Day of Departure
Dear friends, family, and acquaintances,
I write this letter, as I am about to embark on my journey to France, to teach English through the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF), a program funded by the French Ministry of National Education. Every year, the French government hires many language assistants from all over the world to push into their public schools and assist with foreign language instruction. This is an exciting opportunity, and I am grateful for the opportunity as a stepping-stone between my undergraduate studies and a future career in higher education.
Several weeks ago, I received my “arrêté de nomination”—a work contract informing me of my eventual placement in France—a small town just about 80 kilometers west of Paris called Dreux (pronounced almost like “drew”), in the very north part of the Académie d’Orléans-Tours.
I will be completely frank: Dreux is not an ideal placement, as it is considered to be in a “zone d’éducation prioritaire” (a high priority education zone). In short, this means that there is a high population of immigrants (mostly from North Africa), low test scores, and low morale in schools. The Ministry of Education has set up these zones to put extra focus on specific geographic locations to improve the quality of learning, and eventually the quality of life in these towns. The TAPIF program does not specifically place its participants in such zones, however by luck of the draw, I will be spending the entirety of my seven-month contract in one.
I have done my research—Dreux has a reputation for not being a very nice place, and although it is not considered a dangerous, statistics show an elevated crime rate and a decrease in population over the past two decades. It is also known as being an unofficial hub for the “Front National,” (FN), France’s most conservative political party. As non-European immigration is one of the most distinctively controversial issues for the FN (they are strictly against it), this adds to tension in this small town (with an approximate population of 31,000).
I applied for this program knowing that there would be certain challenges associated with the position. I now realize that the challenges I was expecting are going to be different than I had imagined. However, I am both willing and eager to begin facing these challenges—isolation in a small town, low morale in the classroom (especially in foreign language classes, according to my immediate predecessor with whom I’ve been in contact), as well as a twelve-hour work week, low salary, and tons of painstaking administrative paperwork with the French government (social security, tax deductions, medical visits in order to validate my visa, etc) to name a few.
I have been given a secondary contract, which means I will be a teaching assistant in high school. My school is called the Lycée Polyvalent Édouard Branly. I will be working specifically with students in 2nd (ages 14-15) and BTS (a technical degree program consisting of older students, mostly around 20 years old). I will be working directly with the six full-time English teachers in the school, and living in an apartment on the school’s property. Also living in this apartment will be two other language assistants—one Spanish and one German. As of right now I know nothing else about these two roommates. I am excited and anxious about this opportunity—I think it will provide me with a greater cultural experience and teach me about not just French, but the cultures associated with the Spanish and the German languages.
During my time in France, I will be updating a daily photo blog to chronicle my experience over the next few months. Equiped with my new fancy Nikon Coolpix L120 (thanks for the graduation gift, Mom and Dad), I will take one photo everyday that I am in France, and post it on my blog. Feel free to take a look at in whenever you get a chance. Comments are also open to the public, so any thoughts on the pictures would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks, and I hope to keep in touch with all (or most) of you during my time abroad,
P.S. To start off with the photos, I have selected one that I took a few weeks ago while wandering around NYC…appropriate?