TAPIF: Should You Choose Primary or Secondary School?
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)
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!)
- 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!)
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.