TAPIF: The story of…renewals

In 2014, I found the courage to leave nearly everything (inlcuding my job) and everyone behind to move to France. Having a chéri waiting for me at the aéroport certainly helped calme my fears!

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I also had a job lined up: I was accepted to work as an an assistant de langue in 3 écoles primaires in Marseille. Finding a job in France is tough enough for actuel Français, so it was nice to know that I had a job for at least 7 mois.

First day on the job: Job Training!

I had such an amazing aventure that in Janvier 2015, I filled out the form to renew the program. This was also the “easiest” way to have a somewhat secured job in France (as noted above: jobs are hard to come by). It was also nice to know that Américains (without a carte de séjour) can renew a second time through the CIEP. The process through the CIEP is less complexe than the process through TAPIF in the USA.

In Juin 2015, I was accepted to work a second year; however, I was placed in a lycée (high school) and a collège (Middle School). This expérience was complètement différente from the first year – and this différence had nothing to do with how hard it was to work with a newborn around.

After a year of job searching while working as an assistante de langue, I decided to renew again for the 2016-2017 school year. In Août 2016, I was accepted again as an assistant, though this time I went directly through the Rectorat as an Assistante Locale. With a carte de séjour vie privée et familiale travailleur, I was able to aply for the assistantship through the Rectorat. I worked at a différent (same city) lycée and a collège – both much more organized than the previous year. I also found a second job (thanks to Pôle Emploi) with the agency O2 Kid Aix as an Enlighs speaking nanny; but it was only part time. So, I decided to do both since the assistant-gig would still be my main job source. This was “easy” for me because I’m vehicle equipped. So, I could get from one job to the other in a more timely manner than if I had to go by transportation public.

I also decided that this would be my last year as an assistant and was even more determined than before to find something more full time and closer to me. This means that I worked as an assistante de langue during the 2014-2015 school year, the 2015-2016 school year, and the 2016-2017 school year. Each experience differing from the last (as I was in différent schools all 3 years). Thus showing that even in the same city, school organisation differs completely – leaving me wondering how “égalité” fit into this situation.

If you’re having trouble deciding on primaire ou secondaire, then let the liste below be a guide on what to expect. It’s important to note that not all expériences are equal. 

Some of the main différences between assisting in primaire and in secondaire:

  • Assisting in primaire
    • I make my own leçons (on basic English concepts).
    • I teach the classe entière (25-30 kids) while the teacher is présent (the teacher only intervenes for disciplinary raisons) or while the teacher is out on a quick smoke/coffee break or making copies.
    • I have very little online accès at the school and no copy machine code (except in those schools where a code is not nécessaire).
    • I have none or very little technologie to use in the classroom. If I want to play a song (such as The Days of the Week), then I must bring my own computer/mp3 player and speakers.
    • I work every planned day (except holidays). If a teacher is absent, I stay at the school either in the “teacher’s lounge” or in the computer lab (if the shcool has one) doing nothing during the 30 minutes or hour of that teacher’s classe
  • Assisting in secondaire
    • Sometimes I make my own leçons (more advanced or BAC focused or BTS focused), while most most days I help the teacher. Some days, I knew the teachers’ leçons in advance and could therefore prépare something; other days, I was informed minutes before the start of classe
    • Either I help the teacher (usually, this consists of walking around and intervening while the students work in groupes) or take half the classe to a separate room for the whole time or for half the time (half the time: 2 groupes of 15 students in a 45 minute period). 
    • Normalement, an internet accès code, a copy machine code, and room keys are provided; however, during the 2015-2016 school year, I ended up having to use the computer code from last year’s assistant and was never given a key, which made taking half the classe to a room (often miles away from the original teacher’s room) quite difficile. During the 2016-2017 school year, I learned that the school is required to give assistants a key – so, remember Rule #1: Don’t hesitate to harcèle the secrétaire, the directeur/ice, and the Rectorat for keys and the codes for computer/internet and copy machine accès.
    • I have accès to computers, speakers, Epson and the internet, so I can show Prezi powerpoints and vidéo clips in the target language. 
    •  I can leave the school when the teacher is absent or for any other raison for classe annulation (this means that I can go home if I have no other classes that day or if I live nearby the school and can return for any later classes). This happens frequently especially during the end of the year with the Bac and the Brevet examens. 

