off (usually they coincide with the school holidays), and you’re required to attend a language school (usually with other au pairs.)
The link I’ve provided is a general site that connects you to regional agencies. You can of course google to your heart’s content to find au pairing jobs.

Now, volunteering for a short time in the country can lead to future opportunities in that country. There are multiple groups who lead 2-3 week, or longer trips to help rural and urban France.
I found a few general sites what offer a ton of options. Some are language based (teaching english and bettering your french), and others are more ecologically based (green farming, dams, etc.).
Goabroad.com
Gooverseas.com

You can also look into your local churches and see if they have any mission trips going on you can join. I had a close friend volunteer in Cameroon with her church that planned a short visit to France as well. And I say any international experience is great! Maybe look into other french speaking countries in Polynesia or Africa! Learn a new dialect and do great things for other people.

Fulbright is another way of teaching in France. So through my readings and internet searchings, it seems that TAPIF holds certain positions specifically open for Fulbright scholars. Here’s the thing, if you thought TAPIF was competitive, Fulbright is 1,000 times more competitive. These are grant based teaching contracts or research contracts. They have teaching english as a foreign language (TEFL) specific section which will help you future Fulbrighters. There is also a handy person on your Uni’s campus that can help you with more information on applying, usually they can be found in the Career resource center or equivalents.
Again this could be a chance to explore different countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

A creative way of teaching in France is teaching English at a University. Often, TAPIF assistants will transition into Lecteurs and Lectrices at their local universities as English teachers. The responsibilities are somewhat similar to that of being an assistant, but you get paid more and usually better hours. Usually, these jobs are not well advertised and take some digging. I recommend looking through past assistant’s blogs and finding the ones who took this road after their assistantship, they usually know when these jobs arise. (this counts for other languages as well! Spanish, Italian, Russian, Etc.) I found a pretty neat site that discussed getting into a Lectrice job as well as TAPIF, Paris Unraveled. Work on talking up your teaching experience and being TESOL/TESL/TEFL certified will help you surmount the Master degree ‘requirement’.

Or, just agree to go into a master’s degree program in France! Student and assistant visas are two of the easiest to attain (aside from the tourist visa that doesn’t need an application.) As with most things in France, the university application process is full of photo copies and paperwork, pictures, photocopies of paperwork and pictures and time spent in immigration offices. Again, Paris Unraveled has a little diddy on what to do. I guess they also provided a service that helps you apply for only a few fees.. I say you just be an adult and do it yourself, with the help of past assistants blogs and Facebook groups. One important thing to think about is possibly taking the a language test or provide letters of recommendation to show that you can in fact speak french.
Definitely, network and search for specific universities that interest you. Most/Many, french schools have specific focuses or specialties, much like the BACs in high school. Some universities are more engineering focuses, or more literature based.

And finally, just go on an adventure! Plan sometime to come adventure. Travel with a good backpack, a nice camera, comfy shoes, and a good friend. Sleep in dorm style hostel rooms (Or not), drink at 10 am in Southern France, or Eastern Poland. Use French to get around. Learn about yourself while doing arduous travel conditions, sleeping on trains, or in train stations, or on buses. Missing connections and having to think quickly.
Or stay in hotels and go on tours. Free or paid. Travel the way you want, but stay curious.

Now, sweetlings, You have some new things to research and look through. I hope this helps. I’m hoping to have one of my au pair friends guest blog here.. someday.. hopefully… haha. Let me know what your future plans are! And once I’ve figured mine out, I’ll tell you about mine!

Some good reading for those searching through past assistants blogs can be found on my TAPIF Blogs Tag.

Human Shields

Odd title I know, but it will make sense soon.

While in France and since getting back to the US I’ve noticed my readings and researchings being increasingly more intense and femininisty. (Also, I’m aware I invented multiple words in that sentence.) You know, the talk of privilege, the loss of Maya Angelou and Yuri Kochiyama, the horrible shooting in UCSB, hashtag feminist trends, the works. Something that has really stuck out was the defenses we ladies sometimes use. 

Such as human shields. At a bar or anywhere really, should a man/woman/person, make an advance towards you you need old say “Oh I have a boyfriend” because saying “No” does not suffice. No is not a good enough reason for those individuals to stop. Now these are phantom shields and most likely lies made up to protect us.

