Teaching Assistant Program in France

Program Reviews

No, I don't recommend this program

There are better ways to travel

This is by far the worst job I have ever had. I understand it’s the luck of the draw with schools, teachers and placement, but why does that have to be the case. Living in Paris should 100% mean more compensation than 790€ a month to pay monthly expenses of over 1000€ a month. Living in Paris is not cheap and they should know that.

The only perks comes outside of the classroom which I don’t consider perks at all. You have time to travel yes, but no money to do so. You get a visa, but are not allowed to exceed 30% of your income with a second job.

If you’re as unlucky as I was, you are placed in a school that never requested an assistant to begin with, so not only do they not WANT to deal with you and your paperwork, they don’t know how. I was informed at orientation that our secretaries would handle our social security, come to find out when it’s too late, that my friends and I have not received it and thus no health insurance. So we ended up paying for health insurance we could never use. On top of that, the schools are unforgiving when calling out, even months in advance. So in consequence, you have to go to work with debilitating fevers because you have no health insurance and no money to pay the 20€ out of pocket to see a doctor every week. It is important to know that you will most likely get sick considering working with kids and working in a new country.

Overall, this company places you in France but does nothing to help you process in assimilating nor compensates for the costs. The only benefits come from when you are not working, which should not be considered benefits if the job didn’t provide it. There are many legit companies that will send you abroad, pay for your ticket to get there and accommodations long enough for you to get assimilated. All of that, which a reasonable, livable salary.

There were times that I didn’t have money for food. I will be writing to me school to stop endorsing this program.

What would you improve about this program?
It needs to pay a livable salary if you will not allow more hours or a second job.
No, I don't recommend this program

TAPIF is an irresponsible organization

For those looking to teach for TAPIF, I would advise you to look elsewhere. The reasons for this are as follows:
1. The monthly stipend is not sufficient. Given the low amount of pay, it is nearly impossible to enjoy living in France. I had many financial difficulties, and I think that it is irresponsible for TAPIF to suggest at every step of the process that the stipend is sufficient for living. To suggest that students tutor on the side to make ends meet is also irresponsible, given that such activity is illegal.
2. The organization is extremely disorganized. Not only are assistants given very little training, but they are given very little advice in terms of how to deal with the day-to-day hassles of living in France. I was given contradictory information, told that I had free housing (when in fact the opposite was true) and not supported in the least by the program in terms of my desire to develop as a teacher.
3. The suggestion that assistants apply for CAF is misleading. In truth, the CAF system is extremely disorganized and unreliable. Assistants should not be told that they will get the money allotted to them. Furthermore, assistants should not be told to leave open their bank accounts after the program is over. I am currently dealing with a huge headache given the fact that my bank account is overdrawn and the CAF money TAPIF told me would be transferred is never going to come.

There are many other minor complaints that I have about this program, but these are the glaring issues. I think, overall, that the program presents a false reality at every step of the process. Be wary.

Response from Teaching Assistant Program in France

The organization takes feedback from Teaching Assistants seriously. We have passed this feedback along to the CIEP, the agency in France that oversees all 4,500 Teaching Assistants each year.

The CIEP has contacted the school in which Mr. Dunn was placed to ensure that the miscommunication regarding housing options does not occur again. The stipend is set by the French government and communicated to all applicants and assistants throughout the process.

We will take into consideration this feedback regarding the CAF in future communications and guidebooks for Teaching Assistants. The program has no authority over the CAF, a French government housing subsidy for which some Teaching Assistants are eligible. The program does not guarantee the CAF subsidy.

We appreciate feedback and take it seriously to better inform program improvements.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Glad I Did It

The Teaching Assistant Program in France allows you to live and work in France as an English Language Assistant for 7 months (October-April). The program helps you procure a visa and but once you arrive in France, the program is basically done with you, aside from a making sure you are able to take the necessary steps to validate your visa. If you're looking for advice, or need your hand-held that's not happening. While I had tutoring experience, I wasn't quite prepared for how difficult teaching can be, especially being stationed in a vocational school where the students were understandably more interested in their work placements than learning English. Still, most of the staff where I worked were kind, welcoming and interested in American life and I was very happy with the accommodation I rented at the school (although most of the people I asked agreed, the rent was unusually high). As an African American assigned to a small town in Northern France, I was surprised by the amount of diversity I encountered. I never felt uncomfortable.

