After I participated in the Teaching Assistantship Program in France for the second time, I didn’t want to leave Europe. I loved working and living there, and decided that if I could get another job offer abroad I would take it.
The only position I could target that I felt fit my experience and French language level (in which I still wasn’t very confident) was that of a lectrice at a French university. Lecteurs/lectrices d’anglais are (usually but not always) native English speakers who work in the English department at a university. They plan and teach courses, help determine the direction of the program, and sometimes work in language or professional development centers. Based on my experience and the experience of other lecteurs and lectrices I’ve met, the job description can vary widely and be kind of nebulous, as can the qualifications required.
My experience went as follows:
1) In late winter/early spring, I sent out cover letters and resumes to almost every French university possible. Some universities listed the position on their HR (direction des ressources humaines/recrutement) web pages; if they didn’t, I usually sent a polite inquiry (with cover letter and CV) to the English department responsable or general human resources contact. An incredibly important resource for me was the blog of another former language assistant, who posts lectrice/lecteur positions that she comes across. She’s already begun to do the same for 2015 – thanks Jennie!
2) I heard back from only a handful of schools, some of which only wanted me for a vacataire position (which usually requires you to be a student or have another reason to be in France already, like a job or a spouse…) It started to look like I was going to be defeated by work eligibility problems (after all, there are plenty of UK candidates available, and they don’t need a visa to work anywhere in the EU). I was unsurprised and prepared for that outcome, and made plans to return to the States.
3) In late spring, after I’d already returned to the States, I suddenly heard from the university I now work at (so, spoiler alert, I got a lectrice position…), asking me for a Skype interview. I obliged and even managed to speak a little French during the interview, at 5 o’clock in the morning EST (most of it was in English).
4) Soon after the interview, I got the offer. Soon after that, I made plans to return to France.
So far I really like my job – I’m lucky in that my university’s English department is quite organized and full of people who care about what they do. The university is also extremely competitive, so my students are intelligent, motivated, and mostly respectful.
The pay is better than that of an assistant – like many French jobs it’s standardized across universities and we all make about 1200/month after taxes. In a city like Lyon it’s certainly possible to get by on that, especially if, like me, you do a little freelance or tutoring work on the side (and if, like me, you are single and live frugally). The work load is a bit overwhelming at times – I teach seven courses, each meeting for two hours a week, which requires a lot of unpaid prep work! Though I only stand in front of students for about 14 hours a week, I probably spend another 15-20 hours (at least) planning and creating materials.
The schedule is pretty flexible, which requires a great deal of self-discipline. I usually don’t have to be at the university on Friday, which in theory means I could take a long, relaxing weekend. Honestly, I find myself working every day, including a little bit on Saturdays and Sundays. I have freedom with regard to what I teach, which is fantastic in that I can lecture and create activities I personally find interesting, but time-consuming and stressful in that almost all of the material comes from me and there isn’t much curriculum guidance.
It’s pretty hard to find any real complaints, though. The work is intellectually stimulating, emotionally rewarding, and highly independent. I just finished lesson planning for next week, a task I accomplished while I ate a pastry and drank coffee in a cute little salon de thé with a grand view just outside the window and plans to drink two-euro glasses of wine this weekend with some fellow expats and real Frenchies. What a life!