My Méchain contact gave me another invaluable resource: the email address of the American assistant who’d just finished her TAPIF assignment in Laon. I immediately reached out to her, and she graciously answered my fifty million questions.
M (I’m not using her name for privacy reasons, though I assure you there’s no connection to Moriarty on Elementary) told me that I’m supposed to foster discussion among groups of students, getting them to speak English as much as possible in 25 minutes. (Excuse me while I panic. Okay, panicking done.) She assured me that my colleagues will be super helpful, and I assume they’ve all acquired the magical grad school power of crafting lesson plans that fit the allotted class time perfectly. I mean, sure, I might be the kind of person who accidentally goes over page limits on essays, but that verbosity doesn’t quite translate orally. M made games, did role plays, and taught them about American holidays, which all seems doable. (As long as I don’t have to teach about Thanksgiving. That would just turn into a rant about the Native American genocide perpetuated by Christopher Columbus.)
After answering everything, M then gave me advice and tips about daily life things—cellphones, banks, buses, laundromats, cheeses, and restaurants and bars. (I giggled a little at the latter; could you imagine me at a bar? I’m basically the Sober Sally who laughs at my drunk friends. And no, Madeline, I will not get turnt.) Also, there’s an automated cable car that goes from Ville Haute, where Claudel is, to Ville Basse, where Méchain is! Apparently I can easily walk from the upper to lower city, but if you don’t think that I’m getting on that funicular at least once—or twice, or thrice—and gluing my face to the window, you’re kidding yourself.
Finally, she said two things that really stuck with me, so I’m directly quoting them because I found them so compelling:
- “I found myself being scared to speak in French and acting a little shy so my number 1 advice to you : EVEN IF YOU ARE SCARED SHITLESS – SPEAK FRENCH :)!!”
- “TAPIF helped me realize I don’t want to leave Europe and I don’t want to be a teacher for the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love this job! I renewed my contract for Nice this year so I definitely adore teaching. But the best thing about TAPIF is you have a lot of free time to soul search and really dig deep to figure out what you wanna do. It’s a wonderful program.”
It was just incredibly reassuring, realizing that there’s a network of people who are undergoing the same “What do I want to do with my life?” struggle, and who are more than willing to help those who come after them.