I just got back from my second day of volunteering in a French Lycée (high school) and I just have to write about the teacher's lounge!
Now, I have completed two placements thus far in my university career as well as a few other volunteer positions, so I'm no stranger to how teacher's lounges work in Canada. In the ones that I've been to, teachers bring their own lunch, stay in the lounge for about 15 minutes to eat, and then head out to finish marking or planning their lessons. I often find the teacher's lounge a little awkward as a student teacher, because as a student teacher you don't have to leave to do work... so I usually end up finishing homework or reading at the end of lunch. Last year's placement was even more interesting for me, as I had a different host teacher in the morning than in the afternoon, so I had to go into the teacher's lounge all alone. I eventually found some teachers to eat with each week, but at the beginning it was very awkward. I actually found that the younger teachers were much colder whereas the older teachers were much more welcoming.
In France, the teacher's lounge is very different. The students have about 2 hours off (they start earlier and end later though) and so do the teachers. Very few teachers bring their own lunch, as you can purchase meal tickets and get a meal very similar to the ones I can get in the student cafeteria. It consists of a salad, a main course (usually cooked veggies, some sort of meat, and either pasta/rice/fries), bread, and a dessert and fruit. You can also get an espresso along with that (I am now a fan). It is a pretty complete meal! Then, the teachers take about an hour to eat and catch up. Another interesting addition to the French teacher's caf: wine! They actually have bottles sitting out and the teachers are free to drink if they so choose. I saw one teacher down a whole glass of wine before heading out today. Bizarre!
As for the conversation, well, it's pretty much the same. The one difference is that at my school here, there are about 1200 students, so the teachers can't possibly know each student. In Canada, the teachers would generally know the students in smaller schools, and could therefore discuss different students' behaviour. I couldn't believe in Canada how much the teachers actually talked about the students! Today, the conversation revolved around American movies, laws against hitting children (at home, not at school), where to put your meal tickets when you don't have pockets, an award my teacher won, different units, and girls who dressed up too much for school.
Which brings me to another interesting point: the teacher's dress code. Or lack thereof! In Canada, we are pretty much required to dress professionally (or at least, I've had to thus far in my placements), and jeans are a definite no-no. Here, you can basically wear whatever, your hair can be whatever, it doesn't really matter. But in general, I feel like in Canada we try really hard to make ourselves look good... over here, they don't really do much and they always look really well put-together, even when you can tell they didn't really try. The casual French fashion... coveted by the rest of the world!
I really enjoyed the teacher's lounge. Sometimes I wasn't able to understand everything, as they spoke pretty quickly and about topics I wasn't familiar with, but they tried to include me which was nice. And they were very animated, so even when I didn't understand I could pretend.
I am continuing to enjoy learning more about the French school system, and in particular how language is taught.
One more fun fact: did you know that we have two different pronunciations for the "th" sound? There is one as in : the, this, there, etc. and one as in : think, thank, etc. One is more open and one comes from the throat. I never knew! It is one of the sounds that the French students really struggle with. The others are "r" and "h". For us, we struggle with "r" and some vowels apparently.
And now it is a beautiful, 15 degrees and sunny day, so I'm going to head out for a run... in shorts and a t-shirt. I could get used to this in mid-November!