Closing one chapter, opening another: In September, I will be moving on from the Gulf Coast to take a 7-month-long position as an English teaching assistant in southern France. The French ministry of education hires teaching assistants to supplement regular language instruction and act as a cultural and linguistic resource in the classroom:
The Teaching Assistant Program in France offers you the opportunity to work in France for 7 to 9 months, teaching English to French students of all ages. Each year, nearly 1,500 American citizens and permanent residents teach in public schools across all regions of metropolitan France and in the overseas departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion. [Source: Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the US]
My assignment is in the town of Aire-sur-l’Adour. Aire is located in the rural southwest of France, in the center of a triangle formed by Bordeaux, Toulouse, and the Spanish border, and is approximately 3 hours from each. Although it’s a small town of 6,00o inhabitants, Aire is home to the Cité Scolaire Gaston Crampe, an academic complex attended by 1,500 students. I will be teaching in one part of the complex, the Lycée (high school) Gaston Crampe.
When I leave Biloxi in September, it will be approximately three years to the day since I first arrived at the Salvation Army volunteer village, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as they say, with little idea of what to expect at the beginning of what I thought would be a one-year fellowship here at the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. That fellowship soon turned into 15 months, then a full-time staff position. It’s been a great three years — challenging and rewarding.
Of course, having come to the Gulf Coast to help deal with one disaster, it’s discouraging to leave in the middle of another. The ongoing oil catastrophe in the Gulf looms over everything, making my departure seem ill-timed, but there’s little I can contribute to this new relief effort — the coast will recover from the oil spill eventually without me. Happily, I can look back on a lot of accomplishments, both personal and collective, and a lot of personal growth.
Although updates to this blog have been few and far between over the past six months, I’m looking forward to picking up the pace as the move to France approaches. Check back often and, as always, take a moment to share your news and thoughts as well.