Since she graduated from her first degree in English Studies and French back in 2012, we’ve been pleased to get updates from French at Stirling graduate, Fiona Mears, on where her degree has taken her. As Fiona prepares to set off for a second year as a lectrice in France, we’ve asked her to tell us what life has been like in her first year in the job:
‘After working at a language school in Edinburgh over summer 2015, I embarked on my next adventure in France, this time as a lectrice at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon. Having taught teenagers in various educational settings, I felt ready for the new challenge of working with older students – at both undergrad and postgrad level – and teaching areas of language that I had never tackled before.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to work across a range of modules, from oral expression and phonetics to creative writing and translation. Although daunting at first, creative writing ended up being one of the most enjoyable classes to teach. The primary guidelines were such: get them to write. The freedom to think outside the box allowed me to plan lessons which encouraged students to have fun with language and to really use their imagination. My students didn’t disappoint when it came to the latter, making for some interesting reading come marking time!
Never having studied it myself, phonetics proved more troublesome. The first weeks of my phonetics learning/teaching experience were spent being spoon-fed information and desperately hoping that students wouldn’t ask too many questions in class. But I soon got the hang of it and in the process learnt a valuable skill for any language teacher.
As in all jobs, though, there were some tricky situations and system-related difficulties to navigate. Most of my gripes stem from the policy of not preselecting students, the direct outcome of which being that the attitude and behaviour of certain students is, to say the least, not what you would expect at higher education. Organisational anomalies can also prove frustrating, as can the infamous French bureaucracy. That said, the positive aspects of the job far outweigh the negatives, so much so that I jumped at the offer to return to the post for a second year beginning next month.
Never one to allow myself too much free time, I also worked for a local language school throughout the year teaching business English to professionals. I quickly discovered that going out to companies and working with adults in a non-educational context brings its own challenges and rewards, and provides a welcome change to the standard classroom environment. The one downside to being kept so busy is that I was unable to travel as much as I would have liked during the year, but there will be plenty time for that when I finish up next April. For now, I’m making the most of my last weeks in Scotland before heading back to France to pick up where I left off.’
We look forward to more updates (and some postcards…) from Fiona in the future and wish her all the best for her second year at UFC!