I have recently returned from mat leave to my usual position of Core French Teacher in Grades 7 and 8
(not easy to get out of that one…) but this time with a major change which has greatly impacted my job – no classroom.
For the past 10 years, I have always had the luxury of having my own space (albeit occasionally squished between stoves, ovens, washers and dryers of the Family Studies room) and now I am truly realizing how lucky I was. At the workshops for the TDSB Summer Institute for Beginning Teachers, there was bound to be some poor soul who posed the question “What advice can you offer to someone teaching on a cart?” While outwardly commiserating, I was always secretly thankful I wasn’t in that position. I can say without a doubt, that in my 10th year of teaching, I have never felt so disorganized, frazzled and somewhat ineffective and not for lack of trying. And I’m one of the lucky ones who only has to shuttle between two different classrooms (on two different floors and opposite sides of the school).
I originally intended to blog about how to effectively teach Core French from a cart but when I was looking online for different visuals of such a piece of equipment, I came across an article from an older issue of Professionally Speaking entitled “The Core of the Matter” which succinctly discusses the major issues confronting FSL teachers. Based on a report authored by Maureen Smith, a teacher with 30 years FSL experience, the area of most concern was a lack of dedicated classrooms to Core French. She outlines in the study that it is not uncommon for some teachers to “give eight or more classes a day, working from a cart set up in the lunchroom, gym or multiple portables, even when there’s an empty classroom in the school.” Delivering your lessons in time sensitive 42 minute increments is stressful enough, but charging around from one classroom to the next within the 2 min travel time only to arrive and find you’d left your overhead/textbook/assignments behind adds a level of intensity which is taxing on even the most organized and well prepared instructors.
Given the situation, it is obvious that a teacher’s program would be greatly compromised. I feel particularly empathetic towards the newer teachers who must struggle with getting their resources together in addition to teaching on the run. What I miss most about my own classroom (even though my “roommate” is most congenial) is a dedicated spot to display visual aids and showcase student work as well as the flexibility to alter the seating arrangements to best suit my planned activities. Smith concludes that if teachers are expected to deliver a quality FSL education, then the gap “between the classroom environment and the policies that influence it requires careful study.” It’s too bad that as a core subject of the Ontario curriculum, there is no correlation between the huge comment box devoted to FSL on the report card and actual size of dedicated classroom space.
Be that as it may, the reality is that with the advent of full day kindergarden, classrooms in many schools are at a premium and this situation is perhaps a new permanent reality of FSL teachers. In that case then, enough venting…Stay tuned for my next blog (and originally intended article) on how best to teach French from a cart.