Already, it’s been three months since I left the Land of Baguettes. Three months. Three speculoos éclair-less, greengage-less and crêpe-less months. Sometimes, it feels like it was just yesterday that I left Lyon; sometimes, it feels like a lifetime ago. There’s no place like home – that’s rainy Britain for me – but that doesn’t stop me missing one aspect or another of la vie française on a daily basis . . .
This time last year, I’d just started my job as a lectrice in Lyon. I had a mere seven months’ teaching experience under my belt (courtesy of my year abroad as a language assistant in Colmar) and zero TEFL, TESOL or CELTA qualifications to my name. Over the course of those two stints abroad teaching English, I filled my hard drive with resources, activities and PowerPoints; I still have hard copies of all my lesson plans and annotated printouts, as I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Since coming up with exciting activities can seem like a round-the-clock job, I’ve compiled a few of my tried-and-tested favourites. Many of these can be adapted for use with students of different levels; I taught students with a very basic command of the language, and also students who were extremely proficient. As long as you take your students’ abilities into account when planning and carrying out the activity in question, there shouldn’t be any major hiccups.
My stint as a lectrice was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever had. I jumped through endless (mostly bureaucracy-related) hoops, navigated the complexities of teaching at a university in a foreign country and almost worked myself into the ground in the process. Despite – or perhaps in spite of – all the obstacles, setbacks and challenges that were thrown my way, it also turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It taught me a lot about my capabilities and aspirations, my fortes and flaws. Had it been plain sailing, I’m certain I wouldn’t have learnt half as much as I did.
The French mode de vie epitomises that of one of their beloved delicacies: les escargots. (Their preferred walking speed also has a lot in common with those slimy molluscs, but that’s a topic for another time.) Aside from the snail-like pace of life, there are all sorts of other peculiarities that crop up in life across the Channel and I couldn’t resist sharing the crème de la crème of them with you at some point. At long last, that time has come . . .
For many aspiring assistants, the prospect of standing in front of an attitude of teenagers (that is, apparently, the collective noun for the youth of today) with, most likely, zero TEFL-related qualifications to your name is fear inducing. Awash with acronyms, brimming with bureaucracy and crammed with conjugations you’ve probably never heard of, it’s not always easy to stay afloat in the ever-evolving world of EFL. I’m by no means an expert on all things TEFL, but having spent my year abroad as an English assistant in Alsace and the past five months (and counting) working in the English department of a French university, it’s fair to say I’ve learnt a few things along the way. With application deadlines looming, I’ve decided to offer a few pointers for any assistants-to-be.