Teaching isn’t for everyone. And for a long time, I didn’t think teaching was for me.
(“Oh, so you’re going to teach?” is one of the most exhausting questions of an English/French double major.)
That all changed when in October, days after starting, a 13-year-old student looked up at me and said, “I’m proud of myself!”
The same week, two teachers told me, “You’re really making a difference with the students” and “We’re so happy to have you here.”
When people say things like that, all fears of quitting your job, of leaving a salary and friends behind to move overseas, are alleviated. But the truth is, I got really lucky.
From October to April, I was teaching English in three collèges – the French equivalent of a middle school. I was also tutoring, from adults to five-year-olds, from Julia Child to head, shoulders, knees and toes.
As an assistant, my primary job had nothing to do with grammar or sentence diagrams. I was there for conversation, pronunciation, and comprehension, but also culture – and making sure that none of my students left class still thinking Thanksgiving is how Americans celebrate Christmas.
I witnessed firsthand the immense anxiety surrounding languages – something I have long suffered from in countless French classes but couldn’t think of how to articulate. As a student, I tried the same trick of staying silent if I thought my accent wasn’t perfect or if I couldn’t nail the tense on the first try. I still carry some of these anxieties with me, just at a significantly lower rate than the first 15 years of my French education thanks to my many students, who corrected my grammar and told me my accent was “trop mignon”. (I tried as hard as I could not to tell them that their accent is also trop mignon (too cute), alas.)
Without the motivation and curiosity of my students, my year wouldn’t have been half as enjoyable or productive. I would re-do the program a hundred times if I could, and would encourage any French major/Francophile to do the same. You won’t regret it. Ý♦
Fellow TAPIFers, what were your favorite parts of the program? Future TAPIFers, what questions do you have about teaching?