Lesson Learned: 10 Tips for Teaching Assistants in France

1.  Commute. Live where the fun is, even if it means a longer commute. France has an extensive and inexpensive public transportation system. Don’t be afraid of buses; they might be your new best friend.

2.  Don’t live with a host family. It isn’t worth the money you’ll save to give up your independence, or access to a kitchen. (Exception to the rule: if you really, really want to live in a host family, don’t let me stop you.)

3.  Stick up for yourself. Don’t let teachers give you more than 15 students at a time. Don’t let them schedule one hour of class at 8 am on a Friday morning–you might not be able to stop them, but it never hurts to ask, even when you have to ask in French. I talked my teachers into changing my ONE hour every Monday to TWO hours every other Monday, thereby getting myself a five-day weekend every other week.

4.  Don’t live with other assistants. Some people might disagree with this advice, but I think the best way to learn French and to extend your social network outside the TAPIF bubble is to live with French or international roommates.

5.  Don’t live alone. Same  reasons.

6.  Have a project in mind to keep you busy. 12 hours of work a week isn’t much, and you’ll go crazy or drink yourself into a bottle if you don’t have something to do. Whether it’s applying to grad school, writing a novel, or training for a marathon, just have something to keep your mind and/or body active.

7.  Speak French. More than I did. Splurge on a class.

8.  Travel advice: If I could do it again, I wouldn’t have traveled during school holidays, except maybe Christmas. I would have stayed and worked teaching private English classes, saving money to travel in May and June, when the weather is infinitely preferable to November and February.

9.  Piggyback off your teachers. Every assistant has radically different experiences, even from one school to another, but a general piece of advice is to use your teachers. They may tell you to go in any direction you want, but if it somehow relates back to the main English class, your students will learn more and hopefully engage more, and you will have a much easier time planning lessons.

10.  Don’t buy jars of Nutella. Your waist will thank you later.

Fellow teaching assistants, what advice would you give?

13 thoughts on “Lesson Learned: 10 Tips for Teaching Assistants in France

  1. Hello! I enjoy reading your blog. I imagine it’s a good way to get to know the culture through a host family, although ultimately it’s probably better to have your own independence and space. Good choice!

  2. Thanks for the advice! I’m leaving to do the assistantship in a few months, so I’ll definitely be reading more of your past posts! Great blog! 🙂

  3. Would you still recommend the “live where it’s fun” and “don’t live alone” rule if your school offers you free housing?

    • That’s a tough one. It really depends on your unique situation–how far your school is from a town center and a social life, how tight your budget is, how convenient the public transportation near your school is, etc. It depends on what you want to get out of your year abroad; if you want to spend all your time and money on travel, maybe it’s the best option. If you want to build a community out of assistants and hopefully locals, it will be harder if you’re living far away. If you take the place the school offers, you can always (I presume) move later if you aren’t happy. That’s basically what I did after 2 months in a host family. Good luck and have fun!

  4. What a relief to find so much info about TAPIF from the people who are or have actually participated! Just got accepted this afternoon for the ’14/’15 school year and am really overwhelmed/excited. Thanks again!

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