The Teaching Assistant Program in France, or TAPIF, is sponsored by the French government and is probably the easiest way for a young American professional or post-graduate student to get a work visa in France.
I’m two months into my stay and I am having an amazing experience, so I will be the first to strongly recommend the program.
Consider applying for TAPIF (applications for next year are due in January) if you:
1) are desperately Francophile, or European-phile, or Nutella-phile. Or love wine-tastings. Etc, etc.
2) just graduated at 22 with a liberal arts degree and want to find out if teaching is your thing; just graduated with a teaching degree at 25 and want an international experience before hitting the American classrooms; or are looking to change careers at 30 and need a transition year (I know assistants in all three categories).
3) want time to dedicate to finding a graduate school, studying, exploring Europe, or another project; in which case working 12-15 hours per week with a three-day weekend (or in the case of a British pal, four days) for about 750 euros per month sounds like a good deal.
4) want to hear the most adorable English ever (like when my 12-year-old student trying to find the past tense of “to teach” blurted out “tauched????” or my group of 17-year-olds who can’t seem to differentiate between the long “e” sound in “sheet” and the short “i” sound in…. you know what I mean.
5) want to hear about French politicians making the most adorable English mistakes ever (the president signing a congratulatory letter to Barack Obama with the closing salutation, “Friendly, François Hollande,” or right-wing leader François Fillon recently creating a parliament group called “Rassemblement-Union pour un Mouvement Populaire” whose acronym “RUMP” has created a media buzz.)
6) want an ego boost, which could happen when half of a class develops a crush on you on the first day (I am not being full of myself here; almost all of the other assistants I know, male and female, had similar experiences). Or you want to be a celebrity in some small way (the kids love to yell out “Hello, how are you?” or “I love America!” and then giggle shyly when you pass them in the halls).
7) want to improve your French: Despite teaching 12-15 hours of English classes per week, it is very possible to immerse yourself in the language. Of course I study on my own, go out on the town or to the movies, watch television, and hang out with French friends, but even at school I’m constantly surrounded by French. In the middle school, I conduct about 50% or more of the classes in French and colleagues speak French with me 99% of the time (even the English teachers). French teachers allow me to sit in on their classes (free lessons!). And of course I grab the free newspaper 20Minutes at the train station every morning to read during the commute…
8) you want a free French work visa (normally they cost over $100).
9) you’ve always wanted to live in a cozy French village, or in the middle of a big city. Chances are you will not be placed directly in a big city, but with the excellent regional train systems, you will most likely be able to commute if the countryside is not your thing.
10) you meet the short list of requirements on the TAPIF website: http://highereducation.frenchculture.org/teach-in-france/prospective-applicant
In my own experience, the program was well-organized (I received all necessary paperwork on time and the school was helpful in guiding me through it all).
Here are some websites and blogs that could be helpful:
An interview with The Local: http://www.thelocal.fr/20130507/its-a-great-foot-in-the-door-in-france
From the French government:
Blogs and advice from former and current assistants:
This entry was posted in High School, Middle School, School, TAPIF and tagged English, France, French, High School, middle school, students, TAPIF, teaching, Teaching Assistant Program in France, visa, work. Bookmark the permalink.
TAPIF – Teaching Assistant Program in France. aka the most creatively named organization ever.
With TAPIF applications in the US due in the next few days, I am sure many hopefuls will be curiously Google searching tips and advice, much as I was 12 months ago… So, I thought I’d throw in my two cents.
Step One: Strategize.
Take a moment to examine your strengths and weaknesses as a TAPIF candidate and try to tailor your application accordingly. This is standard advice for any type of application, and most definitely applies here as well! For example, I did not major in French, so I didn’t have a ton of French classes on my transcript nor a spectacular level of French comprehension (the requirement is B1). However, I do have a fair amount of education/childcare experience from working at summer camp, tutoring, teaching drama classes, etc. So, I chose to especially highlight these experiences in my personal statement and CV, and even had my second recommendation written by a colleague from camp.