I wish we had received a better orientation, something that would explain the French school system to us and offered us some pedagogy and advice about classroom management. Two hours worth of workshops do not prepare you to stand up in a classroom full of French high school students, and your high school and college French classes may not have given you the adequate vocabulary to give a student a good talking to! Still, I had a great experience overall. I had my favorite groups and teachers to work with, and the other language assistants at the school where I worked were awesome. Although we weren't all from the same country, and didn't all speak English, I really made two lifelong friends. They were my main support system and we operated as both friends and family while abroad. I knew they always had my back. France offers ample school vacations and I was able to use that time to travel to several different countries. The school even allowed me extra time off when my family came to visit. I learned an amazing amount, met people from countless other countries, solo traveled out of the States for the first time and really broadened my horizons. Would definitely recommend.

What would you improve about this program?
More supports from the program immediately after arrival such as an explanation of the French school system, for example grade levels and grading.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Independence Through TAPIF

TAPIF was a real lesson in independence in another country, for me. Although the word "program" is in the name, TAPIF provides more of a loose outline for what is provided, and what happens as a result, is very much up to you. For instance, you are assigned a specific school, or perhaps multiple schools, however work hours and conditions are something you need to discuss with teachers and administrators. Often times, teachers are so thankful to have you at their school and will want to make full use of you in their classrooms. It can be a very rewarding experience to work with kids ranging in ages from primary, middle, and high school ages, and gives many teaching assistants a good idea of how they feel about teaching.

As teaching assistants, you are paid about $1,039 per month, which is not much, however many make it stretch by nannying and doing other part-time jobs in the communities where they live. There is also a lot of free time to travel, as there are about two weeks of vacation every six weeks, and assistants work only 12 hours per week.

If you are interested in having a more immersive and rich experience with day-to-day life in France, TAPIF can allow you to meet and form relationships with the teachers you work with, the students you teach in the classroom, as well as with TAPIF assistants from around the world, and other community members. As always, the experience is what you make it, so don't be afraid to use your time there to explore and form as many relationships as possible!

What would you improve about this program?
Many TAPIF American teaching assistants do not understand that this is not the type of program that provides a lot of "hand holding". This is by no means a bad thing, but I believe this could be better communicated to its applicants to avoid misunderstandings.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Challenging, but worthwhile

I participated in the TAPIF program during the 2014-2015 school year in two middle schools located in very rural southern France communities.

As someone with previous teaching experience (in Peace Corps and AmeriCorps), I definitely walked into TAPIF thinking that I knew what was in store for me. Turns out, I was totally wrong! The things that I thought I would have difficulty with (language, making friends, etc) were the easiest - and the most difficult was the actual job. It was difficult in the sense that there is a set curriculum for English at every level of the French education system, so there was already a plan for what I would do, what I would teach to what grades, etc. All my previous teaching positions had required a much larger amount of creativity from me, as I created the curricula, all the content, and implementation. I serious lacked this with TAPIF.

But with that being said, you only work 12 hours a week. Your job is so minimal that you have so much time to make the most of your year abroad. I took yoga classes, traveled, read so many books, go to concerts.. As long as you're willing to roll with the punches and make lemonade out of a few lemons (if you happen to stumble across them!), you'll cherish this year in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

What would you improve about this program?
There should be more coordination between the regional language director (the person who places you in your schools, hosts the trainings, and is your general contact for any questions / concerns during the year) and the school in which you work. The schools often lacked or misunderstood the fundamentals of what the English Teaching Assistant position was supposed to be. For example, as a teaching assistant at the elementary level, I was never supposed to be alone in the classroom - but often found myself that way when teachers would utilize that time to make copies or plan for a later class. Problems like these were easily resolved once I spoke with the regional language director, but could easily be resolved if participating school teachers underwent a sort of training seminar before a ETA was placed in their school.

