What? A vacation, already??
Yep, you heard correctly. After only 2 weeks in my new position as an English teaching assistant (otherwise known as the English teacher), French schools are on break for “Les Vacances de Toussaint,” for the next week and a half. “What is Toussaint?” you ask. It’s All-Saints Day. Because, even though modern France is pretty secular, the country did emerge out of Catholicism and its Catholic roots are still very visible in the culture. For example, while the USA has embraced (and commercialized) Halloween as our October holiday of choice, France actually made Toussaint a national holiday, giving their citizens a reason to take an extra day off (or, in the case of schools, 8 days off).
Since “assisting” has proved to be way more involved at the elementary school level than I’d anticipated, I’m very grateful for this break and the chance to relax, regroup, and maybe (hopefully) even come back to school in November more prepared to share my language and culture with my students! I’ll be spending 5 days (from Tuesday-Saturday) in the South of France! Specifically exploring Nice and as many surrounding towns as we can journey to using public transportation.
Next Sunday (October 3oth), I come back to real life in Compiègne, giving me 3 full days to accomplish the following: (1) organize my lesson plans for the week, (2) get more organized with lesson planning in general (i.e.- how many weeks am I actually teaching and how many topics/vocab/grammar do I have to teach in that amount of time), (3) Start watching French television on the TV in the common room, (4) look into places/ways I can study French as a second language while I’m here, (5) Find a yoga class! (6) Get a library card! (7) Start researching travel prices and booking cheap weekend trips to neighboring cities/countries!
… Of course, I may add to this list in the next week, but this is a start. I’m determined NOT to waste this great opportunity that I have been given. Sure, this is almost like an extended vacation and it would be easy to waste time reading novels and catching up on American television.
BUT, I’m not here to relax and be lazy (!!) – I’m here to improve my French, to really experience the culture, and to improve myself and my situation at home. My teachers, the Ministry of Education, and my “responsable” are all constantly telling all of us assistants to “profitez!” One of my new favorite french words, a basic translation of “profiter” is “to take advantage of a beneficial situation.” “On doit profiter!” has become somewhat of a mantra to me. I’ve given myself a few weeks to get adjusted to my new surroundings and situation, but next week I’ll have been here for a month and it’s time to get busy!