Let me be honest. I’ve spent weeks brainstorming this article. The purpose of this TAPIF guide is to share mine (and a few other) experiences so that you know what to expect. Unfortunately with this article, there was no coherent way to do that. So while this post is entitled “A Week in the Life”, it will be a mixture of different topics pertaining to the job itself. I can’t emphasize enough that my experience is only one testimony. There is no universal language assistant experience.


As a language assistant, your contract stipulates that you work 12 hours a week. Your prof ref and the other English teachers will decide how those hours are divided and which classes you’ll go to. During my two years, I was only ever assigned to work at one school per contract. However, you may have a “double affectation”, whereby you’re assigned to two schools during your contract. Presumably, those schools will coordinate how your 12-hour work week is split between them.

Here is what one of my schedules looked. It shows the class (both the grade level and type of class), the room number and teacher’s name (which I’ve redacted). I worked in lycée, so I taught grades 10-12 (2nde, 1er and Terminale). I also worked with BTS – which is a post-secondary programme. Technically language assistants aren’t supposed to work with them, however I personally didn’t mind. During my second contract, I worked with vocational students who did internships during the school year. So some classes would be missing for a few weeks, and I received a new schedule for the following semester. Your teachers should inform you of any schedule changes.


Remember how I told you in this post that you have to do some admin paperwork with your school’s secretary? During that time, you should also be issued with a key or badge to access the classrooms. Every school has their own system, but during your class time you will either be assigned a specific classroom or allowed to use any empty classroom you find. I know, it can get a little haphazard.

You also shouldn’t be left with the entire class, or with more than a certain number of students. However, there may be a few times where the teacher steps out for a few minutes. Or assigns you to work with a large group of students. Only take on as many students that you can handle. And speak with your teachers about how many students you’re comfortable with taking on at once.


A staple of every language assistant’s experience is the dreaded intro presentation. Be prepared to present a slideshow about yourself and your life in your home country at least 20 times. Yes, you will be sick and tired of hearing about yourself after the fifth time.

Remember that your role as a language assistant is to help the students improve their speaking skills. So when you’re looking for activities and resources online, always look for the angle where your students get to speak. In my lessons, sometimes I would have them watch videos or listen to audio and then talk to me about the topic and what they heard.

Before planning your lessons, ask your teachers what the students are currently learning. Or if they have a specific topic that they want you work on with them. Some teachers may tell you what to teach. Whereas others may give you complete creative freedom. I would also ask my students what topics they were interested in, and tried to incorporate that into my lessons. As I said, your job is to help them practice speaking in your language. And I found that sometimes that meant going off-script or off-lesson plan. Students have spoken to me about video games, clothes, TV shows, school gossip, the French system, other teachers etc. Not because it was my lesson plan, but because it made them talk more than my lesson plan could’ve. So always be prepared to pivot if your Plan A isn’t working.

In time, you’ll also be able to see the students who are more willing to talk or what language levels they have. With that information, you can build your lessons to include everyone.


As a language assistant, your contract states that you work for 12 hours and no more. Therefore, you aren’t obliged to work beyond those hours. Nor can you be paid overtime (believe me, I had a school that tried). On paper it seems pretty clear cut. In practice, it starts to get blurry. Situations may arise where teachers ask you to come to an extra class or meet with a student. You may have to do some extra work with the club you’re supervising.

While I understand the discourse around fair compensation, I never minded giving those extra hours. I genuinely cared about my students and the projects that they were working on. So I was willing to make that sacrifice. Furthermore, a 12-hour work week left me with more free time than I knew what to do with. So the occasional extra hour here and there was a drop in the bucket. In the end, I never felt as though I was being taken advantage of. Nevertheless, if you do feel exploited or uncomfortable with working extra hours (especially if it’s a regular request) then speak up. You can discuss this with your prof ref, or even the Académie.


In case nobody has ever told you, your salary is not fixed. It’s based on how many hours you work. Therefore if you miss any of your classes, your school can inform the Académie and have your pay docked accordingly. Or you can make up the hours you missed.

I can’t speak to how strict or lenient your school will be towards missed classes. One of my prof refs was against docking my pay (given how little I made) unless I was voluntarily not showing up. My second year as an assistant took place the same year they reformed the retirement laws. So there were almost weekly protests, and I was instructed not to come to work. Although it was a situation beyond my control, there were still hours I was required to do.

However, I was someone who was always willing to go to other classes when mine were canceled. Whether I volunteered or teachers invited me. So I was never explicitly told that I had to make up for anything, because I did so anyways. Yes, we can debate the moral implications of working additional hours. If you even consider those to be additional hours. But there’s nothing wrong with taking some initiative and leaving a good impression.


I wish someone had explained to me how emotionally taxing being a language assistant could be. Depending on your school and students, it can be pretty difficult to make a connection. You may have students who hate English, and aren’t motivated to participate or listen to you. You may work really hard on a lesson plan, but it doesn’t go well with your class. Moments like those can be extremely demotivating.

Don’t take it personally. A phrase which is easier said than done, but it’s true. It’s not a reflection of you as a person, nor your abilities. You have to let those moments roll off your back. Or in the words of Ted Lasso, be a goldfish.

In time, I promise that this experience will gift you with great memories and victories big and small. Celebrate those moments, and use them to push you forward. You’ll be just fine.

Your experience as a language assistant will be a unique one. You may encounter all of these issues, or a whole new set of issues. Try to make the most of your time and stay positive. Leave a good impression on your teachers and students. As daunting an experience as this can be, I promise you’ll do great.