Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lectrice positions

If you're an anglophone who wants to live the dream of being in France for a year or two, and if you want to earn a bit more money than you would working as a lowly English assistant, but with the same general lack of actual work, why not become a lectrice? A lectrice (or lecteur, for the guys) is essentially a language assistant for a university. Most universities will hire more than one, so if you play yours cards right, you're in with a shot. You don't necessarily have to speak much French at all to get by, and in fact many places seem to prefer a lower language ability as it reduces your chances of talking to students in French. By the time November came around, I, for example, was so fed up of repeating ''WHAT....DID....YOU....DO.....THIS....WEEKEND?'' to a class of gaping 22 year-olds, so resorted to simply speaking their own language.

The Pros of working as a lectrice:
  • Unlike the assistantship gig, you will definitely be in a city or a large town, removing that "congratulations, you've been placed in village X, population of 17!" moment
  • Salary around 1200 euros a month
  • Around 10 hours work a week 
  • Paid holidays: October, Christmas, February, Easter, countless other Catholic saint days and France's many bank holidays, and (the biggest seller of all): paid summer holiday
  • Renewable contract: you can stay for two years
The Cons of working as a lectrice:
  • The students 
  • I joke. Sort of.
  • More responsibility than an assistant. In other words, playing hangman for 11 weeks running isn't going to wash. Although I did try.
  • Meetings (some universities won't expect you to attend, others will)
  • Extra-curricular stuff. As an assistant, you go in, take your classes, you leave. As a lectrice, you have to mark exams, supervise exams, hold oral exams, possibly organize trips away and hold weekly English nights. You get the drift.
  • It may just have been the particular university I was at, but I found the experience of teaching university students incredibly boring. French students are definitely not as mature as their anglophone counterparts, possibly as a result of staying in their home town for university, and worse, living at home for the duration of their studies. Instead of having interesting conversations and getting a reaction out of bright, inspired, anglophile kids, it was like being in a room full of 17 year-olds, when many of them were, in fact, my own age. And it was definitely not my choice of topic. I did political music (Bob Dylan, Lennon, Billie Holiday), This Is England and the skinhead movement, Banksy, reggae...nothing. Give me a class of unruly 13 year-olds who are still completely dazzled by the mere concept of a foreign language any day.
How to get a lectrice job:
By and large, I have to say it is a generally positive experience, can be enriching, and makes good financial sense.
  • If you're a final year student in the UK and you study French, your university probably has links with one or two French universities, in which case around March/April-ish you will be informed that your university is holding interviews. If you pass the interview, you get sent to work at a French university. Simple.
  • If you're not British, or if you are but don't study French, or if you DO study French but want more options, you have to go down the good old fashioned application route. I was waiting to hear back from my home uni as to whether or not I'd gotten the job, so decided to do my own applying in the mean time. I sent off approximately 40 lectrice applications, and got 3 offers (1 from the home university, 2 off the basis of my application). 
  • First thing to do - remember that France has a whole fucked up education system I don't even want to begin delving into. But basically, you have the universites, the ecoles, the instituts...we're all internet-literate here, I don't need to guide you through a Google search. Make your searching as thorough as possible. Personally, I only bothered with the universities, because I thought it would serve me better to work within an actual arts and languages department. 
  • Where are you sending your application? Go through the list of French universities, each time finding the postal address for their English department (sometimes listed as their 'anglophone' department, or other variations). Some people will tell you emailing your CV and cover letter is  fine. Well, yes except that sometimes in France, they don't like applications to be sent by email. Some of them even want a handwritten cover letter, for Christ sake. So play it safe: post it. If that means hand addressing and posting 40 A4 envelopes, then so be it. Yes, an email might be fine, but maybe the person recruiting is of the email-hating persuasion. I don't neccessarily agree with it, but I can understand where they're coming from, in terms of effort. It takes no effort whatsoever to sit on your fat ass slurping a chocolate milkshake with your right hand and repeating 'Ctrl A, Ctrl C, Ctrl V - send' over and over again with your left. To actually get up, research an address, print stuff out, put it in an envelope, skip down to your local post office: it shows a bit more 'I'm really into this'. So I would say - using the French uni websites, find the postal addresses, and send your applications.
  • The university websites might actually visibly advertise vacant lectrice positions on the department page. Otherwise, keep checking back on the assistants in france forum

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