Bonjour, 2017!

Well, look at that. Yet again, 6 months have passed since my last blog post. I really am getting worse and worse at keeping up with this thing. However, I refuse to delete it, or stop, because even if my life here seems more and more normal, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things worth sharing in more detail than I might on Facebook.

For this long overdue post, I’ve decided to start by picking up where my last post left off: Irish music festivals!

Last summer, M and I went to our second Irish music festival. We spent a week in the Alps and I loved every minute of it. In three weeks, we’ll be heading to the Brittany Winter School, an Irish festival that takes place in Arzon, in the region of Brittany. I’m so excited to go to the fiddle workshops, reunite with festival friends, and actually be able to play in a session or two. It’s such a huge change from last year, where I almost didn’t even bring my fiddle with me. One of my goals for 2017 is to record myself playing a tune every week from the Online Irish Academy of Music in order to see myself progress throughout the year. You can check out my Instagram if you want to follow along.

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My fiddle is ready, with its very own sheep cosy.

Other travel plans for this year include a week in Gosport, England at the end of March with my school, a week in Belfast in April with M, and some time in Dallas in August to celebrate our wedding (in July, in France).

I’ve had the chance to participate in the planning and realisation of an Erasmus + exchange project between our high school, a German high school, and a British high school. Over two years, 13 students from each school will work together with theater professionals to learn about WWI history and create a theater piece based on their reactions and feelings about the event and its relation to the current state of political affairs. After an international meeting in Lille in November, we will all head to England in March (and then to Germany in the fall) to finish the research and planning of the piece, which will then be performed in public in all three countries. It’s pretty fun to watch the students work together, mixing languages and personalities. It’s also nice to do something other than teach. Extracurricular activities do not take place at school in France; it’s up to the students to sign up for clubs or lessons outside of school.

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Our trip to Belfast is just an idea floating around right now. We have yet to buy tickets or book anything, but Northern Ireland and Ireland are so affordable to travel to from France that we’re not too rushed. Hopefully we’ll be flying into Dublin, driving up to Belfast, and then driving through a few other cities in Ireland, like Donegal and Sligo. We shall see!

Luckily, M’s parents agree to keep our dog Benji for us every time we travel. He really is one lucky dog. This next trip, however, they will only be keeping Benji for us, and not our dear rabbit Violette, who unfortunately died in December. We miss her so, so much. The impact that an adorable little ball of fur can have on someone’s life is incredible.

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Best bunny ever.

For our big trip to Dallas, however, we will have to find someone to keep Benji Boo for us, as Michel’s parents will be traveling to Dallas as well. We are so excited to be able to have our civil wedding here in France surrounded by close friends and family (including my immediate family who will be here!), and then to be able to celebrate with a blessing and reception in Dallas with even more friends and family who we see much too rarely. It’s going to be a busy month filled with excitement!

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Photo taken by Pierre Clément, all rights reserved.

I have a feeling things will go by very quickly up until then. I’ll keep you posted – or at least, I’ll try to!

hello, summer?

Summer in the North isn’t really the summer that I knew growing up near Dallas, Texas. 55° versus 100°. Rain versus sunshine. Windbreakers versus tank tops.

But when I have a view like this on my evening walks, can I really complain?

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This week has been better: the sun finally came out for my birthday, which was on the 22nd. M and I went for a drink in Lille where some of my friends surprised me and joined us. Since then, I haven’t had to put my winter coat back on – yet – so, maybe summer is finally here!

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My birthday gift: my very own violin, with help from my parents, grandma, and M. Thanks, guys!

Schoolwise, I finished classes in early June. I had half a week off and then had to go check on some 10th graders who were doing their mini summer internships. This past week, I picked up my “birthday present” of 90 national tests to grade in a week’s time. France, unlike the United States, has a national education board. Therefore, all seniors take the same subject tests at the end of their senior year to receive their diploma.

The tests I’m grading are for the students doing a specialty in technology. They took a two hour test made up of two texts, comprehension questions, and a 150 word written expression exercise.

If any of you are wondering what sort of level French high schoolers are supposed to have in English, here’s the test subject for technology students.

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My 90 tests are anonymous, so I have no idea whose tests I’m grading. They’re definitely not students from my school, just in case I might recognise their handwriting. So far, I’ve had tests between 4/20 and 18.5/20. Some students just chose to not answer half of the comprehension questions; others didn’t even write anything for the written expression. But, once in a while, there are tests that are extremely well done. So it’s not TOO bad. I’ve made it through all 90 tests for the comprehension questions, and have done about 20 tests for the expression. So I should have no problem finishing on time!

