I officially started my job this week. I work with small groups of students and engage them in conversation.
The French school system is very different from the American school system. I do not fully understand it, but here are the basics (and feel free to correct me and/or elaborate in the comments section!)
At some point before high school, students are tested and then choose a “track” in either a “general” high school, or a professional high school. General high schools are college preparatory, and professional high schools are more like trade schools.
My school is interesting in that it is both a general and professional high school. I’m guessing that is because of its location–in the middle of corn fields–far, far into the country side of the ile-de-France (the Parisian suburbs). At Jules Verne, the tracks for general high school are science, literature, and economics. The only track I’m aware of for the “professional” school is communications. However, there are other professional schools which are more highly specialized, like for tourism, hotel management, cooking, mechanics, etc.
The goal of the principal at my school is for me to work with every single student at some point. This makes it difficult for me to build relationships with the students, because I only see them–at most–every 6 weeks. Some I will only see once or twice. My work with the graduating professional students is most important, as a component of their graduating exam is to analyze some painting, or piece of literature orally in English.
The French school system is very, very tough. These exams that they take are notoriously difficult. Even still, everyone does not go to college–if even for a year, as many American students do (and then they take time off and never find time to return).
I’m guessing that this is partly due to the fact that public universities (and graduate school–including professional schools–law, medicine) have little to no tuition. In France, the best universities are public universities. This means that if you do well on all of those tests and make it to college and/or graduate school, you graduate debt free.
People asks me how much it costs to go to school in the U.S. They are dumbfounded/aghast/shocked by my answer. I too am dumbfounded my answer! But, I know that USC’s current tuition rates are right in line with other private universities in the U.S. (and I do indeed consider my undergraduate experience priceless).
I feel very fortunate to have been placed at Jules Verne. Most of the students are very nice, and the teachers and staff are incredibly friendly and helpful.