Love Today (Difficulties at School, & France)

Well, I finally reached half-term break. And I never thought it would get here! Unfortunately, now it’s already over 😦 This half-term was a lot longer than usual (not only literally, but mentally and physically too). Normally, half-terms are six weeks long, but this one was seven and I spent it with the same kids everyday instead of changing schools every few days. Before I agreed to take the position, this school was my favourite school to work at, but that quickly changed within the first week of my short-term position. I basically ended up getting bullied by 11-16 year olds for the entire time I was there. Why? Because for some reason, the kids here think they’re entitled to everything. Including being disrespectful. Kids threatened to report me. Kids ACTUALLY “reported” me (once cause I wouldn’t let a student go to the washroom – the teacher he complained to obviously didn’t care, and another time cause a student didn’t like the groups I chose for drama class – again, the teacher didn’t care).

Paris all ready for Euro 2016!

Physical incidents in my classroom became at least a weekly thing. Everything was my fault. Kids wouldn’t own up to anything – whether it was that they were talking (“I didn’t say anything!), chewing gum (“I don’t have anything in my mouth! Why do you accuse me of something I didn’t do?!”), being out of their seat (“I was asking for a pen/ruler/eraser!” – when there’s clearly one on their desk), being late (“No, I’m on time! The clock in here is wrong!”)… I was constantly blamed for everything, and the students told me that it would be my fault that they didn’t do any work because: I didn’t have spare pens for the 20 people who asked for them on the daily, I was talking too much, I was going too slow, I was going too fast, I “didn’t tell them about a test,” I “didn’t teach them that,” I wouldn’t let half of the class go to the washroom during a single hour, I wasn’t being strict enough, I was being too strict with giving them behaviour points, the list could go on… The kids here have no problem with telling you everything that you’re doing wrong, and why you’re a bad teacher. On my last day before the break, one of the students said that the next teacher would accept them as they are, unlike me. Good luck with that… Anyway, I had quite a few temper tantrums (by the students, not by me). I was once called every swear word in the book (f***ing idiot, slut, b****, etc.) by a student before he stormed out of the room and slammed the door, all because I asked him to switch seats. I had one student get extremely upset because apparently I didn’t tell them about a quiz: “You didn’t tell us this!” “Yes, I said it about three times last class. It just so happens that only the four people who were actually listening are the only ones who know about it” (and those four backed me up and claimed that I had said it). “No, you didn’t! I hate it when teachers do that! I’m reporting you to the head of science.” “Okay, great. But can you do it after class? You’re wasting class time right now…” “I don’t even like science! It has nothing to do with my life!” “Science IS everyday life…” “No! It has nothing to do with my future. I’m working with kids when I’m older, I won’t need science for that!” “So, what if one of the kids you’re working with has diabetes.. how are you going to know about glucose in the blood, and insulin levels?” “Well, that won’t be my responsibility.” “Yes, it will.” “Well, I think…” “No. I think you’re being ignorant.” The entire class was quiet for once, and a couple of students were giving me thumbs up in the background. Sometimes these students just have to be told how it is. And this student ended up working really hard in every class, and helped me out in class after that event occurred. Anyway, by the fifth week, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was miserable, I was coming home everyday completely hating my job and my life, and then I’d just stay in a bad mood until I went to bed, and wake up in a bad mood because I didn’t want to go to work. On Tuesday at lunch, I wrote my agent and told him I was done. He said he’d talk to the school, but said to expect someone to approach me by the end of the day. I was covering a math lesson that afternoon when the head of science walked in and asked if I could come talk to her after school. On my way there, the vice-principal saw me in the hall and asked if I could talk to her. She was fully determined to get me to stay, and said she was willing to support me in any way that she could in order to keep me there. She asked if there were any specific classes causing problems (obviously the year 9s – in both my science and drama classes), and asked for a list of names of problem students. She then said she would email the head of science in order to get some support set up. I went to the head of science, who did pretty much the same thing as the vice-principal, and tried to get me to stay. Obviously, I can’t say no to peoples’ faces, but it didn’t seem I was really given an option to leave anyway. When I checked my email, the vice-principal had not only emailed the head of science, but cc’d about 10 other staff members in it as well. She also said that I would be sending out an email with a list of all the problem students, and the events that have occurred with them. Therefore, I spent one or two hours that night preparing an informative email for the other staff members. The drama department was extremely supportive, and put all of the students who I listed on report, so they had to reach three targets every drama class or else they’d have one hour detention. This really helped with getting the students to actually participate, as most of them used drama as a “sit and catch up with friends” class. However, I never heard the end of it from the students who were put on report, “Miss, did you talk to Miss So-and-so about me?! Why would you do that? She thinks really highly of me and now she’s going to be upset!” or “Miss, why did you put me on report? Did you put so-and-so on report too? Because he/she talks way more than I do!” One student even gave me the silent treatment for the entire class (yay!). The science department was supportive for about a week, and then the support went back down to normal. They put a different teacher in each one of my classes. The teacher just sat there and did marking, but just them being there helped so much. The first time it happened, the scariest teacher was there. I’m even scared of him! Some of the most talkative students pulled me aside and asked why he was there. “Well, because I talked to the vice-principal about the behaviour of this class.” “Is he going to be here the entire time?!” “I don’t know what his plans are.” “Well, can’t you ask him to leave?” “No, I quite like this. This is the quietest you’ve ever been, and you’re actually getting work done!” “But can’t you say you want a different teacher? Like a nicer one?” “No, you had a nice teacher and you took advantage of it.” “Well is he going to be here next class?” “I’m not sure..” “Well if he’s going to be here, I’m not coming to class!” “Okay then, that’s your choice.” After about a week, teachers stopped showing up to class and the year 9’s went back to their old ways. The year 8’s had also gotten quite bad. There was a lesson where I decided to let them do group work, and the class got completely out of hand. The head of science barged into the classroom (this wasn’t the first time she’d done that) and got extremely upset with the class for being disrespectful not only towards me, but towards her and the entire science department. “Now that you’ve shown us that you’re unwilling to work with miss, with me, or with the science department, miss and I will find the driest, most boring lessons that we can find for you. You’re each going to be given a textbook and you’re going to have to read the textbook every lesson and answer the questions. If you don’t know the answers or if you need help, miss won’t be helping you. From now on, the textbook is your teacher.” Great! Now I had one class that I didn’t have to deal with. And any time someone put up their hand, I just shook my head no. Towards the end of my time, I let the students know I wouldn’t be coming back. And while there were a couple “yes!”‘s, most of the students begged me not to leave. Especially the year 9’s, who vowed that they’d be better if I stayed (doubtful). One student asked if I could name my first daughter Tatiana (after her), to which I replied, “I don’t think I’ll be having kids after this experience.” Anyway, my agent ended up calling me and asking if I’d go back on Monday and Tuesday after the break, to which I replied yes because at least I’ll be tied in for two days of paid work.

