Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Exam Culture Shock

Today I had two final exams à la fac. In fact, those two exams, Contrôle de Gestion and Espagnol Société et Culture felt more like four exams lol: French, Finance, Spanish and Argentine History. Overall they went alright, although I guess this will be verified when I get the results lol.

I also experienced some "exam culture shock".
  • For instance, if a question is worth 5 marks and the entire exam is worth 20 marks (typical in France), how long should be the response? Especially if the question is simple...? *confused*
  • When I did my undergraduate degree at UWI, it was normal for exams to be what I would call a race against time, in order to write about 10 pages (or more) in 2 hours! Today... well, none of that! lol.
  • I looked around and saw students taking their cool time to answer questions, no one asked for extra paper, and to top it off, almost everyone finished the exam and left early (some even with an hour still to go)!!! By the time half an hour was left, most people had already gone. Bizarre! It (i.e. slower paced exam) worked out for me though --> extra time to think of French/Spanish words and sentence structure, to check over the paper, and double check calculations. With Spanish, I was the last to leave... I had five minutes remaining, but I was feeling kinda bad to keep the invigilator waiting lol. Hope it doesn't cost me! (I personally don't like to leave exams before the time is up... never know what I might have forgotten to include in my answer!)
  • (Two sheets of yellow) Scrap paper to write a Spanish exam? Hmm, no doubt it's good practice, encouraging students to plan properly. I just never had the experience...usually the exam paper was used to jot down a few points before writing in the answer booklet.
  • Another oddity... everyone got to keep their personal belongings (bags, cell phones, notebooks, lecture notes, etc.) next to them!! (e.g. on the empty seat à côté or under the chair). I even heard a couple cell phones ring today during exams! Uhh, what?? Madness!

Well, I have no more exams for a while, yay! Second semester starts in two weeks, and my inner nerd is quite excited for a change in courses lol! But in the meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy some less busy days spent only teaching. *nevertheless I can really do with a vacation ... :-)*

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Studio life

Living in my new studio apartment has been improving ever since I moved in at the end of the year. For example, at the beginning the wireless Internet connection left much to be desired, but it has since sped up a bit! even though it is still usually too slow to stream videos.

If you're in France and want to watch French TV online for free in real time, check out this site from Neuf to view up to 20 channels: Service Télévision sur Ordinateur. Oh, and if you're located anywhere with an Internet connection and just need to listen to/legally stream your favourite music, check out Deezer.


Back to the topic lol. As a result, perhaps the most significant contributor to my bliss is my new TV, yay!!! I bought it at the Emmaüs in La Motte Servolex for 40€ along with an antenna for 5€. I have the following six channels: TF1, France 2, France 3, TV8 Mont-Blanc, Arte and M6. Oh yes, and did I mention that closed captioning/sous-titrage is helping my French! I'm learning new words every day lol :-) (At my last place, my colocataire/propriétaire had provided me with a TV so I could keep up with "Plus Belle la Vie" on France 3 lol).

Here's a brief overview of my studio:
It's located next to one of the schools I work at in La Motte-Servolex. There are a few of us in this building, including the principal and his family next door. (Oh, they have a lovely cat! I'm missing my doggie back home, so it's nice to have a pet closeby). Here's a pic of her when she snuck into my room!

It takes 45 minutes to walk from the apartment to the centre-ville of Chambéry, otherwise, it's just 12 minutes away by bus. The centre-ville of La Motte-Servolex is closeby, but there really isn't anything there to be honest lol. Fortunately, there is also a bus stop in front of the school, and thus less than 100m from my apartment - which is great when I'm in a rush! There are cycle paths too, so once the place starts to warm up I'd really love to do some riding!

The apartment itself is small but a decent size: bedroom, bathroom and another little room connecting the two. Other benefits of being here include: the rent! (obviously! At 5.75€ /night that's a fantastic deal! Well then again it is school housing, so it is subsidised); I can adjust my heating to whatever setting I desire (yay, I don't have to freeze lol); and giant windows/sliding door/false balcony (becase there is a short railing in front of the windows) providing great natural light and lovely mountain views including a view of La Croix du Nivolet. Drawbacks include: not having a real kitchen; the fridge is quite small (which means I have to go shopping at least once a week); there's no stove/oven (I have two hot plates. The first time I used the hot plates I thought I wasn't going to be cooking here again! I soon got over that lol.); and one (bathroom/kitchen) sink in the apartment. There is also no washing machine/dryer so sooner or later I'll have no choice but to visit the (expensive) laundromat... though I did hand-wash some clothes this weekend. Oh, buses also stop running around 8pm, so that's a problem for going out in the night. In spite of the disadvantages, I'm happy here!

It's just really nice renting my own place (=more privacy and independence). Gotta love being an adult lol.

Teaching takes patience but can be fun

The first two weeks of teaching for the new year were *tries to find a word* ok I guess. There were some challenging and fun moments.

Some students were just really hyper (guess they weren't back into school mode as yet). My patience was wearing thin. After starting to feel like a babysitter, I had to tell off students in two classes. In one class some students were throwing pencils, etc across the room to each other during the lesson (I highly doubt they do this with their regular teacher!), and in another class the majority just wasn't paying attention and was noisy. Usually I can deal with students' not paying attention, once they don't disturb the class and distract the ones who are making a genuine effort to learn.

