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October 8, 2009 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone here on ask mefi have experience with the teaching assistants program in France? I'm seriously considering applying. Or for that matter, does anyone have thoughts or experiences with other programs in France teaching English to French folk?

I have very basic French, but I am taking classes and plan on doing it throughout the year. I am just really enjoying it and I had no idea until my teacher mentioned it that the French government would actually pay some cold hard euros to have a native speaker come teach, even to someone (comme moi) that was a beginner. You work like 12 hours a week in a school, elementary or high school, and you get paid something to do it? 12 hours and the rest is yours to explore? I worked as a teachers assistant for a few years here and have some solid teaching experience.

It just seems to good to be true. Anyone out there been connected to this program or to other programs teaching in France?
posted by Rocket26 to Travel & Transportation around France (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I have a friend who is in his second year doing this. He's fluent in French (and seemed a little baffled that non-fluent speakers sign up for this, but they do). He said it was sort of a mixed bag -- it's not a particularly intimate teaching environment (I think he has a rotating schedule of hour-long classes with 8-10 different groups, so keeping track of names is a bit of a problem) -- but that it's an interesting way to learn how to teach, and he gets paid a living wage for it.

I can't really vouch for it, other than to say that yes, it's a real thing. I'm interested to see what other people have to say about it who have more personal experience with the program.
posted by puckish at 11:54 AM on October 8, 2009

Yep, it's real and I did it ten years ago, via the British Council, but I think the schemes are all essentially the same. It wasn't exactly a living wage then, although I think minimum wage legislation has come in since then. I only survived because my school provided rent-free accommodation.

It is 12 hours a week, yes, but there is preparation time to consider as well. The understanding is that you are there to learn about the language and culture, as well as to provide English-language help, so you are given plenty of free time.

I had loads of students - I'd take half a class, where a class could be as large as 36, so sometimes 18 to deal with, and I had zero teaching experience then.

I had half-decent French before I went, but I met an American girl who was doing the same job (I was in a high school, she was in various elementary schools) whose French was atrocious and she got by OK.

I went to a small town (you can choose your region, but it's quite hard to specify exactly where you want to go) and for language learning purposes you can't beat a small town where no-one speaks English. My friends who went to Paris had a much better social life than I did but my French improved much more than theirs did.

I'm sure I'll think of other things to say but if you want to know anything more specific, let me know.
posted by altolinguistic at 12:07 PM on October 8, 2009

Oh, hi! I'm writing this on my iPod touch from an auberge de jeunesse, as I have just visited my friend who is in their second week doing this exact thing (through the British council). It's totally possible to do the teaching part sans la langue, but that's the easiest bit. The hardest is the real life bit - especially finding a flat! You'll probably be put up by other teaches for a bit, or have to stay in a youth hostel while you search.

One thing to remember is that if you do go, you'll have massive ups and downs. One day, everything will be terrible - you'll get lost, forget all your vocabulary, feel like crap. The next, you'll have found a new French friend who hooks you up with a flat, after which you open a bank account and get a new phone without anyone realising that you're not French.

Useful sites - kijiji.fr, apartagee.fr (I think)

You'll want a mobicarte sans engagement (pay as you go SIM for an unlocked phone). Google "AVF Asso" and the town where you're living. Look into CAF.

Sorry if this doesn't answer your question precisely - it's just that I'm an anglophone searching for a job and flat at the moment, and these are useful things that I've been told or found out.
posted by djgh at 12:18 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

These are all extremely useful comments, precisely because I am looking for un grand aventure! Keeping 'em coming!
posted by Rocket26 at 12:27 PM on October 8, 2009

Yes. I did it. Last academic year, even. You should definitely apply to do it.

There are good and bad things about it. Here are some:

You actually get PAID to live in France, experience the culture, eat the unpasteurized cheese, drink the cheap yet awesome quality wine while also receiving SEVEN WEEKS of paid vacation with easyJet and trains and busses that are super cheap to take to other countries. Living in a different country is an amazing experience (even if some things suck, like your financial situation and the school that you get).

The schools are not what you are used to (students behave differently, teachers behave differently) and the quality of your school and how the real teachers relate to you is all luck of the draw. My school was a bum deal, but I still had a good time while not at work. Also, you either will or won't have any help from teachers and administrators of the program, again depending on the luck of the draw. These things can be frustrating, especially in the beginning.

Some advice that may or may not be applicable:
I lived in Lyon. It was great, but as far as travel went I would have had much cheaper travel opportunities if I'd been in the Lille (or anywhere closer to Paris) region because that's a major hub. Also, the BIC phone is the best (and coolest) cellphone deal. So get that.

Feel free to email/mefi mail me if you have any other questions. But definitely apply to do it.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 12:49 PM on October 8, 2009

I did an independent teaching internship in France - I second that schools aren't what you'll be used to. Apologies for the massive generalizations that are about to show up, but maybe it'll help you know what to expect:

I found the French education system in general relies more on tough love grading than the American one, which seeks more to build students' confidence and has widespread grade inflation. I observed a French elementary school teacher who acted in what I saw as a typical "nice and friendly" elementary school teacher way - later found out lots of parents had been complaining about her coddling the kids. Students in France seemed to talk much more in the classroom (both at university and lycée level) than any of us Americans were accustomed to.

Of course these are only very general impressions. I had a great experience there and bet you will, too. I've only heard positive impressions of the program.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:26 PM on October 8, 2009

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