My son and I are leaving our small town in southeastern United States to live for a year in a small town in southeastern France. It couldn't possibly be THAT different, right?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another day in paradise

    My colleagues are an extremely happy crowd.  They feel fortunate to work at the Collège Olivier de Serres because most of them have been in much tougher schools during their career.  They call our school "le paradis" and say that our students are cute and sweet.  They also seem to like our affable principal, Mr. Gallea.  I haven't heard a bad word about him in my six weeks here.  The teachers eat together and take coffee breaks together and laugh a lot.  They occasionally complain about the state of the educational system in general or about the chilly head of discipline, but otherwise, they are content.  It almost feels like being back home at the Day School.  Almost.
    Becoming a rookie teacher after twenty-three years in the profession has been a bit unsettling, but this week I started to finally feel like I was getting into a groove and gaining the respect of more of my students.  I left this afternoon feeling like I could actually teach someone a little English this year.  I had a spring in my step as I headed towards my car, the most gorgeous commute imaginable, and a relaxing weekend.
     Unfortunately, two of our "cute, sweet" students snapped me out of my dream world.  As I crossed the parking lot, I saw Kevin and Thibault stuffing a younger kid into the trashcan at the bus stop.  I put my things down and started walking slowly towards them since the incident appeared to be mild.  I had in mind that I would gently scold them, get the kid out and send everyone on their way.
    Then my two little dears (yes, I am fortunate enough to teach the assailants) tipped the trashcan over onto the pavement with their victim inside.  I picked up speed when a girl started slugging them as payback.  Kevin and Thibault saw me and started running.  I got to the trashcan as the sister was pulling her crying little brother out.  He was holding his arm as if it could be broken, and he was sobbing despite his efforts not to.
    I turned around and screamed for Kevin and Thibault to come back, which they sheepishly did. When I asked them to tell me what had happened, Kevin said "We put him in the trashcan.  So?"  I told him that the kid was hurt.  Again, "so?"  I said that the kid could have broken his arm, to which Kevin nastily replied,  "We're not in the school; we're not in your classroom; this is none of your business."  When I told him, "au contraire," he yelled at me, "I SAID, this is none of your business!  It's between us!"
     I could see that I was getting nowhere with Kevin so I went and got the assistant principal who was still reading him the riot act as I drove off into the sunset.  I hated to leave, but Kevin said that this affair was none of my business so I didn't want to stay where I was unwanted!
    The collège may be paradise to some, but that's only because they have never been to the Spartanburg Day School.  The other day, I told one of my US colleagues to slap me if I ever complain about my job again.  Maybe he can just stuff me into a trashcan.

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