Guide for English Language Assistants in France
Part 1: Application & Acceptance
Part 1: The
Application | Acceptance E-Mail | Waiting
Part 2: Figuring out your Arrêté de Nomination | Obtaining your Visa
Part 3: Packing & Bringing Money | Arriving: The Paperwork Nightmare
Part 4: Teaching Tips & Lesson Plans | Vacations: Travelling
Part 5: Before Leaving France | Staying in France: Renewing, PACSing, Unemployment
The American application for the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) is usually made available in October with a deadline of January 15 of the following year. The application is an online form at www.tapif.org with information available at the French Culture website.
Applicants must create an account and login to the website in order to apply and pay the application fee. All of the supplemental documents must be scanned and uploaded in .jpg or .png format. The two recommendation forms must be filled out electronically as well, so make sure to have the e-mail addresses of your recommenders.
The program has become much more competitive than in previous years. For example, in 2011-12, there were 2,100 applicants for 1,450 positions for American assistants. (If you are a citizen of a different anglophone country, see below for links to your specific program.)
Unfortunately, as of 2010 dual French-American citizens are no longer eligible to apply; however, dual EU-American citizens from all other EU countries are still eligible.
Print and read all of the instructions before beginning your application. This document will guide you through each section of the application and will help you understand the requirements of the program and certain questions on the application.
2. MAIN APPLICATION FORM
Fill out your basic background information in this section of the application.
3. STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND EXPERIENCE
Explain why you would like to be a Teaching Assistant in France and describe your previous experience with teaching young people and living abroad.
4. MEDICAL REPORT
This section must be completed by the applicant.
5. DEPENDENT WAIVER
Please read and electronically sign this section.
6. ATTESTATION AND SIGNATURE
Please read and electronically sign this section.
7. SUPPLEMENTAL ITEMS UPLOAD
Scan and upload the following required items: university transcript, scan of passport, passport-style photo, and physician’s medical report. You may also choose to upload other items like a scan of your U.S. Permanent Resident card if you are not an American citizen, additional transcripts, and proof of housing in France.
8. RECOMMENDATIONS / LANGUAGE EVALUATION
You must submit one language evaluation and one letter of recommendation with your application.
Pay the $40 application fee by credit card.
10. APPLICATION INSPECTOR
Verify that you have completed all required sections of the application.
11. SUBMIT APPLICATION
Finally! Submit your application here.
Citizens from the following countries are also eligible to apply for the English Assistantship. Please use the links below to visit the embassy page for your country to see how to apply. Each country is listed with the number of positions available for that nationality.
- Canada : 300
Deadline is usually in March. Canadians must be enrolled in university at the time of application.
- United Kingdom : 1,200
Deadline is usually in January.
- Ireland : 60
Deadline is usually in February/March.
- Australia : 65
Deadline is usually in December. There are also 4 positions in New Caledonia for teaching March-October and the application deadline is usually in September.
- New Zealand : 40
Deadline is usually in March. There are also positions in New Caledonia for teaching March-October and the application deadline is usually in August.
- India : 50
Deadline is usually in December.
Deadline is usually in January.
Citizens of South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, and Barbados are also eligible, but I could not find any pages on the assistantship program on the embassy websites. The official CIEP site has applications for these countries, but the deadline dates are not specified.
|Ages of Students||Contract Length||Contract Dates|
|primary||up to 11 years old||7 months||October 1 - April 30|
|secondary||11-18 years old||7 months||October 1 - April 30|
If you choose primary, keep in mind that the kids are really young and probably speak no English, so a fluency in French is a must. Many primary assistants are expected to take entire classes and create the curriculum as well, so you may be more of a teacher than an assistant. Unfortunately, you will be paid the same amount as the other assistants who do less work than you. At the secondary level, you will most likely be asked not to speak any French, and only English, in the classroom.
As of the 2009-10 school year, all IUFM teaching assistant positions have been eliminated. As of the 2012-2013 school year, all 9 month positions have been eliminated.
The académies are grouped together in a certain way so that, for example, you cannot request the three most southern académies. This is how the académies are grouped for the application (this is not how they are grouped for vacation dates). You choose one from each color (Group A is green, Group B is blue, and Group C is red). Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg are the most requested académies and housing is very hard to find in these areas.
From the application:
"We would like to draw your attention to the existence of several agreements between
a certain American states and cities and various French regional school districts.