I finish work for the year on July 7th. Between now and then, I have: my tests to finish grading, half a day of internship presentations by the 10th graders, the school’s end of the year soirée, and three days in Calais to grade make-up exams and act as a jury member of the final grade deliberations for any strange test cases.

After that, my friend Shane will be here to visit for a week! The week after that, M and I are heading down to the Alps for the Celticimes Irish Music Festival! Yippee!

Here’s hoping the weather doesn’t change anytime soon.

Up on the hilltop

Once again, it’s been months since I’ve last posted here. I’m still Haley, I’m still in France, but my goodness, it’s been busy around here. I need to remind myself that I enjoy keeping this blog up and will enjoy looking back on it one day! I even started another blog, Pepper & Cream, to post recipes using all of the amazing local ingredients we get around here at the markets. (I’ve done just as bad of a job keeping up with that one as well!)

So, thanks for sticking around. Here’s what’s new!

Our move to Cassel last June has changed our lives for the better. We have a dog now! His name is Benji and we picked him out from the local shelter. He’s about 2 years old and has become best friends with our bunny, Violette.

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We’ve had several of our “out-of-town” – ha! – friends stay over for a weekend to get the whole Cassel experience: walking around the ramparts, eating at a local estaminet, enjoying our guest bedroom.

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M works from home 2 days a week and I take the train into work every weekday. It allows time for me to grade some papers or take a well-deserved nap.

Most importantly, our little family is rather happy here. And I think we’ll stay in this area for a while!

One developing situation is whether or not I’m destined to be a high school teacher here. I started working full time at a new school this year. It’s a very good high school centrally located in Lille, full of mostly boys as it’s a school focused on scientific studies. I’ve had some problems with classroom management – although this really is not due to the fact that I have mostly boys in class – and it has made me question whether or not I would be happier teaching at a university level rather than in high school.

France is big on recruiting native speakers to teach engineering students and business students. M has some connections in those areas, and a little birdy told me that some schools are already recruiting English teachers for the next school year.

It would be a big decision to make. My teaching certificate, unlike the American versions, is only valid while I teach. I can only take one year off of teaching before it becomes invalid and my spot is given to someone else. (French teaching certificates are given out on a competitive, number-of-spots-based system.) So, if I did leave the secondary school world, I would not be able to teach there again later unless I retook and passed the certification exam.

I won’t say too much about it here (who knows how many of my students have already found this blog), but happy thoughts, prayers, or whatever it is that you do are welcome.

 

c’est le nord!

Oh, northern France. The winter is coming, and I am scared… it is already in the low 50’s every day, the weather is mostly rainy, and the nights are unbearable… ok they’re not that bad but seriously. It’s cold.

I can’t believe it’s only been 3 ½ weeks since I arrived! Not only has the weather changed, but my LIFE has changed. (Once again, being a bit dramatic, but seriously. It has.) I am really enjoying my apartment. It is always a pleasure to be able to meet internationals, and I get to live with three! It’s really nice to be able to share our cultures – which includes the food! – and to have new friends to go out or do everyday things with around the city. It’s also been great to spend time with some fellow assistants like the awesome Cydny! She is from Wisconsin and is hilarious. I’m sure you’ll hear more about her in the future. Another great change is how easy it has become to spend time with the boy. I can hop on a train and be in Lille within 30 minutes and we can eat together during his lunch break, which we did today. That is much different than having to shell out money for a plane ticket and spend 12 hours traveling in order to see each other!

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hello teacher!

Last week was my first round of observations, and I must say it went rather well! In several classes, I’ve stood in front of the room and the students asked me questions about myself ranging from “What is your name?” to “Out of the seven deadly sins, which one do you identify with?” Haha! I can certainly identify with the grammar issues that most students have trouble with. I remember when I was just starting to learn French; I was timid to speak and I definitely made silly errors. I can easily understand the mistakes they are making, thanks to my knowledge of French, which helps me naturally explain what they’ve done wrong.

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me, working for a high school?!

I recently found out that as an English Teaching Assistant, I’ll be working a 7-month contract at the high school and/or middle school level. Although I think that I had originally preferenced elementary schools first on my application, it was a relief to get this contract. I think it will be much less exhausting to deal with rebellious, moody teenagers than a room full of 20 toddlers.

I’ve had previous experience with teens. For example, I have a younger brother named Grant who is now 17 years old. (Oh my goodness gracious, he will be a senior in high school next year. Sad sister moment.) I would be overjoyed to have 20 students in a class who are similar to him, but when you mix in those crazy friends of his… then I get a little scared.

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