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Boom! And Other Teaching Internship Shenanigans

January 8, 2019

One of my best decisions this semester was taking the Teaching Internship class. This IES Abroad Nantes class consisted of both the teaching internship seminar at IES Abroad and a teaching internship placement in a school in Nantes. This post is about my experience, but the experiences (and internships) of other students varied widely.

The Teaching Internship Seminar

In the teaching internship seminar, we learned about pedagogy and the education system in France. During the semester, we read about the education system in France, the pathway to becoming a teacher, changes in education policies at the national level, and so on. We also learned about education right from Nantes through presentations at the IES Abroad Center by teachers in Nantes and through visits of different schools in Nantes. Additionally, we discussed lesson plans at the beginning of the semester and shared our own lessons that we presented and tried to troubleshoot difficult situations together. We did a lot of short writing reflections on our readings and the field studies mentioned above throughout the course, and at the end, we also submitted a journal with all of our lessons throughout the semester for our internship and comments on how they went.

The Teaching Internship

We all got placed in different établissements (educational institutions) in Nantes, and at the start of the semester we indicated our preferences for age group to work with. I wanted to work with middle school students, so I wrote that I wanted to work with collégiens (students in collège, or middle school students, ages 11-15). I got placed with L’École-Collège Sainte-Madeleine La Joliverie. I was an English teaching assistant at the same school as one of my good friends on the program (she was with the students in école maternelle, which is like preschool to kindergarten). We both got lucky and happened to have no classes at the IES Abroad center on Thursdays, so we spent the whole day at the school.

Before I go into my own experience, it’s really important to emphasize how varied the experiences are of everyone in my program. Not only were we working with different age groups of students (from the preschoolers of maternelle to staff at the school), we also had extremely different roles and functions, classroom vibes, and school environments. Some students did not have a fixed schedule and worked with many different teachers, and others were in charge of classes entirely on their own, for example.

During the course of my internship, I was a teaching assistant for two classes of cinquième (equivalent of 7th grade), one class of sixième (6th grade), and two classes of troisième (9th grade). I was fortunate because the teacher I was placed with was awesome and had been teaching English at the collège for many years. He was always present and taught the classes, but he was also really receptive to whatever I wanted to do in terms of lessons. I was also able to help regularly in class with things like pronunciation and grammar.

A Few Takeaways

  • Teach from the perspective of a student. I tried to always think about what I appreciate most as a student and try to implement the same activities or ideas (which is why you may find a lot of memes in my presentations). That being said, if it doesn’t work out…
  • Be adaptable. Sometimes, all that means is slowing down and repeating things more clearly to make sure students are comprehending what you’re saying. Sometimes, it means recognizing when things aren’t working and trying something else.
  • Show you care. Every little gesture counts, so I tried to do this by learning as many names as possible and high-fiving every student on the way in and out of class. Something I liked was that each class started with free speech, and students would share what they did over the weekend, what they are interested in, how they were feeling, etc. Asking follow-up questions during free speech was useful for me to get to know them better and for them to practice describing things in English.
  • Have enthusiasm! This is cheesy, but having enthusiasm and expressing excitement made every Thursday more fun not only for the students, but also for me as well.

Other Useful Tips

I checked out the IES Abroad Teaching Internship page before coming to the program, so I packed things like a USB and some American currency for show-and-tell just in case. I didn’t end up using the American currency, but the USB definitely came in handy during my semester. It was useful to have a backup version of my PowerPoint presentations, pictures, videos, and other teaching aids. Also, tinyurl.com was really useful for shortening URLs to something I can easily remember and type in.

In fact, I used tinyurl for my presentation on classroom objects (tinyurl.com/classroomstuff) in the cinquième classes (approximately 7th grade). I said “Boom!” to move on to the next animation, and the students found it fun, so to move on to the subsequent slides we all repeated “Boom!” I loved all these silly shenanigans and wholesome moments throughout the teaching internship, and I highly recommend the class to all future students!

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