Step Two: The main application form.
not pictured: all the Départements d’Outre Mer
Choosing a Region: Above all, know that TAPIF will absolutely require patience and flexibility. You will be asked to mark preferences. You may end up with the exact opposite of your preferences. So my advice is to not get too attached right away to the idea of a certain region or a specific town… My choices were admittedly very random and even though I’m thrilled with how it played out, in retrospect I think I probably would have made different choices. First, there are several regions that are known to be particularly competitive: Paris, Strasbourg, Nice… If you are DYING to be in those regions, don’t let this potential competition scare you off!! But at the same time, know that being placed in the Paris region in no way means you will be teaching in the city of Paris. In fact, most assistants in that region are placed in schools up to several hours away from the city center, and this goes for every region.
Some academies are ENORMOUS (Grenoble, Toulouse, etc) so the likelihood of being placed in the namesake city decreases proportionally. If you are dead set on being in a big city (vs a rural village), you may want to consider smaller academies. And don’t forget that there are some distinct advantages to living in smaller communities: you will definitely speak more French and will probably be more integrated into the community than you would be in larger towns or cities. One final thing to consider: I have heard that the north is generally much cheaper than the south. But everything is cheaper than Paris.
Choosing a Grade Level: The primary level consists of elementary school (though many primary assistants I know also intervene in preschools), going up to 5th grade (10 or 11 years old). The secondary level is middle school and high school. Be aware that the high school system is quite different from ours in the US. You could have technical students that are 20, 21, 22 years old…
At the primary level it helps (but is not necessary) to have a slightly stronger command of the language because your students will not be able to speak more than a small handful of English words in all likelihood. To that extent, you will be teaching the most rudimentary basics like introducing yourself, reading the date, the days of the week, telling the weather, numbers, food, body parts, and holidays. Even though you won’t really be able to communicate in sentences with your students, it can still be very fun! Plus when lessons go well, it is extremely rewarding to hear a class of year olds singing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes!
In secondary, you can be placed in middle school and/or high schools. The middle school students (based on what my friends have prepared lessons on this year) will probably be learning how to speak in full sentences, how to describe themselves and others, talk about their family, ask questions, etc. High school can be a lot more varied: some will have near proficiency, some will be absolutely abysmal. You’ll definitely be able to do a much wider variety of games and activities — I know several people who have even modified some drinking games to use their class’s vocabulary…oops! However, many of my friends at the secondary level (especially in lycées) do have trouble with unmotivated or disrespectful students; in some cases the students are the same age as the assistants themselves!
Step Three: The statement of purpose.
Here, it behooves you to just be honest. Remember that TAPIF is intended to be a mobility program, so it is OKAY to say that you want to live in France and travel in Europe. It’s always nice if you can say that you’re also looking forward to working with the students as well…but if you find that you’re relying too much on heavily embellished lies, maybe you should reconsider your application all together. For me, it was helpful to think about why I started learning French, why it was important to me to learn languages, what my greatest obstacles in language learning were, and therefore why I want to help others learn a foreign language…
Step Four: The boring parts.
The rest of the application is pretty much just filling out your name, work experience, medical history, transcripts, etc and then acquiring letters of recommendation. My French TA wrote the letter evaluating my skill level and a colleague from summer camp wrote another, highlighting my experiences working with kids. I think it’s nicer to have two letters, rather than using test scores, just because two people vouching for you and writing about how awesome you are is always better than one. But, if you are at a loss for who to ask, and you have already taken the TCF or DALF/DELF then do whatever suits you.
Step Five: The Wait.
Waiting from mid January to the beginning of April will feel absurd. But if you can’t handle it, then living in France will be a nightmare for you….so sit back, relax and ENJOY!
If any current or past assistants want to add on, feel free to comment!!! ✽
This entry was posted in:France, Preparations, TAPIF
Tagged with:Académie de Grenoble, advice, Applying for TAPIF, regions, statement of purpose, TAPIF, TAPIF application tips, teaching in France, tips, year abroad
by Anne Donnelly
Anne is a Washington, DC theatremaker, explorer and storyteller. She has spent time in France as a student and as a teaching assistant, and hopes one day to return.