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.
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!!! ✽