These agreements may offer you the opportunity to pursue a personalized program of
professional development while in France. For example, the Teaching Assistant may
be able to pursue courses in education at the local university and then apply the credit
towards a teaching degree in the United States (in the assistant's state of study). If
you are interested in participating in this opportunity, please select the partnership in
the drop-down menu that corresponds to the state where you are a full-time student.
While we do our best to accommodate qualified applicants, we cannot guarantee
placement in the selected Académie as space in these partnership programs varies
from year to year."
|Maine||Nantes||Wisconsin||Bordeaux & Aix-Marseille|
Selection Process for American Program
From Carolyn Collins: "As far as preparing to apply, our selection process is based on a number of criteria including: French-language skills (applicants must demonstrate a proficient level of French equivalent to level B1 on the European language evaluation scale), teaching experience, experience working with children or young adults, experience living abroad, and the level of the applicant's university studies." Also keep in mind that proof of enrollment at a French university or proof of accommodation in France will not absolutely guarantee your placement nearby. For couples who are applying, married or not, there is no guarantee that you will be placed together either.
From the Teaching Assistant Program in France – USA Facebook page: “Last year we had around 2,300 applications for approximately 1,500 spots. We evaluate applications based on a number of criteria (including French-language skills, experience teaching or working with children or young adults, experience living abroad, level of university studies, etc.) and then rank the applications. The top 1,500 applicants are offered positions in early April. Those applicants who do not make the top 1,500, but still meet the program’s basic eligibility requirements, are placed on a waiting list for spots that open up over the course of the summer due to withdrawals.”
Once you submit your application, you just have to wait. (Get used to it.) You will NOT know if you've been accepted until April.
As of 2008, the French Embassy in the US started sending out acceptance e-mails on April 29 with académie assignments (the date was April 6 in 2009). However, these e-mails did not include the length of the contract nor the level. The subject line was: Félicitations/Congratulations ! - French Teaching Assistantship Program 2008 - 2009. This is what the body of the e-mail said:
Bravo ! A l’issue de la commission franco-américaine de sélection des assistants de langue vivante, nous avons le plaisir de vous informer que vous avez été sélectionné(e) pour un poste d’assistant(e) en France, rémunéré par le Ministère de l’Education Nationale français, pour l’année scolaire 2008 - 2009.
Vous serez affecté(e) dans un ou plusieurs établissements d’enseignement dans l’académie de [académie]. Les établissements où vous interviendrez ne se trouvent pas nécessairement dans la ville qui donne son nom à l’académie. Veuillez noter que vous recevrez un courrier de la part de votre académie vous informant de votre lieu d’affectation (niveau scolaire et ville) mi-juin.
Merci d’envoyer un courrier à Mlle Carolyn Collins si vous ne souhaitez pas accepter le poste.
Congratulations! We are very pleased to inform you of your acceptance to the French Teaching Assistantship Program, sponsored by the French Ministry of Education, for the 2008 – 2009 academic year.
You will be assigned to one or several schools in the académie of [name of académie]. The school (s) in which you are placed will not necessarily be located in the city of [name of académie]. Around mid-June your académie will send you more information, including your city assignment and instruction level.
If you are unable to accept this position, please send a letter of withdrawal to Miss Carolyn Collins immediately.
Educational Affairs Program Development Officer
Embassy of France
4101 Reservoir Rd., NW
Washington, DC 20007
"Contract Clarification" e-mails containing the length and level of the contract were then sent at the beginning of July. I do not think the embassy will be sending out the regular lettre de présentations as they did in past years.
By the end of May, you should receive an e-mail from Carolyn Collins (she's the main contact person at the French Embassy in D.C.) that tells what you should be doing at the moment. (I received it on May 26, 2006.) You can download the first e-mail here. The first e-mail/newsletter for 2008-9 was sent June 6 and you can download it here.
If you are accepted into the assistantship program, but decide not to go to France, you should send a resignation letter to the embassy so that they can give your post to someone on the waiting list. You cannot defer the assistantship until the next year like you can with graduate school. You must re-apply the following year. The organization that runs the assistant program, the CIEP, has a rule that you can only be an assistant two times (consecutive or not). However, just being accepted into the program counts as one time, regardless of whether or not you actually go to France and work as an assistant. So even if you re-apply the next year and work as assistant then, you cannot renew your contract for the following year because according to the CIEP, you've already done two years.
If you are assigned to the académie de Grenoble, I have written another page specifically about the orientation and medical visit procedures there.