Each TAPIF experience is différent but it’s always good to know a little bit about what is expected of you in the classroom and what is expected of the schools. Remember: In secondiare, you get keys to your own classroom! The person in charge of the assistants in each académie at the rectorat will fight for you on this one as you can’t be of good use if you can’t get into your classroom! ♦

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L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

Lesson plans: The one thing that encompasses the lives of nearly every single teacher. Sometimes, they’re easy to create; othertimes, they’re a…bitch. Don’t get me wrong, I love creating leçons. But, when it takes the entire week to “perfect” 1 leçon only to have to modify it to the point where it no longer looks like your original idée…well, it’s exhausting.

Bienvenue to la vie d’un professeur.

French teachers!

Teaching is an exhausting career, but it is more rewarding than exhausting. Je l’aime !

There’s one thing I’m thankful for: edTPA is a mémoire in the past.

In Illinois, all student teachers must complete the edTPA. Basically, this consists of filming yourself teaching several leçons and then cutting the film to 10 minutes. Then, you follow written prompts provided by the state to prove student learning and to show how you modified the leçons to fit student needs (and paying at least $350 to Pearson to evaluate the film and the explanation). There are 3 parties (at least in 2014, there were 3 parties), which take several hours days to complete. After completing that, making leçons in France was a cinch (though, still time-consuming).

In France (2014-2015), I taught English to students ages 6-12. Unlike my teaching experience in the U.S. where technologie was very present, there was a lack of technologie in the écoles publiques (level: primaire) in Marseille. Thankfully, I had my laptop and speakers. From my experience, creating laughable leçons is difficile without some form of technologie. For exemple, I showed vidéo clips in nearly all of my leçons. The students loved the clips because they combined engaging pieces of culture Américaine with songs. Honnêtement, songs are a huge succès at the primaire level (think: “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”…). Also, the clips were often hilarious and kooky. According to Steven Krashen, the best way to aquire a langauge is through memorable (aka laughable, culturel…) leçons (for further reading: Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course by Susan M. Gass and Experimental Psycholinguistics (PLE: Psycholinguistics): An Introduction by Sam Glucksberg and Joseph H. Dank). As an individuelle in the field of SLA, I agree. Krashen also coined the input + 1 theory. This theory is truly evident in the classroom. It’s the idea that in order for students to acquire the language, the teacher must combine the students’ current comprehensible level with 1 level above. If the teacher were to use 2+ levels above, the students would not acquire the language and might even create a barrier, known as an affective filter (for further reading: Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition by Steven D. Krashen). Being aware of the affective filter is the key in creating an atmosphere conductive to acquiring the language. Even things we can’t control such as rain tapping on the classroom window can negatively affect the affective filter. The important thing is to try and create a classroom with a low affective filter as best we can. This is one raison why I use vidéo clips: The kids love them, thus making them stay focused during the leçon.

In addition to using technologie, I also use skits. My main rôle was to focus on language output, so, I had students perform in pairs in front of the class. At first, students were nerveux, but once they realized that this wasn’t a test, they became more and more calm. Even my most timide student began raising her hand to be the first to perform! That is SUCCÈS in my book. 🙂 Language input (think: Krashen) is the first step; however, in order to assess the input, students need to create some output (think: Merill Swain). While I offered multiple output opportunities throughout the classe, the skits were the best because they enabled me to correcte the accent of every student (yes, I made everyone do it).

