So as I write this I’m sitting on the boat waiting to leave France. I finished my year as a language assistant a week ago before spending a couple of days away with my parents but now it is time to say ‘Au Revoir‘ to France for the time being. This year has been amazing and better than I thought it would be and I was a little sad to leave my schools. From the chorus of ‘no’s’ and ‘please stay’ to all of the lovely pictures and gifts that I got from my three schools it certainly made it a little hard to leave. Along with that I had to leave the girls in the apartment not knowing when we would see each other in person again, the problem with us all living in different countries. Travelling to a different country not knowing who you are going to be staying with can be hard, you never know if you will get along or how the year will go. I was very fortunate that we all got along so well and became like a little family, moaning about school problems together and going on day trips to avoid boredom setting in. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to pass the year with.
Before setting off to be an assistant I didn’t really know what I would be doing and the idea that I had was not very accurate so lets talk about a few things you might want to know before becoming a language assistant. Of course as I was in France the paperwork and ‘l’adminstration’ was complicated, I think they must have a form to fill out for every little thing that goes on in society so be prepared. From the schools to health insurance to the infamous CAF you will probably spend half of your time filling out forms that you have already filled out a thousand times before. Also be prepared to have about 100 photocopies of every document you have because you never know when they might asked for ‘your mother’s mother’s birth cert‘ or something ridiculous. Once everything is filled out be prepared then to wait an eternity for a response, they aren’t going to rush, sure they take 2 hours for lunch so that stamp on that form can wait until tomorrow.
Another thing to note is to not be fooled by the name of the job ‘assistant de langue’, of course literally translated this means language assistant and when you hear this you think yes I’ll be in the classroom assisting the teacher with English. Well that is what I thought as well but let’s be honest that’s not what I was doing. I was basically the teacher for 30-45 minutes which when you arrive the first day is very daunting, thinking you will only be helping a little bit but are actually teaching the whole class when you have nothing prepared is certainly one way to start the experience. Let’s just say that after that I was lesson planning every week to make sure that never happened again. The old favourites of Simon Says and Bingo are great when you have no idea what to do. I would say be prepared to be in front of a class of 25-30 eager kids staring at you waiting to say something. Preparation is key and I wish someone had told me that before I came over, would have made my first week a little easier.
Even though I had many days when I would come home to the apartment and have a moaning session with one of the girls about the french school system in the end it all worked out. When you see the progression in even one child from the day you come in to the day you leave. Maybe they have a little bit more confidence when they speak or can proudly say ‘My name is‘ then it all makes it worth it. As I told myself there is only so much that I can do in the short time that I am there but I can give them the basics and make my classes as fun as possible. Those were the things that made the experience, everyday walking into the school to a chorus of ‘Hello Emma‘ and ‘Are you doing English with us today?’ to meeting my kids on the street and hearing the whispers ‘C’est le prof d’anglais’ as explication to their parents who were looking at me strangling thinking who are you saying hello to my child.
I would certainly recommend being a language assistant to anyone who is doing a foreign language. It is a great way to travel and see a new country, you only work 12 hours a week so you have plenty of time to explore. You will get to meet some amazing people in the other assistants who you will party with having only said hello to them once about 2 months ago at orientation. You will get to have some amazing classes basically acting like a child again, that is if you do primary and of course there were people who did not have the best of experiences with their classes but for me it was all positive. It true that there may be days when you really just want to shake the kids when after 4 months of doing the same to questions every class and they still don’t know, or when your teachers are just getting on your nerves or nothing is going right but hang in there. In the end you will look back and think that they were the things that made the experience and made you a stronger person for sticking it out.
Alors c’est au revoir pour le moment la France mais je reviendrai , c’est sur.