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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2015: A Countdown

As 2016 rings in with a POP and then santé over Champagne, I realize that I’ve accomplished a lot in this past year. And on top of my accomplishments, I have a lot to be thankful for. There’s no better way to show my accomplishments and gratitudes than through numbers, so, here’s my 2015 countdown:

15 primaire classes taught (via the TAPIF program) at primaire schools in Marseille. Who would have thought I’d be teaching English overseas?

One of my students made this for me during a leçon about how Américains children celebrate Valentine’s Day.

14 Juillet in Aix-en-Provence. This was my third time celebrating Bastille Day in France; yet each time I celebrate it, it comes with new memories and a better appreciation for French culture (and not to mention the feu d’artifice in Paris).

13 [yummy] desserts Provençal nicely settled in my tummy (see this post for a more detailed account of the 13 desserts).

La pompe à l’huile (in the centre), une mandarine, une figue séchéeun nougat blanc, une datte, une noix, une amande, une noisetteun calisson, un morceau de chocolat, une pomme (apple), une poire (pear), un nougat noir (it’s behind the pompe).

12 hours a week of helping ELL/ESL students acquire English (I started out in primaire and now I’m in secondaire).

11 after school English classes successfully taught (over a period of 2 months) at The English Bubble.

10 friends and family who gave Rachel clothes at my Baby Shower…(I won’t even begin to count the number of clothes she has in addition to those from the Shower – Thanks to my brother and my sister-in-law as well as several friends who gave us two suitcases and two cardboard boxes full of clothes…as I mentioned above, I have a lot to be thankful for – baby clothes aren’t cheap & aren’t put to use for very long, either).

9 months of pregnancy survécu (survived). I’ve even documented my experiences during each trimester here, here, and here!

8 airline flights successfully taken. Being cupped up inside an airline cabin isn’t my ideal way of spending 9 hours…But, the destination(s) is are worth it.

7 nouveaux restaurants essayés (Aix-en-Provence and Illinois):

  • Burger Bar (la Maison du HanDBurger) (Aix-en-Provence)

This place sells handmade burgers & offers three types of burger meat: beef, combination beef & lamb, and chicken. I opted for the beef and it was amazingly delicious. There’s one downside to this restaurant: They gave us a jug of water that had dust and hair in it (it must’ve been sitting out). Aside from the water, it’s a great place for an Américain who’s missing a nice, juicy handmade burger.

Les Ravioli Japonais (aka Fried pork dumplings).

This is one of the most friendly Asian restaurants in Aix – the server even gave us a free house cocktail (I was pregnant, of course, so, the server gave me juice instead)!

Le porc au gingembre.

This restaurant offers huge, savoureux plats Asiatique – I was barely able to finish mine!

  • Ô Zen (Aix-en-Provence) *****

This restaurant is an Asian buffet! It’s expensive, but the food is delicious and plentiful (even the sushi is up to par!). We chose this restaurant on Halloween – it was a fantastic idée!

Tucked inside the Morton Arboretum, this restaurant offers healthy and delicious lunches, though, they come with a price! Most of the food is organic, locally grown, and free-range.

The highlight of this restaurant wasn’t the juicy, tender BBQ, it was the truffe mac ‘n cheese (ok, they were both beyond delicious!)! It’s also situated across from a frozen custard restaurant called Lickity Split Frozen Custard and Sweets. What better way to settle BBQ than having frozen custard for dessert?!

Nestled between Pulaski and Roscoe, this restaurant équatorien offers huge, delicious plates! Plus, there’s often musique on Saturday’s.

6 successful English leçons on how Américains celebrate holiday’s (Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Noël).

5 months of waiting…and then I finally received my titre de séjour (residency card)!

4th of July in the U.S. I introduced mon chéri to a typical Chicagoan Independence Américain Day Party (see this post for more on my trip to the U.S.). 

3 cities in 3 countries visited for the first time: Stockholm, Suede; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Amsterdam, Netherlands.

2 games of Belote won (let’s not get into how many I’ve lost)! Finalement, I’m starting to “master” the game…

1 newborn bébé. (Yep, I’ve survécu giving birth!)

