Category Archives: Teaching Assistantship

Not Goodbye; See You Later

By   August 1, 2008

I met Lucy on the train from Grenoble to Annecy in September 2006. Grenoble’s Assistant Orientation was finally over and we were all heading to our respective towns to get settled and start work. I had arrived in France only one day prior to the orientation with no place to live, very little contact with my school, and a horrible throat infection. After three days of no showers in a run-down hostel with freezing cold classrooms, I was severely unhappy and stressed.

I had all of my ridiculously heavy luggage to drag around, which made the attempt to change trains in Aix-les-Bains at the last minute (because none of us assistants initially realized we had to be sitting at the front of the train in order to go to Annecy) very, very difficult.  We managed to hop on another train, and we just plopped down in the entryway instead of storing our luggage and finding seats. At this point, I was ready to throw up because of motion sickness and I wasn’t even sure if the place I had planned to stay that night in Annecy was going to work out. And then a gentle voice with an adorable British accent asked, “Are you alright?”

After two years, Lucy and I have traveled to Barcelona, attended a French medieval festival, got overly excited about the release of Hairspray when no one else in France seemed to, went bowling at Le Bowling until nearly 3 am, enjoyed Thanksgiving and Christmas meals together, complained about our chiant students and remained stupefied at the inefficiency of French bureaucracy even after all this time. And that was only the beginning.

Today I took Lucy to the station one last time. She’s returning to England to hopefully find a job. Teaching English was never in her original plans, so it’s time to move on. My apartment is now filled with bags of food and teaching supplies that she couldn’t have possibly carried back home. I’ll have constant reminders of my first friend in France, and I’ll always have the memories of our adventures together. But what I would give to have her back in France…

New assistants this fall means new friends, I hope. But it just won’t be the same. It won’t be Lucy.

How to Become a Lecteur/Lectrice d’Anglais or Maître de Langue at a French University

By   July 24, 2008

The English Assistantship is a great way for Anglophones to work in France and gain teaching experience in elementary or secondary schools, without necessarily having a university degree. However, if you are working towards or have a graduate degree and would like to teach English at a university in France, you can apply to be a lecteur/lectrice d’anglais or a maître de langue. The main difference between the two is that maîtres de langue work fewer hours overall (but in courses that usually require more preparation) and get paid more, but this job also requires a higher graduate degree. Previous teaching experience is always a plus, so being an English assistant is a good first step in order to become a lecteur/lectrice or maître de langue in France.

How to become a Lecteur/Lectrice d'Anglais or Maître de Langue at a French University

Lecteur/Lectrice d’Anglais Requirements:

– Native or near-native speaker of English
– Completed one year of a Master’s degree

Maître de Langue Requirements:

– Native or near-native speaker of English
– Master’s degree

The requirements for these positions changed in April 2013. The level of graduate study needed has been lowered (previously the lecteur position required a Master’s degree while the maître de langue position required one year of a PhD program).


Exchanges: Most of these positions are filled by students from Anglophone universities that have an exchange with the French university. However, many of these positions remain open because the exchange university has no one to send to France or because the exchange lecturer decides not to come to France after all. For example, Penn State has exchanges with universities in Lyon, Strasbourg and Montpellier and Ilinois Urbana-Champaign has exchanges with universities in Dijon, Metz, Liège, Poitiers and Lyon. For those looking to start graduate degrees soon and eventually teach in France, it might be worthwhile to check out the exchanges available since it’s easier to get a position this way.


Search: To find these jobs if you are not involved in an exchange program, you just need to look at the universities’ websites and see if they have any positions open. Often they are located under recrutement, postes à pourvoir, or emplois either on the main page or for example, on the LEA (Langues Etrangères Appliquées) page. Or if location doesn’t matter, you can simply search for lecteur de langue or lecteur d’anglais. Some job listings are in English, so you can also search for English lecturer or lectorship.


Applying: Usually all that’s required to apply is your CV and lettre de motivation (both in French), but you may need to send your university degrees as well as their certified translations in French as well. Some universities do interviews, while others hire directly from the CVs.