Points to note:

  • When correcting students it's best to speak in their language! So in this case, French instead of English.
  • There may be a few cheeky students who may comment on any errors made (e.g. grammatical) so be prepared! E.g. In my frustration I said ce classe instead of cette classe. This happened when I was telling one of the classes that I don't have to keep working with them and I can change classes. Turns out that my timetable had changed anyway, so I no longer have them. It's kinda sad though, because I had some really nice students!
  • Conneries is apparently a bad word lol. So while it will get the students' attention (get them to hush lol), the more politically correct word to use is bêtises. :-)
Kids say the darnest things! lol. For example, I had my 4èmes ask each other some ESL "Have you ever ...?" conversation questions that I found online. It was quite fun and got the students involved. E.g. Have you ever been on TV? fallen in love at first sight? picked your nose in public? eaten frog legs? (they said it's delicious...) etc. After the exercise, I asked them to create their own questions. One student came up with "Have you ever sucked a lollipop?" His question "appeared" innocent though because when I asked him to translate he said sucette. However, I heard one of the other boys in the class say something about Lil' Wayne's song "Lollipop". I couldn't stop laughing (ah yes, double meanings! Nothing like a little rap music to create an awkward class moment lol), and was like we will NOT be answering that question in class lol. One girl claimed she didn't know what it meant but soon said "ah oui une bit(t)e"!

Overall, I must say that I have been enjoying teaching. Singing with one class (to Maroon 5's "She will be loved"), answering "Have you ever...?" questions, working with the cinquièmes (Form 2 students - around 11/12 yrs old), etc. In general, I think I prefer working with younger children because they tend to be so enthusiastic! and I can be my happy, smiley self (which they respond well too). I hope there are more fun teaching experiences in store! :-)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year 2009! - Holiday Recap

Bonne année, bonne santé! :-)
Before I get into my new year activities, I think I should briefly recap my two weeks break which officially ends tomorrow! Oh noooo lol.

Well, it seemed as though I was not to have any fun over this vacation! All my plans fell threw one after the other, and as a result I was all alone for Christmas in Chambéry. Clearly... this was no fun! but at least I had a decent Internet connection which enabled me to spend the day watching movies and talking to my mom online. Similarly, plans for New Years initially also sont tombés à l'eau. On Monday, however, I moved into a studio apartment next to one of my collèges. The next day (30th dec) I visited Lyon in search for a television! While I didn't get a TV, I did get a nice pair of boots lol.:-) and had my first taste of Subway (veggie sub) in France. Anyway, so when I returned to my apartment that night, I was pleasantly surprised to see a yellow post-it note on my door - it was from one of the principal's daughters (my neighbour), inviting me to go to Lyon with her on the 31st! Wooo hooo!!! Yes yes yes, I accepted! lol

So the next day (31st), the both of us took the train from Chambéry to Lyon (1h30). There we met one of her friends, who took us by some of his friends. Music, drinks, apéritifs, guys:-) (got to speak a lil Spanish!), etc. After staying there for a while, most of the group left and took the métro to Gare de Perrache. There were no controllers that night and there was wrongdoing lol!

Anyway, so once we were at Perrache, the group of us went to one of the guy's apartment (located next to a prison... weird!). I think I heard Britney Spears - "Womanizer" a million times that night! But latin dancing with my new friend from Lyon made up for that! :-)

Soon it was officially 2009!!! There is no public transport after midnight, however, we all left the apartment... to go where exactly? lol. Well, at 12:45am, our walk started. Some minutes later, we were walking past Place Bellecour where there were some police officers (la BAC - Brigade Anti-Criminailité de Lyon). So I just said by the way "C'est pas le moment de faire des conneries!". Well, five minutes later...all of a sudden, like something out of a movie! we see a black car reversing through the street in our direction! Car stops, police jump out and stop two of the guys in our group. (At this point in time, the rest of us were standing a distance away monitoring the situation! Are they going to get arrested? For what?). Well one of the guys had pushed a metal railing at the side of the road (too much to drink perhaps?), and that had apparently upset the police! Fortunately, after a little while the BAC let them go, and the walk continued.

During the walk there were lots of people around saying Bonne année, bonne santé! and there was also a random guy claiming to be Hitch for les coeurs brisés lol. The group eventually split up as some people went to a club on the river, and one of the guys who was almost arrested disappeared and reappeared periodically during the night (too much alcohol? lol). The rest of us continued our walk to my nieghbour's friend's apartment on the other side of Lyon (where we were when we first arrived in Lyon, close to the Gare Part-Dieu)! We eventually arrived there 1h45 mins after we began walking! Exercise for the new year!!!

At the (really nice) apartment, we all relaxed for the new year, with music, drinks, a homemade tuna and tomato cake (tasted good!), I made friends with my latin dancing partner lol, and soon enough everyone was asleep. Later that day, croissants/pain au chocolat/tea/coffee were available for breakfast, and we laughed at funny videos on That evening I returned to Chambéry, happy for a time well spent:-)

Yesterday I visited Annecy. At first I was on the wrong part of the train, which apparently separates to go to Geneva! Annecy was nice (as usual) and I got to do a little shopping (yay, FNAC! lol). At least I had some fun during the break:-) Tomorrow, it's back to uni and teaching...