The Context of English Teaching-Paris, France
Today is our first entry in a series called "The Context of English Teaching-the US and Abroad." Over the next year, we will have guest posts once a month from teachers and administrators giving us the inside scoop of what it's like to teach in different parts of the US and the world. Today's post comes from Vanessa Balagtas.
When I first came to France, I had been working as an educator for nearly a decade and had just received my MA in TESOL. I was in Paris on a student visa and attended French courses at La Sorbonne with a plan to stay for one year to remind myself of what it was like to be a language learner. Ultimately, I had hoped this experience of struggling as a student of French would help me as a language teacher to better assess my own students’ needs. It was also an excellent opportunity for me to assess my own need for French pastries.
I left my studies at La Sorbonne once I found my first job in France. I was offered a position at a language school which taught business students from all over the world. As the school also happened to have a French department, I was given free French lessons as part of my contract. It was quite an experience to move from being a French language student in one class to being the English teacher for my fellow classmates in the next class.
My one-year Paris plan has evolved into a multi-year plan, and that first Business English teaching job has since transitioned to various other teaching positions. In this time, I’ve experienced many tough lessons about the industry in France and realize there is still much left to learn. I currently teach Business English to adult professionals and serve on the executive committee of TESOL France as the membership coordinator.
It should be noted that the following information about working as an English teacher in France is in no way comprehensive and is comprised of what I have personally experienced in my relatively brief 4 years as an expat in Paris. However, I do hope that it can give a general overview and guidance as to what to expect and how to find additional sources of information.
There are 3 main visa types which allow you to work in France as a teacher- a company-sponsored work permit, a student visa with work authorization (visa étudiant) and a family/spousal visa(vie privée et familiale). Beside the TAPIF program described below, the best “in” for most people coming from abroad is the student visa, which automatically includes authorization to work a part-time job. As a student, you are required to be enrolled full time, but you have the option of working up to 964 hours per year. Company-sponsored work permits are much more difficult to come by. In order to issue a work permit to someone outside the EU, a French company must provide sufficient justification to demonstrate that the job they are hiring you for cannot be satisfactorily fulfilled by someone inside the EU (aka an EU national.) Family/spousal visas provide full authorization and the most flexibility, but require marriage or relatives in France.
Employment through Cultural Exchange
One possibility for those under age 35 and with a high level of French-speaking ability (B1 or greater) is the Teaching Assistant Program in France . Organized by the French Ministry of Education, this program places candidates in various locations around the country as English language assistants in elementary or secondary schools. It’s similar to the JET program offered in Japan. Individuals who want to participate in this process must meet eligibility requirements and complete the application process. If selected, they receive a work permit for a 7-month contract Oct 1st-Apr 30th with the potential for one additional renewal.
Finding a Job
As I alluded to above, for most people finding a job is much more feasible if you are already in the country with authorization to work. Below are 3 possible resources for jobs once you are in country.
1) FUSAC Job/apartment/classified listings targeted primarilyfor Anglophone expats and includes a regularly updated list of job advertisements.
2) Membership to English teaching associations TESOL France sends exclusive weekly job postings to its members. The Language Network provides not only member access to job postings, but also offers essential guidance and advice for negotiating job contracts.
3)Craigslist.org Although not nearly as well-known in France as it is in the US, craiglist.org sometimes posts job advertisements that are not found on FUSAC.
Types of English teaching jobs and their requirements
The majority of English teachers I have encountered in France usually fall into 5 categories-TAPIF teachers, English-speaking babysitters (nounous), Business English/language school teachers, university teachers, and private English teachers. The babysitting jobs have the lowest barrier to entry. These jobs require a minimal level of French, and ESL/EFL certification isn’t necessary. These positions are generally occupied by individuals on student visas and usually involve 2-20 hours per week depending on the contract. Private English teaching positions, though harder to find because you have to advertise and search for your clientele yourself, also have minimal requirements. The hours are flexible and vary based on the number of students an individual can find.
Business English/language school teaching positions are easier to find because there are many schools and they hire year round, but they require more qualifications. These include a recommended minimum B1 level of French as well as a CELTA/TEFL/TESL certification. These jobs generally involve 20-25 hours per week of work though hours may vary based on the contract. University teaching positions are the most difficult to acquire. As in the US, these require an MA in TESOL or related field though sometimes several years of experience is accepted in lieu of the degree. B1 level of French is recommended in order to accomplish the required administrative tasks for this program.
The final type of position is that of TAPIF teachers which were explained above.
What to expect when teaching in France
Compared to the US, France has more generous work contracts and employee benefits, though English teachers can still experience financial struggles depending on their contract conditions and the institution.
Just as in the US, working conditions vary by institution. Teachers who work in the elementary/high school/university system have access to facilities and materials on campus. These systems often require that you use the prescribed syllabus and allow minimal modification. All of the teaching takes place on site at a specific location. Teachers who work for Business English schools have access to materials at the centers, but usually travel to the students’ office location for lessons. The strictness with which one is required to adhere to a specific method or set of materials varies. The prep time for lessons varies accordingly. As in the US, interaction with co-workers can be frequent or nonexistent depending on the institution.
