Yesterday I went to my first (of two total) orientation sessions for the TAPIF program. While some académies bring all assistants together, since the Académie de Lyon is one of the largest, our orientations were split up by département. Oyonnax is located in the départment of Ain and all assistants in Ain had orientation in the city of Bourg-en-Bresse. I visited Bourg the first weekend I was in France, and its about an hour train ride from Oyonnax. I took an early train with the 4 other assistants in our town: 1 from the US, 1 from Spain, 1 from Germany, and 1 from Italy! There was a bit of a worry session when the train broke down shortly after leaving Oyonnax, but we only arrived 15 minutes later than scheduled so we had plenty of time to get to orientation on time.
The orientation, or formation as called in France, was held at a high school in Bourg in a conference room. Fortunately there were signs posted so the foreign language assistants (kind of) knew where to go within the campus. Once we nervously popped our heads in we immediately knew we were in the right place: lots of English! Although the formation was for all foreign language assistants in Ain (there were Spanish, German, and Italian assistants present), the vast majority were anglophone. Orientation was conducted in French, as the common language.
The first part of orientation consisted of explaining some procedures to us, if we hadnt started or our contact teacher hadnt been helpful, such as registering for health insurance, immigration, getting a bank account, housing, etc. Since my reference teacher has been very involved, that didn`t apply to me so much. There were representatives from additional health insurance companies present to take our information as well.
The second part of the morning involved situating our place as foreign language assistants in the school and community. Our vie hors lycée (life outside of school) was broken down into human interaction, through friendships and immersion, as well as joining clubs and activities, and materials, such as lodging and banking. Our vie au lycée (life inside school) was much more in depth and interesting. We were instructed that as assistants, we were members of the faculty and so students were required to not only use the formal vous with us but had to listen to us in regards to chewing gum, smoking on school grounds and wearing hats inside. Honestly, telling students to spit out their gum and put out cigarettes will be a bit odd-that I`m a teacher now!
Our roles as assistants are to help the teachers and work on students oral communication skills. We have to debrief the main teacher after each lesson we conduct, and focus on allowing the students to speak English as much as possible. Luckily, at our orientation we were given a packet with initial ideas on group activities and conversation starters!
After orientation ended at noon, we had a chance to have lunch in Bourg and get to know the other assistants in Ain, which was great! I found out that another assistant studied abroad in Montpellier for the summer and actually arrived just a week after I left!
Orientation was informative and it was great to have a chance to meet other assistants who would like to travel around during our breaks. We`ll be having another daylong session sometime in December to go over French teaching styles and help with lesson planning.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!