Hello and welcome! Thank you for joining me for a day in my life as a lectrice, specifically Tuesday 8th February 2022. I thought this would be the perfect day to show you the behind the scenes of my life. It’s a nice mix of classes, prep and admin time, my second job and some chill time in the evening. I have been working as a lectrice d’anglais at the Université de Haute-Alsace since September 2021 so I’m well into the swing of things by now. If you’re sitting there wondering what a lectrice actually is, you can check out this post from when I arrived that explains that a little bit more before reading this one. I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at being a lectrice!
My day starts like many other people’s, with snoozing my alarm at least 3 times. The first one goes off around 7am and I usually actually get out of bed half an hour later. In the words of the great Dolly Parton I ‘tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition’ and make my lunch while I wait for the coffee to cool to an acceptable drinking temperature. I usually make a salad for lunch when I’m at work all day and take it with me. I pretty much always make the same thing because I don’t like to have to think too much in the morning. Breakfast is a similar situation where every morning is fairly similar. It’s usually a couple of little waffles and a banana, sometimes with some Nutella as well. Sometimes I replace the waffles for toast or crepes but most work days it’s the same.
Next, I get dressed. My university doesn’t really have a strict dress code so I can dress quite casually. I know that this can differ depending on the department or university that you work in, some places require more formal attire. However, not for me. I would say that the outfits I wear to work don’t really differ from my normal, everyday outfits. Today I chose some black corduroy dungarees with a long sleeved white top and my Doc Marten boots. Often I just wear jeans paired with a t-shirt, a collared shirt or a sweater and in the warmer weather I wore mid-length skirts or lighter trousers. One day as I was entering my classroom with one of my L2 classes and we were all getting settled, one student asked me if I ever get mistaken for a student! I replied that I haven’t, at least as far as I know, but I do always wonder if today is going to be the day that a staff member is going to tell me off for coming out of the staff toilets or using the staff printers. One of the other students in that class followed up by saying that at the start of our first class, she was looking around the classroom for the teacher and it took her a few minutes to realise it was me! It probably doesn’t help that I’m only a couple of years olders than a lot of them and even younger than a few others!
With my first class at 9am, I leave my apartment at around 8.30am and walk a couple of minutes to the nearest tram stop. It’s barely a 20 minute walk from where I live to the university campus but in the mornings I like to get the tram just to take away any extra stress about getting there on time and avoiding any sweatiness! Two stops takes me to the bottom of campus and one more gets me to the top of the hill and closer to where the FLSH building is.
I start my day with an L2 group, one of my favourite classes (not that I have favourites!). The topic this week was minority languages in English speaking countries. I have freedom over the subjects I teach so what I usually do is choose an overall topic for the week and then differentiate some or all of the activities depending on the year group. I started this week’s lesson with a short workshop on how to say dates properly. I’ve started doing a few of these to work on some issues that I noticed popping up last semester. The week before we looked at how to say large numbers and I have also used tongue twisters to practice certain aspects of pronunciation that they find tricky.
For the main body of the lesson we started by looking at the small homework task I had set at the end of last week. Each student had to pick an English speaking country and then find an indigenous, minority or other widely spoken language in that country that wasn’t English. In small groups, they shared some of their research about the languages and also attempted a few phrases. There were a great variety of choices, from Celtic languages like Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Welsh, Cornish and Manx, to several variations of Creole, different Native American and indigenous Canadian languages and others like Maori, Afrikaans and more. It was fascinating to hear everyone share what they had learned and especially when some students were sharing about a language that they actually speak and is important to them.
After sharing the homework, we moved on to some general discussion questions in the same small groups as before. For example, do you think it’s important to keep minority languages alive? Do you think the world of technology is helping or hurting minority languages? Do you think the growth of English as a global language is helping to kill minority languages? This last question in particular led us on nicely to the next activity which was a mini debate with the resolution ‘English should be used as a lingua franca.’ A lingua franca is any language that is adopted as a means of communication between people who do not speak each other’s native languages. I split the class into two groups and assigned one side to argue the affirmative and one to argue the negative. They had 10 minutes to come up with arguments for their sides while also trying to anticipate what the other side would say and come up with rebuttals. The debate itself was very simple, a back and forth between each side until they ran out of arguments or we ran out of time.