Deadline: Many universities require you to apply in the winter to start in the fall of the next year (either September 1st or October 1st), but some have much later application dates. I’ve seen anywhere from December 21 to June 15. If you find a job listing that is past the application deadline, you can still send your CV anyway in case the job is still open. The job I applied for had a deadline of March 15, and I sent my CV in June, so you really never know!


Visa: You do not normally need to already have the right to work in France, as most universities will provide you with the paperwork to obtain a work visa. Of course, this means paying for a return ticket home if you are already in France. Some universities specify in their job listings that they require EU citizenship or valid working papers.


Hours: Lecteurs work 300 hours of travaux pratiques (TP) per year, or possibly 200 hours of TP and 100 hours of travaux dirigés (TD). TP is generally labs/workshops/testing or other classes that require very little preparation, while TD refers to actual lectures, which obviously require more preparation. Maîtres de langue work 288 hours of TP or 192 hours of TD. For lecteur/lectrice positions, you should not be asked to work more than 100 TD hours per year. Some universities have been hiring lecteurs and forcing them to work 200 TD hours so they only have to pay the lecteur salary instead of the maître de langue salary. In January 2014, Heike Romoth published an article in SNESUP (page 17 in the PDF) criticizing this illegal practice. The official décret states that “Les lecteurs de langue étrangère assurent un service annuel en présence des étudiants de 300 heures de travaux pratiques. Leur service peut comporter des travaux dirigés sans que leur nombre d’heures annuelles de travaux dirigés puisse être supérieur à 100.”  If you are hired as a lecteur/lectrice, please make sure the university is not trying to take advantage of you. This has been a problem particularly at universities in and around Paris.


Length: 12 months – with paid vacations, of course, including July & August when you most likely won’t have to work at all. Supposedly, you can renew once if you are not from an exchange university, and twice if you are – but it is possible in some cases to work longer. You just need to ask the right people. Note that if you are not doing the exchange, you can only do two years total of either position (two years as a lecteur/lectrice or two years as a mâitre de langue) OR a combination of one year each (one year as a lecteur/lectrice and one year as a maître de langue). If you’ve already worked two years as a lecteur/lectrice, then you cannot be hired as a maître de langue for another two years.


Salary: Lecteurs earn about 1,210 € net each month [indice brut 340], while maîtres earn about 1,550 € net per month [indice brut 482].


Departments: If you are hired in the language department of your university, you’ll probably be working with strictly English classes. If you are hired in other departments, you may be working with a number of different disciplines and the English jargon required for them, i.e. medicine, law, engineering, etc. You may or may not have to create the curriculum. Each university is different, so there is no one job description that fits each position. Just as with the English assistantship, it all depends on your school and what they need.

For open positions for the 2015-2o16 academic year, please check here.

To see what was available in previous years, go here.


The End Again

By   April 30, 2008

Yesterday was my last day as an English assistant for the second year. I’m glad to no longer have to drive nearly an hour to work, but not so happy about no longer having an income. I have a feeling I won’t be able to find another teaching job until September – maybe I’ll even be an assistant again – so I’m trying to plan out what to do this summer. I’ve got plenty of paperwork to keep me busy for a while (applying for unemployment, renewing my passport, perfecting my CV and lettre de motivation), but I think May will be a sad month for me. Jessica is leaving to go back to the US on my 26th birthday. I lose a friend and get old on the same day.

But congrats to the new American assistants for 2008-9 who received their acceptance e-mail this week. I’m surprised the embassy finally figured out how to use e-mail!

On teaching English in French lycées

By   April 12, 2008

I have officially completed my second year as a teaching assistant! And I got my car back Thursday night, so I could drive it to work and back one last time. I finished my last few hours by having the students play Apples to Apples, Scattergories and doing a mock speed dating session.

