Weird French School Stuff, Part III

A continuation of a series of posts I wrote about conseils de classe, orientation, and other weird French school things.

Part III: The Emploi du Temps (=Timetable)

Something that doesn’t exist for most teachers I know in the States is the timetable. Of course there is a class schedule, and we as students were always most interested in our own schedule on the first day of school. We wanted to know what classmates we had (since that changed every hour) and what teachers. Since the French school system operates around the class, you know you’re with the same classmates almost all the time. But since French teachers aren’t required to be at school when they aren’t IN CLASS, their timetable gains in importance here.

In some schools you get your timetable the day of the rentrée. In the digital age, even my technologically-backward lycee has managed to send them out as pdfs by e-mail. We get the first draft at the end of July before the school staff leave for the summer (the teachers are long gone). It always arrives in my inbox like a ghost telling me that vacation isn’t real, and the school year is just around the corner don’t-you-dare-forget-it. This gives us all enough time to freak out and complain before the final version comes the first week of school. The first day back the question you get most often from colleagues after “Tu as passé de bonnes vacances?” is “Tu as un bon emploi du temps?” (See this excellent playmobile illustration of the rentrée des profs.)

In most schools you get to make certain requests, and a lot of young parents ask for Wednesday off to be with their elementary-school-aged kids who don’t have school all day. Since our students only have a half-day anyway, this is a fairly reasonable request. (Yes, even lycee students only have a half day… and I’ve gotten so used to it!)

Some teachers like all their hours lined up and packed together without any “trous” so they can get in and get out. I don’t much care for this approach though I understand it. I’d rather have breaks in order to manage things that come up (detentions to give, information to give to the secretaries or counselors…). Even long breaks don’t bother me because I can get all my planning and photocopying done (I refuse to print anything on my home printer).

Here are the things I’ve come to care about in my timetable after four rentrées scolaires.

  1. No class Monday at 8. Ever since my first year when I had six to eight hours straight (besides lunch break) on Monday, I’ve asked for my Monday morning off. I’ve never actually gotten it, but I’ve gotten some version of it (starting at 10 or 11 instead of 8), and it allows me to not go back to work on Sunday night. I can arrive before my classes start on Monday and get my head back in the game. I think this is the single most stress-relieving thing I’ve discovered since my first horrible, stress-packed year teaching.
  2. Collège classes in the morning. I can only make one request so I don’t even put this one in, plus, I’m not sure they could really satisfy it. But teenagers are SO much easier to manage in the morning. Every year when I get my timetable I scan it to see which hours of class will be horrible. Since my second year, I’ve been lucky enough to have very few to no afternoon classes with the 9th graders.
  3. Two hours to eat. I say two hours but it’s really two class hours which brings it to an hour and forty minutes. It’s not like I need that long to eat, by any means. But it means I’m not racing from my classroom back to the teacher’s lounge and then racing back again just afterward. It gives me time to breathe and have a coffee and do any last-minute copies I’ve forgotten about. This year I knew I’d inevitably have some days without this time, because I took on a European section option, and those students often have class between 12 and 1:30. I can’t say I regret it because these students so far seem pretty special.
  4. No Friday PM classes. I don’t know how I’ve managed it, but I have never had class on Friday afternoon, and I count myself lucky every year. It’s not so much that I want my weekend to start early, it’s that the students are less and less manageable as the weekend approaches.
  5. One or two days of no class at 8 am. I’m not a morning person. I hate getting up at 6:30 to go to work in the dark in the winter. This year I have two days a week where I don’t get up that early and it gives me a bit of a breather during the week.
  6. No more than six hours of class a day. By class I mean actually stand-up-and-teach class, because we do two “activity” hours per week which are typically homework help or listening exercises and take less work. Any more than six hours of class and I seem to be totally wiped for the next day. Of course I can’t actually request this, I just know it’s ideal for me.

Here’s my schedule this year.


If it seems written in code, that’s because it partly is. I have Wednesday afternoon class because I have BTS students. And no, I don’t have one hour of class on Saturday afternoon—that’s just a place marker for an hour I do only half of the year. I’m pretty satisfied this year, maybe more so than last year when I had all of Friday off but seven hours of class on Tuesday, which left me exhausted.

Side note: The frequent posts are thanks to my second foot operation which happened last weekend. I’m off work till probably Toussaint vacation, which is sort of a bummer, because the school year was off to a great start.


4 thoughts on “Weird French School Stuff, Part III

  1. I remember when I was an assistant, and the teacher would just photocopy his schedule and give it to me. I had no idea what half the “codes” meant.

    Having a break between classes is definitely nice. While I was at the engineering school, we had no breaks, and some days, I just really could have used one. As a student, I HATED breaks. Our schedules had so many holes in them it was ridiculous. I’d be gone for 12 hours straight for like 2 or 3 classes.

    I’m glad you’re happy with your schedule, and I hope you back up and about soon. Time for lots of wedding planning?

    • Eugh, yeah, for the students they try their best to avoid those big holes in the day, but then these are collège and lycée, so they have to, or else they have to watch them in study hall.

      We’ll see if I get any wedding planning done… since I can’t leave the house by myself, it’s a bit complicated! But I’m doing plenty of online window shopping!

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