Archive | February 2011

TEFL Lessons Learned – finding a job

A quick Google search will give you thousands of TEFL job sites. Finding one for jobs in France is much more difficult.

These are the sites that I used:

TEFL.com has a good selection of jobs that is updated regularly, and you can sign up for job emails. The only problem with this site is that you need to use their online form to apply, which is really restrictive. Craigslist is Craigslist – many dodgy ads, but also many legitimate ones and it’s targeted at expats. Fusac is a French and English classifieds magazine that comes out every month or so, and you can view it online or download the pdf version – you can also find the hardcopy at W H Smith, the American Church of Paris, some language schools and other expat hangouts. There are lots of jobs for expats advertised, ranging from teachers to aupairs to bilingual secretaries. It also advertises rooms, conversation groups and other activities for Anglophones.

And i-to-i, the school through which I did my TEFL course, gave me a 477-page pdf of contact details for English language schools around the world, including 14 pages of schools in France. If I hadn’t had any luck with the job ads, I would have started knocking down classroom doors, begging for a job.

So, what goes into this resume and cover letter if you’re looking for your first TEFL job?

Luckily I’d done some English tutoring at university (two 1.5 hour classes on a Saturday morning for a class of three seven-year-old girls and a class of eight eight-year-old boys). So I divided my work experience into ‘teaching experience’ and ‘other experience’. Under the teaching experience I made this tutoring job sound like I was teaching English as a foreign language, and left out the dates so they wouldn’t know that I’d only done it for three months in 2007.

The ‘other experience’ section of my resume was my regular resume – because I was applying for Business English positions, demonstrating that I had some business experience was advantageous.

In my cover letter I tried to emphasise my language skills and my English skills, and structured it like this:

  1. Information about my course – how many hours it was, how many of these were in person, and a list of some of my appropriate specialist certificates
  2. Information about my degree – I have a BA with a major in English, including several subjects on grammar and writing, so I cashed in on this
  3. Information about my teaching experience – in my case, the tutoring I did at university. If I didn’t have this, I probably would have referred to work that I’d done with people.

I didn’t hear back from everyone, but it was enough to get me six positive emails, four interviews, two job offers and one job!

TEFL Lessons Learned

The interesting thing about this job is that it doesn’t take that long to feel like you know what you’re doing.

Admittedly, I’m not that experienced in comparison to many others in this job but I think I’ve picked up a few things. These are, by no means, the only solutions or the best ones, but they’ve worked for me.

So this short series is going to cover:

If you’d like to know about anything else, please leave it in the comments :)

French châteaux

Chateau de Fontainebleau

Interior

Interior

Library

I’ve had a weekend of châteaux! Yesterday I went 40mins south of Paris to the Château de Fontainebleau with Imogen, Andrew, Julia and Jess (an English teacher from another school), and today I visited the Château de Vincennes.

Despite being annoyed that they made me buy a ticket (if you’re under 25 you’re supposed to get in for free, but it turns out that because I’m not a European I needed to bring my visa to prove that I live in France to get free entry), the Château de Fontainebleau was incredible. It’s so lavish that it’s astounding – sitting room after sitting room of antique chairs, chambers with royal beds framed by curtains thickly woven with gold thread, and countless chandeliers, statues and murals.

The castle was a sovereign residence for eight centuries, the first reference of it being in a royal charter in 1137. Although the castle fell into disrepair after the French Revolution, Napoleon later transformed it into a symbol of his grandeur.

As an alternative to the former royal Palace of Versailles, Fontainebleau is where renaissance architecture and the Italian Mannerist style of interior decoration were first introduced to France. Consequently, the French Mannerist style is known as the “Fontainebleau style”.

Like Versailles, Fontainebleau’s walls are sumptuously decorated with gold-leaf, large murals, heavy tapestries and elaborately carved exposed wood, stained in different shades. I loved the smell of the wooden rooms – some of them were dry, like sawdust, and the others were musty and warm, like empty wine barrels. I kept leaning into the walls with my eyes closed to try to taste the scent.

Gallery Francis I

Chapel of the Trinity

I gasped when I entered several of the rooms – the wood-panelled and frescoed Francis I Gallery, the Ballroom looking onto the castle’s lake and gardens, and the Chapel of the Trinity being cases in point. We first saw the Chapel from a second-floor balcony, and it was like looking out over the theatre from the grand circle. When we made our way to the ground-floor later it was like we’d made a great discovery by finding it again.

Chateau de Vincennes - model

And today I saw the Château de Vincennes (being the first Sunday of the month, this was actually free), at the opposite end of metro line 1 to me. When I hopped of the metro I was stunned by the size of it – the walls of the castle are over a kilometre in length. Oh how I wished the weather was better so I could get some decent photos! The weather is the only criticism I have about this weekend out – it’s nearly impossible to enjoy royal parks and gardens when the sky is grey and you’re being battered by foggy winds.

Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes

First I went to the Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes. When I entered, I passed a man handing out small leaflets

Mademoiselle!” he called out, “avez-vous un billet?

Non,” I replied, reaching for my wallet. Wasn’t it supposed to be free?

He handed me a ticket, “c’est gratuit aujourd’hui.”

Chatelet and Donjon

If it was free, why did I need a ticket? I don’t think I’ll ever understand the French.

Found in 1379, the Sainte-Chapelle has a single nave with soaring ceilings and large windows down each side. With sand-coloured stones and the natural light streaming in, I think it may be the most open and airy church I’ve ever seen. It was calming in its simplicity.

The end of the church is decorated with six stained-glass windows depicting scenes of the apocalypse, created and put up in 1555-1556. After admiring them I turned to leave, catching the eye of the man with the tickets. I don’t like it when staff are standing guard at small places like this – I always feel like I haven’t shown enough appreciation.

Déjà?” he asked.

Oui, déjà,” I said with a smile then skipped out and crossed the lawn to the Donjon and Châtelet.

Built in the fourteenth century, the Châtelet was originally a residence for the royal family and is the last medieval Royal residence remaining in France. As the rest of the modern castle was constructed around it, the original fortress became a dungeon. And, at 52m high, the Donjon is the tallest medieval structure in Europe.

One prisoner was the Marquis de Sade who was notorious for his libertine lifestyle, as well as the pornographic passages in his works supported by philosophical justifications. He was imprisoned at Vincennes twice – once for fifteen days for ‘outrageous’ behaviour in a brothel, and in 1977 he received a life sentence after poisoning a prostitute. He stayed at Vincennes for seven years before being transferred to the Bastille in 1784 (he gained his freedom in 1790).

Prisoners' graffiti 1

Prisoners' graffiti 2

Prisoners' graffiti 3

As I continued through the rooms, I found the Treasury where Charles V kept his gold and silver. Apparently the Treasury lead to Charles’s private rooms and, when he was away, the rooms were locked and the doors sealed shut with wax. When he left Vincennes, he took with him the only key.

So I was curious to see what was so important. I walked through the door into . . . the latrine. Fair enough, though I might have taken the wrong door.

On the way out of the latrine I saw a second sign on the opposite wall to the one that identified the room as the latrine, this one identifying it to be the study. Look at that – a man who can multi-task!

Unlike Château de Fontainebleau, the Châtelet and Donjon at Château de Vincennes are raw, with naked stone, cracked tiles, pillars decorated with faded dye and empty fireplaces large enough to stand in. A true medieval fortress.

I loved seeing both the renaissance luxury and medieval relics together – you get a real sense of how people in different time periods lived. And it’s such a relief to get out of Paris and its congestion, even for a day.

Le meilleur chocolat chaud à Paris? part trois

Yesterday Mr Frog and I continued on our quest to find the best hot chocolate in Paris.

Angelina, a salon de thé on Rue de Rivoli, is another place famous for its hot chocolate (as well as its Mont Blanc gateau, though I didn’t get to try that). I’d only ever peered in through the windows before, drooling over the beautifully arranged patisseries in the elegant boutique, white with mirrored counters.

So I was surprised to enter a rather comfortable salon. Yes, it’s still beautiful with murals lining the walls, which were reflected by mirrors of identical shapes and sizes on the opposite walls. But the lighting was dim, there was plain carpet on the floor, and the wooden tables and chairs cushioned with brown leather looked more like furniture you would see in somebody’s home than in a chic salon de thé (admittedly, a very stately manor home, but a home, nonetheless). It was cosy and homey, and I would have felt just as comfortable there in my runners and jeans as I felt in my post-work suit.

As for the chocolate – part of me wished that I had tried this one first. Because it was a lovely chocolat chaud, and if I had have had it first I would have thought it was wonderful. But I knew the instant I poured that it couldn’t match the others. After experiencing the indulgently thick texture of the hot chocolates at Les Deux Magots and Café de la Paix, I was disappointed to have a beverage that was clearly a liquid, and not a borderline solid, as the others now seemed to be in comparison.

Although it was thinner, Angelina’s hot chocolate was still lovely and rich, served in a jug with a pot of whipped cream on the side. I loved stirring the cream into the chocolate and watching the liquid marble as the cream melted, but this didn’t thicken the result as I’d hoped it would. It did create an interesting experience though – the flavour was milder and more velvety at the top of the cup, and grew darker and more intense as I progressed. It was like all of the chocolate had sunk to the bottom, like the sediment in wine.

So yes, it was a beautiful hot chocolate, but it takes third place under Les Deux Magots and Café de la Paix. The price was €6.90, compared to Les Deux Magots €7, but I don’t think the difference in price is enough to make up for the difference in quality.

I’m glad I went, but I don’t think I’ll be going back.

Well . . . maybe just once to try the Mont Blanc gateau.