Wednesday, October 1st was the first official day of work. Sort of. I don’t actually start teaching until this coming Tuesday. Instead, we started orientation. This meant different things for different people, some went to Marseille to do I don’t know what. Others went to their schools to meet teachers and fill out paperwork. Personally, I was part of a group that was sent to Avignon (an 1.5 hour bus ride and 35 euro round-trip ticket – which they better reimburse me for!) to be “instructed” on how to fill out paperwork. “Instructed” because the people helping us knew no more about how to fill it out than we did. This took about an hour and a half and then… nothing. We were done.
An hour and a half bus ride. An hour and a half of paperwork. And another hour and a half bus ride home… Okay then. That was a great use of my time.
The benefit of this totally worthwhile first day was that I met some awesome assistants from some of the other small towns in my department. And having already missed the last bus for a couple hours, we decided to grab some lunch and do a little sight-seeing. Which was fun. We went for a walk and visited the Palais des Papes, which was cool. Avignon may definitely be worth a return visit for proper sight-seeing.
Other than contacting schools to plan visits, Thursday and Friday we were free. Monday, however, all of the assistants from the Academie d’Aix-Marseille were gathered together in Marseille.
We were told that the day would start at 8:30 am and so, catching another crack of dawn bus we gathered and made our way to the University in Marseille. Arriving at 8:30 we were given another packet of information, those who had not turned in their paperwork did so, and we signed the list stating that we were, in fact there. And then… nothing again. Coffee, tea, and pastries were provided as we milled aimlessly outside, having been told that the actual presentation part of the morning wouldn’t start until 10 am. So there’s another hour and a half of my life. Oh well. Another opportunity to meet more assistants from the region I guess.
Everything did run on time though at least. At ten o’clock they directed to a lecture hall where they spent the next couple hours going over administrative details and how to do paperwork. Paperwork that we had all already filled out for the most part. A little late to the game there, aren’t we guys?
I was at least impressed that we ended on time though. And from there we got a free lunch at the crous resto, which is like the university’s dining halls and are scattered throughout the city. I ate at them sometimes when I was studying in Paris and they aren’t bad. For 3.10 you get a small entree, large main dish, dessert, and a drink (even wine). And the food’s pretty good too. Overall probably one of the few things that french universities do better than American ones.
After lunch, we were free again and most of us just headed home. The next day it was back to Avignon (luckily myself and another assistant, Rachel, got a ride from one of the TAPIF higher-ups, so we didn’t have to pay for the bus again). This was actually probably the most useful day, if the longest. The day was spent discussing out classes, a bit about the french educational system, and ideas for games and other activities we might be able to integrate into the classroom. A very (very) basic idea of the curriculum as well. If you could even count it that. Well, there was definitely some good information in there.
Overall my feelings about orientation are kind of mixed. The amount of useful information barely matches the amount of not so useful. And I wish that time had been used a little more productively, especially considering all of the travel that was involved and before dawn alarms that were necessary. But I did get some good info, and some paperwork done, and some info to (maybe) help me fill out other things in the future. And I met a lot of new people. And that’s always a good thing. Hopefully, despite living in different towns we’ll all get to visit each other in the coming months.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to (even if I’m still a little nervous) starting my first day of teaching on Tuesday. I’ll let you all know how it goes!