My first trip to France was intoxicating. I was 15 and traveled to Paris for a few days on a high school trip. And I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from France for too long. After studying abroad and working for a summer in France, I still wanted more of my beloved France. But how? My French teacher had told me about a teaching assistant program in France, and I was delighted when I was accepted to teach English in France for a year. Oh, and I have zero teaching credentials! Perhaps you’re dreaming of moving to France but aren’t quite sure how. Even if you have no desire to become a teacher or teaching experience, it’s still possible. Here’s how to teach English abroad in France.
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Wrapping up my senior year of college, I was burnt out and wanted to take a gap year. I had spent the last four years working toward my journalism and French degrees and had long planned to go into magazine editing. But I needed to recollect myself after a very rigorous program. I started looking into this teaching program in France that my professor had told me about, and my interest was piqued. A 7-month contract to teach English in French public schools for 12 hours per week? Sign me up!
I looked into the Fulbright program to teach English in France, but this program is highly competitive with only 10 spots. On the other hand, the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) accepts over 1,500 Americans to do virtually the same thing. And the application process for TAPIF is but a fraction of the Fulbright one. The bulk of this post will focus on my teaching experience through TAPIF, but I will touch on other ways to teach English abroad in France, too.
What is TAPIF?
The Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) offers 7-month contracts to Americans to teach English in French public schools. TAPIF is just one branch of the Assistants de Langue program, which hires 4,500 assistants from 60 countries to teach their native languages. Applications are due in January with acceptance results starting to roll in around April. Then the program begins in October and ends the following April.
Once accepted to TAPIF, assistants are placed in either the primaire or secondaire level and teach 12 hours per week in up to three schools. Assistants earn about 785 euros per month (net) unless they teach in one of the overseas department and subsequently earn more.
Who can apply, and will I get accepted?
If you’re looking to teach English abroad in France through TAPIF, you have to meet a few benchmarks. First, you have to be a native English speaker between the ages of 20 and 35 and have completed at least three years of university or college. According to TAPIF’s website, you’re supposed to have a B1 level of French, or about three semesters of college French. However, I know multiple people who have applied with a lower level of French.
You don’t need any sort of teaching degree or TEFL certification. Most of the assistants I know don’t have any type of TEFL certification. The website says they prioritize people who have worked with or taught children or adults in the past. That is extremely broad, so be sure to touch on that in your application statement if you have any experience.
Out of the handful of people who applied from my university for the 2020-2021 school year, everyone was accepted. Some were originally waitlisted and then accepted, but none were ultimately rejected.
Okay, but will I get accepted? Per stats from the TAPIF website for the 2018-2019 school year, the acceptance rate was 95%. And that was when they only had 1,100 positions instead of the current 1,500.
My experience pre-departure
My first choice of académie, or basically a very large school district, was Aix-Marseille. I selected the preference of a large city and had no preference for academic level. I was placed in Marseille proper with two elementary schools and one maternelle, or preschool. So I ended up getting my biggest wishes, but I know people with similar applications who didn’t get their first choices. They don’t fully disclose how they place their assistants, but that doesn’t mean we don’t spend the entirety of the program wondering how they placed us where they did — ha!
My program timeline looked different because it was 2020. *Queue Jaws music* Although results were supposed to come in April, I didn’t get an official acceptance until the end of June. It was simply an email saying I’d been accepted to teach in Académie d’Aix-Marseille in primary schools. I didn’t receive my actual city placement until the end of April when I received my official arrêté, or work contract. Once I had my arrêté, I could apply for my visa, which was quite the adventure thanks to Covid.
And even once I had my arrêté and visa, getting to France during a pandemic was a saga to say the least, since airport employee Brian refused to give me my boarding passes because apparently Americans weren’t allowed in France. Ah, good times — read the full story here.
My experience during TAPIF
Despite the hoopla of actually arriving in France, I made it! And I was able to teach in-person, too. On Tuesdays, I spent the entirety of the day at one elementary school, and on Thursdays, I split my time between the other elementary school and the maternelle. Elementary schoolers in Marseille don’t go to school on Wednesdays, and I arranged my schedule so that I only worked two days a week. Quelle chance ! That being said, those were long, packed days, but because I lived so far away, it made sense to teach full days to fulfill my 12 hours.
As far as resources, I was given several curriculum books and some flashcards. But I had immense autonomy to plan my lessons. We spent a lot of time reading some Eric Carle classics like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and From Head to Toe. I created a free download, 101 Classroom Ideas for TAPIF or TEFL Teachers. In this 14-page free guide, I round up my favorite game, activity, subject and resource ideas. Allez-y !
Other ways to teach English in France
My teaching abroad experience in France was through TAPIF, but there are definitely other ways to teach English in France. You can apply for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, which selects only 10 people per year. It’s virtually the same as TAPIF and even has similar requirements, but you get the prestige of the “Fulbright” label and earn more money.
If you’re a native English speaker, you’re already on high demand in France. There are plenty of international or bilingual schools looking for English teachers. It takes more work to research and find job listings and get a sponsored visa, but that’s also another option. I have a friend who simply googled English schools in Paris and found École M, who had a job listing for an English teacher. Do some digging!
You can also teach online through sites like VIPKid or Cambly. I follow Sara Plummer on Instagram, and she’s an American living in Paris who teaches English online via VIPKid. And she has a referral code in her link in bio.
If you’re a native English speaker and want to teach English abroad in France, you definitely have options. My experience is through TAPIF, and this program truly is one of the simplest ways for Americans to get into France to teach English. If you’ve been accepted to TAPIF, be sure to brush up on what you need to do during your first few months. But there are definitely other ways to teach abroad in France whether online or at bilingual/language immersion schools.