The life of an English teacher in Paris
They’re visible stepping off the Eurostar full of optimism and hope. Laptop by their side, a new pair of polished brogues, smart jacket and satchel slung over their shoulders.
There’s a certain romantic shroud around teaching English in Paris. Imagine the list of literary greats who have resided in Paris over the years. Surely many of them have resorted to teaching their native tongue as a means of surviving, prospering, drinking, brawling or perhaps even finding love.
When I arrived in Paris I remember vividly strolling along the Seine watching the river glisten and flow gently along, the sun setting slowly behind the Eiffel Tower. This scene sent my mind into a state of melancholy and allowed my thoughts to wander. I’d be making my way to an extravagant apartment in an expensive corner of the city, met by a glamorous Parisienne lady and I’d then teach her angelic children!
The life of a Prof d’anglais isn’t always as idyllic as one would hope though. I often find myself in the metro struggling through a congested corridor, dashing for the RER then squeezing onboard, starring eyeball to eyeball with men in suits talking loudly and obnoxiously on their portables. Once sitting down, the journey to the company can sometimes be longer than the actual lesson.
At first charming, with time a pattern emerges. Students making the same agonising mistakes, confusing ‘since and from’, ‘to say and to tell’ and ‘to remember and to remind’.
However there have been many occasions when I’ve thought to myself what an incredible metier this is, walking slowly up the Champs Elysées after a lesson with the Arc de Triomphe looking straight at me. Another example would be a rather memorable journey from La Défense to Porte de Versailles. The train skirted around the outskirts of the city, clinging onto the cities limits as we travelled through Saint Cloud. A quick glimpse to my right and Paris laid spread before me with a clear sky above the gleaming city.
An unpredictable profession also, one day rarely mirrors another…
Sometimes I’d step out into an empty street, other times the day would be already half finished. Sometimes it would be a chic office in the centre of town and others I’d be sent closer to Normandy than to Paris! Certain weeks I’d be darting around Paris and l’ile de France whereas others I’d have less than a handful of teaching hours. Easter, the whole of August and Christmas must also be considered. Work is sparse during these periods but if you’re frugal and imaginative you can take advantage of Paris at its most clement, fertile and splendiferous.
For many Anglophones following their dreams and moving to Paris teaching English can be a lucrative move, certainly more so than toiling away behind a Parisian bar for twelve hours a day. Luckily for us our language is in great demand in this city. The most important thing to remember though is to carry an excellent dictionary and lots of patience!Image credits: Mark E Hill