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!

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.”

The 12 Days ‘Til Christmas

That’s one thing I do miss about teaching at the religious school- I got to do a lot of fun Christmas-related activities which made everyone happy (and make time go more quickly, as, let’s face it, everyone wants Christmas vacation), and, it got me in the Christmas spirit. Right now, my state of mind is pretty wretched. I’ve been wanting to quit, which is ludicrous, but it is also ludicrous how stressed I’ve felt at times as well.

I can teach about Christmas-related stuff, as Noel is a French term, and there’s culture involved in it because ~97% of French people are Catholic. So, I’ll keep it PC and focus on the French, and add in a little something for everyone. And we can always get secular, n’est-ce pas?!

So I’m going to try and blog for the next 12 days, with a goal of getting somewhat closer to a state of a festive spirit. And, I’m hoping to inspire the children as well, whether they celebrate Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or Festivus or something else!

Today I didn’t do anything at school geared toward the holidays. It was a difficult day. Wait, scratch that, I started to put up a long-delayed bulletin board with various posters of things talking about Christmas in France.

So that was a start, and this blogging kicks off (and up) some good cheer for me. Tomorrow, I’ll go over the “Holiday Wish” vocabulary sheet I handed out to one class on Friday. And I’ll finish that bulletin board!

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?

Ready to quit? At the F.L. dep’t meeting she told us we can’t quit until the end of our 2nd year!

I know, I know, there would be problems at any school. But there is something going on at this school that I did not agree to when I signed my contract, and though they’re trying to act like we can make it into something mutually beneficial, I am dubious. I’ve already fretted and freaked out enough that it’s not worth it on my part. Basically I took over the job of the French teacher who they had signed on to teach a couple of the French classes (I had said no to “half-time” because -duh- that would not make any sense- teaching is a way-more-than-full-time job). And now she is still on the faculty part-time, yes, she is doing other things, but one of the jobs they are paying her for is to be my mentor.

But as far as that goes, the definition, the logical working out of the situation, and the awkwardness to me…I can’t even speak English it makes me want to quit so bad. I guess a big problem is that I am non-confrontational and I should have stood up more and said “No. I do not want her in my classroom yet (or ever).” Sure it could be beneficial, but not in the way it’s starting out to look like.

I bided my time, and it’s up, and she said “The F.L. department head wants me in the classroom.” And I’m a procrastinator, and don’t have a rote, repetitive schedule I follow every day. It’s going to be awkward, and I’m nervous about how the kids will feel about it. I didn’t even get a chance to tell them yet!

And it’s awkward because some faculty members are sort of upset that I go to take all of the French, and they are older than me and have worked in the school for years, if not decades.

I am sure that there would be other problems at any other school, but this situation is more than just unfair. It is almost offensive. It looks like the informal nature of the way things are run at this school is going to be working against me more than for me for a bit.

That said, I will try to remain optimistic, see how it goes (maybe she could end up helping me out and reducing my prep load?), and I will do my best to voice my concern and make suggestions for improvement.

That said, insert inappropriate swear word to express/relieve frustration here.

🙁

I did my student teaching, I don’t need a full-time observer, and our methods differ. A lot. Who knows. It just sucks and I do not approve. (I won’t quit, but I will do my best to be positive, and proactive).

1st full week over, time is flying and I am falling a little behind…

Every day this week I felt like I said “If I can just make it through classes today, this afternoon I’ll do lots of work and make the classes more organized with smooth transitions”. Every afternoon, I am tired, have lots of little busy work or meetings or whatnot, and next thing I know, if I eat dinner, or do anything to relax for a minute- it’s suddenly 8 or 9 pm. They day flies, and though I’m done teaching by 2pm, I never leave my office before 4 or 5 really. And I feel like I’m already slipping into chronic sleep deprivation!

I really need to just start using more of the resources that come with the book, even though I don’t like the book that much- isn’t that awful? It’s because the book is so old (over 10 years). It also has vocabulary that is too specific at times (like “a reclined seat”) which it took me a second to recognize. I will need to look into getting another method next year if I keep teaching here.

Allez, Viens was a good series they used where I student taught. It definitely had some imperfections, but it had a lot of good cultural information and excellent teacher’s guides and notes. Maybe I can get different book people to come present their series like someone did when I was student teaching. It was fun. Who knows if the school has that kind of money (or rather, if they’re willing to spend it on that). But it is very important to like the series.

That’s something I didn’t really think about- if you are interviewing and you know about book series- either ask what they use, or ask to see what the books they use are like.

So I’m off-topic, and that’s why I feel like I was falling behind this week. I worked a lot, but I also checked my email and read on the internet and maybe got coffee with a friend or two. I procrastinated. You can not be a procrastinator and be an organized teacher. It’s just too much work. I do like the freedom I have, but I wish it was a little more structured.

I am soooo tired still. More sleep would definitely help me think more clearly, be less tired so I could plan better in the afternoons, and I would probably even run class better and get more done.

Did I already share the quote I made up? “More than just a full-time job, teaching is a whole-time job!”

So busy teaching- but here’s a memory from student teaching!

I will be writing posts about the beginning of school probably just around when school is over in June 😉 seriously, though, it has been a ton of work. I’ve made it through 4 days of teaching.

I was thinking back to student teaching and reflecting on having students make verb books. I did it for extra credit in my French 2 class and am going to require it in most, if not all, of my classes this year.