So, I know it’s the time of year to make résolutions, but I’ve decided to look back on what I’ve accomplished (a lot has to do with teaching, and that’s ok because it’s what I love!) and what I have to be thankful for instead. Sure, I hope to have a wonderful year with my new famille, but I wouldn’t consider that a résolution…it’s a Given! ♦

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

G: Going: Going Going Gone!

Moscato in the U.S. (pretty much sums up springtime)

Au printemps, or spring, 2012: Am I going? Am I? Am I? I renewed my passeport...juste au cas ou, so, maybe I’m going…

Sangria in the U.S. (pretty much sums up summertime).

L’été, or summer, 2012: I got my visa…

juste au cas ou, so, I must be going…

L’automne 2012: I’m on an avion, or airplane……so, I’m definitely going…going…Gone from the U.S.

The Alps from the avion.

My famille, my friends…well, everyone can’t help but demandent: “Where did you go? Why did you go there? What did you do when you arrived?”

At the Marseille-Provence Aéroport in 2012.

Woa… One question at a time, stp (please).

In 2012, I went to Aix-en-Provence (Aix), France.

I traveled with two other students from my université.

In the above photos, we enjoyed our first night out in Aix.  At this point, though, in my travels, I didn’t know them personally, so, I think it’s safe to say that I left the U.S. alone…As in I left everything – friends, boyfriend, job, famille – behind. It was the most indépendante thing I did. To this day, I’m still proud of myself for taking this risque chance to experience another culture!

My housemate and I in front of our université, IAU.

I went to Aix to study French.

Graduation day!

I ended up gaining a lot more knowledge of the French language…

…of France…

Who knew that Batman lived in Aix?

…of French culture…

Aix’s novelty: Le calisson.

…and of myself than I bargained for.

Peddle boating in Les Gorges du Verdon.

…And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Lourmarin.

L’hiver, or winter, 2012: I returned to the U.S. with a new perspective on life…

…With new friends to add to the friends I already had in the U.S…

…With the courage to bid a final, ‘Au revoir‘, to a tiring 7-year relationship…

We’re thankful for Skype.

…With a new “boyfriend” (who knew if longue-distance would last)…

Things were so uncertain at this point…

…Oh, and with a new goal: Return to Aix.

Parc de la Torse (Aix).

Fast-forward to Avril, 2013: I returned to Aix.

I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my 27th b-day.

But, the celebration only lasted for about a week…at some point, I would have to return to the U.S. to finish my studies.

Fast-forward to Julliet, 2013: I returned again to Aix…Except this time, I went there without a return ticket. (Now, I’m starting to realize why I had not even a penny in my pocket by the end of the summer…)

After about 3 weeks in France visiting mon chéri, I reluctantly returned to the U.S. I had no choix.

L’automne 2013: Mon chéri came to the U.S. to visit me. He stayed for 3 months!

This time, though, I was certain that my ‘calling’ was to move to France. So, I spent that school-year finishing my studies, student teaching, and job searching. Fortunately, I was accepted to teach English in France through the TAPIF programme.

Avril 2014: I returned to Aix for a week to visit mon chéri and to start moving my stuff into our new appartement.

Mai 2014: I unofficially moved to Aix.

Juin 2014: I returned to the U.S. for a week for my dad’s funeral.

Août 2014: I returned to the U.S. to finish up the visa paperwork to make my stay in France more permanent.

Septembre 2014: My move to France became officiel!

Sometimes I wonder if I ever really left Aix in 2012. It’s clear now that when I left the U.S. in 2012, a part of me never really returned. ♦


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

E: Éducation: The Endeavor of Easing into French Écoles

In Octobre 2014, I started teaching English at three écoles primaires publiques in Marseille. I discovered this job after months of online research – finding a teaching job in France is not an easy task for an Américain(e) without proper working papers. The jobs are there (mainly in the privée sector), but employeurs are reluctant to take on the task of hiring an Américain(e). So, when I found that TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Professional in France) was an option, I was delighted! It took quite a bit of work to apply for the programme (proving my level of French, finding professors to write recommendations (in French, of course), writing a composition, in French, about why I deserve this opportunité…), but I was determined and as it turned out: My hard-work paid off!

