Thursday, June 20, 2013

Off to a great start with castles all around!

I'm really happy to share that the past few days have been extremely charged but very exciting! On Monday, the students came to school and spent a lot of time chatting about their host families. First things first, they took a placement exam to mark their level at the beginning of the program, which they'll do again at the end to measure their progress. Afterwards, we began orientation and allowed for a bit of free time before lunch.

Around noon, we headed over to the cafeteria, which is about a 15 minute walk from the school. The main chef is very friendly and knows about the "no English" rule, prompting students along as they request what they'd like to eat. There are a lot of choices available. Here's an idea of what students can take:
  • a hefty portion of bread - about 1/3 of an entire fresh baguette 
  • one entrĂ©e, such as cucumbers and tomatoes, cut up & seasoned carrots, potato salad, melon etc.
  • one "milk product"- a choice between yogurt or cheese
  • one dessert, such as fruit, chocolate mousse, tarts, etc. 
  • one hot main plate, including a meat choice - and there are usually about three different options - as well as about three (unlimited) vegetable choices.
Let's just say we're eating well! 

After lunch we went on a long "photo walking tour" where Michael took the lead and showed everyone things around town, beginning with the chateau of Saumur overlooking the Loire river. It was an absolutely beautiful day and it allowed the students to take some initial pictures of the city as well as become more familiar with their surroundings. Here's a group photo with the chateau behind us!

Monday evening (yes, still Monday!), we had a host family and student meeting at the school. The purpose was to welcome the families, go over expectations - including the Honor Code, answer specific questions, and talk through "scenarios" that can arise - such as what to do when a student doesn't understand a specific word or phrase. It also gave us as instructors an opportunity to chat one-on-one with the families more in depth about how the first few days went. 

Tuesday was another morning of orientation, where we went over the Honor Code once more and added our "own" rules, such as not being exclusive or unkind to each other based on level of French, encouraging one another, and always making sure to have a watch and a map on hand! We then came up with our "group slogan" which was "Rester Calme et Jouer aux Cartes," or "Stay Calm and Play Cards." Playing cards has been the go-to activity for the whole group - every moment they get a break, you'll immediately see about three or four packs of cards open! We even named our meeting room "the card room." Cards, take one:

After lunch on Tuesday we broke out into "support groups," which are groups of 6-7 students paired with an instructor. Every day this summer, we'll have 25 minutes of "support group" time, where we'll either discuss how things are going at home or work on phonetics. The idea is that as a smaller and consistent group, students will have the opportunity to confide in one another and ideally feel more comfortable talking more in depth about their experience. In our support groups on Tuesday, we talked about our personalities as well as how the first few days had been.

Following support groups, we split into our afternoon activity groups. Every Monday and Thursday students will participate either in choir or theatre, working on pieces to perform at the farewell show for host families. Tuesdays are "small groups," where students will be working on an activity - such as a dance or comedy sketch - of their choice to perform at the farewell show as well. Wednesdays are sports, and Fridays will generally be games or excursions.

Yesterday was finally our first day of classes! Students are in three groups of 8-9 each for classes. Every day they'll have literature, culture, linguistics, and grammar. We have three classes of 45 minutes each followed by support groups before lunch, then a break and another class after lunch, ending the day with one of the activities mentioned above. It was exciting for instructors and students alike to delve into classroom material together. For sports, we played ping pong, badminton, and dogeball.

Today was our first excursion to visit three different castles along the Loire River. We started out the day visiting Chambord, continued along to Blois for lunch where students ate sack lunches prepared by their host families, and ended at Chenonceau. The students were placed in groups of 4-5 each that they had to stay with the entire day. Not only does this ensure more security during trips, but having mixed groups also allows students to get to know others they might not have had the chance to talk with much before. After quite the downpour yesterday, it was a lovely rain-free day for our excursion! Here are a few students - Calvin, Emily, Kim, and Jay - in front of Chenonceau:

What is especially nice about this group is that they are very supportive of one another and are attentive to making sure everyone is included. I'll be posting (a lot of) photos to flickr soon! Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the details in this blog and for the wonderful photos on Flickr. They may all be far away from us, but it brings them closer when we can see their smiling faces in front of places some people can only dream about. Thank you - all four of you - for taking care of my baby girl.