5 Must-haves in the primaire classroom:

  • Musique (whether it’s through CD, iPod/mp3 player, your own instruments and voice…musique is the key!)
  • Vidéo clips
  • Différente couleurs – for exemple, during a unit on the days of the week, I established a différente couleur for each day of the week. This helped students remember that in the U.S., the week starts with Sunday, not Monday.
  • Books – for exemple, one book that was an extreme succès: There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Pam Adams. With all books, I not only read the book to the students, but I asked questions. In one leçon, we didn’t even focus on what the book was about. Instead, we focused on what the old lady was wearing. The students certainly acquired the basics: jacket, socks, shoes, skirt, sweater, hat…just from this book. This prompted questions: “Why is she wearing striped socks?” And, “Is she a witch?” Once students acquired the vocabulary, I handed out a sheet of paper with 8 outlines of the old lady. Then, I said, “Old Lady #1 is wearing a bue jacket, a green shirt and two black and yellow socks.” The students had to color in the first old lady figure with the description. I did this for all 8 figures. At the end of the activity, one student for each 8 figures drew the old lady on the chalkboard as I described. In another leçon (with the same group of students), I had them guess what was going to happen next in the story. One thing to note: At their level of English, I opted for “ate” instead of “swallowed” because it was better for the students. In fact, they thought that “swallowed” translated to manger, which is not true (manger = to eat; avaler = to swallow). Half of them weren’t even familier with avaler. In a separate leçon with my 6-7 year olds, I used the book Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle. Not only did I read the book, but I asked questions: What animal is it? What color is X animal? Do you like X animal? Have you seen  X color of X animal? Do you have X animal as a pet? Yes = How many do you have? Is it a boy or a girl? What’s his/her name? No = do you have any pets? What’s your favorite animal?
  • A chalkboard/whiteboard and chalk/dry-erase markers (duh!) – I used the chalkboard for several things. For exemple, I wrote the date at the start of every classe (well, I asked students to give me the date and then I wrote it). Another exemple is that I used the chalkboard to play several games: Hangman (usually the first 5 minutes at the start of classe), Kim’s game, Where’s Waldo?, Pictionary, Hot/Cold…
  • Your sense of humour – for exemple, in a leçon on animaux, I had 1 student at a time stand in front of the classe and mimic an animal. Then, the other students had to guess the animal. We had a good laugh during this leçon. In another leçon, I played Simon Says with parts of the body (the kids love, love this game). Once the students were confortable with the vocabulaire, I began to show the wrong body part in order to trump the students (“Simon says, “touch your knee;” I touched my elbow). Also, I really got some students when I touched the right body part but did not say, “Simon says…”

With these 6 things (but, not limited to just these 6), you can create an environment with a low affective filter that is conductive to learning. Also, working with primaire students has its benefits: They’re generally eager to show off their ‘English skills’ to you and thus are good during classe. When they don’t listen, they are easy to punish: “Because you continue to talk without raising your hand, you will now sit/stand in the corner.” “Because you continue to chat with your neighbor, you will now go sit next to your teacher in the back of the classe until I say otherwise.”

Those two techniques seemed to work for me. ♦


This is part of a blogging challenge: Topics ranging from A-Z. You can follow my challenge by clicking on the links below:

A: Adulthood: The Age of Absolute Ambiguïté 

B: Bilingue: La Vie is Better Being Bilingual

C: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté

D: Death: Dealing with the Décès of My Dad

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

F: Food: Fancy or Faulty in France?

G: Going: Going Going Gone!

H: Home: My Heart Has Two Harbors

I: Interests: Intelligent, Insightful, Incredible!

J: Joy: La Jalousie is Overcome by La Joie

K: Khimar: Kind and Kooky Knitted Clothing Traditions

L: Lesson Plans: Leading the “Little Ones” into Language through Laughable Leçons

M: Musique: The Many Musicians Making Love on the Streets of Aix

N: Naughty or Nice?: Not Only Noticing the Différences, But Also the Similarités Between France and the U.S.

O: Obéi: Only Open to Obeying the Rules of the Road in…

P: PACS: Passionate Partners Pledging L’amour

Q: Questions: A Queen’s Quest for Clarté

R: Raisons: Riding on the Pony of Real Reasons (to Take the A-Z Challenge)

S: Study Abroad: Smiles and Sadness Set the Scène

T: Travel: Time to Hit the Trail!

