I’m Teaching French Again!

I can’t believe it, but here I am a full-time French teacher again. This all came about pretty quickly, and I’ve been thrown into a large workload, so I am just starting to catch up after almost a month in, but here I am to add to this site again.

Teaching today versus five-ten years ago is very different. But my current assignment is again in a private school, which can certainly have its perks, of which pay rate is not one, haha. But, the students are pretty well-behaved.

Bonne année – here’s to see how it goes, my nouveau journey as a French teacher, encore!

French Enrichment Program

I was asked to create a 4-month French Enrichment Program, taught to students from Kindergarten to Middle School.

Creation of such a program proved difficult, having to choose what to cover after the obvious basics, while including a good amount of relevant culture and anything related to the area (place-based learning).

The program I came up with went over very well with students and parents alike. I intend to post it this fall (2015). It could be adapted to offer as a short language summer camp.

I, as a recovering perfectionist (which is very difficult for a teacher to be!), was rather pleased with the outcome. Students had fun, and learned some French language and culture! What more could you want?!

It was actually one of the most enjoyable teaching experiences I have had to date, and I was teaching French again! Not having the homework grading and (major, fast-paced) lesson planning was such a blessing for me. I intend to share more on that later, as I believe my experience and time in the teaching world would be relatable for many young, aspiring educators!

New Job Best Yet!

Well, I read recently about a teacher who blogged about her students and the comments she wish they had on report cards instead of the suggested ones, and while I saw the humor, I also saw a big line being crossed, especially using swearwords and getting somewhat specific. She lost her job.

Not like I’ve said, or would say anything too bad about teaching, but I have complained a bit in the past. However, now, I feel very fortunate to have my job. But, I can’t get into specifics too much. I will say that it’s at the middle school level, as opposed to the high school, and I really have enjoyed the break. By that I mean, it’s nice to have kids who are excited about learning foreign languages, and who misbehave in more innocent ways. Sure, I have some classroom management issues, and it’s still a  lot of work (as any teaching job for which you put in the time needed to even just get by), but it’s nice, new, and different.

And having students who care inspire me to do more than just “getting by”, I’ve rediscovered my passion for teaching French, and it is a mutually beneficial thing. Before, I was somewhat depressed because of the overwhelming apathy of a lot of the students no matter what I did. It was a real challenge. As with everything in life, there’s a yin and yang, and each school will have its pros and cons.

I feel very fortunate to have gotten a job in such a great school district, even if it is another sub assignment. It’s a good foot in the door.

I need to go do work, but I also need to add a lot more to this blog. I have oh-so-many things to say, wisdom to share, and, most importantly, DOCUMENTS, LESSON PLANS, HANDOUTS, POWERPOINTS, RESOURCES, and MORE!

To leave new teachers with a thought from my experience:

“If you’re like me and take lots home because you think you’re gonna get it all done over the weekend, you’re wrong. And you’ll be wrong weekend after weekend. There might be a few weekends where you do accomplish a whole lot, but, you still didn’t need to bring home 30% of your classroom.”

GER/CER verb exception handout/worksheet

This 2-page French class handout goes over the -ger/-cer verb exceptions to regular -er verbs. The first page explains what happens to each type of verb and has an example of conjugations of each. The second page has a little practice.

GER/CER verb exception handout/worksheet.odt

(It’s a word document, not a PDF- I’m going to be diversifying the documents I put up on my site in the coming weeks, er, months).

This worksheet would be good for French 1, middle school or high school, review, or extra grammar help.

Another Example/Preview of What’s to Come…

I just posted about how I’m going to start uploading PDFs of useful resources, anything from lesson plans to handouts, to educational research and methodology information.

Since I am a French teacher, I plan on starting to upload some hand-made resources, like the following:

French Numbers 0-20 worksheet

This worksheet can be used in French 1, at the middle school or high school level, for an exploratory course, or for review or tutoring.

I only wish I could do this all day, or, at least, a few hours a day.

