Kindergarten teacher Beck, 26, from Australia’s Sunshine Coast, spent a year as an ESL teacher at various schools and language centres across Paris, teaching children as young as 9 months and up to 12 years old.
Did teaching in France live up to your expectations? How?
In every country that you teach, the children are different and learn differently. In France, it took me a while to figure out what types of activities the children enjoy and what kind of lesson content gets their attention. In this case was competitive games and competitions. Once I’d cracked that part, working with the children was amazing. They really love learning English because they can see its relevance everyday through road signs, transport announcements in English and more.
Tell us something you found interesting or surprising about schools in France.
The days are long for the children. School starts at 9am and doesn’t finish until 6pm. However, when I was teaching in Paris, all the children had Wednesdays off.
How long did it take you to find a position?
It took a few months to find a good company in Paris that paid well, according to your experience, and a company that was also supportive.
What attracted you to Paris to teach English?
I love to travel and wanted to explore more of Europe. The UK and Paris are very much in the center of all that. I knew that it would be easy to get to London for the weekend or to Switzerland for a week away skiing.
Paris is a long way from Australia… What was the hardest part of French life to adjust to?
The general lifestyle was one of the hardest things to get used to. The working day for anyone in Paris is long and tiring. However, it was usual for us to finish the day off at a cafe, with a glass of wine and a plate of bread and cheese, so I’m not complaining…
What kinds of lessons did your students enjoy most?
Active lessons – we were always moving, playing games and dancing during the lessons. Because the children are in school for a lot of the time, they really respond well to fun activities that allow them to use all that stored up energy.
Tell us more about how you teach babies English.
The aim of the class was to getting them used to hearing English being spoken through songs and play, which helps them to understand and pick the language up. Mothers and nannies came with their babies and it was as much about teaching them English too! Having experience in teaching young children at a previous job helped me to get this position, as I didn’t need any special training.
What did your students find especially challenging about learning English?
Pronunciation. My students found it extremely difficult to pronounce some sounds correctly, such as the letter ‘h’ in ‘hello’. But we worked on that and they improved so much during the year.
How did you spend your free time in Paris?
Travelling and sightseeing. We would go away on weekends to North France, Belgium and London or we would stay home and go have a picnic under the Eiffel Tower with friends.
Did you get the opportunity to improve your French skills?
Absolutely! Even though I was an English teacher and spoke English most of the day, I still had to communicate with parents in French and also do day-to-day things such as buying food and bus fares in French.
What did you learn about yourself from your experience?
I learnt that language is not an impossible barrier. It shouldn’t stop anyone from travelling somewhere or making new connections and friends. I also learnt to enjoy and make the most of the times that you are not working.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone heading off to teach English in France, what would it be?
Teaching wise, I would suggest that you learn lots of games and activities to play with younger children that encourage them to speak in English and repeat words. Learn every single nursery rhyme you can and plenty of songs.
I also want to say ‘learn French,’ but you will once you arrive, you won’t have a choice! So I think I would say, travel and make the most of living in Europe. Go and see the major sights but also travel to the small towns where no one really goes to because that is where you will see the culture and meet some amazing and helpful people.