Another thing I would change - extend the position to the entire school year! I missed out on a couple really awesome events at the end of the school year that I would have loved to go to because the program only runs October through April.
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Yes, I recommend this program

When you won't be home for Christmas

I taught English in France's public school system for the 2013-2014 school year. I was a little sad about spending Christmas away from my family and having a holiday break with nothing to do since all my activities would be on hiatus.

The night before the vacation started, I asked my co-teacher what I had to prepare, and she told me just to bring myself. The next day, she brought me to the classroom to witness a grand surprise: The students had decorated the classroom, written "Merry Christmas Justine" on the board, dressed up, brought food and desserts, and chipped in money to buy me a holiday present.

They told me, in their best English, that they wanted to give me a good Christmas since I'd be away from my family. It was one of the fondest and most memorable holidays I'd ever had, and it only happened because I was experiencing the season as a foreigner.

What would you improve about this program?
I wish that the program coordinators had let us know in advance how difficult it would be to find housing, as well as some general tips and tricks on how to find appropriate living arrangements.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A fast, fun and crazy way of working and living abroad

When I arrived in France to work as an assistant English teacher at a high school in Rouen, I didn't know what to expect. Neither France nor teaching was new to me - but teaching and living in France would be a unique experience. However, I was sure that I would get adjusted to the teaching aspect of living in France.

The teaching was no problem. As for the living aspect of my French stay... things I took for granted in the United States were just a little different in France. Such as swimwear attire - I was thrown out of a public swimming pool in France because my boxer-length swimming trunks were "prohibited." As soon as I was told that, I noticed all of the other guys were wearing speedos. And of course, dealing with all the bureaucracy was frustration.

But where else can you be considered cool, work 12 hours a week, treat yourself to delicious cheese and be charmed by people with a sexy accent? As well as get kissed by cute people on the cheek. You can also protest with students at your school and be invited to hang out with them afterwards. And have plenty of time to explore a beautiful country and continent. There's only one job in one country.

What would you improve about this program?
I would change a couple of things. First, I would change the length of the contract. When I was an assistant in France, the assistants (working at high schools) had seven-month contracts. I wish we had eight or nine month contracts. Also, I would have like to have worked more than 12 hours a week. There were weeks when I worked eight or nine hours per week and that was too few.
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Yes, I recommend this program

TAPIF: A Fun French Challenge

I spent eight months teaching in France through TAPIF (Teaching Abroad Program in France). It was a challenging experience--I worked in a small town in the middle of no where--but one I wouldn't trade for anything.

Everyone who does this program will have a different experience. A lot of it depends on where you are placed--in a big city or a small town. It also depends a lot on if you are placed with other assistants or alone (as I was). At the beginning I was really anxious about living alone in this tiny town but it was a priceless experience, especially for developing my French. I lived with two French teachers--one of which was also new to town. My French improved dramatically over the eight months that I spent there. Another bonus of small town living is that it's cheap!! So I was able to take the generous time off (you only work 12 hours a week + there is an academic break of two weeks every six weeks) to travel and explore Europe.

Yes it was challenging. It could be hard to be alone. But I was able to do and see so much. I would definitely recommend this program, but advise prospective applicants that it's a growing experience and that it wouldn't be without certain challenges.

What would you improve about this program?
I would make it easier for assistants to connect with each other.
Yes, I recommend this program

Why you need to go abroad- My year with TAPIF

Besides the fact that an experience abroad will allow you to: discover a new way of living, expand your global perspective, or perhaps altogether destroy your comfort zone. You need to go abroad to discover a strength.

I was recently completing an interview and one of the questions included, "What has been your most impactful travel experience?" I didn't hesitate in saying that it has been my year in France.