Wisdom from the Wise

“Teacher is more than just a full-time job, it’s a whole-time job” ~Myself

I need to incorporate more quotes into this blog. Just as with all things in life, it’s about achieving a balance. A yin and yang. And, from a lot of things I’ve read, not just that statistic about teacher dropout, but also on forums, from googling, and from this one website I’ve got to reference (I think it’s something like ‘so you want to be a teacher, huh? really?!’), it can be uber-stressful.

Sure, being a CEO of a high profile company could be very stressful too. But being in charge of the education, wellbeing, and essentially the future of so many kids, and all the other jazz, is a huge load. It can be both a blessing and a curse. Or rather, it is a uniquely amazing opportunity to really be able to make a change in so many people’s lives. Because, it’s not just the students you may be inspiring, but it goes forward into their future, and all the people they affect and the things they do.

So of course it takes a lot of work and has a high potential for getting very tough.

But with great burden comes great responsibility. Or something similar. Teachers are a powerful force. I just wish they got paid more. Maybe I should find an area where they pay more for higher-quality teachers 😉

When I recently saw some former students and they expressed that classic “I didn’t know how awesome you were at the time, but now I miss and love you and blablabl…” (if you’re a good teacher, you know what I’m saying!). It is so touching. And it means so much.

Just like that beautiful plaque my Dad got me, the quote on it is true: “TEACHING OPENS THE HEART…THE MIND…THE WORLD”.

Wow, I just inspired myself heavily!

I Nearly Quit Today, in the Middle of the Day

I know part of it was from me not getting enough sleep and feeling emotionally off-balance, so I wasn’t able to handle the annoying behaviors of some of my students on this Monday morning. And, the problem that’s been growing worse, is my lack of will-power to effectively manage my classroom- both in behavior and in planning.

Depression has been an issue. Some personal things in my life, but, mostly, I’m at the end of my wire. I’m going to be one of those “in less than 5 year teacher burnouts”.

It’s been roughly about 3 and a half years if you include the student teaching. I think switching schools was a good and a bad thing.

The public school, but especially with 90 minute classes of large sizes, with wildly unmotivated and diverse (trying to avoid using words about their intelligence or lack-thereof) learners, is not just a challenge in itself, but there is all the paperwork.

They weren’t kidding about that.

I need to blog a river instead of crying one. Alas, I don’t have enough time. And I will blog. I’m hoping to get different jobs come February (as I will be out of a teaching job if I don’t find one before that!). But I had to share this frustration, and maybe there’s a teacher out there today who thought they couldn’t make it through the day, and they will now because of reading this and feeling connected. Or maybe a teacher years down the road.

Teachers need to keep their personal lives balanced, and it’s a real challenge, to balance all life can bring sometimes, with the fluctuating (but ever-present) real challenges of teaching.

I guess more experience could someday get me on more solid footing, but, alas, I don’t have the tools. More on all this later.

I’m not giving up, I’m getting myself into a better place. It may involve teaching, we’ll see. But I did recently turn down another short-term job.

Ejected the first student from class, ironically, long day. LONG.

A student made a few derogatory comments, culminating in a statement about teachers (or maybe just me) getting paid for doing @#$%. As in nothing.

I calmly told her to head down to the main office.

The irony of this situation is that not only have I been spending most of my waking time doing school stuff (and not getting enough sleeping time), but, especially because today was the “parents come to the school and meet the teacher yada yada” night, and here is my schedule:

5:20 am  –  get up. seriously!? yes, i have been getting up before 6, all the time.

before 6:00 am  –  at school. yes, over an hour before i have to be there. why? always more work i could have done, and who knows if the photocopier will be broken again?

7:15-2:15 –  school, including the disrespectful incident where the student insinuated i might be gettin’ paid for doin’ nothing…and she was the one trying to sleep, repeatedly, after my kind warnings.

3-6:30  –  who knows how that time flew so fast without me getting all my grading and prepping and everything else done, but it came and went, and suddenly…

7pm  –  parent come and meet the teacher night started.

