Monday, June 27, 2011

Chaperoning TWENTY-ONE 10-11 year olds to the UK…

I just got back from a week in the UK with a class of twenty-one 10-11 year olds. It was quite the exhausting experience, but, nevertheless, it was enjoyable.

Since I started working at L’Ecole Jules Verne in September 2010 I have been helping with the planning and organization of this past week’s weeklong exchange with Bishops Cannings Primary School in Devizes, UK. My main responsibilities included the scheduling of the transportation (on the UK end) and the communication between both the schools via email and telephone. At the beginning I never knew that I was going to be invited to go to the UK with this class, so when Pascal (the school’s director and the CM2 class’ teacher) asked me to go with them I was very excited.

We left for Bishops Cannings Primary School on Monday, June 20 at 9:15AM from the train station in Tours and finally arrived around midnight in the UK. We took a train from Tours to Caen, a bus from Caen to Ouistreham, a ferry across the English Channel from Ouistreham to Portsmouth, and another bus from Portsmouth to Bishops Cannings Primary School! It was a very long journey…about 15-hours of traveling with very excited, screaming, and tired schoolchildren along the way.

When we arrived at Bishops Cannings all of the students were paired with their respective host families. There were two students per each host family. Lesley Thomas, one of the teachers at the school, and her son Matthew (a recent college graduate who has moved back home…) hosted me during my stay in Devizes.

On Tuesday we began our first day of work at Bishops Cannings. We started the day with a morning assembly, where the students at Bishops Cannings sang a religious song (“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”) and Pascal said a few words about our visit and the work we would be doing. Our main project while in England was to create a bilingual, informational video on the region. The funny thing about the assembly was that our students clapped after the religious song because they thought it was a performance for them. OOPS! After the assembly the kids split up into groups (2 English, 2 French) and began preparing texts/commentaries on the sites that we would be visiting the following day in Bath, UK. When school was over many of the kids headed to an afterschool program (athletics) and in the evening there was a bowling event for all the students.

On Wednesday we headed to Bath…on a very gray, rainy day. We arrived and it was pouring rain (and of course there were a handful of students without umbrellas or raincoats). Our first stop was a group tour of the Roman Baths; it was very interesting to see after having been to Italy and having seen ruins of baths. However, I was not able to truly appreciate everything and probably read and looked at about 20% of the stuff at the Roman Baths. I was too worried about herding schoolchildren through and making sure that we did not lose any of the 49 kids! When we finished the tour of the Roman Baths we had a picnic lunch in front of Bath Abbey (the weather cleared up!) and then we split into two groups to wander around Bath and continue filming for our video. My group saw Henrietta Park, Pultney Bridge, Bath Rugby Field, the Royal Crescent, and Victoria Park. When we returned to Devizes, the teachers and their respective hosts headed out to dinner together at the Barge Inn Restaurant.

On Thursday we spent the morning at Bishops Cannings preparing texts/commentaries for our afternoon trips to Stonehenge, three of theWiltshire White Horses, and Avebury.  When we returned from our coach tour of these sites there was a farewell BBQ at Bishops Cannings for all of the students and host families.

We left very early on Friday morning to start our journey back to Tours….5AM from Bishops Cannings! The voyage back home was only slightly more peaceful than the voyage to the UK. We thought that the kids would be so tired from having to wake up around 4AM, but we were wrong. They still proceeded to load up on sugary sweets in the gift shops on the ferry and have enough energy to drive Pascal, Pierre (English teacher at Jules Verne), and myself crazy all the way until we pulled into the Tours train station at 7:36PM.

All in all, this was a wonderful way to end my time in France as a teaching assistant. I was able to experience a school field trip from the other end…allowing me to further appreciate all the teachers I have had since kindergarten. Also, my tolerance for noise has definitely increased too! I got a lot closer to many of my students and it is sad that I will not be teaching them anymore. Many of them asked me if I would be at their schools next year, and I sadly had to say no.

Well, I have 9 more days in France! GAH! -ALEX

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