Anyone who I've shared with, knows just how much of a roller coaster this year has been. When I made the decision to come to France, it was the riskiest thing I had ever decided to do. I was making a decision that would be taking me away from my family, my friends, and my way of life. It seemed like I was turning my life upside down and the scariest thing was that I didn't know if it would be worth it.

I had a good setup in Chicago but I wasn't happy. What I had before France wasn't fulfilling, otherwise I wouldn't have even filled out the application.

Compared to my previous travels, my journey to France was a solo one. I came to a country without a support system and without a set of guidelines as to what awaited me. However, I can't say that I didn't know to some extent what I was getting myself into, because not knowing what the year would bring was one of the attractions. I liked the idea of unpredictability.

And it has very much been an unpredictable year.

I would have never pegged myself as someone who got homesick, but this year has changed that. I've missed my family and friends more than I could ever express in words. I was also never a person who drew into herself, but on more than one occasion that was the case. I have been pushed beyond what I could handle, I have further understood the meaning of humility, and I've experienced isolation.

To be honest, there are many things that this year brought me face to face with that I would have never willingly put myself through. But, I also know that I have never felt stronger. This year has given me a self-assuredness that I have never possessed and I will not take that for granted.

TAPIF brought me a renewed perspective and a firm belief that I can handle anything brought before me. This program is good for anyone willing to take a solo challenge. Though you have "some" initial advising from program administration, you must be prepared to handle the unexpected on your own. TAPIF will bring you to meet people from all parts of the world who are also assistants and they will become your friends and support system. I am still in contact with the few that became my guidance for that year of surprises we endured. If you're interested in pursuing a career in education at any level, learning about a different educational system on an international level from the point of view of teachers and students is refreshing and humbling. You get to collaborate with dedicated educators who really want the best for their students and while improving your language skills.

To go abroad is to take a leap of faith. Yes, it can seem risky but the risk has the potential to yield something amazing. You're taking on a challenge that many wouldn't consider and it can allow you to become the best version of yourself.

It is going to come with unexpected struggles and some days will make you question your sanity for going in the first place. But, without a doubt it was one of the best things I could have done for myself.

Take the leap.

What would you improve about this program?
I think TAPIF has a desire to become one of France's leading cultural exchange programs, but it lacks organization. Each year the program receives about 1200 assistants from many parts of the world but they are not equipped to work with that number. In the time I have been here, there have been assistants who went home due to poor or complete lack of school support. I know the experience will not be suited for everyone, but the conversations I have that focus around this issue are more than I expected.

One of the issues is the missing aspect of cultural education the expecting host schools and teachers receive about their assistants. I do think this is an important aspect because I strongly believe if a program wants to be a cultural exchange initiative then the exchange must occur on both sides.

Some of the other challenges include: supervision of application materials, no city orientation, being paid late, unclear/mixed messages about administrative tasks (e.g. pay, social security, transportation, visa info).

The expectations of our host schools versus our said responsibilities under the program administration are not always on the same page. There's constantly two messages being given on any given matter and they are at conflict with each other. It's simply unsettling.

From my perspective, I would have a hard time speaking about the program management in the best light. I have to be very frank and I think that is only fair, especially for future assistants who may find themselves in a similar situation.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience!

The TAPIF is an amazing program for people who can already speak French and who want to spend more than a semester living abroad. You need practically no teaching experience and if you've worked with kids before and are fairly independent, you'll have a great experience.

There isn't a lot of training or guidance from the program as to how to teach or what you need to do administratively/bureaucratically. I had to do a lot of research online for lesson ideas. The good news was that I worked in 2 different high schools so my students were relatively advanced and we could spend our time mostly talking or doing fun activities. I would definitely recommend working outside Paris (or larger cities) as the teachers who are the main contacts seem to be more involved with their assistants. I was lucky and had a housing option (not at the school) already lined up if I wanted it by my teacher in charge. I also got the chance to know most of the other assistants working in my city (English-speaking and non-English speaking) as well as French people my own age and I got to see parts of France that most people don't see.

What would you improve about this program?
More involvement/information on teaching as well as administrative tasks that the French government needs doing during and after the program.