There are always people who are disappointed with the Assistant program.
“The program is not organized enough.”
“I have to work 5 days a week.”
“I hate my school(s).”
“My students are misbehaved.”
“My co-workers aren’t welcoming.”
“I was placed in too small of a town.”
“My commute is too long and complicated.”
“I hate my apartment.”
“The salary is not enough to live on.”
“I am underutilized at my school.”
“The job is s***.”
I understand that TAPIF is a sort of crapshoot, and it really can be luck of the draw. You can be placed in an inaccessible town, with no one else around. You can be placed in a really bad school with really rough kids or really unorganized, unhelpful teachers. Your schedule may be very inconvenient and sporadic. Your roles with your students may not have a lot of meaning or direction. You may have to plan everything, or you may have to plan nothing.
But my question is, What do people who come to do TAPIF actually expect? What is a perfect TAPIF experience?
Is it supposed to be being placed in the center of the biggest town, having a 2-3 work week schedule (working Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday), starting around 10 and being finished around 2, and being provided with the most perfect, free, furnished housing which also qualifies you for CAF and reimburses you almost immediately? Is it working in a state-of-the-art school with unlimited wifi, resources, and materials? Is it transitioning into teaching with ease and having every single lesson go absolutely flawlessly while also having to do a minimal amount of preparation and planning outside of class? Is it never having any conflicts with your teachers, roommates, landlords, etc? Is it immediately having the biggest circle of friends and a stipend that allows an infinite amount of travel? Is it never having any paperwork hassles?
I definitely didn’t have the perfect TAPIF experience. I had to move half-way through my contract- I had no permanent internet until January. I never received my carte vitale. At first, I was lost when working with my technical BTS students, to whom I was supposed to teach electricity, mechanics, etc. One of the teachers I worked with was notorious for using me as an excuse not to do her own work or plan her own lessons–she was also my coordinating teacher but I didn’t hear from her until I arrived at the school, meaning that I found a place to live and stay in the meantime on my own. I never had an observation week (though I didn’t need one) and had a daily battle with being provided with a badly-equipped classroom, having to always search for and set up the projector and cable cords, which of course only worked half the time. In the end I had a group of really good, close girlfriends, but it definitely didn’t happen overnight and I had some extremely lonely, depressing days.
I realize that I come from a privileged position because I had a teaching degree before coming to be a TAPIF assistant, so my perspective and my experience was very different from someone who shows up to France with zero teaching experience. I knew how to teach, plan lessons, and manage a classroom, and I was very keen to do so. But at the same time, I definitely understand and sympathize with assistants who are struggling with teaching and finding support within their schools. It is discouraging and disappointing when schools do not take advantage of having a native speaker. But I also truly believe that attitude is everything- every experience is what you make of it. Overall, I had a good situation but I also had to work hard to make my situation good. I took my job as an assistant very seriously, and I look at my job as a lectrice as a full time job.
But really, I am curious: Has your experience with TAPIF been what you expected? What WERE you expecting, and how/why is it different? In retrospect, is there really THAT much to complain about getting paid 800 euros a month for 12 hours per week of work, with 8 weeks paid vacation, and a chance to live in Europe for 7 months?
Leave me a comment.