One thing that I’ve grown to love while being at this school is challenging the students. As in if they share information or an idea that I know is totally bogus, I’m going to call them on it and do a mini-debate with them. The students are so narrow-minded (as we all most likely were in high school), so it’s always entertaining for me to watch them squirm, trying to come up with evidence to support their ideas, and to present them with other views. The students usually like it as much as I do, because soon they’ll smile and realize that their idea is just as bogus as I thought it was. The students are serial liars, but this is the one time I can really question them without them getting super defensive and upset (unlike when I see a phone out or I see someone chewing gum and I ask them to put it away and they reply with “Put what away?! I don’t have anything!” – Literally happens at least five times a day). One day, the students were talking about another student in the school, who has decided to identify as a female, and throughout the year has started changing her appearance, putting in hair extensions, joining the girls’ phys ed and dance, changed her name, etc. (This isn’t the first time this student has been brought up in one of my classes). Anyway, the conversation eventually progressed into whether or not it would be okay if they punched said student based on if she was a girl or a boy. I then decided to join in on the conversation and just said, “Maybe you just shouldn’t be punching anyone, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about it.” “Wait, you know who we’re talking about?” “Yeah, she’s in one of my classes.” The group of guys started laughing at how I said she. “Well, I think we’re supposed to start referring to her as ’she’…” “Who said that, did Mr. Jones?! (The school principal)” “No, but if that’s what she wants to be seen as, then we should respect what she wants.” One of the boys made a comment, “Well only until he undergoes the procedure will I start referring to him as a she.” “Ummm no, because the procedure is changing the sex, and we’re talking about gender.” “What do you mean?” “The sex is what biology says is male or female – ex. sex chromosomes, reproductive organs, etc. Gender is what society considers is male, female, or somewhere in the middle. Therefore, the procedure really has nothing to do with confirming what she identifies herself as.” The boys then decided to go back to their other conversation… And again, I asked why they would ever need to punch her in the first place. “Well, if he hurt my sister, then I’d have to do something about it. So if I punched him, it’s not really about what he thinks of himself as, it’s how the rest of the world sees him and what they think is okay.” “Ummm no, definitely not. That’s what I was saying before. Gender is a spectrum made by society and how society thinks a male or a female should be perceived. Who’s to say that someone is more or less masculine than someone else? If we put you guys in a group, and numbered each of you from most masculine to least masculine, who makes those rules? Society does. So if said student wants to identify herself as a female, then we respect her wishes.” One student ended up asking if I was on the debate team when I was in school and I said no, why? He was like, “Well, you just have an answer for

