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Please, call me Madame

It’s a strange feeling when you’re 22 years old and a high-schooler calls you Madame (Mrs.). But that’s who I am to the majority of my students: Madame. It’s a sign of respect as well as a sign that, yes, I am actually somewhat of an authority. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it makes me conscious of the fact that there is a gap between us, that formalities are needed here to mark who is boss. It also reminds me of how impersonal an education can seem, especially at a lycée (high school) like Ozenne.

There are over 2000 students in this school. The hallways are dangerously crowded between classes. It’s easy to slip through the cracks of the éducation nationale system. You can be easily left behind because there are too many students for the teachers to give them the personal attention they need to be inspired and to succeed. It’s not just the teachers who are nameless madames and monsieurs; it’s the students as well. No matter how hard I try to memorize their names at each class, I will always have to resort to pointing and to calling random names from a list in order to identify my students. How can you expect me to remember everyone? I see 14 different classes of about 25 students each on a rotational basis.

The students at Ozenne come from fairly well-off families, so at least we know that most of them have the financial security to ensure a good education. And Ozenne is known as a very good high school. But with 50-minute classes and a disproportionate student body, it’s hard to imagine Ozenne as anything other than a branch of a great chain, of a national assembly line, a machine, churning the students through a standardized system, leading them up to the one big national exam, the bac. Basically, Ozenne reminds me of une usine, a factory.

Let me introduce you to my workspace.

One teachers’ lounge for oh-so-many teachers.

We each get our own little pidgeonhole, all crammed together in a corner. A factory set-up.

Computer room for teachers.

Copy room – avoid in the morning and at lunchtime! It’s packed.

Ozenne is beautifully placed in the historic center of Toulouse. The students don’t realize how lucky they are to see typically Toulouse brick in the inner courtyard, and to see the St. Sernin Basilica from their classroom window!

One of the many stages on which I play.

So there you have it. An idea of l’usine.

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