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Is TAPIF a “real job” ?

For the past few years, April has been a grab bag of various bittersweet emotions…

In 2014, I was about a month away from graduation, in the midst of several intense theatre projects, and then was accepted to my first year of teaching English in France!
Bitter: leaving school, my friends, my family, my country. Sweet: Uhhh…France?!

In 2015, I was on the last legs of that first contract, pretty sure I wanted to stay in France, but desperately waiting for news of a contract renewal.
Bitter: saying goodbye to Chambéry, unsure about returning. Sweet: staying hopeful…

In 2016, after a year of hustling 3 part-time jobs at home, April saw yet another acceptance to TAPIF!!
Bitter: again leaving behind friends, and a taste of the “real world” Sweet: do I really need to say it?

Which brings us to 2017. After 7 amazing months working in three schools with great, supportive colleagues and funny, sweet students, I am once again preparing to say goodbye. But this time, only for a few months. Against all assumed odds, my request to renew my contract and remain for another 7 month period in the same schools has been officially accepted! I’m relieved to be returning to a job I have grown to love in a city I am still constantly surprised by and with friends I won’t live halfway around the world from!

The very first question I asked almost immediately after getting the news of renewal was: Is it embarrassing to be a language assistant three times?!

I wonder, because this job can sometimes be so laughably easy in comparison to a full teaching position that is doesn’t always feel like a “real” job. I have 12 hours of classes per week, for a 7 month contract, 8 weeks of which is paid school vacation. I am not responsible for evaluating or grading students, don’t have to deal with parents or report cards or any of the millions of other little tyrannies full-time teachers are tasked with. In some of my classes, I don’t even have to prepare anything… I literally just show up and speak English with my perfect American accent.

That being said, I worked very hard this year to be more independent – to propose activities I wanted to do and to be an active member of the schools as much as possible, rather than passively waiting for my colleagues to tell me what to do.

While I always describe myself (I think accurately) as an English teacher, my work contract and credentials still identify me only as a language assistant, a post which requires next-to-no qualifications or previous experience beyond being a native speaker, So while I definitely think I excel in my role and have used it as a learning opportunity, I’m still seen as “not a real teacher” by diploma and certification-obsessed France (And the straightforward French have had no problem telling me this either…).

So when I ask if it’s embarrassing to be an assistant three times, I think I’m really asking whether I’m wasting my time on yet another contract with very limited room for growth and advancement (in terms of career prospects) instead of seeking something with a bit more stability and potential. Whether it’s nothing but a means of putting off for yet another year “the real world”.

But then I remember that it also means another year in France, and for the first time –EVER– continuity. In my adult life, never have I ever worked in the same place for more than one school year. Never have I ever lived at the same address for more than a year. Never have I ever had the opportunity to expand on a base of work I’ve already begun with the same network of co-workers who helped me begin it.

So this April, I prepare to say goodbye to friends, colleagues and students but only for four short months. Before I know it, I’ll be back in Marseille — the perfect amount of time to enjoy home, work a little and refresh, more ready than ever to turn my “Fake” job into my own “Real” world!
Bitter?? Maybe a little, but from where I stand today, I think I’ve got a pretty Sweet deal! ❂

27 mars – clues

Today I had a lot of different slices in my head, but I can’t seem to get any of them out today because I’m excited about something else.

Three of my fifth grade classes have been working on rooms in the house, hobbies, and family. vocabulary in English. These classes are really motivated and their classroom teachers do a lot of reinforcement of my activities on days when I’m not there, so their level is really high. I decided to try an activity that is a bit more difficult than our standard fare of flashcard games and charades.

Tomorrow we are playing CLUE! It was always one of my favorite board games growing up, enamored of Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown as I was. I always wanted to play be Professor Plum. My sister was usually Madam Scarlet, and if I remember correctly, I believe my dad often played as Colonel Mustard.

Tomorrow, we won’t have the same colorful characters. I’ve modified the game to include the vocabulary we’ve been working on all year long. Instead of wondering if Mrs. White killed Mr. Body in the Ballroom with the Lead Pipe, we will ask if Grandmother is dancing in the living room or if Brother is playing football in the bedroom.

I’m really looking forward to trying out this more complex game tomorrow. My students worked hard the past few weeks to learn more grammar than I thought they’d be capable of in elementary school. My goal for this quarter has been to work towards longer term projects rather than simply teaching vocab, playing hangman and telephone, and then moving on to the next subject. This game definitely fits the bill. As simple as it is, it’s stretched both me and my students. I’ve created my own game board, my own cards, everything! All that’s left is to print and laminate tomorrow morning, and then PLAY!!!