My war wounds from Saturday

everything!” I’ve learned that while being here though; the students keep me on my toes, and I know I’m going to have to have an equal comeback to whatever remark a student throws at me. No, you’re not going to burst if I don’t let you go to the washroom. No, you’re not going to die of thirst if I don’t let you get water.

Even though it was quite difficult at work, I still tried keeping myself busy when I wasn’t working. A couple of

My shoe at the end of the night

weeks ago, Jess and I went to Forbidden Nights, which is like a Magic Mike/Cirque de Soleil show, but they keep it classy. I’m pretty sure I was smiling from ear to ear during the entire show, and I’m also pretty sure I managed to record most of the show! After the show finished, they cleared the chairs and made a dance floor, where Jess and I spent a good amount of time dancing (Again, Jess and I both claim we “never dance” when we go out, but somehow every time we go out together, we end up on the dance floor…). We then decided to head closer to home since it was close to midnight and the metros/trains stop working at that point. It was on our way from the Putney train station to the bar when I decided to change out of my heels, but upon taking my shoe off, I looked closer… “Is that blood?!” I showed Jess and yes, nearly half of my shoe was covered in blood. Meaning it had to come from somewhere. I looked at my foot, which was also quite bloody. No pain though! And oddly enough, I never ended up feeling any pain even the day after, or during the healing period. To this day, I still have no idea how it happened. I used to drink responsibly, but apparently that part of my life seems to

be over! I guess now that I’ve had nearly a year of not having to DD, I really have no more excuses. I also ended up going to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, the musical. The set was absolutely amazing! I spent a day shopping in Camden Market with Kim as well, and we found an all-you-can-eat sushi place (finally!), where we explained to the bartender how to make a paralyzer, and ended up paying a crapload of money for it.

For the week off, I decided to go back to France and spend some time with the family there. The cheapest (and longest) option was to go there by bus, which cost me 45 pounds there, and 14 pounds back! It also ended up taking about 10 hours each way, with only one quick stop at border control. I finally arrived in Paris at about 7:30 on Saturday night. Being in Paris for even ten minutes made me realise how much I missed it, even though I didn’t even know I missed it in the first place. All of the familiar sights, smells, sounds – seeing smiling people, hearing French being spoken – I was smiling from ear to ear. I felt the happiest I had been in a long time. I was somewhere familiar in a place that comforted me. An onslaught of different emotions took over me. Even though I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face, I also started tearing up within ten minutes of being there. I was flooded with memories, and I think just the realisation of how unhappy I might have been finally hit me. I knew I was unhappy with my job, but I didn’t realise how much weight it was putting on my emotions and my well-being. I spent that night in a hostel that was located in my favourite area, Montmartre. I was able to walk around the area, enjoy the atmosphere, and I went for dinner at my favourite restaurant, which has a piano bar. I started with French onion soup, had roast chicken with fries, and finished with apple pie. During my meal, I was extremely emotional and kept tearing up since the last time I had been in Paris was almost four years ago. When the server asked where I was from, I could barely say a full sentence without wanting to burst into tears. ‘Come on, what’s going on?! Hold it together!’ I kept telling myself. And then after dinner, I went to the steps of the Sacre Coeur, where everyone gathers to sing songs. There, I let out all of the emotions I was feeling. I had never allowed myself to release any emotions during my time in London because I had went back into my

stone-faced, no-crying-allowed routine. In France, I’m very familiar with crying in public places, as it’s happened multiple times, so this seemed to be the place where it felt safe to let go.