U: Under the Influence: An Ugly Upward Climb Until Reaching the Summit

V: Vulgarité: Venturing out into the Vast and Voluptuous World of Cultural Différences

W: Walking: The Wise and Watchful Médiéval Wanderer

X: Xenial: A Xenodochial but not Xenophobic Host in France

All Good Things Must…

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I hate this quotation. I hate even more that, on the one hand, there is truth to it. For example, my work contract ended – meaning, I no longer teach 3 days a week in Marseille. In addition to saying goodbye to 16 teachers and 416 students, a lot of the friends I made through the TAPIF program will be returning (or have already left) to their home country (that’s a lot of goodbyes). Also, my visa has ended, so now I’m a touriste. Don’t get me started on how going from a working citoyen to a touriste has me cringing (it’s as if the diable ripped out half of my soul).

On the other hand, why focus on the “good things” that have ended? Why not focus on how this experience changed my life in so many positive ways and how these positive aspects will add more good things to my future? In this sense, not “all” good things have ended. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The positives that came from a year of living and teaching English in France:

  1. I gained overseas teaching experience, which I’ve already added to my C.V. (and I no longer have to take the bus ride to Marseille 3x a week! YAY!)
  2. I bring up examples of lesson plans that I used while teaching this year in English teaching and tutoring job interviews. This actually helped me nab a short job this month!
  3. I can communicate in Français! (I can discipline in Français, too.)
  4. I can speak using the Marseillais accent! (It’s not perfect; it’s in progress!)
  5. I know several Provençal word/expressions!
  6. I’ve accumulated several English children’s books that I’ll be able to use with Pitchoune.
  7. I’ve learned a variety of French children’s songs that I’ll be able to understand when mon chéri uses them with Pitchoune.
  8. I opened up a network of friends who enjoy French and France as much as me!
  9. I made a life with mon chéri and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂
  10. I’ve figured out the French bureaucratic system. (It still has its downsides, but at least I can be prepared for anything.)

So, although saying goodbye to so many people and experiences is depressing, my life is not defined by the sadness, non, not by any means. In fact, I look forward to more good things that lie ahead! ♦

TAPIF: Holiday Themed Lessons

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I wish I could say that all of my leçons begin with a theme – after all,  it makes the material so much easier for students to remember (and so much more fun)! But, there are some grammatical points that you just can’t pair up with a theme (that’s why I use songs and games!). I suppose for this reason, I overcompensate when a theme pops up…I totally endorse jumping all over EVERY U.S. (and any English speaking country) “HOLIDAY” when appropriate.

Last month was Valentine’s Day. So, what did we do during English time? We learned that Valentine’s Day is not only for lovers but also a day to say, “Thank you for being my friend.” A concept that every single French student laughed at (I had to calm about 200 laughing children within a matter of 3 days…I deserve a bonus 😉 ). Their laughter turned into happy faces when it came time to make Valentine’s Day cards. After all, who doesn’t like coloring?

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This year, I discovered that Valentine’s Day leçons are a great way to: 1. Introduce or review colors (if already covered). 2. Introduce or review numbers. 3. Introduce or review “what’s your name?” My leçons focused on reviewing the colors, which was needed for some of my classes (FYI the French have a hard time with Green and Gray – no matter how many times we work with pronouncing, understanding, seeing, and feeling the differences). I paired the color review with numbers. In some classes, numbers were review; in other classes numbers were a new topic. Due to the lack of time I have with the students, I printed out already made Valentine’s Day cards. I made a key using numbers and colors. After reviewing the directions as well as the colors and numbers, the students got to work on coloring their cards. Who knew that students would need 2 class periods to finish coloring 8 cards? Once the cards were finished, students walked around asking for each others’ names and how they’re spelled. The next step was filling in the “To” & the “From” & then passing them out to each other. It felt just like a U.S. elementary school as the students walked around saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Thank you for being my friend!”

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Now that Winter break is coming to an end, I’m stuck with the burden of making St. Patrick’s Day top Valentine’s Day. Somehow, I think the idea of the “Pot o’ gold” will interest students more than coloring. This holiday might be trickier as I explain the differences in how it’s celebrated (or not celebrated) among the English speaking countries, but it’ll be fun!