Over the past two years, I’ve been noticing some common themes in the way English is taught to French students. Foreign language education is more advanced here than in the US, where all I ever learned was verb conjugations and vocabulary lists in high school. However, just because English is taught in this way doesn’t mean the students actually learn more… Plenty of my students apparently learned nothing over the past seven years of English classes. But some of them were surprisingly good, so it really just depends on the student and their motivation and desire to learn.

In France, language education seems to be much more culture-based, with more use of authentic materials, and it involves learning how to write/talk about common subjects that are (stereotypically) associated with the English-speaking world. The focus is more on communication, meaning, and expressing your ideas/opinions instead of on the grammatical forms.

I vaguely remember learning about some aspects of French culture/history when I was in college, such as May ’68 and the presidents of the 5th Republic… but that was in a class specifically called “French Culture.” I never really learned about important cultural differences when I was in high school.

So here are the main topics that my English classes were always learning about:

Blues & Jazz music
Junk Food & Obesity
Speed Dating
Gun Control
Environment & Global Warming
Racism & Slavery

Most of these are very “American” topics or problems, so I wonder how much the teachers really know about these subjects since they all studied British English in the UK. Sometimes I got the impression that students were learning overly-stereotypical ideas about Americans. It didn’t matter how much I explained that there are plenty of Americans who don’t own guns, and who are not overweight, and who do care about the environment (like me!!) Some of the students will always believe that all Americans are violent, obese and ruining the planet.

But then again, how can you effectively teach the culture of a foreign country that your students have never been to and may never go to? All they know about the US is what they see on TV or in movies, which we all know is never ever fake… They will never be able to experience the culture, especially one that is so diverse in a country that is so large, so they just take away small snippets of stereotypes instead. Is that better than learning no culture at all?

Goodbye Assistantship, Hello Unemployment

By   April 6, 2008

Some good news finally. My car still isn’t fixed, but at least I only have 3 days of work left! I work Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and then my second year as an assistant will be over. Technically 7 month assistants work until April 30, but because of the 2 week break (April 12-27), that would mean coming back for one day of work. So I’m doing a few extra hours this week to make up for it. As of 4pm Friday afternoon, I will be officially done!

So what’s next? Good question. I’ll have plenty of paperwork woes to keep me busy for a little while. I’m still gathering all the documents to apply for my CDS vie privée et familiale, I’ll have to send off my passport to be renewed when I get back from Berlin & Budapest at the end of the month, and in May I can start filling out unemployment paperwork. Plus I’ll continue searching for any and every job I can find.

It’s a little strange to keep reading other assistants’ blogs and how they’re preparing to move back home soon. Usually language assistants are temporary workers. They are not meant to stay in France permanently. And that is why my second year as an assistant was not as easy as the first. All of the other assistants will leave this spring, but not me. Once again, I will lose all of my friends here. I will not be going “home” in a few months. I will not be continuing on with graduate school next year. I will not go back to the US to start my real life. My real life is in France.

Except my real life hasn’t actually begun yet. I’m still not sure what to do with my life. But in this land of high unemployment and low salaries, I’ll have to take what I can get. I do enjoy the idea of teaching English since I believe learning languages is the most important thing in the world. But in practice it’s not usually as fun when you have students who just don’t care or who don’t take your class seriously because they know you don’t give grades. Truth be told, I’d rather teach French to Anglophones than the opposite, but I can’t really do that in France, now can I?

Technically, I cannot be an English assistant for a third year as the CIEP only allows two years. I can, however, apply as a recruté local, which is actually the same job as a regular assistant. After the jobs are filled with new assistants and renewing assistants, any remaining posts are filled by recrutement local directly through the académie instead of through the CIEP. I will be sending my CV and lettre de motivation to Grenoble as a last resort, though I would really prefer to have a longer and higher-paying job. I think I’d like to be a lectrice too, except there aren’t many universities around here that teach English and I don’t want to commute an hour to work again…

I’m increasingly jealous of expats who are transferred to France because of their jobs. I would love to have a steady job and income in this country. (Though I’m not so jealous of the fact that most of those expats are paid in US dollars.) I can most likely receive unemployment this summer, but I would much rather work. I would like to not have to worry about money next month or even next year. But it seems like that’s all I do here. I will be so happy when we can stop worrying about paying off our student loans or if we can afford repairs on our cars.

