Year Abroad Diaries: 8 April 2013

I find it hard to believe I haven’t written in four days. Surely that must be the longest gap in my journal since the Caen stage in October. Then I reflect on the past few days…

Work on Friday was business as usual. The quatrième classes were attentive as normal – although I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what I was meant to be ‘assisting’ them with. in the afternoon, I took Mr C’s more challenging classes: the troisième, whose prematurely complete oral exams triggered a Rock Paper Scissors tournament; and the cinquièmes, who for a change worked well.

A boulangerie - patisserie in Saint Lô
A boulangerie – patisserie in Saint Lô

I was in and out the flat on Friday three times; the final trip of the day to collect Scottish paraphernalia for the school’s open evening. I was there from five till seven in Mr C’s classroom, helping him install displays of sixième work and pinning up some Scottish posters. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. I got to speak to parents and explain how I helped the students (if at all!), I was able to chat in French for a while, I saw the students’ exposées and most interesting of all, I had a good conversation with the deputy headmaster.

Myself, the deputy and Mr C were standing in a circle joking about the weather. The deputy explained how this year had been ‘exceptional’ – snow this year, last year a heat wave which saw Normans sea-swimming in April. I joked that I’d have to return next semester. The deputy head suddenly turned to me and said, ‘If you fancy it, we’d be more than happy to renew your contract. I’ll phone the académie if you come to my office.’ I stared at him, speechless, thus he added, ‘I’ve heard from many teachers that you are one of the best assistants we’ve had here.’ I really did have a tear in my eye. Why is it that this encouragement comes at the last hurdle when it’s almost redundant?

When I returned to the flat (still on a shocked high), R was hot on my heels and joined us in the kitchen for dinner. By that stage I’d been up since 7am. All that I wanted was bed, before another 7am start the following day.

On Saturday morning we went to Saint Lô, not so much to see the town (which is sadly post-war ugly) but to see the local assistants. We passed the majority of our eight hours there in cafés, talking to four other ELAs. Very quickly, the tone turned nostalgic, and it took me most of the day to realise that ‘this is the last time all of us will be together’. I’m not the most emotional or attached person, but it really began to feel like the conclusion.

This is me now, beginning my penultimate week as a language assistant. I’ve been waiting for the end for so long that I cannot assess my emotions. I won’t miss the teaching, but I’ll miss the independence. I won’t miss being so far from home, but over here it’s easier to step back from other people’s problems. I even believe I might get culture shock when I return to Scotland. It will take a while to readjust, especially to living in my parents’ home. I don’t ever want to forget the lessons I’ve learned, but it’s time to move on, again.

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