Holidays to touch on at the primary level during TAPIF (as TAPIF starts in October) include (this is by no means a definitive list; it’s a list that I’ve been able to follow given the time):

  • Halloween (great to pair with leçons on the seasons, colors, animals, and disguises)
  • Thanksgiving (great to pair with leçons on food, drink, and animals)
  • Christmas/St. Nicolas (great to pair with leçons on colors, numbers, seasons, weather, time, religious and mythical differences/similarities between France and the U.S., and food and drink)
  • New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day (great to pair with leçons on time and seasons)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (great to pair with leçons on history, important people, colors, and numbers)
  • Valentine’s Day/St. Valentine’s Day (great to pair with leçons on colors, numbers, and ‘what’s your name?’)
  • Birthday (great to pair with leçons on numbers and age)
  • St. Patrick’s Day (great to pair with leçons on food and drink, colors, numbers, counting money, seasons, time, weather, and religious differences/similarities between English speaking countries and France)
  • Easter (great to pair with leçons on animals, colors, food, and religious/mythical differences between France and the US)
  • May Day (a dying tradition in the U.S., but great to pair with leçons on shapes, colors, numbers, and tradition)
  • Independence Day (will have to be taught near the end of April, but every student should know about it. It’s great to pair with leçons on colors, time, dates in history, numbers, and food and drink)

This list comes with what I’ve already done with my various elementary English levels, what we will do (with the coming holidays), and what I see that we could’ve done (but haven’t yet). The “could’ve” will be more beneficial as I renew my contract for next year. It would be nice to add other holidays from English speaking countries other than the U.S., but with the amount of time I have per class plus the material that needs to be covered, there’s just not enough time to include topics I’m no expert about. It’s quite interesting trying to pair famous traditional holidays with topics that are required to cover at the primary level. What I wouldn’t give to teach in a high school, where I imagine most holiday and tradition leçons focus more on discussion and debate. But, I love my primary students as they make teaching so much fun…I wouldn’t change it for the world! Especially when they give me cute little drawings of n’importe quoi (aka things I can’t make out) and are excited to see me. Oh, and when they talk in English…IT’S SO CUTE! ♦

TAPIF: An Amazing Adventure

Teaching through TAPIF is both a frustrating and rewarding experience (see: TAPIF: An Ugly Mess). This post is dedicated to the reasons why I plan on doing TAPIF again next year.

Reasons why teaching through TAPIF is Amazing:

  1. It gives Américains (as well as other native English, Spanish, Italian, and German speakers from various parts of the world) a chance to live and work (legally) in France for 7 months.

  2. It introduces assistants to a different educational system. Who knew that elementary teachers in France stand on a small stage when they write on the chalkboard? It certainly adds new meaning to the idea that ‘teachers are performers.’

  3. It’s the best way for French immersion. First off, living in France will force you to speak French – even if you’re spending 12 hours a week teaching anglais, English. Secondly, most of the students will know very little anglais, so, speaking some French is often a requirement while teaching anglais. Especially, for those words that are hard to ‘show’ in the form of a gesture or an image.

  4. It enables the assistant to spend time exploring France. 12 hours a week leaves some room for exploration and travel. However, it’s important to note that assistants spend a lot of time outside of class (aka. outside of the paycheck) preparing for lessons (I spend about 5 hours extra a week). With this extra work in mind, I’ve had time to explore other parts of France such as cities in the south around Aix-Marseille (Cassis, Carry-le-Rouet, and Eguilles… to name a few) and Montpelier as well as Tours and Paris (in the north).

  5. It provides the assistant with adorable students! At the primary level, the students love you! They even draw you pictures, hug you, give you les bises, and try to show-off their limited English skills to you. They’re just so CUTE!

  6. It provides the assistant with an ideal work schedule. Every assistants’ schedules are different; however, no one works the weekend (woohoo!). I work Monday-Tuesday all day & Wednesday until 11:30 (class ends at 11:30 on Wednesday’s and Friday’s). So, my weekend starts on Thursday, though, Thursday usually ends up being my “un-wind-from-the-work-week” day (I lounge around a good portion of the day).

  7. It includes paid vacation time! Assistants get about 8 weeks of vacation during the 7 month work contract. That’s not including the random fériés (government holidays) that are placed throughout the school year. For example, there’s one on Armistice Day and there’s another one on the Monday after Easter (“Easter Monday”).

