Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow Day

Hey everyone! Yesterday was by far the best day of the school year. Why, you ask? Because (as I'm sure the title gave away) it was a snow day! I had two out of my four classes canceled and everyone started Christmas vacation one day early, it was great. It was also a huge relief because it wasn't that long ago since I was in school so I know for a fact that every student mentally checks out the week before any break, especially the one involving presents and a jolly guy in red. It's been snowing pretty much nonstop since yesterday morning and the forcast says it will continue to snow at least through Sunday. I'm supposed to go to Fontainebleau (former residence of one Napoleon Bonaparte and wife Josephine) with Marie, one of my fellow English teachers, on Monday but that may be pushed back due to inclement weather.

Until then I have posted some pictures I took recently of the Christmas decorations around town and some of the snow too (under Web Albums, "A Christmas Toucy"). Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

C'est la France...

The last couple weeks have been pretty low-key, just business as usual in Toucy. That was until yesterday, when the students blockaded the entrance of the school...

Ok, now I may have made that sound more dramatic than what really happened, but let me explain. I went down to the teachers' room to make some copies for my 9:15 a.m. class to find a normally vacant room full of teachers jabbering away. I find out from Kathi that, in protest of the new education reforms proposed by the government, every student was standing at the front gate refusing to go to their first class of the day (which starts at 8:15 a.m.). Now the teachers and students called this action a "blocus," or literally translated, "blockade." When I walked down to the front gate to see for myself just what was going I was hoping to see chanting teens with large signs and maybe a bonfire or two... I was utterly disappointed. They were just standing there, chatting to each other like it was a normal break period from class. Their action wasn't even very effective as they moved aside to let teachers and other various administrators onto campus. I stood there in bewilderment for a while at this "blockade" until the bell rang signaling the end of first period class and the 5 minutes the students had to get to their following class. This then became the strangest demonstration I have ever seen when, at the sound of the bell, the students dispersed and headed for class. I mean, how does that work??? "Ok so guys we're gunna protest until second period but then we have to go to class, I can't get another tardy or my mom will KILL me." The teachers didn't know this was happening but none of them seemed upset. In fact, just a couple weeks ago there was a strike by the teachers in protest of the same reforms and half of the them didn't show up to teach class one day. Once in class, I asked my students what it was all about, but more importantly, if there were going to be any more "blockades." One student said yes there will be more, but they haven't yet planned when that would be, perhaps first period after lunch. I offered to give him a copy of my teaching schedule and volunteered any of my class periods as prime demonstration times... We'll see if they take the bait.

As for what they were protesting, it's very complicated and I'm still not exactly sure. I picked up one of the fliers from a student and it was difficult to sift through the yellow journalism-esque writing to get to the facts. The writer was trying to convince the reader that if these reforms were allowed to pass, the French school system would turn into "scholarly ghettos" and lead to "educational sterilization." Pretty over dramatic if you ask me. I did find that the Board of Education wants to make history an option, as opposed to an obligatory class, and they want to do away with an organization that gives orientation to new teachers on how to survive in the French education system. Neither one sounds like a huge change to me, but change in France is constantly being cried out for while at the same time protested against. If only they spent a little time in the US I think they couldn't help but be content with what they have. God forbid they payed a dime out of pocket for their schooling!

Soon I will put up pictures of Christmas around Toucy, but I'm holding out for just a little bit longer in case it keeps snowing, it just started today and it's awesome. More updates to come...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

You know you're in Toucy when...

Inspired by my friends Ian and Leslie's blog, I had to make a list of things characteristically Toucy. These observations are all 100%, unbiasedly true.

You know you're in small town France when...

->You consider buying white jeans to fit in with the guys.

->Your crazy Friday night is hanging out with Francois, a 50 year old homeless man, at the Kebab shop (which closes at 10:30 PM).

->There's no H&M.

->The biggest day of the week is Saturday, when the live farm animals are brought into town for sale.

->A glass of wine is 40 cents less than a coke at the restaurant.

->You run serious danger of being ran over by a tractor crossing the only square in town.

->The picturesque side trail you decide to head down while jogging turns into a run for your life after being chased by a stray donkey.

->Your French friend tells you he will see you at 11:30 am, but you know better than to expect even a call saying he will be late before 2 pm.

->Every villager's attempt to impress you with their English consists of the same three phrases: "'ello," "'ow are you," and "You a sexy bitch."

This week I get to start teaching the opulence of American Christmas, so we'll see how they handle that. More news soon!