Assistant Spotlight with Pavel

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Welcome to the first-ever Assistant Spotlight!

Not surprisingly, there are some really awesome assistants around here in France, and I wanted to create a section of the blog to feature what some of them are doing and how they're taking advantage of their time abroad.

They may have created a small business in their free time or they might simply be killing it as an assistant and living their lives in an inspiring way. Regardless, I want to showcase people who are making the most of their time in France in order to share their insights for how to do France like a boss.

Meet Pavel.

I had seen a few of Pavel's videos on his YouTube channel, Aftashkola Teachers, and I knew I wanted to feature him on So You Think You Can France. For one thing, he shares my vision of wanting to make it more transparent in terms of what teaching assistants should expect in France. He also just seems to be having a RAD freakin' time living his Paris life and that, in itself, is inspiring! 

Pavel is 23 years old, from New Zealand, and has just completed his first year of teaching in Paris at the elementary level and is set to teach again this upcoming 2017-2018 school year!

Without further ado, here are some of Pavel's responses to my questions! Enjoy!

Hi, Pavel! so What made you want to teach English in France?

fter I graduated from university, I wanted to do a job where I got to travel, use my different language skills, and interact with different cultures. I felt that this English teaching job was a great step toward a career that goes down that path.

hat was your experience this past year like?

t was unbelievable. It was an experience that money can’t buy. The main [reasons for] that were that I was an in an amazing city (Paris), I didn’t have many pre-judgments of what it was supposed to be like, I met the locals, and I was really open to a lot of things. And with the job, we don’t have that many hours, [so we] really have a lot of time to travel and experience different things.

hat are three bits of advice you would give to future language assistants wanting to teach in France?

Paperwork! Be on top of your paperwork! There is a medical test that you have to do (for OFII, the Office of Immigration), but I missed this information, and when I DID hear about it, I chose to ignore it.

...And yes, it bit me in the ass.

2. Make friends with the locals and don’t try to ONLY make friends with other language assistants or people who are in the same position as you because you’ll find that you'll be friends with them, but then you both leave and then there’s nothing left IN France – it was just kind of a meeting ground. Whereas if you make connections with the local people from wherever you’re teaching, you will have kept something FROM the place you lived.

And it IS harder, because you have to know the language and be an interesting/open person, but the payoff is a lot better.

3. Always keep engaged and busy. That way you won’t have a reason to be homesick. The time will go really fast, and you won’t have a chance to be homesick. You don’t want to be losing a week or two when you’re just missing home, where you'll eventually go back to anyway. Always remember: this contract is only temporary!

Did you have any unnecessary stresses before arriving in France?

I think this has mainly to do with Paris and any big city, but it’s always very difficult to find accommodation because many students, interns, and locals are also looking for places to live. So the only advice I can give is to book an Airbnb and stay there for two or three weeks while you search for a place. You don’t want to be in a hostel where there’s many different people, and you don’t want to be uncomfortable during this stressful time when you’re in a new city with a new language, not knowing where you'll be living.

As a language assistant, what resources did you find useful?

I didn’t really use many online resources. I looked online for ideas and topics for classes. And then other than that, I just made my own resources. They were really simple – the simpler, better. I used pictures, quotes, and discussion points under a bigger topic, which the students and I discussed. Online resources didn’t really help me. I had a class of 8-year olds so the “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” song was of course a good resource! And I also had some private students and found some things on BBC English. But with the nature of this job [as a language assistant], it’s better to create your own resources and apply an idea to your OWN teaching style. 

So about what you've created - What is Aftashkola teachers and who would benefit from it?

I started Aftashkola, a YouTube channel, while here in the last couple of months and it’s just all my notes that I’ve made throughout the year – what I’ve done in this job all compiled into videos in order to help future language assistants. In these videos I talk about what to expect, planning classes, what you might find in Paris, meeting the teachers and the students, etc.

One of the major things I noticed in your videos were your suggestions in terms of planning and implementing your lessons. What are some words of wisdom you can share with readers?

lanning! It’s pretty straightforward. You apply your own teaching style with your students’ learning styles, but there WILL be improvisation. Improvisation is important. I don’t recommend coming to class without a plan, but it’s going to happen. 

Was there a time you came to class completely unprepared and had to improvise?

Yes! It was a Friday afternoon with my favorite class, and I had absolutely nothing, and I had to explain to them, “Sorry class, I don’t have anything prepared.” And they were happy and they just said, “All we want to do is just TALK with you.” And that’s what we did. It was the greatest class that I can remember having, and there was clearly no plan. Despite that, though, don’t ONLY improvise, but also remember that it will occasionally happen.

Where can readers find your videos and the resources you have shared?

In the Aftashkola videos, I usually leave my email address and you can contact me. I’ll be in Paris again for 2017-18, and I’d be more than happy to discuss this job before the job starts in October.

Any parting words to past + present assistants?

anguage assistants! Just go out there and have a great time!

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