  8. It enables assistants to work with a variety of French professors. This is an advantage because assistants can start building a network, which could help the assistant find more or better teaching (or anything) jobs in France. This is perfect for those assistants who plan to stay and work in France once the program finishes. I’m lucky that my colleagues are nice and inviting. I’ve already had some of them refer me for various English teaching/tutoring jobs throughout Marseille.

  9. It prepares assistants for any type of “real world” work. Sure, assistants are only part-time; however, we have a full-time workload. I prepare lessons (for all elementary school levels) and then teach those lessons to about 200 students a week. I didn’t even have that many students when I taught French full-time in the US! Thus, the TAPIF program certainly prepares assistants for everything – whether it’s classroom management, working as a team or alone, or time management – the assistant is prepared for almost any type of work once the program finishes (often, other work outlets seem too easy). *On a side note, despite what Washington has to say about Américains working 2 years in a row, according to the CIEP, Américains can do the program 2 years in a row! Current assistants simply re-apply to the program by filling out this application on the CIEP website and then e-mailing it to assistant@ciep.fr or mailing it via post to:

    CIEP
    Département langues et mobilité
    Unité assistants de langue
    1, avenue Léon Journault
    92318- Sèvres cedex

The TAPIF adventure doesn’t end at #9 because I plan on working with this program again next year! I look forward to what next year will bring. The directeurs of my schools have told me that they will do what they can to get the CIEP to keep me in their schools next year, so, that’s a plus!

*Of course, my experiences with TAPIF are through teaching at the primary level in the Académie Aix-Marseille. Other académies may function differently, which is one reason why not every assistant‘s experience is the same.♦

TAPIF: An Ugly Mess

I can’t start this post without noting that I’m happy to be teaching English in France.

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The joys of teaching: receiving cute drawings from students.

In fact, teaching is my life – creating lessons, engaging students in a second (or third in some cases) language, making learning about other cultures fun and interesting… I thrive on these things. In fact, I have a permit to teach French legally in the US. However, not every dream is all rainbows and butterflies, no, often dreams turn into an ugly mess.

Reasons why teaching through TAPIF is frustrating and ridiculous:

