Saturday, 5 September 2009

La Rentrée

On Monday, the sun was shining, the weather was warm and the birds were singing in the trees. After work, I sat in the square drinking a coffee and enjoyed the late summer feeling that was in the air.

On Tuesday, it rained. I put on thick tights and a jacket to walk to work and was grateful for a warming cup of coffee when I got there.

It was as if the weather knew it was the rentrée.

The rentrée is the beginning of the school year in France. But because everybody in France takes long holidays in the summer, it's also the beginning of the year for grown-ups too. People come back from sunning themselves on the Côte d'Azur and lazing in the mountains and have to face the grey skies and early morning starts of going back to work in the north. La rentrée is the moment when sick days take over from holidays as the main reason why nothing ever gets done in France.

As an example of this, the big news story from Monday night was the number of French classes that had yet to be allocated a teacher and the number of teachers who had yet to be allocated a class. French teachers started work on Tuesday. Because posts are allocated by central government, teachers are guaranteed a job after they qualify but they can be sent anywhere in the country. They can make requests with regard to the region and school but essentially they have to go wherever they're told. When these poor souls eventually do find out where they will be working, they'll have 48 hours to move there and start their jobs. While teachers obviously get upset when the administration screws up like this, however, I've always been surprised by how accepting teachers here are of the basic premise; they see having to move as a reasonable exchange for job security and the other privileges of being a fonctionnaire.

Still, the sun is supposed to come out again at the weekend. Who knows what will have happened by then?

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