Life Update: My New Job Teaching at an International School

It’s been three weeks since the rentrée, and hence three weeks since I’ve begun my new job at an International School in Lille. And I must say, I am SUCH a bag of mixed emotions.

For the most part, though, I can’t stop smiling, because I am so proud of myself. I keep having flashbacks to 21-year-old Dana in her Senior year of university googling, “American School of London” and “American School of Paris” and “International School of Nice” and bookmarking schools and contacts and blogs and requirements, determinedly thinking, “One day, I am going to work at an international school in France or the UK.” Twenty-six-year-old Dana cannot believe that she is actually here and she actually made this happen for herself. It is so, so surreal to literally be living your own dream.

The school itself is wonderful, and to be honest is kind of a utopia that makes me (almost) forget that I’m living and working in France. With two sister schools in Paris and London, the school’s culture is very unique in that we are basically always expected to speak our native language (ie: the Head Director is actually French but he always addresses me in English. Before coming to work at this current school, I would have addressed him in French because I have culturally been taught that that is the polite thing to do in France. However, at this school, the culture is to speak in your native language– for me this is English.) This may also be partly because there are many teachers who work here whom do not speak any French. My colleagues come from all over– England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, Canada, USA, Spain, India, China, Germany and of course France; most all of us have teaching degrees and certifications, but very few of us were trained in France. I am so lucky to have found an establishment where my US teaching degree means something and counts towards my work and my pay. Even better, there’s a whole group of Lille expats I never knew existed, so it’s been a great change meeting new people. Finally, the students, no matter how young, only speak to me and other English teachers in English. It’s very cool to see and experience because it’s just pure proof of how amazing bilingualism is. Finally, part of our school’s philosophy is to embrace and welcome all kinds of teaching methods from all of our respective countries, and I find that to be fantastic.  All in all it’s a very unique place to work and a welcomed change to the strictly-French education system.


New colleagues

On the other hand, I am now plunged into a world of learning targets and standards and am so, so, so unbelievably busy with lesson planning and grading and professional development and reading and researching and organizing and actual teaching that I hardly remember what it’s like to be an assistante or a lectrice anymore. I had three extremely spoiled years of decent pay for a low number of working hours and I enjoyed them to the fullest, taking advantage of my ample time off to travel and explore all corners of Europe. But now, I teach 23 hours a week (contact time– a full time secondary teacher in France teaches 18 hours contact); my course load includes 7 different classes– 6ème, 5ème, 3ème, 2nde, 1ère, and Terminale (6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades). Our school offers both IB and French Bac options, but I am teaching on the French Bac side, which means that all of my students are French and are planning to take the  difficult French Baccalauréat exam at the end of high school and integrate into the French university system (where as IB students are a mixture of native and non-native English speakers whom take the extremely International Baccalaureate exams and continue on to higher education in perhaps France but also other countries, including the USA, UK, and Canada.) The school IS accredited and recognized by both the U.K. and USA edcucation departments. Needless to say, I’m finally making a real salary with real benefits; I can start to save instead of just scrape by.

I’m learning a lot; I went from teaching Business English to university students to teaching grammar and literature and poetry and short stories and comprehension and writing skills to middle and high school students. We have to read novels and write essays and give speeches and I have to teach them the skills they need along the way. I’m teaching English but also solely to EAL/ESL students, mixing skills I have with skills I am still developing. I have a lot to learn but I’ve definitely welcomed the challenge. For the most part, the students are lovely, although I’ve had to certainly re-vamp my classroom management skills. It’s a bit stressful for me at times to realize that now, finally, I am actually the teacher. It’s up to me to distribute grades and discipline students and differentiate materials and track progress and plan curriculum and contact parents simultaneously for 7 different classes, as well as become familiar with new exams and language certificates. It’s exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. I’m reminded most days that I still love teaching and doing what I do. I’m looking forward to this year unfolding and seeing what’s in store.

Finally, I’ve started running the Debate Club on Wednesday nights with the boarding school students. This is something I’ve never done before but am looking forward to getting involved in.

I know that accepting this position was absolutely the right thing for me; although I still get homesick, the combination of skills I’ll develop and contacts I’ll make is going to open so many doors, career-wise. Even better, I’m motivated each and every day to keep helping and inspiring students to learn and grow, as well as to be reflective and improve on my own teaching and learning.




30 thoughts on “Life Update: My New Job Teaching at an International School

  1. Dear Dana,

    I have been follwing your journey since your post comparing the north and the south of France (I live in Reims, not far ;)). Heartiest congratulations on the new job; It’s soo heartening to have a fulfulling job!

    I am looking for a job to do for next year, as I am in the second year of my lecteur contract. I would like to know if you had any problems getting the work visa for the school?