I am really looking forward to finding a full-time job and I’m trying to be optimistic about the future. But it’s a little hard when I constantly hear stories of expats having no choice but to work in the teaching English field. The pay is low or unreliable, the hours are horrible, the focus is usually business (a.k.a boring) English. And whenever I search ANPE, all I can find is soutien scolaire offers, which is basically private lessons at the student’s home and exactly what I do not want to do.

In a perfect world, I would be able to stay home and make a living from my website. But I’m not willing to charge for my language tutorials because everyone should be able to learn, not just people with money. I know a lot of people think I’m dumb for not trying to make a higher income with my site, but I don’t care. I can’t deny people the opportunity to learn languages just because they don’t have a few dollars or euros to give me. That’s so selfish. Languages are much more important than money.

Almost April

By   March 29, 2008

Our internet was fixed Thursday night. I’m not sure how I managed to live without internet for 12 days, but I did get a lot of work done on my Lesson Plans page and French & German Comparative Tutorial.

Some of my classes were cancelled yesterday because parents “sequestered” the teachers in the building as a protest against… something important? I only have 8 more actual days of work left thanks to the two week vacation in April.

My car can be fixed, but it will cost 800-1,000 €. We’re going to do it though because buying another automatic car would take months and cost a lot more than that. Plus I miss my little Renault. I want her back. She’s in nearly perfect condition except for the motor that will be replaced.

I’m feeling better now that March is almost over. Now if only I could find a job that pays well… or win the lottery…

Last trimester

By   March 9, 2008

La rentrée has been a little difficult for me. My schedule changed so now I work all day long Thursday & Friday, but only afternoons on Tuesday and every other Wednesday morning. My school is currently doing the bac blanc which means some of my classes are cancelled because the students are doing the practice exams. The problem is that no one tells me this before I arrive. For example, Friday I was supposed to have class at 10 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. However, the first two classes were cancelled. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if I didn’t live an hour away from the school, but it’s not like I could have gone home and come back later… I just sat around the teacher’s lounge and attempted to find more speaking activities on the internet for my BTS students, but I was so tired and annoyed that I didn’t accomplish much.

It’s a little frustrating being just an assistant and not the real teacher. I would prefer to have the same students all year so that I can see how much they progress. And it’s especially hard when you don’t know what the students have already learned or what activities they have already done in class. I need more control and stability or I don’t feel like I can be much help to the students.

A class that I just started working with this week is absolutely adorable though. It’s a seconde level class of eight international students from Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Bolivia, Kosovo and Albania. These kids are so motivated! Their level of English is lower than other seconde classes, but their pronunciation is already really good. They constantly participate in class and genuinely want to learn English. It’s so refreshing to finally see that. And funny that my best students in France are not at all French.

On learning and teaching

By   February 17, 2008

I cracked open my French vocabulary books after a much-too-long break from them, and rediscovered why I love learning new words. Vocabulaire expliqué du français; niveau intermédiaire begins with a chapter on prefixes and suffixes, which are mostly the same in English thanks to Latin. But there was one prefix I didn’t know in French: para- which means against.

Finally I understand why umbrella is parapluie in French (in Italian, it’s ombrello). It literally means against rain! Then parachute makes sense, which English borrowed directly from French. Against fall! And parasol – against sun! I love that learning more French helps me understand more English.

Atterrir makes more sense now as “to land.” Somehow I never noticed that the word terre was inside of that verb. Duh. Even avenue has a more distinct meaning than I thought. It was originally reserved for the streets that led directly to a castle, for example, and it’s called an avenue because that’s how people came (venu) to the castle. And why do we walk dans la rue, but sur la route? Because a rue has houses and buildings on both sides, so you are walking among them; whereas a route leads you through open land, with no obstructions on either side.

