First 4 Weeks of TAPIF

I have been living in Paris for nearly three months now, so naturally, my first four weeks of TAPIF, the Teaching Assistant Program in France, have just come to an end. Technically, my work contract began on October 1, but I spent some time doing orientation and class observations, and then I had a two week vacation, as well as another full day off for Armistice Day, so I have only done about four weeks’ worth of actual teaching.

So… I’m almost three months in and I’ve only worked for 45 hours total?! Yep, that’s right! But don’t worry, because I have definitely learned quite a bit and enjoyed some fun experiences along the way.

I’m sure that my thoughts and feelings will change over the next few months as I continue working as an English teaching assistant, but I want to share some of my reflections about the program and the work I have been doing so far.

The Schools

I was assigned to two different primary schools in towns in the Paris suburbs, Palaiseau and Villebon-sur-Yvette. Each week, I spend six hours (M 8:30-11:30 and T 8:30-11:30) at one school, and then six hours (Th 8:30-11:30 and F 8:30-11:30) at the other school. During this time, I visit all the classes and do a variety of presentations and small group activities with the students.

To get to these schools from my apartment in Paris, I need to take the RER A, then the RER B, and then a bus. All together, it takes about an hour and 15 minutes each way. This is definitely what I dread most about the work day, but I am enjoying filling these blocks of time with listening to podcasts and music, journaling, and occasionally napping a bit.


Of course, the main event of working has been the teaching. Technically, as a teaching assistant, I am not responsible for running the class, but I have found a good balance of giving presentations, helping with activities, discussing the lesson with small groups, and commenting on pronunciation and spelling. Every teacher has a different perspective on exactly what my job should be in their classroom, so I have tried to stay adaptable to their needs and be as useful to them as possible.

While some of the lessons have been related to classic topics such as animals, school supplies, how to introduce yourself, etc., others have had more cultural significance so that I can teach the students about where I come from while also teaching English. This has included coloring the American flag, singing about different Halloween costumes, and having a mock Thanksgiving dinner.

I have found it especially engaging that since not all grade levels can or want to do the same things, I need to stay flexible and work with the students on different activities or worksheets depending on their age and level of English. Even though I only have a short amount of time with each class each week, I love that I am starting to get to know the students on a more personal level and be able to cater the classes to their needs and interests!

The Students

Because I work at primary schools, all of the kids I interact with are between the ages of 6 and 11. Let’s just say that they’re incredibly adorable. I am bombarded by “Hello’s” and hugs any time I enter the hallway, and the students love asking me about my dog, my family, and whether or not I use TikTok (obviously, the answer is yes).

I have also noticed quite a variety of experiences with the English language among the different children. Many of the students are actually bilingual in French and another language, as their parents come from Ireland, China, Canada, England, Romania, etc. This allows for a very diverse and interesting classroom. This being said, other students have practically no experience with learning another language. All things considered, though their English levels vary significantly, I think these students are doing a great job of opening themselves up, not only to this strange new language, but also to the potential experiences that come along with it.

After all, at this age, all I knew in a foreign language was how to count from 1 to 10 in Spanish, so I’m super impressed by the enthusiasm I am met with in classes with such young students.

The Teachers

As a temporary, part-time teaching assistant, I never expected to get too involved with the other teachers at the schools, but it has been a great experience to get to know them and share my culture and experiences. I love hearing their revelations about having a native English speaker in the class, and they have been super helpful and welcoming as I adjust to these new workplaces!

The best part about my relationships with the other teachers has been working on my French. I was a bit nervous at first, as I had taken a Professional French course but felt that I lacked casual conversation practice, but I was quickly met with numerous compliments. I was even asked which of my parents was from France, as they assumed I must have grown up with French being spoken at home. When teachers and other school staff members speak to me in English, it is not because they feel like they must do so to properly communicate something to me, but rather because they want to practice their own foreign language skills with me.

And, of course, a highlight of my time with teachers at one of my schools had to be the raclette lunch they invited me to join them for before the Vacance de Toussaint!

Looking Forward

The few weeks I have experienced thus far as an English teaching assistant in France have pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit, but only ever in a good way. Speaking only French with the teachers and my supervisors has made my confidence in my French skills skyrocket, and navigating a variety of public transportation systems has constantly kept me on my toes during my commute.

At first, I had no idea what to expect from French public schools, and I assumed that they would be very similar to the French immersion schools where I had worked and volunteered in New Orleans. On the contrary, I was met with grade levels mixed in the same classes, long breaks for lunch and recreation, and reusable dishes to eliminate waste. I was truly opened up to a whole new world, but it is a place where I now feel welcomed.

So far, I have had a great time opening myself up to new experiences through the TAPIF program, and I am looking forward to seeing what the next few weeks bring as well! I will be teaching another four weeks before the winter break, and then I will continue my contract from January through the end of April.

Follow along with my blog and Instagram to see how the rest of my experience with TAPIF goes… À la prochaine!

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