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Friday, January 20, 2023

Kelly in Deauville: 2023 Blog Post

 Hello from Deauville! I can’t believe it’s 2023, the first part of the school year flew by! After the fall vacation, I am now working two days a week teaching English at the elementary school in Villers-sur-Mer, a 15 minute drive down the coast from Deauville. It’s the first time an American has come to the school to teach English, so I’ve enjoyed being a bit of a novelty for students. At the holidays, we sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and I’ve been working on animal vocabulary, how to talk about family, and how to describe yourself and others with my students of various levels. I still get to see students at the elementary school in Deauville for lunch and after-school activities, so it’s been fun to be a part of two different school communities.

 


Outside of school, Kira, Ella, and I have enjoyed getting to know our colleagues. Last weekend, we hosted an “American Night” to celebrate Ella’s birthday. We enjoyed introducing our French colleagues to the wonders of homemade chili, cornbread, hot cheetos, chips and salsa, and various other American treats that Ella and I brought back from the States after the winter break. We even played a little American-themed trivia, with “how many states are in the United States” proving to be a bit of a stumper. 



I’ve also gotten involved in the local community by playing for the women’s soccer team, at the local club, AS Trouville Deauville. We won our league in the fall and got promoted to the next division in the spring. As the weather outside is the typical Normandie winter mix of rain, wind, and cold temperatures, the team has taken refuge inside to play a few futsal tournaments in the region, winning our first. Ella and Kira came to cheer me on, chanting U-S-A whenever I scored!


As the days start to get a little longer, I’m looking forward to warmer weather and the sunshine of spring. Though Deauville is a bit quiet in January, it’s fun to feel like a local and start to feel like a part of the community here in town. 


À bientôt, 

Kelly


Tuesday, December 27, 2022

A Letter from Ella in Deauville

 

I arrived in Deauville on November 2nd, just in time for la rentrée after the October vacation. The first month in Deauville has been a whirlwind, settling into life in France, getting to know my students and colleagues, and seeing some old friends from my high school exchange back in 2018.

The first weekend in town Kira, our roommate from Nashville, and I went to Rouen for some shopping. We stopped into the church, checked out the gold clock that has been ticking since 1389, and of course stopped into some stores. Rouen is one of my favorite "cities" to visit near Deauville—it not only has the same selection of stores as your average mall in France, but in the beautiful setting of charming medieval Rouen, complete with cobblestone streets and a beautiful Gothic cathedral.                    


The following Monday was my first day on the job, and the first day back after vacation. I followed Ivan and Kira to observe their classes, older and younger kids, respectfully.I soon began working with the younger kids—the U.S. equivalent of preschool through 1st grade. It’s amazing how much even the youngest kids knew already, and how easily they retained English. My favorite group to work with so far have been the first graders. I love their enthusiasm and the extent of activities and content that I can do with them.

 

I’ve also enjoyed getting to know the older kids during extracurricular time like recess and lunch. I’ve been really impressed with not only their level of English, but also their comfortability around us Americans. Having worked elsewhere in France in a similar capacity, I’ve seen how kids can view foreigners as some kind of extra-terrestrial. I love that the Deauville kids are super used to having Americans around, so they understand that sometimes we say things wrong or misunderstand. I’m curious how this changes the kids’ openness and patience towards non-French speakers as they grow up.

On the social side of things, Kelly, Kira, and I have enjoyed getting closer to our fellow animateurs, many of whom live in Deauville. Towards the end of the month, we were invited to one of our colleagues’ birthday parties. We enjoyed a nice dinner in Deauville with our colleagues and some of their friends. We’ve all felt very accepted and welcomed into their group which not only makes work more fun, but also makes Deauville feel more like home.

 

My time in Deauville is off to a great start, and I can't wait to get back after the Christmas vacation.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Kira in Deauville: 2022 Blog Post

Re-bonjour!  Kira here… January and February flew by, as daffodils, blossoming trees, and sunshine now mark the advent of spring. 



In January, Covid cases were rather high, but there was a sense of solidarity working at the school through it all, with everyone doing their best to keep things running as normally as possible.  I sometimes worry about the impact the pandemic has had and will continue to have on kids.  They have many moments of saying goofy stuff and being silly, of course, but my time as an animatrice during recess and lunch has given me the opportunity to get to know the kids here outside of class and, in doing so, to see just how much some of them are carrying on their shoulders already.  Some of them have dealt with significant loss in their lives that they’re struggling to make sense of; some of them are feeling torn apart by family problems and are struggling to stay strong through it all.  Then, to add a pandemic and its ever-changing restrictions and social distancing to the mix?  It makes me realize how little I had to worry about when I was their age.  I remember one afternoon, a girl was crying during recess because her grandpa had passed away suddenly, and she was still processing being unable to say goodbye.  Her class gathered around her in support, as they shared stories of how each of them had been impacted by grief in their lives, reassuring that she wasn’t alone, that they were there for her.  Of course, there are times that some of the kids don’t listen, times that their recess romance dramas rival those of soap operas… But in moments like these, you can see the quiet strength, pure kindness, and growing maturity that gives me hope that we’re going to be okay after all, despite all the pain and uncertainty in the world.  They’re good kids.  



