Friday, 16 April 2010

A false start and something fishy

The first of April was day one of my new job as an admin assistant. The recent putting forward of the clocks by one hour, means that it is still quite dark at 7am.

I loaded up my “school bag” with things that I thought that I might need. Big French / English dictionary, tea bags, coffee, notebook, pencil case. I really did not know what to pack.
I drove through the “rush hour” town traffic. This involves a stretch of road in the centre of town around 700 metres long, but there are two lanes in each direction, and drivers do like to swap lanes at the last minute, pedestrians walk out into the road, come out of a side road in front of you etc.

I found the school again and parked in the car park which is a few hundred yards away.

I was a bit early so I stayed in the car and waited for the school traffic to arrive.

There are out of hours care staff on site from 8.20am, to look after children dropped off early before the official school starts at 9am.

The children began to arrive, some with rucksack bags almost as big as themselves on their backs, others pulling bags, like brightly coloured small shopping bags or suitcases on wheels.
I entered the school grounds and the head teacher spotted me.

As we stood in the playground, I noticed that children were sneaking up behind people and sticking bits of paper onto peoples’ backs. I felt a bump on my back and reaching round, discovered a small fish sellotaped to my coat. Then it dawned on me that it was 1st April the U.Ks April fools day, or Poisson d’avril (april fish day) as it is called in France.

The fish sticking on went on all day when the children were not in class, and the fish got bigger and more colourful as the day progressed. The children were having a great time and thought that it was the funniest thing ever.

She showed me to a very small office which had room for a photocopier, a tiny work bench, and a row of 3 computers. An even smaller room led off this one and this was the head teacher’s office.

The head teacher teaches her class on Tuesday, (school is closed Wednesday) Thursday and Friday. Monday is her admin day, and a teacher comes in to take her class on that day.
I was introduced to a VS (vie scolaire) assistant, who also works at the school, but who helps the teacher in the classroom. She would show me what to do for the day.
I ended up doing a bit of typing. The task was to make name tags for 54 pupils who were going on a trip. “Where are they going?” I asked. “Auzaux, next Tuesday”, came the reply. I would be going on the trip too. At this point I did not realise that the destination was actually the Zoo (pronounced zoh) in French...... so we were going au zoo.

The one computer.which seems to work in the office, uses Open Office, which I have never used. Of course the programme is the French version, the keyboard has a slightly different layout for some of the letters and of course there are all the French accent keys too.

Once the badge templates were ready, complete with school details, teacher’s names and mobile numbers etc, photocopy the template onto thin card, then I had to write the kid’s names on the badges. Then came the laminating of the badges, then the punching of holes, the cutting of wool to thread through the holes so that the badges could be hung round the correct necks on the big day.

At lunch time I joined the teachers in a classroom for the meal. I had been expecting great things, but it was not very exciting at all.

The head teacher informed me that there was a problem. I asked what the problem was, and was told that I could not start in my job yet, as the contract had not yet been finalised.

I told her that two days previously I had phoned the College to check that it was still okay to start on 1st April, and that the lady that I had spoken to had not said not to start.

The problem was the insurances. If anything happened to me driving to or from work or I had an accident at work etc, I would not be covered until the contract was completed. This would mean that it was unlikely that I would be able to start until after the Easter school holidays i.e for another 3 weeks. Anyway, I said that I might as well stay at school for the rest of the day and that was that.

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