  1. The French public school system is completely UNORGANIZED and UNCOMMUNICATIVE. I’m not saying that public school districts in the US aren’t as unorganized and uncommunicative as those in France, but, c’mon! The extent of disorganization and the lack of communication is RIDICULOUS and FRUSTRATING (see reasons #2-7)!
  2. On my first day as an assistante, none of the teachers knew I was coming! I was confused by their confusion because I didn’t choose the emploie du temps, or work schedule. So, either there was poor communication on the part of my boss and the directors or the directors of the schools didn’t bother notifying their staff… In fact, one teacher had no idea that she was going to have an assistante! Yet, I knew in June that, come October, I would be working at her school.
  3. None of the teachers seemed to know my rôle. Oh, but my boss set a few of them straight when she came to inspect me (it was more of an inspection of the teachers I work with than an inspection of my teaching). So, on Wednesday’s, I do whatever the teacher has planned (Monday’s and Tuesday’s, I’m usually in charge of everything). An assistant(e) at the primary level “intervenes in front of the entire class by applying what the teacher has already planned or by working with a small group of students on oral comprehension and oral expressions.”  For exact information on the rôle d’assistant(e), check out the official 2014-2015 CIEP book (in French): Le guide assistant de langue en France.  The rôle doesn’t include making full fledged lesson plans, so, why is it that most (~99%) assistants(es) take on the rôle of both the assistant(e) and the teacher? This question is easy to answer: the primary school teachers aren’t qualified to teach English. I enjoy creating lesson plans; however, I didn’t graduate university and get a teaching license so that I could create lesson plans that aren’t in my work contract. But, I like having control over the lesson (I’m sure most assistants(es) would agree)! And, honestly, I’m more qualified to make the lesson plans than most of the teachers I work with (when you think that British English and American English are exactly identical and are surprised when I point out differences, then there’s a huge problem). In fact, all of the teachers take notes when I teach!
  4. In the primary schools, the assistants(es) don’t have their own classroom. This poses several problems. First, the assistant(e) has to lug all of his/her material to each class (on Tuesday’s, I have 8 classes ranging from the first floor to the fourth floor…). I show a video/song at the beginning of every class, so that means that I lug my laptop and my speakers to every class. Second, discipline can be difficult at times because the assistant(e) is intervening in the students’ classroom. In my experience as a teacher in the US, I’ve seen that having your own classroom makes it easier for elementary aged students to associate that room with your rules. Third, since the assistant(e) makes all of the lesson plans anyway, it would be beneficial to be able to offer a classroom full of English paraphernalia (flags, holiday decorations, etc….) and the students’ work of art. It would be much more welcoming for the students and it would make the transition into English Time easier for the students. In all 3 of my schools, there’s at least 1 room that I know I could use for this purpose (so, “not having an extra room available” is not an excuse).
  5. None of the primary school teachers are qualified to teach English (perhaps, 2 out of the 16 I work with are semi-qualified). So, the whole assistants(es)-do-what-the-teacher-plans thing is sort of tossed out the window – or it should be. I work with one teacher who tries really hard to create the lessons. We work together to teach English and French side-by-side (it’s the only class I have that teaches both languages at the same time). I spend more than half of the class correcting this teacher’s English. On the one hand, this is good for the students because it shows that they’re not alone in this second, or third, language struggle. On the other hand, it’s time consuming. So, with this in mind, it would be beneficial to the TAPIF program if they required applicants to have some second language teaching background. For example, requiring a teaching licence or a major/minor in English and ELL. I’m a better teacher today because of the methods classes I took during the Foreign Language Teaching Program at my university. (of course with this requirement, there would be a pay increase and your own classroom – maybe more hours at one or two schools rather than minuscule hours at 3 schools, too…an assistante can dream, can’t she?). I like to think that assistants(es) could pop out bilingual French-English speakers faster and more efficient through these changes.
  6. In October, no one seemed to be able to tell us assistants(es) what day of the month we would get paid. In the US, most enterprises (including the public school sector) have a set day(s) every month. For example, when I worked in retail, I got paid every other Wednesday (obviously, holidays can change the date). The assistants(es) were told that we would be paid at the end of every month, which was rather vague. We had so many questions: “‘the end’ means the 30th or the 31st right? Even if it’s a Sunday?” Apparently, the 27th counts as ‘the end of the month’. The 27th hasn’t yet landed on a Sunday, so I’m still unsure about that answer. 2 months after our start date, we realized that every month on the 27th, we get paid. Why didn’t anyone tell us sooner?!? I know some assistants(es) really needed the money, so, not knowing the date created a lot of unnecessary stress.
  7. Assistants(es) start a month (almost 2 months in some cases) after the French school system is in session. Unfortunately, this creates an array of problems for the assistant(e), the teacher, and the students. I have no idea why TAPIF starts in October – maybe it’s to get the students already used to the school routine before introducing them to an étranger(e), or foreigner? It seems more stressful to start the assistants(es) a month later than it would be to start them at the same time. Specifically, the assistants(es) needs to work with the teachers, so, it’s better to find a way to work together at the beginning than when the teacher already has his/her plan (that often doesn’t include English) for the semester/year.
  8. Healthcare. Yeah, I’m about to go there. The healthcare in France is AMAZING. First of all, the Dr.’s actually see the patient as a human being to care for instead of as dollar signs. Second of all, there’s not much hassle (once the insurance kicks in) with whether or not the insurance will cover something (because it covers almost EVERYTHING)! Unfortunately, behind this fabulous healthcare, there’s a dark spot. The amount of time it takes to send the forms to MGEN (teacher’s healthcare) is RIDICULOUS! The assistants(es) filled out the forms and gave all of the necessary paperwork to the lovely employees that handle this type of administrative work for the school district on October 1st. About a month later, I found myself with a sinus infection, so, I went to both the sécu and to the MGEN in hopes of receiving my SSN or a temporary SSN. Surpise, suprise: I wasn’t even in the system. An entire month and a half had flown by and the paperwork wasn’t even submitted yet! How long does it take to submit paperwork? Apparently almost 3 moths. The nice employee at MGEN told me that she could submit all of my paperwork for me (and at no charge, of course). So, why doesn’t the program just let us submit the paperwork ourselves? I understand that certain people can’t be trusted to successfully carry out a task like this, but seriously! The employees who are in charge of this paperwork could schedule trips for the assistants(es), in groups of 5-10, to submit everything at an MGEN office (it would be similar to the OFII visit). This could take care of the stress of the middle-men (essentially, that’s what they are) handling official documents. In fact, there’s an MGEN office nicely tucked away in the centre ville d’Aix. With this in mind, I only paid 23€ to see the Dr. (that was without insurance), so, it’s not so bad. I’ve been paying for insurance from my income each month, though, so,  it’s the principle, really. But, in the end, the Dr. gave me forms to fill out and to submit to MGEN once I receive my SSN. These forms will enable me to get back my 23€. Even with this sécu mess, I still prefer the healthcare system in France (with insurance, I paid $100 in the US to see the Dr. – makes you wonder how much money insurance companies are making from your tiny wallet).