The next day, I met up with my friend Beatrice for lunch, where we talked for hours and then she invited me to go to church with her. Since I had nothing else to do, I decided to come along and then I made my way to Rambouillet afterwards. The kids were really excited to see me, and it was nice to see all of them again! It’s crazy that it had already been five months since I last saw them; time just flies! Within five minutes, the dad said I’ve lost weight since Christmas which was somewhat weird to me, since during Christmas I was actually going to the gym and watching what I was eating and now, I’m doing nothing haha However, France is not the place for a person doing a paleo diet (which is no gluten and no dairy). With baguettes and cheese at every meal, I guess I had to cheat quite a bit more than I usually do this week. On Tuesday, I went to Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines to check out the shops, and then I headed into Paris to have coffee with Beatrice. After that, I went to Le Perray to have dinner with the first family that I au paired for. Alexia is now 19, and she’s in her second year of med school! And Julien is 15/16 and is just learning how to drive. It sure makes me feel old! It was nice to catch up with the family though; it was weird to me because I find having conversations with them a lot easier compared to having conversations with the other family. I feel like I understand them a lot better, and I’m more confident in trying to speak French, which isn’t the case with the other family. On Wednesday, I spent most of the day playing with Elsa: playing barbies, house, drawing and colouring, and watching a movie. It was nice to just forget about all of my adult responsibilities, and be a kid again. However, when Antoine came home from school, he came into Elsa’s room to see me, and Elsa told him to get out. They continued fighting and Antoine said that I didn’t come here to only see her and that I wasn’t HER Janelle and that the world didn’t revolve around her. But Elsa still won when she told on him, and he was forced to leave. The fight continued at dinner time when Antoine explained that it wasn’t fair because Elsa got to play with me all day. Elsa replied, “Well, you all went to Disneyland without me.” Which I guess she had a point… On Thursday,  I did a bit of wandering around Rambouillet and then I came back and spent my last evening with the kids. Since they seem to continuously be on their electronics (Antoine playing video games, Elsa watching tv, and Alice Skyping with her friends), I went out and bought some games and crafts for them to do. We did some painting and I taught them how to play skip-bo, which was nice! The next morning, I went to the Celtique to have coffee with one of the old servers there (to anyone who kept up with my Celtique stories 7 years ago, it was ‘funny guy,’). It was a bit awkward with the language barrier, but it was overall really nice to catch up with him!
I came to France during the worst week possible. There was a scheduled strike on Wednesday and Thursday, so I wasn’t able to go to Paris at all. Then, during the entire time that I was there, it rained non-stop. I know it’s rainy in London but even though it rains almost every day, it usually only rains for 20 minutes to an hour and then stops; it seldomly rains for the entire day. Here in Paris, it was literally the entire day, every day. To the point where buildings and roads were getting flooded. Elsa had school cancelled on Wednesday cause her school had flooded, roads and parking lots had water that reached the tops of vehicles, the street of the hospital was flooded so the police had to use boats as ambulances.. It was crazy! Anne said that the last time this happened was in 1909. So when the strike was lifted on Friday, I was so thankful since I needed to get back to Paris in order to catch my bus on Saturday morning. However, because of the rain, one of the walls next to the track had collapsed, which blocked the train tracks between Rambouillet and Paris. Therefore, we found out that only two trains were leaving that day. I was quite panicked, wondering if I’d make it back to Paris that day, but luckily when I went to the station, they had added more trains onto the schedule, and I was able to take a slow train back to

