Here’s what language assistants should do before TAPIF and coming to France. If you have any questions feel free to comment below or shoot me an email I’d be happy to help.
Have you taught before? Have you worked with kids before? Have you ever been in France for a few months before? Culture shock, your comfort level and your experience will definitely be unique to you but those are some of the main things to keep in mind. While you won’t know what it’s like until you get there and you can’t prepare everything in advance there are some things you can do. You got this, just take it a step at a time.
Take a TEFL Course-I SERIOUSLY recommend this. If you don’t have experience teaching English as a foreign language (like the majority of assistants) it can be a bit overwhelming at first. This website was recommended to me by the director of TAPIF stateside and I wish I would have done it during the summer. It’s a site called Coursea and I would recommend the series “Teaching English Now!” from Arizona State University. If you complete it all you get a TEFL certificate. The classes are pretty affordable but you can also put in your financial info and see if you can get assistance.
Conversation circles/work with international students– This will help you to slow down and become aware of how to talk with students who are learning English. You’ll pick up what works and what does and some ideas for activities.
Plan your intro lesson, read the blogs of other assistants– There are so many assistant blogs out there and examples for intro lessons. I’ll be blogging next specifically about lessons I used that worked and sites I used.
French/All things France
Research the part of France you’ll be in (big town vs small town vs rural). http://www.soyouthinkyoucanfrance.com/This blog by another assistant is a great guide to the different regions and cities:
Visa- not super fun but just make sure you make your appointment and follow instructions exactly as they’re given and you should be fine.
FB group. Join the 2017-2018 Assistants Langue FB group here. It’s a great place to get acquainted and ask questions. There are also groups by Academie.
Brush up on your French skills. NO joke. If you haven’t been taking a lot of classes or you haven’t been to a Francophone country in a while it’s so easy to get rusty. You know the drill language apps (Duolingo, Memrise), listen to French music, movies, conversation partners or circles. Here are my tips for keeping up with French.
Dream up some plans for vacations. Pinterest is great for this! Remember you’ll get 2 weeks of paid vacation like every two weeks. See the CIEP handbook.
Working with kids
If this is something you’re iffy about there are some ways to work on it.
Babysit, volunteer, tutor, volunteer yourself at your high school/alma mater.
Make sure you’re comfortable with the age level you’ll be working with and public speaking. You’ll get comfortable very quickly as you work more and more with your students. I’ll give more tips on dealing with high schoolers in France on my next TAPIF post.
Right before you leave
Call your banks and credit cards. You can sometimes put a ‘travel alert’ on your account online but I just like to call them out of habit. I also would tell them all the countries you could possibly travel to but you can always call them via Skype when you’re abroad. It’s just very important not to have money that you thought you could use frozen or inaccessible.
Reach out to your contact teacher! Compose an intro email about you, your relevant experience and background. Ask them about the city and what’s available there (public transit, stores). Ask them about the school(s) and how many teachers you’ll be working with. Ask about your class sizes and how you will work with the students (small break out groups or by yourself), ask about the technology available (projector, wifi, things like that). Ask if they would like you to bring anything or plan any lessons on specific things. Set up a plan to communicate. Hopefully they’ll pick you up and help get your housing set up. Definitely ask about the housing situation and if they’ll help with setting up housing, phone, bank account.
Get extra copy of fingerprints from your local police station- trust me on this. If you want to be an assistant the following year you’ll need it and it’s much cheaper and easier in the states. I needed it for my job in Germany and I had to travel all the way to Germany to get them done.
Make copies of everything ever– Your passport, arrete de nomination, state id/license, birth certificate, visa, credit and debit cards, even social security card. I’d also bring a copy of your RIB from your home bank just in case. Chances are you’ll need these for opening a French phone or bank account or housing or something. The French love copies so it’s best to be prepared when you’re unsure of your printer situation.
Bring a little token from home and keep some currency from your home country. My students were fascinated by US dollars (I forgot to exchange them) and my patriotic passport. I didn’t bring candy because I really didn’t know how many students I would ultimately have. It’ll take up too much room and you can find some if you’d like at My American Market or Big Apple.
Enjoy your home country while you can. Then before you know it you’ll have to pack and book your flight! If you have any questions at all please let me know in the comments.