Even with these negative aspects to the TAPIF program, I’m still happy and proud of my choice (and the fact that I was chosen) to teach English in France. To come: Reasons why teaching through TAPIF is AMAZING (obviously, I had to get the negative stuff out of the way first…).♦

Va Va Visa !

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Since receiving the acceptance letter from TAPIF in April 2014, I’ve dreamed about this day: receiving la carte de longue séjour, or long-stay visa. Things have been “non-stop” since I’ve been back in the states. I returned on August 27, took a trip to Chi-town for the réunion, or appointment, at the French consulate on August 28, and started working at BR on August 29. That weekend was Labor Day, so, naturally, I labored the entire time. In retail, there’s no such thing as taking a pause from laboring for “Labor Day.” But, I won’t be stuck in retail for much longer because I’m going to be returning home (aka to the south of France) next Tuesday! After 10 years of service, my contract with BR will finally come to an end. It’s a bittersweet ending, but I look forward to what lies ahead: Teaching English in France (and being with mon chéri).

On August 28, I missed my 8:00am train to the city, so, I was forced to drive in. It was a beautiful, breezy, sunny morning, so, I didn’t mind. Little did I know at the time, it would be the only beautiful day out of the 3 weeks I’ve been in the states. Though, it was a well deserved beauty.

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I arrived early at the consulate in order to meet up with one of my long-time SAFFL (Study Abroad Friends for Life) friends.

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We met in front of the consulate and had a nice 20 minute chat before I went inside. We thought that he would be able to join me in the visa room; however, the procedures have changed since 2012. Now, only people with appointments are allowed to go to floor 37. This was a bit of a disappointment; however, it worked out perfectly as the réunion lasted about 15 minutes. Afterwords, we had lunch, followed by a trip to the People’s Republic of China consulate so that he could pick up his touriste visa. Needless to say, it was day filled with going to/from consulats.

What the TAPIF candidate needs to bring to the réunion at the consulate in Chicago*:

  • 1 completed visa pour un longue séjour application: Visa Application in French
  • 1 OFII form – only the top half needs to be filled out: OFII Form 
  • The Arrêté de nomination (work contract) stamped by the French ministry of labor
  • 1 copy of the  Arrêté de nomination
  • Your passeport (they keep your passeport and put the visa on one of the pages)
  • 1 copy of the identity pages in your passeport  
  •  A self-addressed prepaid EXPRESS MAIL envelope from the US POST OFFICE ONLY (NO FEDEX / UPS / AIRBORNE EXPRESS accepted)

*Although most of the required documents are the same at every consulate, there might be certain consulates that require other types of materials. Be sure to read the consulate general’s website for your jurisdiction before going to your appointment. Here is a link to the TAPIF requirements at the Consulate General of France in Chicago.

I also brought my flight information and my lodging information (attestation and EDF, or electricity bill); however, these were not needed. Another unnecessary thing are bank statements. There was some confusion about whether or not this would be required; however, the employee who helped me with the visa informed me that it is not required for those with a work contract.

I was told that I would receive my visa in two weeks; however, I received it a week later. 🙂 ♦