Sometimes I get so frustrated at the French language and all of its illogical rules and annoying borrowings from English (like every “French” word that ends in -ing!), but I get so excited when something becomes more clear. I usually have to know why something is a certain way in order to understand and remember it well, so if there’s no real reason – like why French borrowed le brushing to mean blowdry or le catch to mean fake wrestling – it drives me crazy. I need order and logic!

I’m only 50 pages into this book and I already feel like I’ve learned so much. I’ve actually been really lazy about studying French lately (or any language for that matter…) and I’m not sure why. At least I’ve been doing exercises online for the TCF (Test de Connaissance du Français) on their official site and on RFI’s site. I should be fluent in French by the time I have to take this test in order to immigrate to Quebec, but I just want to be prepared… even years in advance. And apparently the TCF for Quebec only lasts 45 minutes – it’s just 30 listening comprehension questions and 6 spoken expression questions! No grammar or reading comprehension, which is what I’m best at, of course.

I’ve also been attempting the Exercices PDF at Amélioration du français and trying to read more in French. I recently bought Hélène Berr’s diary (she’s being called the French Anne Frank) and even though I know it’s going to depress me, I’m really interested in reading about her life in Paris after the German occupation. Plus I already learned a new word just in the second sentence: giboulée, which sounds like part of a chicken, but it actually means a rain shower.

But because I’m not content with just studying one language, I’ve also been trying to memorize more irregular verbs in the simple past tense in German. I’m still teaching irregular verbs in English to my private student, and I’m beginning to see why it’s so difficult for her. Sometimes there are just no rules for the changes (why does sein become war; why does go become went??)

I always try to incorporate methods that I use for learning languages into my teaching. Obviously just studying grammar does not help you become fluent, or otherwise I’d be fluent in so many languages now. Having exposure to the real, authentic language is the only way to learn. Listening comprehension is so underestimated in language classes. I’ll never understand why teachers insist on speaking all in French when they are trying to teach their students to speak in English. How are you ever going to learn correct pronunciation, stress and intonation if you never hear the actual language?

Currently, the bulk of my assistantship job is helping Terminale students to pass their oral bac exam at the end of the year. The students will receive some sort of visual document that they’ve never seen before, have 10 minutes to prepare a speech about it (describe it and analyze it), and then they must talk for 10 minutes. It’s actually quite hard, especially if you don’t practice for it. Luckily, I found all of the documents used on the 2007 exam online, as well as a certain formula to follow when constructing the speech.

So my students have learned how to prepare for their exam, but they haven’t really learned what to say. Even after several years of English classes, their vocabulary and pronunciation need a ton of improvement. I feel like I need to teach them the basics of English, which they should have learned in middle school. But that’s not even what bothers me most about teaching Terminale students – it’s that I’m teaching them how to pass an exam, not how to speak real English. Sure, they’ll be able to explain a black & white document, but if they went to an English-speaking country tomorrow, could they survive? I highly doubt it.

P.S. I love that the Quebecois say dormir comme un ours instead of dormir comme un loir.

P.S.S. If you look at page 7 of the documents used on the 2007 exam, you’ll see an ad from the Michigan State Police. LOL

What I do

By   January 26, 2008

I realized I hadn’t posted about the assistantship in a long time, so here’s a summary of what I’ve been doing at work lately:

On Tuesdays, I have all secondes (10th grade), so I try to focus on vocabulary and pronunciation. We’ve done geography of the US, describing people, and American high schools in the past few weeks. I make sure each student speaks, even if it is just a few sentences. But seeing as how I have either half or a third of the class each week, I get bored easily since I do the same lesson hour after hour and week after week. But at least now they know that the US is huge compared to France (yes, Texas really is bigger than France), Anglophones are not going to understand them when they say “I’m wearing baskets” (des baskets are sneakers), and that sports really are more important than education for some Americans.