915 pm  –  parent night thing over. exhausted. but made it through, relatively unscathed. although, i did learn about a few more things i have to do, emails, precautionary measures, etc…

i didn’t leave until 945pm, and, i have a little commute.

and now i still have a wee bit of planning, and however much grading i can get done, before i pass out, only to get up 5 hours later to start it all over again. luckily, minus the whole parent night thing.

anybody who says teachers get paid too much should try teaching for a month. because even just teaching alone takes a ton of time and energy.

and being a good teacher? a quality, professional educator?! i quit.

just kidding. i do it for the kids.

most of ’em.


1st day of school – high-school level French teaching ideas

I remember reading last Summer about ideas of activities to do for the first day of classes. It seems both so long ago, and also not that alien. Here I am only about a week out from the 1st day again. I think I might have moved a little too slowly during the 1st week of school last year, using a ton of activities introducing the language and culture, and not getting into the book too much.

I say that because, looking back, especially for some of the younger students, they started misbehaving, and it might have given them the impression that it was going to be an easy or ‘blow-off’ class. I can see some teacher’s argument for not getting into the book on the 1st day, but I think I will this year (maybe have an exploring activity to help them get to know the book), and I’ll intersperse fun supplemental activities with book ones.

Luckily it’s a new book this year, and the book is great. The Discovering French series has a whole introductory section with reasons to speak French, an introduction to French geography and facts, other French-speaking countries, and a list of names (including some of North African or African origin).

I did an activity where I had a worksheet with different areas such as dining, movies, art, danse, etc., and students had to come up with French words they already knew. It worked pretty well, but some students were writing a ton of words down (like transportation, situation, which, yes, are from the French, but not exactly what I was looking for).

Here are my tips:

1) Parlez en francais. Teacher needs to model speaking in French, and get students speaking. In French 1, it can be as simple as greetings and name (Bonjour, je m’appelle, comment t’appelles-tu?). In upper levels, it can be 1 activity you like to do and 1 you do not (or food, or whatever).

2) Break the ice. Do some icebreakers, getting to know you, have students choose French names, whatever it takes to lessen anxiety and promote a friendly, interactive classroom. Just be careful to mix in enough educational, structured learning, with the fun stuff.

3) Establish rules. This is something I did, but not with enough of a system. I’m still trying to figure that out (I guess discipline is something that comes easier with every year of teaching?), but I know I will have a more clearly laid out set of rules and the consequences that go with misbehavior- as well as rewards for good behavior.

4) Find a good pace for each class. Some classes may not be interested in icebreakers at first. So if you try them and don’t have good results, get right into the book and assignments. Incorporating some fun things into the 1st week is nice so they aren’t overwhelmed. I think I’ll probably go over my syllabus on the 1st day. Actually I think I handed it out last year at the end of the 1st day for them to read as homework.

5) Take care of business items. Do hand out a syllabus at some point in the beginning. Create a seating chart (I think it’s always good to start with one, to get to know names, and to have order right from the start). There is other information you need to find out, and rules, and books and things. See how much you can do in a fun manner, or in the form of an activity (like having a worksheet to get-to-know the textbook).

I think it’s most important to do some activities to help students feel comfortable, and to get to know one another, before jumping into heavy grammar. There are lots of good vocabulary and other little language things to do before starting the book (classroom commands, numbers).

Here is a great link I found for tips:

About.com 1st day teaching french new and returning French students – it has great ideas for a level 1 classroom, and for upper level French students

1st days of school activities – this site has some great ideas. I really like the policy and rule question and answer match because it’s interactive, goes over the rules, and gives you an idea of which students might be more shy.

There are a lot of great ideas out there. I remember finding some very helpful ideas, and I hope my thoughts help teachers new and old alike. Nothing too fancy here, but it’s definitely important to think about the 1st day of school. It’s an important day- think first impressions.

What type of tone do you want to set for the year?