On the subject of French schools…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my ticket to France came hand in hand with a contract to teach in a French public high school and although I was trepidatious about how this would pan out, it has easily proved to be one of the best parts of my new Parisian life. By some miracle, I landed a fabulous school with truly wonderful staff and students. As a whole my students have been engaged (and engaging), the teachers are helpful and wonderful (a couple proving to be very good friends), and the TAPIF program has been truly supportive throughout all of my housing madness. (Huge shoutout to the fabulous rector on this one…she’s made of awesome).

The icing on the cake, though? My high school, the Lycée Charlemagne is located in the Marais, right next to Saint-Paul, giving me a lovely and easy commute and a lot of fabulous lunch and shopping options to explore during my off-hours. Not that I need to “sortir” for lunch…the cantine (which is insanely cheap) offers a multi-course lunch complete with wine/beer/cider for the “professeurs”. Because this is France and no school will shirk entirely on food. Case and point: today for lunch I had boiled potatoes and grilled salmon (not fishy tasting at all!) with a creamy lemon sauce, a green lentil salad with slices of ham, bread (bien sur), a slice of emmental cheese, a yogurt, and two (yes TWO) clementines. I was teaching later so I skipped the alcohol, but the dining staff assured me that I am allowed it if I so desire. Absolute awesomesauce.

[I would normally have posted a picture of my meal here, but I was too excited and ate it before I could take one…]

Another way in which this high school differs almost comically from those I grew up with is in its students. I mean, first of all, they’re (for the most part) crazy respectful and well-behaved. We’re talking standing at the beginning of class until I tell them to sit down and lots of “Madame”s to go around. And they are so lovely to teach. Despite all of this incredible politeness, however, I was rather shocked recently when I waltzed up to school and witnessed this scene:


Yes. That is a barricade of trashcans over the doors.

I actually had to call one of the teachers to figure out how to get into the school. Apparently protest culture starts young in France and once a year the students find a cause and shut down the school for  a couple of days. The level to which they are committed varies depending on the student—some were, by their own admittance, definitely just looking for an excuse to cut class—but they all amassed outside megaphone and all.

The first day they protested the recent death of a young protester in the South of France, the second, the deportation of a young student to his country of birth. And I have to say, coming from a country where I think high schoolers are generally in the dark about current events, I quite admired the initiative of these kids. That, and it was pretty hilarious to watch the whole ordeal. The police nonchalantly promised to see the protesting kids next week. The school administrators put everything in lockdown and treated the whole thing like a siege. The teachers? Generally nonplussed. Because in France, c’est la vie.

Art History at Sorbonne-Paris IV

Last week I finally started classes at Paris IV. I’ve been trying to think of clever and fun things to say about them, but I’m drawing a blank. Perhaps it is because I have had to use my brain a lot more this week than normal? Anyway, here’s the basic gist:

1) These classes are very challenging. I don’t feel overly qualified, nor do I know where how my art history knowledge matches up to the other students. Also the language barrier can be a problem. Continue reading