I noticed since being back that actual human shields ‘protect’ me everyday. I was lucky to not be harassed in France, except for maybe 3 times. I’m lucky that I can count that number on one hand. Number the northern French countryside has more potatoes than horn dogs from what I’ve gathered, but I also had human shields around me.

As a girl, we learn there is power in numbers. Groups going to the bathroom (I struggle to jump on that train), groups go out together or walk home together, we are well versed in the art of Cockblocking/twatswatting, we carry our phones pre dialed to a homegirls number or 911 or we talk to them the entire walk home. Power in numbers.

During my first holiday in Belgium with my lovely WWU ladies, we were four and made good dude friends quickly. We weren’t harassed horribly, but it was noticeable when a friend and I grabbed hands to not lose each other in a crowd on our power walk to the last metro to our hostel. A restaurant’s host offered to take both of us home and said ‘oh lesbians are ok too.’ Heh, yeah right. When girls are alone we still get harassed but there’s no absolutes.

This fact became more evident when Alex and I traveled together. I became invisible. Alex and I walked hand in hand, kissed, and were you know, definitely each others’. We of course received other looks, but I was not being derobed by men’s eyes on the streets of paris, Brussels, or Amsterdam. He was my human shield. I was claimed and all of the actual times I said “No I have a boyfriend” were validated. I like to think I’m not part of the problem, but 3/4 times when a girls says this or an equivalent it’s not true. We don’t need to validate no. Men/Women/Humans should respect No and a woman as a person. The number of men who back down when they hear a girl has a boyfriend is staggering, their respect for a man who may or may not exist exceeds that of the real person in front of them.

Even more shocking was when I traveled with my parents. Now, they were definitely a human shield. I understand completely. I’m not about to seduce Alex with his grandma watching.. or my grandma.. or anyone. Weird. Gross. While we stayed in Marseille, I was of course undress by men’s eyes, to be expected, but I wasn’t cat called.. until I was alone for less than 5 minutes. I ran to Carrefour, the grocery store, for a bottle of wine to go with our french macdo and game shows. My dad had gone back to the room to drop off the food, less than a block away and within that span of buying wine and exiting the store a french man made a soft (laughable) catcall at me. I had white wine in my arms and he said “Oh vin blanc, on peut le boire ensemble.” That’s it, he of course turned his head very hard to allow his eyes to follow my walking away, but really quite tame. Thank goodness, ha. My dad was sent by my mom to retrieve me less than 4 seconds later.

I had no shield so all of a sudden, I was an object to gawk at. 

The same sensation is true here at home. If not more intense. I was walking in Belltown and near the science center in Seattle and had more shouts and hoots out car windows than I had my entire time in France. I was alone, minding my own business, contemplating giving a homeless person the water bottle in my purse and I was startled by a person yelling out their car window. The heck.. But the moment Alex was off work and we were walking around Pike’s Place, I was invisible. For the HIMYM fans, think of the episode where Robin discovers her engagement ring makes her invisible and she no longer gets drinks paid for or other male attention. She had a badge marking her as taken. This depiction does not address the unwanted attention a character like hers might receive, but the free drinks, cutting lines at the bar, and free bagels. 

 

 

Before this phenomenon became evident to me, I noticed myself creating human shields all the time. I had some great dude friends at WWU and if we were out or walking downtown, should be pass a less than hospitable person on our path I was link arms with them, grad their hand, or if they were stellar, they’d switch places with me to put themselves in-between myself and the creepster. They became literal human shields. Alex did it for me when we were in our courting stage. We’d ride the late night shuttle back to campus and he would always sit me next to the window with himself on the outside. He walks with me on the inside of the sidewalk with him closest to traffic. The little things.

I was a part of the phantom shield problem. I didn’t know how to say no without saying no. In third grade, in Mr. Swanson’s class, we were in trouble and had to write lines, 500 lines of his meaning of no. ‘No: no, not any.’ There is no other reason needed. No, not any. No I don’t want any of that. I was scared from that moment, I had recess with held from me and it was a dark dark day in third grade. But in reality, I tried saying no, I actually gave guys my number in bars, but they never responded to me saying no. Like the line from Hercules

24e3d0b1610b2a9448b213b4d336b960
makes total sense. Not.
We (humans in general) should not have to validate saying No. We shouldn’t need human shields to validate saying no. Our rights as humans should be enough. However, until then, ladies and gentlemen, beautiful humans of earth, there is power in numbers, be stubborn when you use the word no, and know we’re all in this together and we can, in fact, make things better. With time.