Calling it work would be a bit of a misnomer. The students whom I will be teaching are not very far advanced. While it will certainly be advantageous for them to be in close contact with a native speaker at a young age, I would be able to help them more if they were more advanced. What I have that their English teachers may lack is an understanding of the subtleties of the English language that belongs almost exclusively to native speakers. This native understanding doesn’t really come into play when I’m working with the kids on introducing themselves.
On the other hand, the close proximity to a native speaker early on in their academic careers might inspire a stronger interest than they would otherwise have and perhaps give them an appreciation for the sounds a native speaker makes versus those of a foreign speaker.
At Collège Hippolyte Rémy, the exterior of which looks astonishingly like a prison (pictures to come when at-home internet access does), I was with 3 students at a time for 30 minutes per group. When they’re divided into such small groups, there really is no escaping the “teacher’s” gaze. Everyone was forced to speak, no matter how limited their English. It quickly became clear that the ones who were comfortable with English were also the most curious and the most well-behaved, but of course it’s impossible to say whether it was the fact that they were well-behaved that caused them to speak better, or whether it was their ready facility with language (and probably school in general) that made them more confident and well-behaved.
At Collège Madame de Lafayette I have not yet been left to my own devices, but I’m told that I will have half a class at a time (between 10 and 15 pupils–this is the somewhat out-moded word they use instead of “students”). Today I was presented to a couple different classes of 5eme [sank-ee-em], who must have been between 11 to 13 years old. They mostly just asked me simple questions relating to my name, origin, preferences, such as, “Where-uh are-uh you-uh from-uh?” and “You laike-uh seeng-GAIR?” (Which I puzzled out to an approximate: “Do you have a favorite singer?” One even asked me if I had any children! Another wanted me to sing some lines from an American song! Despite my usual proclivity for bursting into song, I found that at just that moment no songs came to mind, so I promised her that I would sing for her some other time.
An interesting note on Le Collège Madame de Lafayette: while I was walking through Coulommiers several days ago with the principal of that fine institution, Madame LeMoys, she told me about how the middle school had originally been constructed around 1890. Then, 20 years ago or thereabouts, It was demolished and rebuilt with a modern interior, but with the same stones and with the same exterior design. Also interesting about Coulommier’s buildings is that the current library is the former prison. All of these places will eventually be catalogued for your benefit.
Oh yeah! Montaigne. He was pretty much ignored this time. This essay wasn’t even included in the French version, so I only had the English. But the title for those who are interested is “That our affections carry themselves beyond us,” which though pretty indecipherable without reading the essay eventually becomes clear as meaning that we all want our memory to live on beyond our deaths. Death didn’t seem an appropriate topic to correspond with the education of young minds who are starting to learn a new language and who have such mortal thoughts far from their minds. Perhaps there will be an essay in the future that returns to the subject…