For most of my life, I have been a student. So other than choosing next quarter’s class schedule or who I would be sharing an apartment with, there hasn’t been too much to plan for.
I graduated in three years rather than four and while some of this had to do with the fact that it was a hell of a lot cheaper to graduate early, the other part was that I had a plan–TAPIF.
Had I not had a job lined up I’m not sure if I would have been as eager to finish school so quickly, let alone move to another country.
But I think TAPIF has been a great post-grad experience. It’s been a combination of easing me into adulthood (job wise) while dumping me into experiences that have been pretty stressful and difficult (like navigating cultural differences and finding an apartment in Bordeaux–to name a couple).
I’ve had to find ways to make the TAPIF salary work, like babysitting in addition to being an assistant. But doing this has also made me more of a go-getter, I was determined to make living in Bordeaux work, and I have!
Now, I know a lot of you who come to this blog are prospective TAPIF-ers, so allow me to update you on my experience thus far.
For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed working at the lycée I was placed in. But, my role definitely changed after the Christmas holidays.
Last semester, I had a lot more freedom with students and lessons. I assisted in classrooms with the secondes (think sophomores) and each day was different. I work with several different teachers and they all had different expectations for the months of October-December.
Some liked for me to listen to their lecture and give my point of view every now and then, while others had me actively assist in the classroom–answering questions students had, explaining certain lesson points, etc. Then there were a couple of teachers who gave me my own classroom and had me teach the lesson by myself or guide some sort of conversation workshop.
This semester, however, I pretty much do the exact same thing every class period and all teachers have the exact same expectations for me.
I have a group of students and listen to their presentation, preparing them for their English portion of the baccaluaréat (also known as the bac).
(The bac is an end of the year exam taken by the terminales to qualify them for university. It sounds pretty grueling as students are tested in-depth on a variety of subjects–you really can’t equate it to something like the SATs.)
Each class period I work with three to four students and listen to their English presentations. The presentation goes for about 5 minutes (some students have to go for 10), then I spend a couple of minutes asking them questions about the presentation and go over mistakes they have made and give advice on how they may improve.
To be perfectly honest, this semester has gotten quite monotonous. I still love working with students, but there’s not much variety. All of their presentations are essentially on the same topics and using the same documents they’ve all studied in class, so most of the presentations all sound the same.
Some days are more exciting than others as they really depend on the students. I think the real problem is I no longer feel like I’m teaching, I’m more of a grader. Before, I was really excited to go to work. I had the chance to talk with students about current events or cultural differences–now I’m really just doing the same thing each day, every class period. This semester, I don’t have that same energy as I did before. I really miss working with the secondes!
Nonetheless, I feel extremely lucky to have participated in TAPIF and to have been placed in this lycée! I know my experience was very different compared with other assistants–TAPIF is really what you make of it and a large part of whether or not your experience will be a good one depends on the school you get placed in and the students and staff you work with.
My TAPIF contract ends in April (next month!), and not having something planned for afterward terrifies me. I like having job security and I know I would be perfectly content to work at the lycée again next year, I’m not sure if it’s the right decision for me. I’d like to have two years of teaching experience rather than just one, but I also want to feel challenged, and this semester I don’t really feel that.
I’ve submitted a renewal of contract for TAPIF, but at a different académie, so I’ll find out if my renewal has been accepted in May. However, the TAPIF contract only goes from October to April, so even if I do renew there would be a pretty big gap to fill in terms of finding some sort of job for the months of May to September.
TAPIF feels like a more safe option, but I really want to venture out of my comfort zone and go after what I really want to work in, which would be something where I get to write. I didn’t think there would be too many opportunities for this in France, but there are actual a number of jobs for English speakers in Paris, a lot of them in the journalism/writing sector!
JP and I are looking at moving to Paris once our lease is over as we’ll both have a lot more opportunities there, so I’m crossing my fingers it will all work out!
It’s a new feeling to have all of this stuff up in the air right now. And while part of me is terrified, the other part is embracing all of it.
I visited family back in California over the February break, and many conversations were about where JP and I would be living or working, how we would manage to afford Paris, etc., etc. Mostly, they just wanted me to come back and live in California, which I understand (and believe me, I really miss my family back home!), but it’s really not something I want to do.
The truth is, I don’t know a lot of the answers to these questions. But another part of me feels like now would be the best time to be struggling in Paris together.
I really want to stay in France. Living in Paris has always been a big dream of mine, and I’d rather make the move now, rather than regret not doing it later down the line.
So, as of right now, the plan is to move to Paris! I’m not sure if it will all work out, but I’ll just have to deal with not knowing.