If you’d like to play too, check out my materials here!  ❂



Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

24 mars – my day in stairs and hills

7:48      Slam the door, run down two flights : 40 stairs

7:49     Down the hill to the metro

7:53     Down three flights to the platform : 82 stairs

8:12     Down the escalator to the bus stop : 26 stairs

8: 29    Up the hill to the school gate

8:32     Up the stairs to the second floor (the third floor by U.S. standards) : 32 stairs

10:15    Down to the teachers lounge for recess : 32 stairs

10:33    Back up to the second floor : 32 stairs

11:30    Back down for lunch : 32 stairs

1:35      And up again for afternoon classes : 32 stairs

3:00    And down again for afternoon recess : 32 stairs

3:15     Class on the first floor this time, last class of the day : 16 stairs

3:45     Back down the stairs, down the hill, into the bus, up to the Metro platform

4:37     Up the long elevator to the street … just kidding I’ll ride this one up.

4:38     Up to the second floor : 40 stairs

4:38:001     And a big PLOP onto the couch. ❂



Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

23 mars – when you gotta go…

Many little family shops or neighborhood bars have quirky bathrooms. You know the ones I mean. Some are covered in cheeky murals, others have funky toilet paper holders, and they all extend or reveal a bit about the character of the establishment.

France is notorious for particularly grim public restrooms. They usually consist of a toilet with no seat jammed into a closet so small your knees are practically grazing the wall. And they often leave a lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness. But hey, when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. Desperate times and all that…

Which is how I found my self face to face with this toilet.


I have to wonder about the sign… What event (or events) lead to its posting ? Why is it in English ? Is that really what the proprietor intended to say ?? Whatever the answers to these questions, it really made me laugh. And the toilet was fairly clean to boot! All in all a worthwhile foray into the sketchy world of French public bathrooms! ❂



Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

22 mars – crash course

They say that the best way to learn something is to teach it, and I have really come to know the true meaning of this expression in the past few months. Though I am an English as a Foreign Language teacher, I am not necessarily an expert on all things English grammar. I am a native speaker, so beyond comma and semicolon usage, I was never explicitly taught many of the rules. In my primary job as an English interventionist in several elementary schools, we don’t spend much time on grammar. The students learn how to use vocabulary in context (I am 10. I have two sisters. Can you swim?) but that’s about as complex as it gets.

Recently, however, I’ve begun privately tutoring two new students- an 8th grader and a senior in high school. At first, tutoring really intimidated me. One-on-one lessons are a completely different beast from lessons with a class of 30 second graders who take 10 minutes just to write their name on a paper. Some days the hour ticks by sooooooo slowly and I leave feeling like I don’t know anything about teaching or speaking English or especially teaching someone how to speak English. Other days, I accidentally stay 15 minutes extra because we’re having such a great time talking and learning!

Little by little it’s become more of a fun challenge, and I’m learning a lot about some grammar minutiae which is a huge plus for a word nerd like me. Just today, I gave myself AND my student a surprise crash course in the very verb tense for which my blog is named!

When we met last week, she mentioned that she was having trouble with verbs tenses that are formed using the infinitive + -ing. I went home and planned a great lesson on the present progressive (I am sitting on the couch. He is watching TV. We are eating dinner.) So imagine the panic on my face when she asked for help explaining some incorrect answers on a recent quiz… on the present perfect*!

I struggled for a bit to explain the concept. “In this sentence it’s just a general idea, so you use present simple. But here it’s during a period of time, so you use the present progressive…but um, here it’s present perfect ’cause….um…”

But, after reading a few more examples and practicing forming sentences in this complicated tense (I have been writing all day. She has been playing piano for 3 years.) not only succeeded at perceiving the difference myself, but also at explaining the nuances to my student!

I certainly don’t wish for many more of these improvised grammar lessons, but in the moment, I felt like I’d unlocked a new secret to the English language! How crazy to think that in just 60 minutes I learned and taught about a concept that 3 months ago, I was not even able to name! ❂



Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.


*technically, it was the present perfect progressive, but I didn’t want to confuse the poor girl!!


Present Simple
Past Simple
Present Progressive
Past Progressive
Present Perfect
Present Perfect Progressive
Past Perfect Progressive