Tag: Université de Franche-Comté

From teaching English in France to teaching French in Scotland

From one Fiona (our colleague, Fiona Barclay) to another… Fiona Mears, who graduated a few years back, and who has kept us posted on her travels and teaching career at regular intervals (here and here and here!). Fiona is now back in the UK and about to embark on a new stage in that teaching career:

‘Back in April 2017, my contract at the Université de Franche-Comté where I’d been teaching English for the previous two years came to an end. Since graduating in 2012, I’d been living year by year, predominantly seeking out work which would allow me, first, to stay in France and, second, continue building on my teaching experience. Having lived in France for four years in total, though, I felt it was time to head back to Scotland and, to the great joy of my parents, give the whole ‘settling down’ thing I’d been determinedly avoiding a go!

2018 Fiona Mears Awards ceremony Jul18I’d decided to swap teaching English in France for teaching French in Scotland and had been accepted onto the PGDE Modern Languages course at the University of Glasgow. And what a year it’s been! When people say the PGDE is full-on, they’re not exaggerating. Attending classes at university turned out to be the most relaxing part of the whole course. It came as no surprise that placements were tough: you have to hit the ground running, learn fast and develop a thick skin pretty swiftly. Fortunately, I was very lucky with the mentors and other colleagues I worked with, all of whom were welcoming, supportive and, most importantly, human. We all had our good and bad days, not just me. What I hadn’t expected was that holidays would largely be devoted to writing assignments, which was a shock to the system after the holidays I got in France! At the end of the day though, the hard work and effort everyone put in just made qualifying in June all the more rewarding.

2018 Fiona Mears Grad ball PGDE Picture Jul18

I haven’t ruled out moving back to France or indeed trying out life in another country, but for now I’m enjoying being back in Scotland and can’t wait to start my probation year in August.’

Many thanks to Fiona for this update, congratulations on the PGDE and good luck with the probation year! We look forward to more tales!

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Life as a lectrice in France (Part II!)

It’s four years now since Fiona Mears completed her BA Hons in English and French at Stirling, and two years since she did her MSc in TESOL with us. The intervening period has seen Fiona working at a Language School in Edinburgh and taking up a post as a lectrice (ie an English Language Assistant) at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon back in Autumn 2015. Having been asked to stay on for a second year, Fiona is continuing to juggle the University-level teaching with work in a local Language School and has sent us an update on her adventures in France and in language teaching:

2016-fiona-mears-update-photo-nov16“Life continues in Besançon much as I left it in April, but with one major change: my two closest friends from last year have left, so my social life has taken quite a hit! Between seeing friends who are still here, though, and juggling my two jobs, I’m kept pretty busy. The new semester at the university got underway in September without any hitches and work resumed as normal at the language school after my five-month absence. At the university, things have been easier this time around. I’m teaching many of the same classes as last year, meaning that I know what I’m doing, much of the material is already prepared and I knew a lot of my students from last year which, if nothing else, was a blessing as it meant I didn’t have as many new names to learn. After the mild panic of having to teach it last year, phonetics is a breeze this semester. Even ‘transversal’ classes – language classes for non-specialists – are going more smoothly because I know what works well in the brochure and what to adapt. The only disappointment is that I don’t teach my favourite class from last year: 3rd year listening comprehension and oral expression. You win some, you lose some!

At the language school, too, I’m finding that lesson preparation comes more naturally and takes less time. I can reuse material from last year and, with experience, preparing new resources has become much easier. Back in September, I also started to ‘work’ with a lovely family, tutoring two teenagers in English once a week. I say ‘tutoring’: both of them speak almost perfect English having lived in the UK for a few years, so my role is to help them maintain their level. I go to their house, chat to each of them for a while and then stay for dinner. To be honest, I see it more as socialising than working!

2016-fiona-mears-update-maison-blanche-nov16

Teaching at the university finishes at the beginning of December, so I have just a couple of weeks to go. After that, I’ll have some invigilation to do, speaking exams to help with and I’ll be working at the language school right up until I head home for Christmas. I have a friend coming to visit in December, so our plan is to soak up the festive atmosphere by indulging in a spot of Christmas market hopping before flying home together on the 18th for a much-needed break.”

Thanks once again to Fiona for this update and enjoy the well-earned Christmas break when it comes!

Things to do with a degree in French…

Fiona Mears graduated with a first degree (in French and English Studies) back in 2012 and came back to Stirling to complete an MSc in Translation with TESOL in 2013-14. In between, she has had postings as an English Language Assistant through the British Council’s scheme and, since Autumn 2015, she has been working as a lectrice at the Université Franche-Comté. Before starting that job, though, last Summer, Fiona found herself working at an English Language Summer School in Edinburgh…

“I was delighted when, nearing the end of my second stint as an English Language Assistant in a French high school, I was offered the role of Activity Manager at an English Language Summer School in Edinburgh. What I didn’t fully grasp at the time was just how intense summer school could be, especially for managers. You have no choice but to hit the ground running!

2016 Mears Summer School Photo 1 School

The madness began almost straight away with the arrival of our first group of students and it didn’t really stop! It soon became clear that there are many duties concealed behind the title ‘Activity Manager’; not only did I manage and organise activities and excursions, I took part in them.

As the only member of staff who knew the city, I spent two Saturdays in Stirling, where I relished the experience of climbing the Wallace Monument’s 246 stairs twice in the space of half an hour after all three group leaders on the trip threw a hissy fit and refused to go up. On the upside, I was rewarded with a rare few hours off later that afternoon.

2016 Mears Summer School Photo 3 Kelpies

I also went to places that I had never got round to visiting: Linlithgow Palace, Falkland Palace, Holyrood Palace (good job I enjoy looking round palaces), the Royal Botanic Gardens, Dynamic Earth… As you might imagine, going to such places isn’t a wholly relaxing experience with fifty or so teenagers in tow, but any opportunity to escape the campus was one that I was going to take.

As well, I took part in on-campus activities (playing Ultimate Frisbee was a personal highlight), I carried out placement testing, taught, tour guided, shepherded students into lines in the dining hall and patrolled corridors at night. It all sounds very glamourous, I know. I greeted new arrivals and waved off departures. And on top of this, I did what I had daftly perceived would be my job, that is, making sign-up sheets, confirming bookings, doing staff observations, preparing itineraries, typing risk assessments, setting out materials needed for activities and excursions and generally ensuring everything on the activities side of things ran smoothly.

2016 Mears Summer School Photo 4

All in all, summer school was one of the most stressful, demanding and downright exhausting experiences of my life so far. Yet it was by no means a negative one. It taught me a lot. It gave me my first taste of management, which I discovered I’m not too bad at. It put my organisational and prioritisation skills to the test. I learnt to predict potential hiccups and to have a plan B (and C and D) for everything, and I learnt to think on my feet when problems inevitably cropped up. Having to phone to make and confirm reservations forced me to get over my dislike of talking to strangers over the phone. It put me out of my comfort zone, in a good way. Staying focused and not losing it after a close to 100-hour working week is no easy task – but I did it. I’m just glad that summer school happens in 4-week blocks!”

Updates on Fiona’s new job as a lectrice in France will (hopefully…) follow soon!