Now you have to wait for your next piece of information (arrêté de nomination). In the meantime, you should be saving money (at least $1,500) because you might not receive your first paycheck until the middle of November (though you can request to be paid at the end of October if you open a bank account and fill out the paperwork as soon as you get there). You’ll need plenty of money for food, transportation and perhaps a security deposit, a few month’s rent, etc. depending on where you live, plus extra money for travelling during your vacation times.
If you are still a university student, you can buy the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). You will be eligible for 32,000 discounts throughout the world (airlines, restaurants, hotels, museums, etc.) If you are not a student, but under the age of 26, you can get an International Youth Identity Card. And if you are a full-time teacher, you can get an International Teacher Identity Card. These cards cost $22, and you can buy them online through STA Travel or at a local card issuing office (usually the International Office at a university.) You will have to put your own photo on the card when you get it, and it will be valid for one year.
You can research plane tickets prices now, but you might not be able to get the return date you want yet. Most airlines require the return date be within 330 days, so if you want to return home in May of the next year, you’ll have to wait until later in June before you can book the ticket. Plus you won't know the location of your school or city until you receive your arrêté. I was in the Grenoble school district, so I could have been close to the airports in Marseille, Lyon or Geneva, so I waited until I knew where in the académie I was going to be. But if you plan to fly into London or Paris and then take the Chunnel or train to your académie (which might be cheaper anyway), then you can probably get your ticket before your arrêté arrives. Just make sure not to leave too early in September in case you don't receive your visa until the last minute. And beware that your académie may have the orientation before October 1, so in some cases, you need to be there a week earlier.
STA Travel, Student Universe and Travel Cuts are three great student discount sites for buying plane tickets. STA and Travel Cuts require that you have an ISIC card and Student Universe requires verification that you are a student. I bought my plane ticket from Student Universe for $788 from Detroit to Lyon, September 26 to May 8, and all I had to do was verify my university e-mail still worked. STA and Student Universe also allow multi-city tickets (I flew back from London instead of Lyon), but STA's prices can be a little misleading (they change once you choose the actual times and flights and are usually over $100 more expensive that the original quoted price in the search results.) So overall, I prefer and recommend Student Universe for plane tickets from the US to Europe.
If you have no teaching experience, you might want to read up on teaching ESL and/or try to gather some materials to use in your classes. Of course, you can't really plan lessons until you find out which classes you will have, but you can try to bring some authentic materials that your students will be interested in. You can bring a map of your country (or state), your yearbook from high school, holiday-related items (if you are American, you will have to teach a ton about Thanksgiving...), peanut butter candy, etc. Just think about what your students would enjoy seeing and learning more about. For the theoretical as well as practical aspects (lesson plans!) of teaching ESL, I've recommended some websites and books on the links page. And I've uploaded all of my lesson plans to its own page. You can download them and use them as you'd like. There is more info about lesson plans in part 4 of the guide.
If you're not yet fluent in French, you should probably take some time each day listening to French radio, watching French movies, reading French books, etc. You will be completely immersed in the language once you arrive, so you need to get used to it. If you've never studied abroad and only learned French from college courses, you'll need to learn slang and idioms since those are rarely or never taught in college. I'm continuously working on my Informal French & Slang page as well as updating my French Listening podcast with authentic, unrehearsed language. I try to read Voici and Closer (trashy celebrity magazines) because they are full of current slang. You can also check out the Anglicism wiki to learn the current English words that have been borrowed by the French.
There are some good books for learning slang, such as Tune Up Your French by Natalie Schorr, Street French by David Burke, Merde! by Genevieve, and Hide this Book by Berlitz. Berlitz's website also has mp3s files of all the phrases in the book that you can download for free. There are a ton of French podcasts available through iTunes nowadays. The French in Action video series is also available for free online as a streaming download (if you are in the US or Canada...) and the BBC's Languages site has some other good video programs for learning French, such as Ma France and the French Experience. And here are some documents on Faux Amis and Written vs. Spoken French.
By the end of June, you should receive another e-mail that includes a list of all of the e-mail addresses of the other American assistants in your académie. (I received it on June, 26, 2006.) You can download a copy of the second e-mail here (minus all of the addresses).
You can also check the Teaching Assistants Directory at Wikiversity and maybe find a former assistant that was at your school or in your town. Many people leave their e-mail addresses, so you can contact them for information and advice. Also think about leaving your info so future assistants can contact you!