Wednesday, 25 September 2013

School: a learning curve

It's only been a week, but I can already say with a fair amount of certitude that my time as an ELA here in Quebec is going to be a totally different experience to when I was in Austria. There, apart from certain uninterested students, it wasn't too much of a struggle and I could easily walk out of a lesson feeling like I'd achieved something. This, on the other hand, feels like more of an uphill journey. But I'm glad that I have previous experience working in a foreign school at all.

I'm also finding it challenging to keep up with the fast pace of conversations. I keep reminding myself that I've only been here a couple of weeks so there's no way I would be an expert in Quebec French, but it's hard not to feel disheartened. I am lucky to be living in a relatively urban place, so there are plenty of activities to join (which admittedly I keep putting off, the shame). The thing about being an ELA is that you may only be working 18 hours a week, but there is so much work to be done in other areas. You've got to rely on yourself to pull yourself back up on the horse again; I know that I am the only one who's responsible for what I get out of this year. It's a sobering realisation.

On a more optimistic note, I am enjoying some of the ways in which the school differs to European schools. There are no formal breaktimes before or after lunch, although there are 10-minute gaps between each period to travel between classes or go to the toilet, which I would have much preferred when I was at high school. There are lockers (we just had pegs at school), and announcements are made over the speaker.
This week I have basically just been introducing myself in front of the class, and subjecting myself to questions from the students. I've been asked four times whether I have any kids - I guess when you're a teen, 22 seems really old! And just from interacting with the students when introducing myself in their classes, I have gleaned that there is a rivalry - perhaps even a beef - between the school's football players and hockey players! By the way, they call it le football, and they call British football le soccer. A few more funny moments:
  • Saying a random sentence in German in front of the class (at the teacher's request) and having them try to guess what language it is;
  • Being asked countless times whether I've met One Direction;
  • 'If you have McDonalds in England, how is there no poutine in England?'

Other things that have happened this week:
  • Some friends and I went out to a local student night. 'Man, I Feel Like A Woman!' by Shania Twain played, and by the end of the song every person in the room was doing a line dance (us included - that goes without saying).
  • I saw my first moose... albeit a dead one. After school we were driving down the highway, when my mentor pointed out a moose carcass on the back of a pickup truck. Its legs were sticking in the air, it had been decapitated and there was a bloody orifice where its head had been, yet the weird thing is I wouldn't have noticed it if he hadn't brought it to my attention. Hunting season has begun, and even though I personally have certain reservations against killing and eating animals, I acknowledge that it's part of the lifestyle here and I'm morbidly curious about it.
  • On my phone I discovered a tip-calculator feature... the answer to all my prayers!
  • Just as I was beginning to think they didn't exist round here, I finally discovered the section in the supermarket with the tofu and veggie sausages. There's also a whole foods shop selling that kind of thing a short walk away from my place, which I'm thrilled about. 
  • I was given a TV! This is really good because it means that I can immerse myself into French by having it on in the background while cooking or something. Even if it's just something like Un souper presque parfait (Quebec's Come Dine With Me) or terrible game shows, it makes me feel like I'm improving with minimal effort.