Season Workers Guide - TEFL in France
Quelle est la difference entre le subjonctif et le conditionnel?
Quite the perceptive question. I quietly debate the pros and cons of starting a
technical grammar lesson while my beginner level student patiently waits. I
smile encouragingly and adopt an attitude of what I hope is reminiscent of
Rodin's David. Moments pass before I finally admit to myself that I cannot
remember the difference and decide, instead, to focus on the obvious : je
pense que le sujet est trop difficle pour vous en ce moment. Continuez
comme ça et tout va bien.
Encouraging words indeed. Lesson 1 : never admit you don't know the
Before leaving New Zealand teaching English had never appealed. Surely
language teaching is something young people do temporarily to pay off
student debt? Nobody actually chooses it as a profession, do they? From my
10th floor Wellington office I smugly perused the Seek job website and tried to
imagine what life as an English teacher abroad would be like. "Good salary
with benefits" sounds promising but one wonders what the definition of
"benefit" actually is.
So I was rather surprised when I found myself living in France and embarking
on a new career teaching English. This career move was precipitated initially
by the fact that my French was limited to gutteral vowel sounds and frantic
hand gestures. My French has since improved but I find myself reluctant to
leave the teaching sector. Like most things French, it is seductive; you don't
realize how much you enjoy it until the prospect of stopping leaves you cold.
Yet not all English language schools are created equal and you must choose
your alliances carefully. I executed a Google search of schools in my city but
the best option, I have since discovered, is visiting the "pages jaunes" for a list
of accredited schools in the area. Most positions within established private
companies are on a part-time basis; very few companies offer full-time
contracts. This is a legal prerogative and most companies capitalize on having
many different teachers.
One fundamental aspect to research prior to signing a contract is the
pedagogy of the company. There is nothing worse than teaching a "method" if
you believe it to be deficient and/or ineffective. A colleague recently left a high
profile school here in France after tiring of its woefully inadequate teaching
method. There are many differences of opinion on what constitutes "quality"
teaching - especially in such a niche sector - and it is necessary to define your
expectations clearly before looking for a contract.
Clearly there are other options to teach in France. It is possible to apply for language assistant positions in the public school system. These positions are
targeted at young adults who want the combination of teaching experience,
accommodation and language support included the contract. These positions
are usually for an academic year but shorter contracts are also available
depending on the school. Offering private lessons is also possible however a
good level of French and an established social network is required for this to
All European Union citizens are entitled to work legally in France. Other
nationalities are welcomed but be prepared for a long and potentially
frustrating French bureaucratic nightmare to obtain a working visa. I
encourage anyone considering this option to complete the process from their
home country well prior to departure. Managing to negotiate with French civil
servants to process applications such as these requires the linguistic skill of a
native and is best to be avoided if possible.
Once you find a teaching position that meets your objectives you'll never look
back. If you are passionate about language and English is your native tongue
there is work aplenty in France. There is a growing acceptance of English as
an international language here and businesses are increasingly seeing the
value of sending their executives and employees to language training.
Learning is not limited to the classroom, either; finding the right balance
between traditional textbook training and interactive/offsite activities is just one
challenge for the humble English teacher.
And in what other profession can you find a client who says "thank you" and
genuinely means it ?
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