Friday, May 27, 2011

This is what I did while waiting for my car to be fixed for 3.5 hours today...

The information comes in irresistible tidbits for this program.

I applied in October 2010.  I found out in early April 2011 that I had been accepted. Then, I waited about two weeks for an email detailing my next steps, which turned out to be filling out some important paperwork, getting passport photos taken, and sending copies of my birth certificate and passport to Paris so I can be properly assigned to a school – with a 10-day notice to have it all in the mail! How very French of them ;)

A couple of weeks after this I emailed the woman in charge, Carolyn, to ask whether I would be teaching elementary school (école primaire), or école secondaire (which encompasses middle school and high school). Everybody in the TAPIF (Teaching Assistantship Program in France) Facebook group seemed to know what age they’d be teaching, so I couldn’t resist asking. I was not sure I had any preference and thought it best not to develop a preference when I could get assigned to any of the three levels.

Carolyn emailed me back about a week and a half later - I can only imagine how many emails she gets every day - saying that my contract was for 7 months in école primaire. I am really happy about this! As I said, I did not have a preference in the matter, but I think I secretly hoped that I’d be assigned to elementary school.  Young kids can be unruly and severely lacking in attention span, but I think the indifference of older students might bother me more.

Plus, high school students go on strike a lot.

So the wait continues! I will find out between late June and (dread) late August where exactly in Rouen I will be teaching. It could be a more urban area and close to a train station (read: easy access to Paris J) or somewhere in the middle of nowhere! Until then I cannot make living arrangements in Rouen, nor can I get a visa, which requires proof of residence. I love planning and making careful decisions so this is a bit difficult for me, but I’ll consider it part of the adventure!

Before I applied to this program, I had never seriously considered becoming a teacher. I had thought about it only as a possible answer to that nagging, “what am I going to do with my life?” question running through the minds of most recent college graduates. I think this will be a great way to figure out if teaching would actually be something I would like to do. I feel like I might enjoy being a college French professor, but I’m not sure yet.

One thing that keeps me considering the latter career is a conversation I had with Mr. Bondurand, who was my European Cinema professor during my semester in Paris.  He was a brilliant man and fluent in many languages. After the interview portion of my final exam, which lasted 30 minutes instead of 15 because I blabber when I’m nervous, he said, “You know, you could be a French Professor”.  I don’t remember the context exactly but his words still stick with me. I regarded his opinion highly and those words had a huge impact on me. He saw (or heard) something in me that I did not, and I am so grateful for his confidence.
There he is, in the white shirt. Salut Mr. Bondurand!

For now I am stalking the TAPIF message boards and reading posts by past assistants, which has become somewhat of a new hobby.

Maybe the word “addiction” is more appropriate here?

The posts have information and first-hand experiences in dealing with every possible aspect of packing, travel, preparation, paperwork, teaching, French life, bureaucracy, etc… You can see how it’s easy to get caught up in reading about it all!

I have also been watching plenty of French films on my computer thanks to Netflix. I want to sound like a native by the time I arrive J It’s also a great excuse to watch lots of movies.

One thing that is certain about French citizens is that they love politics. I really, really do not love politics. I try to keep up on what is going on and read my share of news articles, but I lose interest so quickly. Especially since the online news sources I use (mainly and have great “Food” sections. I can’t help myself! I love what I love, and I love French and food, among other things.

That being said, I feel like I need to take a crash course in both French and American politics and brush up on current events before I leave for France. I can see it now, my  young students asking me, their American assistant, what I think of this or that new policy, and me having no clue what they are talking about.

It is not a far stretch. Eep. Let’s hope I can stay interested enough in some articles long enough to get a general idea of what’s going on in the world. I have, however, picked up no fewer than 6 novels relating to French life and culture, mostly written by Americans who have travelled in France. They are addicting! The list includes

“Lunch in Paris”, by Elizabeth Bard
“Why French Women Don’t Get Fat”, by Mireille Guiliano
“What French Women Know”, by Debra Ollivier
“A Moveable Feast”, by Ernest Hemmingway
“Sixty Million Frenchmen can’t be Wrong – Why We Love France but not the French”, by Jean-Benoit Nadeau
“A Year in Provence”, by Peter Mayle

Somebody stop me! Or at least deactivate my account. 

That should keep me busy until I find out my placement! Or, at the rate I’m going, until I finish all those and then break down and read some political articles.


  1. I'm going to be an assistant in Versailles and I am feeling the exact same way. Stalking the TAPIF boards, reading French novels, looking for French movies and trying so hard to keep up on the news, but I'm failing at that last one. I think I have high school, so I'm going to do my best to keep up. I am starting to read Le Monde online, French and politics in one. Best of luck with the preparation and hopefully we get our arretes soon!!


  2. I hope so too! Keeping up with the news is defnintely the hard part, but it'll be so worth it if i can get there and sound somewhat competent, haha. Lemonde is great for that! Or had french radio broadcasts - language and news in one :)