French pressed: Oct. 23 edition
When I first came to UALR in 2011 as an exchange student, I excepted the school system to be different from the one in my home university. I knew for instance that I could choose my class schedule and therefore my teachers – although I did not know them at that time. While attending my first class, I excepted the professor to be just like the ones I had in France. It was not the case, and I admit it was, at first, a little confusing for me.
Let me explain. Professors in France, whether you are in elementary school, middle school, high school or college, are seen as “superior” to the students. This is particularly the case in college. Professors show the students from the very first day of class that they represent authority; therefore, students should listen, stand still and not argue with their professors.
From my experience, French professors are more harsh than American ones. American professors are more careful; in France, they are more aggressive to stop trouble before it starts, and if the methods are sometimes harsh, they are effective. Professors are not afraid to say what they think. Some teachers’ comments can be hurtful, but they are never personal. Everyone will be treated the same. You adapt and use this skill later in life.
In the American system, teachers are seen as people to rely on and trust. For instance, I know I can ask my professors for an extension for an assignment, or for help concerning an assignment or even for something unrelated to the class. I would not talk to my French professors about something unrelated to the class. And I would not ask for an extension for an assignment either; professors rarely give extensions, except in an extreme case of emergency. French teachers have a clear-cut purpose: to teach students.
I believe that American students have a more friendly and informal relationship with their professors than French students. For instance, professors in France would almost never invite their students at an event or for dinner, and they would rarely accept students – current or former – as a Facebook friend. I know some American professors invite their students to their homes, or to events such as readings, concerts and so on. It happened to me.
I had dinner at one of my professors’ homes, I spent New Year at one of the UALR employees’ homes, I babysat for one of my former professors and I attended events in Little Rock with some of my professors. I even worked with UALR employees when I volunteered for Suicide Prevention Week.
I do not imagine doing these things back home. In France, professors are nothing more than professors; they will not invite you to events, they will not greet you in the streets, etc. Of course, there are some exceptions.
Moreover, professors and students socialize very easily in the U.S. – whether it is inside or outside of the classroom. I am sure most of the students at UALR have received candies, cookies or any kind of food by at least one of their teachers. If you have not, I guess I am a lucky student: in the past two years, I had professors bring candies, cookies and other foods I cannot remember.
This kind of behavior does not often happen in a French classroom, mainly because students are there to study, not to eat and have fun. They do that outside of the classroom. There are some exceptions though. For instance, some professors bring chocolates around Christmas time, and some allow their students to bring food and drinks for the last day of class.
In brief, relationships between teachers and students are more formal in France. This may influence students in their diversity, their level of self-confidence, their intensity of participation inside a group, the development of their creativity and their interactions with a hierarchy in a company.
However, you cannot judge an entire system through a unique experience. French schools and teachers – as well as Americans ones – are different from one city to another.
A bientôt pour de nouvelles aventures! (See you later for other adventures!)