It’s a joy to see them gaining confidence in a foreign language so early in life and that they look forward to our English lessons.  It makes me incredibly happy.  The past several months, we’ve read many stories together including The Gingerbread Man, practiced our counting, played lots of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and worked on “I have” in conjunction with family members.  My colleagues are amazing to work with (I couldn’t ask for better ones) and have taught me a lot about teaching and supported me all along the way.  And the notes and pictures my students have made for me are precious gifts… 





Louvre-worthy artwork


 

Breezy beach walk in Deauville        From the top of Mont Canisy 


I’ve branched out from beach walks to include hiking around Deauville and in la Suisse Normande.  Clécy is one of my favorite places here in Normandy (lots of good outdoor activities!), and my favorite place to hike locally is Mont Canisy… Besides being historically interesting, it has some beautiful views of the sea and the surrounding towns!  




We enjoyed a two-week vacation in February.  Kelly and I spent a sunny day in Honfleur, and she also kindly invited me to go climbing and helped me face my fear of heights!  Later on, I went to Spain for a couple days and had a lovely visit with some dear friends from Transy.   

Toledo


Happy Spring 🌸  


À bientôt,  

Kira


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Holiday Blog from Kelly in Deauville

Happy New Year from Deauville! It’s hard to believe that it’s been three months since Kira and I arrived. Time is truly flying by! A lot has happened since my first blog post. We’ve settled into our routines here and got to experience Christmas and the festive season in France, as well as share American holiday traditions with our students. 



In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I was tasked with teaching my students the classic American Christmas song, Jingle Bell Rock. The older students performed it on the main square, the Place Morny, in front of the mayor as part of the celebrations to mark the start of the holiday season in Deauville. Two of the students were even picked to “flip the switch” to light the Christmas tree at the center of town. It was gratifying to hear the kids singing the song at recess and listening to it outside of English class! 


In addition to jingle bell rockin our way through December, we also wrote letters to Santa and Christmas cards in English. The students had fun writing out their lists in English and were happy to learn that the English word for Playstation is indeed Playstation! The last week of school, I somewhat took on the role of a Grinch, by giving my older students an assessment (at the request of their teachers). Though by no means perfect, it was a good way to wrap up before vacation, and I was happy to see how much students had mastered during our unit on family. 


Outside of the classroom, I joined the local football (soccer) club, AS Trouville-Deauville, and play for the senior women’s team. We won the first two matches in which I played, and I’m looking forward to starting up again after the winter break. It’s great to meet people outside of school and to feel like I’m part of the broader community. 


The last week before winter break, a friend from the University of Kentucky came to visit. We spent Christmas together in Deauville and traveled to Croatia the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We visited Split and Dubrovnik, and both were beautiful. It was fun to be in tourist mode and a different experience to visit a country where I don't know a single word of the language!


Deauville is certainly quieter now after the holidays. There are far fewer tourists on the weekend and most of the vacation homes in town are closed. Though I enjoyed the energy during the holidays, there’s something peaceful about the quiet streets and empty boardwalk of January. Unfortunately, I started the second week of the new year with a positive Covid diagnosis so have had to quarantine at home this past week. Fortunately, I don’t have any symptoms, and I’m looking forward to going back to school next week! 


À bientôt,

Kelly 


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Kira in Deauville: 2021 Blog Post

 

Bonjour!   My name is Kira, and I graduated from Transylvania University in 2020 with majors in French and Anthropology and a minor in International Affairs… I’m the other half of (what is this year) the Deauville duo.  Wow, I can’t believe we’ve been here for over a month already!  The wait was indeed long, but Kelly and I are both so happy to finally be here. 



My first month here began with two weeks of vacation, which allowed ample time to get my bearings, settle in, and explore.  During our vacation, I was able to visit Caen, Rouen, Honfleur, Étretat, and Paris, as well as enjoy beautiful Deauville.  What began as a picnic on the beach one afternoon with Kelly and our new friend Ella has turned into a weekly ritual of walks along the beach.  We live a mere five minutes away, which as someone who has always resided in landlocked states, is still somewhat of a novelty!  Watching the sunset on the beach will never get old, I don’t think. :)



I already feel very at home here, greatly in part due to the warm welcome we have received.  Philippe and his family kindly invited us over to their home for a lovely family dinner, and we also had the pleasure of attending Deauville’s annual Dîner des Associations.  It was a joyful evening of food, drink, dance, and celebrating being together, which was touching to see particularly after the isolation and uncertainty we all experienced during the pandemic.

