Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Paris getting dressed

I caught the train to Paris. This isn't something I do often, because it can get expensive, but I had a job interview with a language school.

I'm needing to look for work because the university is cutting staff. I really hope they renew my contract for the second year but it's all looking a bit dicey.

The language teaching industry is known to me, I went down this track back in 2010 when I was trying to get into France through that route, and failed. I know I'm the perfect sort of candidate, with my qualifications and business experience across multiple industries. This was confirmed in the interview. Another thing that was confirmed is the extremely low remuneration and lack of provision for preparation time and travelling between client companies. That's at the employees' own expense. There is no permanent contract with these companies and they don't guarantee hours. Employees are only paid for contact hours so if there are not many clients or it happens to be during the very long French summer, well, there might be little or no pay for months. Despite all this there seems to be no shortage of teachers queuing for an appointment. I won't know if my contract will be renewed for the final year until June and the interviewer said she wouldn't know if there'll be work for me until June so, we'll have to wait and see.

One of my students stayed behind after class today for a chat and to give me some feedback. We chatted for a good 15 minutes and it was great. She told me she was so happy that she'd had me as her teacher and not to lose my enthusiasm as it's just right. She told me not to get disheartened by the lack of participation from the students; they don't know any better and it's not against me personally;in fact the students all like their class. They are normally not given the opportunities to really get to know their teachers as human beings, as school classes are formal and there's always a firm line between teachers and students. She agreed that many students shouldn't be at the university but that's the system, they don't know what else to do. French people don't make changes in their lives so much as anglo-saxons, when life's circumstances change, so there's no such thing as going back to uni and changing career. They need to know that's Ok, she said.

The student admitted her eyes were opened by the fact she'd attended school for 10 months in the US and came back totally excited and stimulated, only to later find herself slipping back into the old sad, French ways.

France is too complicated, it won't move with the times and has hung systems millstones around its neck so it can't move. It does worry me, when I see the state of things, the state of conditions at French universities, the waste of human potential because French teachers don't encourage personal development. Such a shame, I'd love to help, but I'm banned from teaching English in schools because I'm not French, and haven't sat a competitive exam in French, of all things.

We enjoyed talking to each other, my student and I, and I loved watching her blossom and open up in confident English. You'd never realise she was so competent by watching the class. I'm sure she will do very well in the future, and I've promised to help her with things she'd like to learn on our last lesson. I do hope it's not the absolute last lesson I ever teach in my life.

After leaving the interview I decided to walk from l'Etoile to Chatelet via the banks of the Seine. I wanted to see Paris getting dressed up by Spring. It was a bit of a walk with all my bags, heavy coat and business attire but it gave me an opportunity to take pictures. I felt so at ease here, it's still a place of tranquility for my soul - if only someone would give me a job in this city of millions.

I walked past the Musee d'Orsay and saw Thomas Jefferson sunning himself on the quai. On past the Louvre, the Pont des Arts with all the padlocks. Not too many tourists yet, just double-decker green tourist buses doing sightseeing. It's all rather normal for me now, part of my backyard, in fact, but I always appreciate the fact I'm actually here.

 Sometimes even Paris can be mediocre - I ordered a hot chocolate at Gare Montparnasse and an overpriced thing made from powder arrived. Charming waitress, but after paying 4.70 euros for that I didn't bother with anything else.

After all the trains and metros I'd negotiated for my visit I was  keen to catch my train direct to Epernon, chilling out listening to music as the countryside swept by. Gotta love France. 


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