The expense of Paris is not a myth, hence I live 75 minutes from my workplace, the École Internationale Bilingue. It’s an international private school with 70 nationalities among its 550 students.
I get up at 5.30am to get to school from my apartment in the suburb of St-Germain-en-Laye. Luckily for me, my husband cooks breakfast while I get ready.
After catching two trains and a bus, I arrive at school at 8am to work while it’s quiet before form time at 8.45am. I’m head of Year 11 and I love being with these 15- and 16-year-olds each morning.
Some days I’m in class from 9am to 1pm with just a 10-minute break. Other days I teach a leisurely two hours in the morning, then complete admin or head of year duties.
We have no heads of department, so I take turns with other English teachers to mark tests for new pupils. In the international sector, new students can arrive or leave at any time, so assessing their English is key as it can affect their placements in other lessons.
At lunch I run revision classes, or meet with students or parents. My afternoons also vary – sometimes I teach until 6pm, but on other days I’m finished in the classroom by 3pm.
Of course, I must sometimes attend parents’ or information evenings, and there is also a curiously French innovation to deal with: the conseil de classe progress review, when we check report card grades are correct and discuss any concerns about children as a faculty. Each pupil is discussed individually – the meeting can take hours.
Thankfully, senior management do not insist on data-tracking and no external body inspects us. I’m grateful that we’re left to get on and teach, and that we have such freedom in our curriculum planning (within the confines of the International Baccalaureate and IGCSE syllabuses), although I do believe some monitoring in the right places is required to motivate staff.
I work for various examining bodies in my “spare” time and try to continue developing professionally by blogging or translating, which is great for being able to better explain to kids the practical applications of English.
I did want to be a journalist, but I love the human touch you get from working with young people. It’s good for them to know you’ve had another life outside teaching and that you understand professional aspirations.
I treasure my journey to and from work, as I’m able to enjoy the view out of the Metro window of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Coeur. Paris may be expensive but it delivers hidden value – not least the privilege of teaching groups of incredibly open-minded young people.
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