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  • Aine Dougherty

A Day in my Life as a Lectrice in France


A sunny day on campus.

Hopla, my first semester as a lectrice in France has come to an end. It hasn't been the easiest few months, but I have learned so much and shared so many rewarding moments with my students.


Are you already a lecteur or lectrice? Are you interested in working in France or staying after your year as a TAPIF assistant? Let me share a little bit about my experience, and hopefully I can pique your interest in the program. Read on to learn more about my life as a lectrice in Alsace, France.


First of all, what is a lecteur (or lectrice), anyway? The direct translation is literally "reader," but in reality, a lecteur is a native speaker of English (usually with at least one year of a Master's degree under their belt), hired to teach for a maximum of two years at a French university.


A lecteur could be hired in a variety of departments – I work for the Langues Étrangères Appliquées (Applied Foreign Languages) department, and my fellow lectrice at the Université de Haute Alsace in Mulhouse works in the English department (LLCER). Our main job as lecteurs is to teach Anglais oral, or spoken English classes, for L1, L2 and/or L3 students (first-year, second-year and third-year). (Most French public universities operate on a three-year system for the undergraduate degree.) However, I have also been asked to teach a few other classes, including Interpretation for both third-year LEA students and second-year Masters students. Sometimes, departments can call upon lecteurs to take classes that other professors don't necessarily want, which can be nerve-wracking, but also means that I make more money! (You can always say no, of course!)

A woman standing in front of a board teaching.
More proof that I teach.

At least in my case, I basically have free rein when it comes to my oral English classes, which is exciting and weird, all at once. It was up to me to determine how many evaluations I would give, the topics I would cover, how I would structure each class, how I would grade my students... French professors aren't necessarily known for giving detailed syllabi, and I've found that there is a lot of freedom. I love structure and instructions and rules, but I have come to appreciate and even flourish in this flexibility.


At the same time, jumping straight in without a detailed, set-in-stone framework often meant that I was rushing last-minute to finalize plans, which really took a toll on my mental health. A notorious perfectionist, I wanted to make sure that I was teaching, grading, planning, and building relationships to the best of my ability, and I felt like I was stretched in a million directions, unable to give my full attention or expertise to anything. But as the weeks passed, I fell into a rhythm, the students began to feel more comfortable and open up, and I started to come into my own.


Every day isn't perfect, but I'm proud of what I'm accomplished so far. My students have produced some really impressive and creative work, and more importantly, they (or almost all of them) seem to see my class as place of mutual respect, where they can be comfortable speaking in English, even if they might make mistakes. After all, if we don't speak, we won't get better. That's my main goal as a lectrice.


So, now that we've got the basics out of the way, let me show you what a day in my life looks like. Check out my Reel on Instagram to see me in action, and see below for all the details of my daily routine!


 

A DAY IN MY LECTRICE LIFE


6:45 a.m. Wake up, get ready and eat breakfast (today, it was eggs on toast with avocado and a cup of coffee with pumpkin spice Monin syrup).


7:45 a.m. Usually I'll hitch a ride to work on my boyfriend's way into the office. If I'm unlucky, I'll take a bus and two trams to get to the university (around 45 minutes). This morning, there was a FULL DOUBLE RAINBOW. It made my week.


8:15 a.m. First vending machine coffee of the day (latte noisette de la fac, for those wondering). I get settled in my office and get a few administrative things done.


9:00 a.m. Since I'm actually also completing the second year of my own Masters at the same time as my tenure as a lectrice, my first class of the day is one that I attend as a student. In our research methodology class, we go over our outlines in preparation for our talks at the EUCOR conference, which brings together Masters students from UHA and the universities in Basel, Strasbourg and Freiburg to present their research. I'm really excited to speak in April! I'll be talking about M.F.K. Fisher's centering of female pleasure in her 1930s and 40s autobiographical cookbooks.


9:55 a.m. My professor lets me leave a bit early so that I can be on time to teach my first class of the day. I run to the classroom, greet my first-year Oral English students and set up my PowerPoint. I have four groups of L1 students today, ranging from 15 or so students to almost 30. This first group is dynamic and engaged, and the class goes well. I divide them into two groups for a peer-led discussion about music, and then we move into an exciting and competitive game to practice syllable stress. Rinse and repeat for the second group at 11 a.m., although it is a bit more complicated given that the group is twice the size. Nonetheless, they share some really interesting opinions and hopefully learn a thing or two about intonation.


12:00 p.m. Break from L1s, onto the L3 students. The next hour of Interpretation class goes by quickly as my third-year students debate about whether or not marriage kills freedom, all while interpreting each others' arguments from French into English and vice versa, while I offer advice and corrections along the way.


1:00 p.m. Lunchtime, finally. I'm ashamed, because I normally have a tasty and travaillé meal, but yesterday's time crunch has left me with plain rice and ground beef with cherry tomatoes, made with love by my gym-going monsieur. To compensate, I grab a cherry Coke and eat a Napolitaine cake for dessert in my office. A bit of work before heading back out to teach.


2:00 p.m. Two more groups of L1 Anglais oral to go. Sometimes the level within classes or between groups can be very heterogeneous, so it's interesting – and occasionally frustrating – to see how a lesson works well or not so well throughout the day. But it's my job to adapt! For the final unit of the semester, I let my students choose the discussion topics, so my last two groups speak about movies & TV shows and addiction, respectively.


3:57 p.m. I always rush out of the classroom a few minutes early because during my first week, while gathering up my things at 4:01:46 p.m., I was sternly told by the next professor that "her class started at 4, actually." So I always leave looking a bit wild, carrying fifteen different papers, cables and pencil cases, tossing a slightly acrid "Bonne journée" in her direction on my way out the door.


4:05 p.m. Second vending machine coffee of the day.


4:06 p.m. I head back to my office (I share it with several fellow teachers from my department, but they're not here currently) to finish up some work. Uploading slides from each lesson, organizing papers, responding to emails, sending out some feedback, and eating a Twix for my sugar fix.


5:10 p.m. Another ride from my boyfriend, but this time to the nearby gym. Don't be fooled, this is extremely rare despite my 20 euro monthly membership that I can't really afford, even on a lectrice's SMIC salary. I warm up on the treadmill, then do some free-weight upper body and ab exercises for about an hour.


6:27 p.m. Quick stop at the local grocery store, where I grab some mannele (Alsatian brioche men to celebrate le Saint Nicolas) and try not to be tempted by the massive Christmas chocolate section.


7:15 p.m. Once back at home, I spend an hour or so grading exams from a pre-intermediate (A2) English class that I teach to students from other departments. If you thought that the LEA oral English classes were heterogeneous, they've got nothing on these groups. It's been a struggle, but I'm starting to figure things out. I work on planning their lesson for tomorrow and update my to-do list for the next few days, as well.


8:40 p.m. My roommate (we're four in our apartment) made bouchées à la reine for dinner, and it's delicious. I have some salad to say that I ate something green today, and then I finish with half of an amazing Earl Grey pastry from a local patisserie that my other roommate, a.k.a. my boyfriend's sister, brought home.


10:15 p.m. After washing the dishes and cleaning up in the kitchen, I work on my bullet journal for a little while in our shared office.


11:20 p.m. Shower and bed. I have to be up at 6:45 a.m. again tomorrow!

 


The days are super long and busy, but on the upside, the weeks move quickly. I can't wait to continue coming up with new ideas to help my students learn and progress in English. (And to keep taking embarrassing outfit selfies in the bathroom at the fac...)


Do you have any questions about the lecteur program? Comment here or on Instagram, and I'll try to help! Thanks so much for reading. Tschüss!

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