April 12, 2014, by Guest blog

“I do not go back to England every night after the end of school, and come back to France the next morning!”

As I sit writing my penultimate blog entry, I am acutely aware than I have only nine more hours of teaching left at Jean Jaures primary school. Despite the fact that I have been teaching these small children for the best part of six months, I still have to remind at least two people a week that I am not American, that I am not French (generally, a child in my CP class, if I use the wrong article for a noun, or pronounce something in a distinctly non-French fashion) and that I do not, in fact, go back to England every night after the end of school, and come back to France the next morning. I sometimes wonder if I explained these things badly at the beginning of my assistantship, despite distinctly remembering presenting myself to my older classes as ‘Amy, from the West Midlands. The West Midlands are in England’ several times and excruciatingly slowly, and in French for the benefit of the really tiny. So, maybe they didn’t listen (likely), didn’t think it was particularly important to remember these details about me (even more likely) or really do believe that England is in America. Basically, I often feel like I haven’t made all that much progress with these children. Yes, I do know almost all of their names. And yes, they do run up to me screaming “‘Ello Amy” every time I walk through the playground. I even think some of the older students have made some real progress in terms of their language skills (I was almost stunned into silence when a student in one of my CM2 classes announced ‘I must not sleep in the classroom’ in perfect English when we were listing our classroom rules). But, I get the impression that come April 30th, I will be a vague memory to most of them, that nice lady who turned up once or twice a week in the classroom to count in a weird foreign language with us, or to tell us about English breakfasts. I don’t mind though, because their outpourings of love whilst I am actually there are incredibly sweet, and they’re young. I can barely name all the teachers I had as a child, even the ones who taught me for years.

In contrast to this, the ‘grown up’ friends I have made here will hopefully be a part of my life for a very long time to come. Travelling 500 miles to a foreign country only to find that one of the closest friends you make lives twenty minutes away from you in England is a weird feeling. A nice weird feeling, however, and one which gives me hope that Scarlett and I will continue to be friends for many more years. Then there is my adopted French family (I already have an advance invitation to Cerise’s wedding- not that she even has a boyfriend, it’s just a general open invitation for when the time comes) and I have promised Jean-Claude and Catherine that should I ever actually marry a Duke, they can have front row seats at my wedding. Then there are my international friends, Sarah from Germany, Colin from Washington, Ayelen from Missouri (via Argentina), Mariana from Miami (via Columbia) and Yen from Canada. These people, some of whom I met an hour after landing in Bordeaux, some of whom were friends of friends, or helped when I was hopelessly lost trying to find the Inspection de Talence, have shaped my time here. I have shared so many wonderful experiences with them; a Gershwin opera, chickpea chocolate brownies, lazing around in the sun eating magnificent ice cream. My time here would not have been it has been without them.

Posted in Making connections