    I know you are super busy, but I would really appreciate this tip, I have been scared by the possiblity of leaving France!

    Let me know If you visit Reims!

    Thanks and best wishes,

    1. Hi Sam! Thanks so much for following along!! I’ve never been to Reims but it’s SO on my list (all the wine, mmmm…)

      Thanks so much about the job! The school sponsored me directly which was amazing and I didn’t expect it. But it was easier because I was already in France so I just had to ‘renew’ my titre de séjour. The most complicated part was putting the ad on Pole Emploi for 3 weeks to prove that no other European citizen could do the job.

      I think I was lucky that my school was used to sponsoring foreigners. However, I think they would’ve sponsored me under the FACC visa as well, at least to start.

      My advice is to start searching for jobs now, or at least getting your CV updated.

      Hope that helps, best of luck!


      1. Thank you so much for your reply! Incredibly kind of you take time out to write to me, even though ypu must get a lot of comments.

        Have already looking for jobs and will update my CV soon.

        As for REims, the beautiful Christmas market has started last week, and the Cathedral looks stellar with the light showsin the evening. PLease let me know when you wish to visit (I think my comment shows my email id to you?), my american lecteur flatmates and I would be hope to host you and/or show you around.

        Thanks again for your suggestions!

  2. A bit behind on blog posts because all the notifications go to my old hotmail account. Sounds like you’re learning a ton and gaining skills for the future! You should be proud of yourself. Your post also reminds me I did not make a mistake when I decided teaching was not for me. Grading, writing up lesson plans, discipling students sounds like my worst nightmare! But I’m glad you found your path.

    And also random but I’ll be in France from November 19-27th, probably mostly in Rouen visiting my grandparents. My family decided to spontaneously go for the Thanksgiving holiday since tickets for flights were so cheap. Would be great to meet up if you have time but I know you have to teach.

    Also read your post on heartbreak. Unrequited love SUCKS. I know how that feels. But you will eventually get through it, feeling just don’t fade overnight and who cares how long it takes. You will eventually move on to better things.

    1. Haha, yeah, teaching is definitely not for everyone and some nights I can’t help but think, ‘argh whyyy do I do this again!?” lol!

      Awesome you’ll be in France. I know I’ll be in Copenhagen for a conference some of those days, and I’ll have to work during the week. I think we are doing our own thanksgiving at least one day. It sucks that Lille is so far from Rouen. I DO really want to meet you in person!!!! Can we talk about it again once its closer?

  3. Very cool! Can certainly understand why you have mixed emotions. Congrats on everything you’ve accomplished. I’m sure your students love you 😉

  4. Wow, this is amazing!!! What a big change! I can’t even imagine teaching 23 hours a week and planning so many different classes for the first time! You are a superstar. I’m so glad to hear that you’re loving your new job. It sounds like an incredible environment. Thanks for finding a pinch of time to blog about it amidst your busy schedule!

      1. That many different levels is a lot, especially all at once! I’m sure it’ll be lighter next year and even hopefully later on in the year once you hit a rhythm.

  5. Wow, Dana congratulations!!! So so exciting. I did an IB diploma, and I’ve been thinking a bit about how I’d like to teach in an IB school, whether in the US or abroad. I just really enjoyed the global focus and rigor of the program. Bonne continuation, I hope we FINALLY have a chance to cross paths now that we’re both in France again 🙂

    Also, you should talk with Hannah (of HannahGoestoFrance) — she has coached her super competitive high school debate team for like 3 or 4 years. She can give you some tips!!

    1. I think I would have loved doing an IB Diploma. I hope that I’ll get the opportunity to teach an IB class in a few years once I’ve gotten my feet wet !

      Hope we can meet, too!! We’ll have to find a moment… can’t wait to hear about adventures in Marseille!

  6. This sounds so exciting, Dana! I’m so glad that you’re enjoying your time and living your dream at the international school. I just might have to hit you up for future inquiries on how to get there. Looking forward to more posts from you on your job!

  7. Glad you’re enjoying it! It sounds way different from a non-international French lycée. Debate club sounds like a great idea. I remember our Slovenian correspondants had great public speaking schools and my students … well … they definitely could have used a club like that.

  8. It’s so cool you’re essentially in your dream job! I really hope I will get there, as it is mine too.
    I’m a current assistant (without a masters) but I’m definately going to try to apply for lectrice/international school positions for next year!

  9. I’m so proud of all you have accomplished, D! It sounds like you have ended up exactly where you are meant to be…all your life experiences will only serve to make a FANTASTIC teacher for those very lucky students! Miss you so much…I can’t wait to hear all about this newest adventure ❤ Erin

Let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.