Payment and Hours
Payment amount and when payment occurs is determined by the type of contract that you have. That being said, most French employees are generally paid once a month, usually any time between the 1st or the 10th of the month. All payment is direct deposit. Check or cash payment is very rare, except in the cases of private lessons
Though full time status in France is 35 hours/week, teachers do not regularly reach these hours. The number of hours you teach each week is dependent on the institution. Elementary/High school teachers through the TAPIF program have fixed schedules and teach 12 hours per week. Though the number of contracted hours for universities, Business English schools, language schools, and babysitting agencies can all vary between 2-20.university and language school positions usually have fixed schedules for each semester, whereas the hours for Business English schools and babysitting positions vary according to the needs of the client. And as the number of clients fluctuates, so does your monthly paycheck. The maximum number of hours you can expect in these positions is 25.
TAPIF teachers receive about 790 euros/month for the 12 hours they teach. Babysitters receive from 10 € - 20 €. Business English schools pay from 18 € - 25€/ hour. University positions pay the most- 35€ - 55€/ hour. Most positions account for prep time as part of the hourly wage.
Free Lance or Contracted Employee
Just like in the US, you are generally classified as either an independent contractor (autoentrepreneur) or an employee with a company. Being an autoentrepreneur has its advantages and disadvantages, for example, you are paid at a higher hourly rate and you are essentially your own boss, but you are also responsible for all the accounting and social charges that would otherwise be done by the company. As the law about autoentrepreneurs (now classified as microentrepreneur) is constantly changing, refer to this site more information.
At business or language schools you are considered an employee and have one of two types of contracts-a CDII(contrat à durée indéterminée) or a CDD(contrat à durée déterminée.) CDII contracts offer a minimum amount of guaranteed hours per year that the company must fulfill. This contract has no expiration date, and teachers are free to change their availability. CDD contracts have an expiration date and are for a fixed term. This type of contract has a limited number of renewals. Both of these contracts specify not only the rate, but when you will get paid (which is usually once per month.) If you choose to work at a university, you are required to have autoentrepreneur status . These contracts are for one to two semesters at a time and as mentioned above, provide no additional benefits. At the beginning of each new semester, a new contract must be signed. A word of warning public universities do not necessarily pay their professors on the same pay schedule as other companies, so you might not be paid monthly as you would in other jobs.
As mentioned earlier, French contracts offer a much more generous benefits packages than that of American companies. If you are considered an employee, most companies pay minimum 50% of your public transportation costs if your job requires traveling to and from other offices. Some schools will also pay for commuting time between lessons. Companies with 50 or more employees that do not have a cafeteria on campus are required to provide restaurant tickets to assist employees in paying for lunch. Employees might also receive special discounts on movie tickets, special events, and vacation packages as well.
Depending on the type of institution, your vacation time varies. However, teachers do get vacation time when schools close for summer and winter vacation and French holidays. Most Business English schools normally close for 2 weeks in August and 1 week in December as well as+ 11 French national holidays. The cost of this vacation is figured into your contracted hourly wage, so it is technically paid vacation (though it won’t show up on your paycheck as such.) Teachers are also always free to request any additional time off needed, though this time off would be unpaid.
All French residents, regardless of employment status, have access to securité sociale as their basic health insurance, but if you are employed by a company or as an autoentrepreneur, you are also enrolled in an additional health care plan (la mutuelle), which covers health care costs the securité sociale does not.
Cost of living in France
The minimum salary for French people is about 1500€/month for a 35 hour work week. Depending on the type of English teaching job you have, it is possible to live comfortably. Many career ESL/ELT professionals I’ve met work as freelancers because it will net them a greater salary and allows them more flexibility with their schedule and choice of materials. The downside to this is having to juggle multiple schools and multiple contracts at once. Others work part time at a Business English school then supplement their income with private lessons.
Many teachers live in the outskirts of the city where cost of living is significantly cheaper. A one-bedroom apartment in the center of Paris could start at 950€, while you are able to find cheaper and more spacious options outside of the city limits. In fact, it is not uncommon for some French employees to commute to Paris by TGV (high speed train) from cities like Lille and Rouen, or the countryside where cost of living is cheaper.
To sum, for career ESL professionals or people who are serious about becoming ESL teachers, teaching in France is accessible and a great experience. It’s a challenging environment that teaches you to be resourceful and self-sufficient. I encourage people to research organizations like TESOL France, The Language Network, IATEFL, etc. for professional development and networking opportunities. France is not the place to teach if you need cash quick or hope to earn a high salary with housing and flight costs included in your contract. It can also be frustrating for people who wish to seek upward mobility in their career. Though English teaching jobs are plentiful, the ability to move into roles of increasing responsibility is limited. In return for this struggle, France offers a wonderful culture with a rich history and a central location which allows for easy and cheap travel throughout Europe/Northern Africa My time in France has been filled with constant challenges, but rewarded with ample opportunity to learn and explore this region of the world. And that experience is worth every bit of redtape I’ve had to machete chop my way through.