Student teaching taught me that while freedom in sentence-making is good sometimes, most of the time kids have a hard time coming up with whole sentences on their own. And sometimes, you get a gem like this, and just like my coop and I said “I’ll teach as long as they make me laugh more than they make me cry”:

"Are you losing weight this weekend?"

For those of you “non-French-speakers” the first sentence means:

“Are you losing weight this weekend?”

I had them come up with their own sentences for several required verbs, and this was one of the gemmiest of the gems.

And now I’m off to lesson plan until eternity.

Overwhelming, Exhausting – Survived my “first week teaching”

First week of teaching. Oh boy. So tired I can barely see. I think it’s not just because it’s my first year as a teacher, I think it’s also my specific school and class schedule. I have 4 periods that are 55 minutes each. I teach a French 1, two French 2’s, and a French 3 class. The French 1 has less than 20 students, but the room is small and was way too hot all week. The French 2’s are unfortunately unevenly split (one is very small) and I can already see it’s going to be hard running them at the same pace.

I have a lot of students with “I.E.P.s”- some of them are pretty serious, some of them are more abstract, some of them I don’t know how to deal with but I am trying to pay attention to how the students are performing.

The French 2 was a large class last year and they did not get through a lot of material. So I have to set about figuring out where they are at, and also take into consideration that some will still be far behind others. I have to find the general medium and forge forward.

I already moved the seating around, and then moved it again, and it’s hard to decide how I want it. I put them in rows against either wall so there is a strip in the middle I can move down. That seems to work well. I have assigned seating for the French 1 because it is a bigger class, and the kids are still quite immature (several boys were talking right starting from day one).

I did quite a bit of culture and used French in all the levels (mostly French in French 3 but not as much as I should have). The cultural activities went pretty well. I need to organize my thoughts and goals more.

Other than that, I am glad to have made it through my first week of teaching (though it was not a complete week). I was so busy I barely saw my colleagues. I fear that I will sleep all weekend and won’t do as much planning as I’d like.

I also REALLY need to start going to bed earlier. I am still going to bed around 12am or 1am and even up until 2am. Oh boy oh boy.

Day by day!

Back to School Night (parents follow kids’ schedule)

If you’re a teacher, I’d bet at least half of the schools have something like this. Back to School Night. My good friend who is teaching at the school with me said it was her least favorite night of the year, which really scared me, but I prepared what I wanted to say and do, and I think that was key. As one of my other “colleague friends” put it- it’s going to happen whether or not you’re nervous. I did get nervous, but I tried to calm myself by thinking of how quickly it would pass, and how prepared I was.

I do feel prepared, even though my last post said I was nowhere near ready. I am intrinsically prepared because of my education background, and I have a lot of good skills I took from student teaching. However, the unfortunate part is the language levels are not clear-cut, and I’m not just talking about individual student variation. I’m talking about not knowing what level the French 3’s are at, and knowing that the French 2’s will be “behind” in some ways, and it confuses me and scares me.

Now I’m off topic. But back to school night went well overall- the parents came through their child’s schedule- to 10 minute mini-classes. I decided to have them introduce themselves in French “Bonjour, je m’appelle…” and then I introduced myself and talked about my French and Education background. Next, I passed out a super-abridged version of my syllabus and talked about my overall course goals.

In a lot of classes the time passed quickly and there was no time left for questions. I felt pretty good, and felt much better after one of the students whose parents I know well called me to tell me they thought it went very well.

There were a few good, almost challenging questions. For example: “Is this course going to be like French 1.5?” because of the French 1 last year getting behind. I answered that no, I was considering it French 2 and would start with review and catch-up and then move forward. That’s the hard part that got me off track a few paragraphs ago- there will be a lot of additional work for me to do if I don’t effectively figure out how to catch them up using the book and the resources I do have. I spent too much time student teaching formatting and creating single handouts I should have had provided for me.

So, to conclude my view on Back to School Night, I say- it’s all in how you view it. Keep it in perspective and think of it as a way for you to show the parents what you expect from their kids, and what you are going to help their kids do. I showed the fun and think I did a good job showing I’m serious and I’m working from a good basis. Sure I felt a little young, but I think it’s the specific school (because I know a lot of the parents and they knew me when I was just a youngin’).

There were even some fun parts, and I enjoyed when the parents would speak a little of the French they knew to humor me. And, of course, I had some French music playing in the background. Multiple intelligences!

Coming Down to the Wire – Still Nowhere Near Ready

The Good News: School is about to start, I am excited, and the minutes will continue to tick-tock on the clock. Whether I like it or not, the first day will come, and after that it won’t stop moving- day after day. I have some fun activities planned and I am really excited to have my own classroom and to be at such a great school.

The Not-As-Good-News: I am happy to say I’ve already got approval for getting some French praise stickers, and things could be much worse. But I don’t have a Smartboard like I thought I was going to! Not yet, at least. And a laptop was ordered, but the I.T. department is too busy to get it to me right now. Alas, at least there is the hope of technology! So I have to plan around that, and keep in mind, I really don’t know what level some of these students will be at.

The Bad News: I still don’t have a key to my office. I feel like a nomad carrying six bags here and there every day.

I know that every school would have its ups and downs and until I know the ins and outs here, well, I’ll just hold my breath.

Overall, as I said, the time will come, whether I am ready or not. So why am I still so anxious!?!

Oh, maybe it’s the holding my breath?!