So, how was the endeavor of entering into the French écoles primaires publique system? Well, to make this post go as smoothly as my time spent in the écoles, I split it into catégories:

French Teachers:

As an Américaine, you can’t enter into the teaching field in the publique sector without working in conjunction with other French teachers. To be a réal teacher in France, you have to pass the CAPES test (a test similaire to the APT, TAP, and content area tests in the U.S. except it’s 100x more difficile, or so I hear). To take this test, you have to be a French citoyen.

I worked with 16 French teachers. Only 2 of the 16 teachers I worked with spoke English at a decent level. The rest tried…they really did. It was almost as adorable as listening to my 6-year-old students speak English. The French teachers helped ease the transition into the schools. Even though, there was some confusion at first about my rôle. When it was English time, I took over each classe (except three classes where I worked side-by-side with the teacher) as the English Teacher. I made my own leçons and used my own matière. In most classes, the teacher and I decided the thèmes together and then I wrote the leçons.

My spécialité is in Foreign Language Education, so, as a result, I’ve worked with quite a few teachers in the U.S. For the most part, the teachers I worked with were gentil and somewhat helpful (my cooperating teacher was the most helpful). I discovered that French teachers were pretty much the same only much more honnêtes upfront. For exemple, French teachers don’t dance around the sujet if they have a problème or a suggestion about a particular piece in the leçon. They aren’t rude about any critique, either, though, if you’re super sensitive, then it’s possible you might take a critique the wrong way. My experience with U.S. teachers has been that when there is an issue, they talk about it behind your back. I’d rather sort out any issues face-to-face than play this ‘you’re perfect (but I hate you)’ waltz. Perhaps this is one raison why préfère la vie in France to la vie in the U.S. One thing I should note is that just like not every Américain teacher is “fake” up front, not every French teacher is as pleasant to work with as were my teachers – they were fantastique! Unfortunately, not every English assistant/teacher has had the same type of chance, or luck, as have I; however, this is a small few (like less than 1%).

The French primaire classroom: 

I never had my own classroom, which proved frustrating (see: TAPIF: An Ugly Mess). But, I still had accès to everything in each teachers’ classrooms. The classrooms in France are similaire to those in the U.S.* There’s a huge blackboard, each student has desks, the walls are covered with student work, there’s a corner for reading and relaxing, each student has his/her own cubbyhole… I could go on and on. There is one main différence, though: there’s a mini stage that sits just beneath the blackboard (that took some time getting used to). I worked in 16 different classrooms, so, I never got the chance décorer at least a tiny part with my students’ work.

In the schools I worked at in Marseille, there was a lack of technologie (and money, in général) in the classroom. A few teachers had projecteurs, which made the leçons much more interactive and interesting; however, for the other classes, I was forced to print a lot of images and use magnets to attach them to the blackboard. This was kind of annoying, but there was nothing I could do about it. France is still in the stage of equipping all of its écoles publiques primaires with the latest technologie (such as SMART board – I love the SMART board and I wished it was available when I taught during the 2014-2015 school year).

French students:

I worked in a city: Marseille, which is not too différent than Chicago. For exemple, it has its “south side” (which is actuellement in the north) and it has its Lincoln Park (which, I’d say, is situated at the port). The students acted how I expected them to act: “tough” but innocent (I worked with primaire students). It was obvious which students had older siblings because these students acted “tougher” and dared to ask me the meanings of vulgar words (plus, during a leçon on famille, I discovered that they had older siblings). I never told them the meanings; however, I did tell them that the words were vulgar and not to repeat them.

By the time I entered into the écoles, the écoles had already been in session for a month! So, the students already had their rythme. I jumped on this, though: We wrote the date in English at the start of every class and I underlined all headings in red (I never used a ruler, though, and this apparemment shocked the students). The students were sage when it came to writing: They always wrote in cursive and double space. Any time I wrote anything on the board that they had to copy in their notes, they always had questions about it. Obviously, I didn’t write in cursive…well, in fact, I write in combination cursive/print, which can be confusing to the French primaire student’s eyes. So, I spent some time re-writing ‘e’ and ‘d’…But, it was to be expected. I swear, the French (even at this level) have such pretty handwriting!

Students like to help the teacher, so, at the end of every classe, I had several students beg me if he/she could clean the blackboard. It got to the point where I had to promise certain students that they could do it ‘next week’.