On Thursdays, I work at a middle school and sometimes with the SEGPA classes. SEGPA students are supposed to have memory/behavior/social problems, but I rarely see a difference between them and the “regular” students. To me, they’re all just hyper pre-teens who don’t want to be at school. A part of me wonders if labeling kids as “at-risk” does them any good at all. Some kids may think that they will be considered that way for their entire lives, so why not live up to the stereotype? Be loud and disrespectful, don’t even attempt your work, try not to learn anything because you have no chance of going to a regular high school anyway. You’ll only be able to go to a professional high school, which are also stigmatized as being for under-achieving students. It just doesn’t seem very fair to the kids, because really, don’t all kids have some sort of memory/behavior/social problems? It’s called growing up.

Lastly, on Fridays, I work with première (11th grade) and terminale (12th grade) students. These students have to take an oral exam at the end of the year in which they will be given a document (painting, political cartoon, ad, poem, etc.) that they have never seen before, and talk about it for 10 minutes. They only have 10 minutes to prepare their speech. Obviously students need to practice preparing and speaking or they are never going to pass their exam, but that doesn’t mean they will actually try this in class… Even when I give them an exact sentence that they can use in their speech – The document I’m going to talk to you about is a political cartoon entitled “The Blame Game” – they still will not actually say it out loud in English. ::sigh:: I just don’t know what to do with them. To be fair, I think the exam is stupid and pointless because they are never going to have to explain a political cartoon in English in everyday life, but they knew that they were going to have to do this exam before they signed up to take English!

This past week, there was a national strike on Thursday, somewhat as a follow-up to the strike back in November. It wasn’t very suivi though, so I did have to work. I only had between 3 and 5 students in my classes, which was nice because that gave each one the opportunity to practice speaking without 15 other students interrupting them. Apparently when there’s a strike, absences aren’t counted, so a lot of students decide to skip out for the day.

My schedule is supposed to change after February 8, one week before the winter vacation. I’m hoping to no longer have to work 8 am to 6 pm every Tuesday because it wipes me out. I go to bed as soon as I get home, and don’t really do much on Wednesdays. I don’t know how teachers who live an hour away can work 10 hours a day the entire week and not be walking zombies. I can barely survive one day of it.

So I have 3 weeks left before vacation, and 6 weeks left of work after that. Ça passe vite !

Waiting and planning and waiting

By   January 24, 2008

We may be staying in Annecy a little while longer than planned. I had my heart set on Lyon if we were to stay in France since finding a job there would be easier, but we don’t really have a choice. I’m a little sad about not being able to move to Quebec sooner, but we need to save money anyway. At least one of us will have a job this summer…

I suppose I should start planning to send out my CV to all the language schools in the area. The end of April will be here fast. I’ll probably try to be a local recruit for the rectorat next year too, though being an assistant isn’t as fun anymore. It could just be the commute, or it could be the immature students, who knows. I don’t really want to work for the rectorat anymore, but I don’t really want to work in the private sector either. But really, what else can I do here?

I’m trying to accept the idea that teaching English may be the only job I can get here. I don’t mind it so much right now, but I don’t know if I want to do it forever. I’ve always wanted to teach French in an Anglophone country, like Canada or Australia. Teaching English doesn’t challenge me. I don’t learn anything new. I know a lot of people need to learn English for their jobs or whatever, but I’d rather help people learn French than English.

Plus working in the private sector would probably mean driving a lot to different companies. I am glad to have a car now, but I’m still stressed about driving here especially since I can’t get my car to start properly. It stalls at least once every day when I’m trying to go to work. Some days it takes 15 minutes to start. I realized the démarreur switch is a manual choke, which I have never seen before and have no idea how to use correctly.

I bought my carte grise this morning, which was only 108 € thanks to the age of my car. I know I shouldn’t complain about the cost of gas or insurance since I knew I would have to pay for those when I bought a car… but still, it annoys me that my French car is as expensive as my American car, and yet everything about my American car is a thousand times better. I’m so tired of having to pay so much for everything here.

I guess I’m just being bitter about being so poor. I went to university for 6 years to earn a Master’s degree, but that means absolutely nothing to the French. I want to work to earn a decent income and pay off my student loans, but I don’t see that happening any time soon in France. I have a feeling we are going to be poor until the day we finally leave this country and the Euro far behind.