Summer was never my favorite season, and in fact I’d say for a long time while I was growing up it was truly the one I enjoyed the least. I loved the freedom that summer offered as a child, but I grew up in all the heat and humidity that Louisiana has to offer. By the time August rolled around, I was the child who counted the days until school would start again. New school supplies, new classroom, new teacher, new things to learn. I always had the best teachers ever!
I spent 15 years teaching in St. Louis, Missouri. The same heat and humidity that enveloped the entire region was something to escape, and I had a job that allowed me to do just that. Every summer I had the privilege of running off to the South of France where I could enjoy outdoor summer activities without melting in the heat (even without air conditioning!). Still, I wasn’t at home, and when it was time to go back in August I can remember giddily making lists and notes for the school year that was quickly approaching during the long flight home. I have such fond memories of those trips back home. I looked forward to going back to my classroom and to seeing my students again.
Now I live in the South of France. I feel so fortunate to be at home here. It’s August, and nothing has changed. I’m spending my days making lists, organizing my office, preparing lessons, and really looking forward to next week when I get to see all of my students again. Some students have moved on, and new ones will take their place, but one thing remains constant. As a teacher, this is my “New Year”. It’s a time for renewal, goal setting, and anticipation for what lies ahead. Though I’m now self-employed and not in a traditional classroom setting, I find myself doing the same things I did as a child the week before the new school year, and I can’t wait for it to begin.
I know that I owe this love for education to the teachers who taught me from the time I was a small child all the way through graduate school. Some people aren’t so lucky, and I realize that. This is why I want the students who come my way to have the best learning experience ever, and that is what gives me license to sit here on my computer in my home office pinning away on Pinterest and sharing ideas with colleagues who mostly live in North America. Finding good ideas that work in the classroom is contagious.
The only hard part about teaching from home (on Skype and with students here in Béziers) is finding the students and the time to market myself as a teacher. Any ideas? I’m not afraid of trying something new and thinking outside of the box.
Tomorrow it will have been exactly one year since our container from St. Louis had arrived and we were beginning to move our furniture into our apartment. With our place being on what the French call the second floor, but to Americans is actually the third floor, those 54 steps up to our new abode were a challenge, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. One year ago. Sometimes I wonder where the time went, and other times I know exactly how each moment was spent. Since it hasn’t always been easy, sometimes I wonder how it’s only been a year. We were still in the midst of scrubbing walls, floors, doors, toilets, and sinks when our container arrived. It was exciting, yet frightening to finally enter the door and step into our new life in France. We’d opened the door to enter that corridor of relative homelessness when we’d left our home and friends in St. Louis two months prior. The corridor was familiar territory, not much different than spending two months on vacation in France as we had for the last 15 years. When the container arrived and we set up house and home in Béziers, started filling the cupboards and purchasing school supplies for the kids, the corridor disappeared, and porthole to a previous life had been sealed. It’s not a short term stay, we’re not ephemeral expats living out a dream to spend some time in France. This is our new home. That was one year ago.
I’m a teacher, have always been a teacher. Of course I’d be teaching in France. The idea of teaching English in France frightened me a little, but annoyed me more than anything. “Tu devrais enseigner l’anglais à l’université”, “On m’a dit qu’ils cherchent une prof d’anglais par-ci et par-là.” Wonderful, thanks for your concern, but I’m not an English teacher. I’m a French teacher. I started thinking about that, long and hard. Why, I asked myself, would I consider doing something that I didn’t want to do at 41 years old? Didn’t I deserve more? I really love French, and love teaching it. That was when what I identify now as “the American in me” took over. I can do whatever I want to do, as long as I’m willing to work very hard, and not be intimidated by the threat of failure or having to teach myself how to do something new. One year ago. I told myself that I could do it. I learned to ignore those who told me I couldn’t. I overcame my fear of telling French people that I’m going to teach French here. I started a new business in France. I became an English speaking French teacher in Béziers and on Skype. I told myself that I am good enough. I realized that I am. When I started writing this blog several years ago, I didn’t even want to tell my family and friends about it because I was embarrassed. I was sure my writing was bad, and that nobody would be interested. I didn’t tell my husband about it until I’d been writing for at least 6 months. When I started recording French lessons and putting them on a YouTube channel, nobody knew. They didn’t know because I didn’t tell them. I’m not sure why my self-esteem had dropped from the time I was a young 20-something, but during the last year and a half I have seen myself change. I see now that the greatest hurdle was telling myself that I am good at something, and learning to realize that people who don’t believe in me don’t have the final word on the matter. One year ago. I didn’t know I was good at much. Somewhere inside I guess I knew it, people had told me, but I didn’t believe it. This first year of living in France has taught me that I’m not good at everything (like stress management and not taking on too much for one sane person to handle). However, I’ve accepted that I’m a really good French teacher, and I’m good at meeting new friends. I’m a good mom, too. I’m good at taking on a challenge, and I’m good at learning new things. I guess the most important thing is that I’ve begun to accept myself, and I feel like I’ve made a new friend in me. Now I need to learn to trust my new friend. I think she cares about me more than anyone else can.
