Time is suddenly going way too fast, you’re not sure if or when you’ll next see some people, and all you want to do is just slow everything down and enjoy being able to sit on the porch rocking chair again. Here’s how I made May a memorable one:
- Organise a cultural soirée for the locals
Having overheard several customers at the local cultural board game café (Café l’Aléa) complaining that they never get a chance to speak English outside of school, and having spoken to the owner about his recent concerns regarding the business, I decided it would be fun to organise a “Soirée Anglaise” for the residents of Saint-Georges in order to bring in some customers and get everyone speaking English. I was lucky to have two good friends on board who helped bring my idea to life; the night was an excellent success and featured PG tips, vegan scones, fleur-de-lis shortbread, a cultural presentation, discussion activities and board games. Our only regret is not having organised it earlier in the year, as the attendees were so friendly and made us too many follow-up offers for us to fit into our remaining few weeks in town!
2. Showcase the talents of your hard-working pupils
My oldest students (grade 6) had been working for several weeks on their own presentations for the younger students; these involved a play they’d written themselves, a dance routine, science experiments, magic tricks and art techniques. It was in May that these talents were brought to the stage, and it was lovely to see how fascinated and keen the younger children were to learn from their older peers. The group who had written the play presented it to the whole school in a very special lunchtime assembly, and we then went on to perform it at the old peoples’ home opposite the school and ended up featuring in the local news! I was so proud of the students and it was really rewarding to see the positive impact that these performances had on the local community.
3. Enjoy the colours and goings-on of Montreal in the sun
We were lucky to spend one of the first warm weekends enjoying the beautiful colours of Montreal in the weather in which they deserve to be seen. We stayed with a good friend in the Plateau who had begun working at Luna Yoga, so I was able to use her free pass on Sunday morning for a relaxing start to the day in a very cool studio with all the Montreal yogies. We marvelled at being able to just wander the city streets and not feel pressured by the cold to reach any destination, and spent Sunday afternoon lazily enjoying the free monthly Tam-Tams festival by the George-Étienne Cartier monument. The song “Shedding Skin (Beloved Friend)” by MC Yogi was playing when we arrived at my friend’s apartment and will always make me think of this sunny, chilled-out weekend.
4. Support your colleagues
Some of the most unexpectedly fun outings I had this year came from the motivation that “someone knows someone who’s doing something and we should go and support them”, and this time it was our friend Mary performing with her gospel choir in Montreal. It was a great excuse to bring some of the other assistants together and Mary is so fabulous and talented that it was an enjoyable night all round, followed of course by a night out on the town.
5. Make use of the Véloroute de la Chaudière
Our landlord was kind enough to provide us all with a bike at the beginning of the year, but we were so distracted by cars and yellow school buses that we didn’t properly make use of them before winter arrived. It was therefore a joy, once the snow had melted, to cycle along the Chaudière river all the way to Beauceville (where Tim was waiting to greet us with open arms).
6. Take advantage of Eurovision being broadcast during the day
Eurovision seemed as good an excuse as any to rally the assistants in Saint-Georges for an afternoon screening, day drinking and a barbecue in the newly acquired sunny climes. We then spent the next day as any Sunday in Saint-Georges should be spent; brunch at Les Pères Nature followed by a hike and then back to Pères Nature for an ice-cream shaped reward. The golden days.
7. Celebrate with the other assistants
One very organised assistant decided to arrange a “Brit Awards” ceremony for all of the British language assistants, which involved another fun weekend in good old Saint-Georges with another huge barbecue spread, a hilarious award ceremony, and poutine cake! I was honoured to win half of “Couple of the Year” and “Pun-hit-wonder”!
8. Cover yourself in mosquito spray and go night-hiking
Had my friend not been flying home two days later, I might not have agreed to drive him and another friend to Mont Morne in the dark for some stargazing and building a bonfire. It wasn’t until I turned the engine off that we realised there could be anything out there in the woods, and as my friend so eloquently articulated it, “this is absolutely bat-shit lads and I’m so here for it!”. Thankfully he had torches and sustenance so we made it to the top, eventually got a fire going and had a lovely evening. As the friend in question didn’t drive, and I was the only one around at the time with a car, it felt nice that I’d been able to make this happen for him as a parting gift.
9. Make sure to properly thank those who have made the year so special
My wonderful headteacher’s birthday happened to coincide with the end of term, so I made her a collage of all of the hard work her pupils had done and presented it to her in a surprise birthday assembly. She is such an inspirational lady, everyone in the hall adored her and she has this way of never making you feel like you’re being a nuisance (even though I most definitely sometimes was). My last day of school was an emotional one, with a framed poem written by the students, an announcement about me on the intercom, kind letters from parents, lots of cute cards and cuddles from the students and a surprise pool party from the lovely teachers. Perhaps the most memorable moment for me however was when it was 32 degrees in my classroom and one of my pupils knocked at the door with a Mr Freeze he’d been given in class but wanted to give to me instead. I know I keep saying how lucky I was but I really don’t think I could have been placed in a nicer school, surrounded by people who just wanted to do nice things for each other. I’m very jealous of the new assistant as I would do anything to go back!