 

Our colleagues at the school have been kind and helpful, especially Ivan who has taken great care in helping us adjust and explaining all that we need to know, from the ins and outs of lesson planning to how to sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” (“L’Araignée gypsy”) in French!  With three weeks of classes now behind us, Kelly and I are settling into our routines.  Kelly teaches the older elementary school students here in Deauville, as well as driving each week to the neighboring St-Arnoult and Tourgéville to teach English classes there, while I teach the younger elementary school students, as well as the little ones at the maternelle and the nursery here. 

 

It’s been such a joy and an enriching challenge for me (as someone whose academic training is not in education) to teach such a wide age range on a daily basis, and I’m very grateful for Kelly and Ivan’s guidance, insight, and support.  The kids are so sweet, and it makes me happy when they see me and run up with hugs to ask if I’ll be coming for English classes… If I say, “No, not today,” their response is (adorably) one of disappointment and immediately asking when our next English class will be.  It’s incredible to see that, because of past TAs, the wonderful teachers here, and all the tireless work Ivan has done, the kids here already have such a positive association with language-learning at such a young age.  As someone who deeply appreciates languages and the human connection language-learning fosters, it’s a gift to be able to be a part of something like that here. . 


 


As Kelly mentioned in her last post, Halloween here was quite special!  After such a memorable celebration, I was excited to come up with ways to teach Thanksgiving.  Some students here had never heard of Thanksgiving, and we discussed that it is a holiday to give thanks and spend with family.  I showed them pictures of my family celebrating Thanksgiving together last year and used food vocabulary, such as pumpkin pie and turkey, to teach about Thanksgiving traditions and to practice saying “I like” / “I don’t like.”  One of the amazing teachers here even baked a pumpkin pie to celebrate with his students!  Kelly and I had a nice, little celebration here at the house.  I am grateful to know Kelly and consider myself very lucky to have her as my housemate and fellow teaching assistant.

 

 



The Christmas season is now upon us, Deauville is decorated, and our vocabulary has shifted to words like “present” and “reindeer.”  In the next two weeks before les vacances de Noël, we will be writing letters to Santa to practice “I would like,” writing Christmas cards to family, reading Christmas stories, and listening to Christmas carols.  I’m looking forward to sharing the joys of the season with my new friends and colleagues and seeing what the New Year brings.  Joyeuses Fêtes à toutes et à tous et à bientôt…

 

Kira

Friday, October 29, 2021

Kelly in Deauville: 2021 Blog Post

 


After a long year of delayed visas, false starts, and anxious  waiting, Americans assistants are back in Deauville! My name is Kelly, I’m a 2020 graduate of the University of Kentucky with a master’s degree in French and francophone studies and I couldn’t be happier to finally be in Deauville alongside my fellow teaching assistant, Kira, after accepting a position with the sister cities program in February 2020. 


I arrived to Deauville last week after almost 24 hours of travel featuring planes, trains, and automobiles. My first week was spent shadowing Ivan, who has been teaching English at all levels with the 18 month absence of assistants, and getting the lay of the land at the elementary school in Deauville, along with brief visits to the schools in St. Arnoult and Tourgéville. It’s so cool to see how young English lessons start in the city. Our visit to the crèche (nursery school) was particularly fun; I loved singing the itsy-bitsy spider with French toddlers! 


Of course, it’s October, and no English lesson could be complete without an in-depth discussion of Halloween. We practiced Halloween vocabulary and sang Halloween songs. I discussed my perspective on how Halloween is celebrated in America, including the logistics of trick-or-treating (and that in the U.S., the emphasis is really on the treat!). We also discussed what the students were going to be for Halloween, with witches, vampires, and superheroes being the most popular choices. 



On Friday, October 22nd, Kira and I helped at the city Halloween party. Staff from the elementary school turned the Villa Strassburger (a historic mansion close to the racetrack in Deauville) into a haunted house with a psychiatric hospital theme for the city’s children. Kira and I were given the assignment of scaring visitors to the below-ground bunker built by the Germans when they occupied the villa during World War II. As firm believers in the cute, whimsical side of Halloween over the scary, Kira and I were a little hesitant, but we gamely embraced the role of haunted doctor and nurse. We got a few scares in but also quite a few “C’est les américaines! Hello, Kira! Hello, Kelly! You didn’t scare me!” 


We are now on les vacances de la Toussaint and don’t have school for the next two weeks. We will work with Ivan during the break to plan out our lessons for after the break and to get a better understanding of the French school system in general.  I’m looking forward to exploring Deauville and the surrounding area during the vacation, as well as going to my first practice with the local women’s soccer team. I can’t wait to see what these next 10 months in Normandy have in store! 










À la prochaine, 

Kelly