French Principals:

Honnêtement, a principal in France does the same things as a principal in the U.S. In France, the principal is called le directeur/la directrice. The directeur/directrice handled any conflicts with parents, conducted meetings, made my schedule, and gère, or ran, the school. I worked at three différentes écoles, so, in turn, I worked with three différents directeurs/directrices. They were all very gentils and even recommended me to the CIEP (Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques) for the renewal of my contract.


As seen above, my endeavor of easing into French écoles went smoothly. From my experience, the teachers helped me the most! After all, I taught their classes (école primaire, remember?), so, if my leçons went smoothly, then, in théorie the rest of their day would go just as smoothly. This school year (2015-2016), I will be working at the secondaire level, so, I’ll be sure to write a post on the similarités and différences between primaire and secondaire. I’ll still be working in the same city: Marseille. ♦

*I only worked in écoles primaires, so, this post is focused on the primaire level, not on the secondaire level.


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…

IMG_7188

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! ♦

Expiration Date: Visa Éternel, please?

IMG_7141 “When does your visa expire?” a friend recently asked. “It expires on May 15.” Does this mean that I’ll be heading back to the good ol’ USA on May 15? No. Absolutely not.

Y'all know you want to stay in France! ;)

Expats united to fight against bureaucracy to stay in France! Those smiles are killers!

There’s some confusion as to whether or not expats can overstay their visas. After weeks of research, I still don’t know that actual answer (do the politicians even know?). One thing is certain: without a visa, US citoyens can stay in France (and in the Schengen Zone) up to 90 days within a 180 day period. The catch: US citoyens must have their passeport stamped at the start of the 90 days. IMG_7139 Récemment, I visited the préfecture to beg for an extension on my visa. I decided not to take any chances with the 90/180 day business since I’m pregnant and I need to be in France once I hit 7.5 months (can’t fly after that). As I anxiously approached the counter, I thought my task was impossible. Mon chéri began by politely explaining that I’d like to extend my visa. After that, all hell went loose. That is, for the next 5 minutes or so, I babbled and babbled and babbled about why the nice lady at the counter should give me an extension. She tried to shut me up at one point (and Martin tried, too) but I kept going (I was nervous…). Eventually, she got a few words in: “it’s ok; relax.” To my surprise, she was willing to work with me when I mentioned the anticipated job contract, so, adding pregnancy and PACS, the French version of a civil union, were just bonuses. It’s possible that she found me amusing. Now, I laugh about the encounter. At least I can say that my first encounter at the préfecture was a pleasant one. I have forms to fill out and documents to conjure up before I can return the forms, but all-in-all my case is NOT hopeless! Yay!

My happy face.

My happy face.

A few days ago, I received a letter in my inbox regarding my application to renew TAPIF.  It wasn’t exactly news that I wanted to hear, but what can one expect when every assistant d’anglais who wants to do the program a second year in a row fills out the same form? There’s nothing on the form to set us apart from one another, nothing to show our accomplishments and diplomas. So, how does the CIEP choose? I’ll be the first to tell you that “knowing people” has very little to do with it as the directeurs of my schools put in a good word for me. Also, submitting your application several weeks before the deadline makes no difference, either, though, it’s better to submit early than after the deadline. Perhaps, I wouldn’t feel as disheartened if my conseilleur pédagogique hadn’t made it sound like I was sure to be immediately accepted. Rule of thumb: never trust someone who’s retiring at the end of the year. At least I haven’t been completely let down: I’ve been placed on a waiting list. I suppose this news means that I should use my degree for something better than 12 working hours a week. But, as I reflect on what I should do after Pitchoune is born, I’m left feeling torn. I enjoyed the steady paycheck that came with teaching (and I enjoy teaching) during the school day; however, it might be more practical if I teach a few after school programs. In this case, we would always have a secured ‘baby-sitter’ for Pitchoune and it would enable me to have a longer adjustment period if I don’t start working until La Toussaint (Fall break). After all, a newborn is quite an adjustment. Due to this fact, I’m not looking into full time work until the baby turns 1; however, I’m keeping my options open. In any case, I have a lot to consider as I send out my CV to formulate a Plan C. Any ideas/advice are welcome! So, while the job issue is up in the air for the moment, my rights to stay in France are much more secured. At least least there’s something positive to look forward to. ♦