Some people complain about tourists. I have a lot of Parisian friends and family, and they moan and groan about the tourists. That’s kind of understandable, because Paris is a huge world capital, and there are always a lot of people out and about. Down here in Béziers it’s a little different because when there are no tourists, you don’t tend to see many people. For about a month we’ve been seeing more and more people in the streets, restaurants, and cafés. That’s partially due to the amazing weather we’ve been having most of the time, and partially due to the mostly Northern European tourists who think that it’s delightful to take a dip in the Mediterranean when the water is only 19 ° (66° F). If you’re from Northern Europe, tell me if it’s true that you love the “plages naturistes“.
Tourists bring vitality this region, and it’s what the economy here thrives upon! 16 years ago, when we lived here for one year after getting married, someone told me that there are 3 passions in Béziers: le rugby, le vin, et la féria! I see now how true that is, and I think that this passion draws tourists to the region. It’s what drew me here summer after summer, until we finally decided to move here last year. Back in St. Louis, summer was definitely not my favorite season. It was too hot to even get outside. Here, even in the summer there’s often a slight sea breeze, and there’s no humidity to speak of. I love to go and sit at the pub across the street and drink a cold beer while the kids ride their bikes and scooters on the big square. I don’t even feel like we need to leave here to go on vacation this year….. but don’t worry, I won’t let that stop us! Until then, I have to say that I LOVE MY JOB, and giving French immersion tours and French lessons in the region this summer is going to be so much fun.
This is a new blog about the Languedoc, and about Béziers in particular! It’s written by my teenage ESL students in Béziers. Their goal is to share everything they love to do around the region with English speaking tourists. What a neat idea! I’m so proud of them. Check it out, and if you have a minute, let them know what you think of what they’re doing. It’s a challenge to do it in English, but they’re motivated!
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, the Médiathèque opens at 10:00 a.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m. On Sundays, it is open from 2-6. On Mondays and Thursdays, the Médiathèque is closed. It has ten sections on three floors. The inscription fee is 18€ for a year, but free if you’re under 25, and you need a card if you want to borrow. Since it’s a public library, you can always go there to read or watch movies, etc. for free. There are computers and activities for children and teenagers. The address is 1, Place du 14 juillet 34500 Béziers. The phone number is 04 99 41 05 50, and you can access their website by clicking here.
MISS J, 12 years old
Would you like to improve your French at the mediatheque ?
Like lots of different languages such as German, Spanish…
Since last September when I launched Love Learning Languages, my online FLE & ESL school, I have had a lot of local people right here in the Languedoc to inquire about group French conversation classes. I started looking around, and found that there’s really nothing like that to be found in Béziers. Café, French conversation, meeting new people… What a fun idea!
If you live in the region, or if you’ll be passing through and want to stop by for an hour of fun, easy going French conversation (with me!), I’d be happy to meet you. I started these group lessons about a month ago, and have a nice little group going. It’s fun, because we talk about all kinds of interesting topics. The participants come from around the world, and it’s an interesting mix of people. Vocabulary & grammar questions come up frequently, and that’s what I’m there for! There are plenty of mini grammar explanations at every conversation. We welcome more members, so check it out at meetup.com.