Paris. The height of the river Seine was insane! Traffic lights were nearly covered, shops that were on the riverside had disappeared, I’ve never seen anything like it! That day, I went for a walk around the Promenade Plantée, which used to be an old railway that travelled over Paris, but they made it into a garden that you can walk along, and see different parts of Paris. The entire walk is about 4.5km, and there wasn’t any rain! I then made a quick trip to the Eiffel Tower before going back to my hostel. My bus left at 9:30 Saturday morning, and was scheduled to arrive in London at 6pm. But as we know from my past travel experiences, not a lot ever goes as planned. Due to the strikes, the bus wasn’t able to take the Eurotunnel on the way back and instead had to catch the ferry. We went through customs at about 2:30pm and then the driver did a headcount 45 minutes later. He said that the ferry left at 4pm, so hopefully everyone would be back by then. Then at 4:05, he made an announcement saying that we were still waiting on one more person to come through customs, and we had missed our ferry. He also said that since it was half-term break, the 5:15 and the 5:45 ferries were fully booked so we might have to wait for one after 6pm. The girl who we were waiting for still hadn’t been released, but came to get all of her stuff off of the bus and go back. Luckily, the 5:15 ferry ended up having room for us, so we ONLY ended up having to sit around for 2-2.5 hours. The ferry ride was 1.5 hours long, so we got to the other side at 6:45, 45 minutes after we were supposed to arrive in London. Then we made our way to London and arrived at the station was 8:15, 2.25 hours late! By that time, we had been travelling for 11 hours and 45 minutes, and everyone was cranky, tired, and ready to get off the bus. But wait, it can’t be that easy! We were stopped outside the bus station by the police, who kept asking the bus driver questions. Apparently, they were suspicious as to why we came so late, and decided that they were going to do a baggage check. BUT no one was allowed off of the bus until they were ready for us. So we literally sat at the bus station in London ON THE BUS for 30-40 more minutes, while we waited for the police to say it was okay to get off and claim our bags, so they could start the check. By this point, kids were crying, people were freaking out about connecting trips, and everyone was in a bad mood. We were finally let off the bus to collect our luggage and then we had to give it to the police, who put it through the metal detectors. I was concerned because I brought my favourite French sausage back, so I wasn’t at all surprised when the police officer came up with my bag and asked whose bag it was. I said it was mine, and he replied with, “Do you have a knife?” And everyone looked at me with shocked faces. “Um, no?” “Like a folding knife?” “No.. I have fingernail clippers?” “Can you open your bag and show me where they might be?” So I did… “Oh yeah, that’s it.” Phew! Then we had to go through the metal detector – take off our belts and empty our pockets, just like in an airport. After that, they took all of our passport information and manually typed it onto their iPads. I finally left the station at 9:15pm, 3.25 hours after I was supposed to arrive! Therefore, I didn’t end up getting home until after 10pm. On Sunday, I spent the day getting ready for the new week – grocery shopping, cleaning, unpacking, etc. Then that evening, I went to Mika! His concert was amazing, probably one of the best ones I’ve

seen! He just seems like a really down-to-earth person, where you leave thinking, “Wow, I’d really like to be friends with that guy.” And his voice is incredible! I (as well as everyone else) was just awestruck at the notes he could reach; I could listen to him for hours! Now I’m back in the real world, but at least I only have six more weeks left until summer holidays!

Home is where the heart is, and a piece of my heart will always be in France. It was the place where I’ve done most of my growing as a person. I came there as a young, shy, naive, and depressed 18-year-old and it was there where I overcame that depression, where I went way outside of my comfort zone and pushed myself to the limits – not only forcing myself to talk to people I didn’t know (which at that time was extremely difficult for me), but doing it in a completely different language. Not only leaving the comfort of everything that was familiar to me, but moving to a completely different part of the world. It was there where I learned to budget my money, with my 2.50€/hour pay rate (when going out for coffee or coke would be equivalent to two hours of work). It was there where I learned how to take other people’s crap not only with a smile, but followed with a, “what can I do next?”, which has allowed me to continue working in other crap jobs and know how to deal with crap customers, bosses, or students with a smile. And it was there where I learned how to play mom to three kids almost overnight, three kids who I’ll love unconditionally for the rest of my life. Even though it was a struggle, even though there were times when I thought I wouldn’t make it, when I’d call home crying, I pushed myself through. And I created friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime. Being there has really made me start comparing that life to the life I have in London, and I can only wonder if London will have that same effect on me five years from now.
One last thing (because I know that this is getting quite long)… I just want everyone to know how happy this makes me. To see that people are taking 10-15 minutes out of their lives wherever they are in the world to read what I’m doing in my life means so much to me; you have no idea. It’s so neat to see the different countries that are taking part in reading my blog, and I can usually figure out who belongs to each one, so thank you 🙂 I hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in less than 8 weeks! Love always
Love Today – Mika