TAPIF: Should You Choose Primary or Secondary School?

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Guys, I’m just going to start by saying (as we all already know too well by now) that every situation is different. There won’t be a single teaching-English-in-France experience that is identical to another. 

hat being said, a lot of times we’d like to know exactly what we’re up against - so I asked a few other teaching assistants what the best + worst things about their own teaching experiences were in order to provide some examples of how teaching at the primaire level (elementary-aged) differs from teaching at the secondaire level (middle + high school). 

ope this helps!

Secondaire - Lycée + Collège
(High School + Middle School) 


ROS:

  • tudents are typically more mature so it can be possible to talk about more "hot-button" issues including presidential elections, gun violence, drugs, etc. 
  • When the students are excited and eager to learn, it’s a DREAM.
  • You can joke with them more and tease them - in a light-hearted manner, of course (and only if you sense that they will take the joke in a funny way!!)
  • You can work individually with terminales (equivalent of high school senior) in preparation for the bac (high school exit exam in preparation for university).
  • Level of independent work may vary, but in general, assistants are given a lot of freedom in what to teach and how to teach it. 

CONS:

  • tudents can come off as “too cool for school,” making you cringe looking back on how ~aWeSoMe~ you thought you were at their age.
  • They honestly sometimes just DGAF, in which case you can’t stress out too much. Just think: whatever, I’m freaking living in France + this little punk is the LITERAL LEAST of my worries!
  • Disengagement: days are freakin’ long for French students (they’re there from 8am to 6pm. Coming from the U.S. where school ended at 1:30 and I got to run around a basketball court or swim laps at the pool for a few hours, I feel for these kids. Understand: there’s going to be a few burned out and bored students.
  • They’re at that age where they can’t decide between being well-behaved or being the class clown.
  • When given the freedom to teach what you want, it can be a bit more challenging with having to find where students of a lower language level are in their learning.
  • At the high school level, it can seem as though assistants are under-utilized based on students’ low levels of comprehension. In other words, it doesn’t always work out to where you are able to have full-on discussions with students, as you might have previously envisioned. Sometimes you will be teaching them basic sentence structure and vocabulary. Be flexible + adaptable!

Primaire (Elementary):  


ROS:

  • Excited and ready-to-learn kids - not afraid to show off their skills, nor are they too self-conscious to be silly and out-there.
  • Assistants are usually given more independence in planning their own activities and lessons.
  • Easy, silly, and fun lessons (think: singing songs, learning rhymes, vocabulary lessons).
  • Not as “judgmental” as high school and middle school - they are good sports when it comes to lessons + activities.
  • Adorable mini French humans (for the most part!) who just love you simply for being there and breathing.
  • An endless number of possible games you can play with them that are really fun and effective (plus, they’ll learn quickly!)

CONS:

  • In having more independence in planning lessons and activities, it can sometimes feel as though you don’t get much guidance from the teachers you work with.
  • Lower English level means it can be challenging to re-focus class when kids start getting hyper and over-excited (might need lead teacher's help with this).
  • Because of lower level, not as much chance of having actual “discussions,” more along the lines of learning Animal Names, Basic Phrases, and the like.
  • Can take a lot of energy to be extremely excited on a consistent basis (so be well-rested and ready to go everyday!) 

The Takeaway:

To each his or her own with the grade level - of course each has its own merits and setbacks, but regardless, WE IN FRANCE, Y'ALL. Take everything with a smirk and a grain of salt - everyone has there on- and off-days.

t’s all a part of this crazy little thing we call LA VIE.  

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