Apéro and Universités

Friday night at an apéro chez des amis, we somehow got on the subject of universities. David mentioned that his mom’s cousin teaches French in Boston, and at the end of each semester, she had to let her students fill out evaluation forms. Everyone but me was surprised and thought it was a bad idea. I said that was normal in American universities and I didn’t really understand why it wasn’t done in France. They were also stunned that websites for rating teachers and professors had been around for 10 years in the US, whereas the only site like that in France had been shut down last year by the courts.

Personally, I think teacher evaluations are a good thing because the students should have a say in the quality of their education – especially in the US where they pay a small fortune each semester for the privilege of going to college. If they have horrible professors that don’t really care about teaching, the students have a right to complain. Professors grade students, so why shouldn’t students grade the professors too?

But I guess the main difference here in France is that students only pay a few hundred euros a year to go to university so they don’t seem as motivated or invested in their education. If they fail a final exam, they can always retake it the next month. If they fail a class, they can always retake it the next year. So even if the professors are bad, it doesn’t really matter since the students get so many chances to “succeed” in the end.

However, I have a problem with the traditional “more money = better education” line of thinking. Just because France subsidizes university education doesn’t mean it has to be bad. Just because the students don’t pay much doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn. The opposite is true for American universities. Just because it’s expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. And just because the students (or their parents) pay a lot doesn’t mean they actually want to be there and want to learn.

So why are the American and French ideas about universities and higher education different? Is it the role of the professor that differs so much? Or the role of the student?

Anyway, Corinne did such a good job preparing the apéro, I wanted to show off pictures of her hard work:

And something that I hadn’t come across before in France: an elevator that only stops on odd-numbered floors. Of course, the other elevator stops at the even-numbered floors, but there are no signs indicating this, so I guess you’re just supposed to know?

Ship or Sheep or Disgust?

I’m preparing the audio files for our Phonetics labs at home, and I’ve been listening to the units in our book, Ship or Sheep?, written by two Brits about 25 years ago. I got to Unit 4 on the [æ] vowel sound and noticed the dialogue they had written using as many words as possible […]

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Pour mes amis canadiens et canadiennes:

Meilleurs vœux pour le jour de l’Action de Grâce! Happy Thanksgiving! P.S. I’m jealous your election is tomorrow instead of 3 weeks away! I ♥ Canada.

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The Story of the Missing Ballot

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who had grown disillusioned with her country. It was too religious, too conservative, too intolerant. I’ll move to France, she thought, and maybe one day my country will get better so I will be less ashamed of it. So off to France she went, and there […]

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Le Retour des Alpages 2008

I just returned from the Retour des Alpages festival today in Annecy. I managed to take more pictures than last year, though I didn’t see much of the parade from where I was standing. Once again, I was constantly reminded why I hate being in Annecy when it is really crowded. Usually it’s the little […]

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I love technology, but I love it more when it actually works.

This week was the start of our language labs at the university (i.e. 9 out of 12 of my classes). They only run for 10 weeks, so we don’t start them when regular classes start. Unfortunately, our brand new computerized language lab is not working properly, so we can barely use it. Instead, we’re running […]

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The Past, Poverty & Perspective

Thanks to David’s dad and his generous gift of Chèque Lire, I got yet another French as a Foreign Language book at Decitre today, in an attempt to improve my faltering French since I can’t afford actual classes. The first chapter was about traveling, and more specifically, Quebec. The second chapter was about rencontres and […]

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The Not-So-United States of America

So the presidential elections (only one more month to go!!!) and having to explain the Electoral College and how voting works in the US to the French have stirred up some emotions about why I don’t like living there. The United States of America is just that – a collection of states, but states that […]

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Two Years in France: Un Bilan

My two year anniversary in France was this past Friday, September 26. I realize I have done a lot  / accomplished a lot / suffered through a lot over the past 24 months in France: obtained 5 Carte de Séjours from my best friends at the Préfecture exchanged American driver’s license for French one and […]

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I want to be a lectrice forever.

I love my job! I work with three classes in the labs: Vocabulary, Pronunciation and Business English. In all of them, I can spy on the students with my headset and make sure they are actually doing the lessons and using English. (I have ALL the power!!!) For vocab class, I’m redoing the weekly HTML […]

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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