This was a class that I really enjoyed teaching throughout the week. There weren’t really any differences between the L2 plan, detailed above, and the L1 plan but L3 had actually done a debate on English as a lingua franca last semester. For them I had a few alternative debate topics that I let them choose from, such as ‘students of foreign origin living in France have the right to study their mother tongue in school’ or ‘economically and politically, it would be better for all minority languages to fall out of use.’ Even though the classes were quite similar across all the year groups, it didn’t get boring (which it sometimes can). The variety of languages in the homework task were so interesting and the debates got a lot of people really fired up which was great to see!
After this first class I had an hour free from teaching so I headed up to the office that I share with a few other members of the English department. I spent the hour answering some emails from students as well as preparing some information on one of my assessments for this semester that I was going to be sharing with my students soon. This particular assessment will have my L2 students choose a Ted Talk from a list I provide them and then make a video summarising the content and sharing their own thoughts and opinions on the subject. I was putting together the list of Ted Talks which was really just an excellent excuse to watch some very interesting videos! I also spent some time trying to figure out Moodle, the online platform that we use at UHA, so that my students would be able to upload this assessment there rather than email it to me.
At 11am I had my second class of the day, another L2 class, and then a longer two hour break. I sent some more emails and watched some more Ted Talks as well as doing some research for a conversation workshop I run on Tuesday evenings. In the second half of this break I went to the little staff kitchen to meet my friend and fellow lectrice Àine for lunch. (Àine actually has a post on her own blog, Une Bouchée A Day about a day in her life as a lectrice and masters student at the university that you can read here!) We swapped lesson plans for the week, discussed a few classes that we both teach, talked about our plans for the upcoming holidays and shared bullet journal ideas. Àine has been bullet journaling for about a year now and she convinced me to give it a try towards the end of last year. I started in January and so far it’s going well! I’m sure there will be a blog post about it at some point!
I had two more classes after lunch, one more L2 and an L1 group to finish, back to back. I finished at 4pm and always try to leave as quickly as possible to make it to my other job. I mentioned earlier that I spent a little time preparing for a conversation workshop. This is something that I do at a technology school called Epitech. It’s just for an hour a week as they have their own English teacher, I just come in once a week for this extra conversation time. I let them know in advance what our topic is going to be and then the students can sign up for the limited spaces depending on whether they like the sound of that topic or not. I usually take a topic that I have done with my classes at UHA and adapt it for the constraints of the Epitech session. Instead of having a one hour class with 10-20 students, I do two 30 minute slots with max 6 students. It’s a very different dynamic with it being much smaller groups. The groups are also mostly boys as well, in comparison with the UHA classes which tend to be about 60-70% girls.
It usually takes about 20 minutes to get there which is perfect because I start at 4.30pm, half an hour after finishing my last class at UHA. This week’s plan was to play a game of Twenty Questions. I’ve done this with my other classes before and it worked well. It’s a chance for the students to practise formulating questions. The students that chose to come to the workshop had been asked to choose an English speaking celebrity in advance so that they would be able to answer questions about them. However my first group hadn’t got the memo! Fortunately they were able to think of someone on the spot and we muddled through when there were questions that they weren’t sure about. It worked better with the second group because they had chosen people in advance. We got through their choices pretty quickly so did another round on the spot and I challenged them to choose a woman this time after all of their initial choices were men. Both groups were really nice, mostly people that I’d seen before and have been coming regularly since I started this a few weeks ago but also some new faces.
That was me finished for the day and I headed home via the supermarket. After such a busy day, the evening was very chilled. I hung out with one of my flatmates for a little bit, did my daily Wordles and Duolingo and wrote in my journal a little. With a week of holiday fast approaching and me heading home to Scotland, I also started packing. I spoke to my sister on the phone to arrange some things for her visit in April and then to another friend while I made some dinner. When I say made dinner, I mean I put a frozen tarte flambée into the oven. Usually I enjoy cooking but seeing as I was heading home in two days, my fridge was running a little low. After dinner I had a few chores to do around my room, putting some washing away and sweeping the floor. One of the last things I do in the evening is fill in some parts of my bullet journal and I ended the day by reading in bed for a bit before going to sleep.
And there you have a look inside my day to day life as a lectrice in France! This is a pretty representative example of one of my working days. Let me know if there’s anything else you want to know about being a lectrice!