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Meet the Teacher Night – Introducing Yourself to Parents

Seeing their children’s classroom environment and meeting their teacher (who spends the largest chunk of the day with them) is a top priority for many parents. As a parent myself, it’s important for me to put a face to the name and to get a read on how their teacher’s personality and how they interact with their students. Considering Parent’s Night from this perspective inspired me to vary my approach this year.

As a non-homeroom teacher with no classroom for parents to visit, I decided to insert myself as a guest speaker into the presentations of the various homeroom teachers. This has the advantage of ensuring a larger audience and giving more credibility to Core French as a subject.

In terms of content, I decided to focus less on the formal curriculum side of things and more on the different way French is being taught (once the new ministry document is released) with an emphasis on oral communication and the use of authentic texts. I also included an explanation of how a typical lesson was structured and went on to finish with a brief overview of some useful online resources that students would find useful at home.

Personally, I always like to leave parents with some kind of written handout (see attachement). Likewise, I also tried to keep the tone upbeat. At this stage, I think that both students and parents alike need to see French in a more positive light and see the fun to be had with learning a second (or third or fourth) language.

Trolley drawing

French a la carte

I’m not sure who coined that expression but if I wasn’t a Core French teacher, it would bring to mind the image of a quaint dessert trolley featuring a variety of artfully baked pastries. Funnily enough, when I typed in that subject heading to get some different ideas of carts on the market, that is exactly what came up. The one model I did find came duly equipped with many different coloured bins, whiteboard, sturdy triangular construction (and relaxed smiling model to boot). However, I couldn’t help noticing some design deficiencies. There was no built-in loudspeaker system blaring the message “Écartez-vous! Laissez passer le prof de Français!!” accompanied with flashing lights and a siren. Nor did they have an activated alarm for when someone tries to pilfer one dictionary or pencil too many. Finally, the lack of GPS tracking device for lost overheads and CDs is clearly an oversight in this day and age of technological wizardry.

A few years ago, I did see someone who seemed to master the teaching from a cart phenomenon and regretfully I didn’t take photos (the days before an Iphone). What made it work for her was the following:

  • a variety of different sized bins and boxes that were all clearly labelled with the corresponding word(s) and images
  • practical supplies which included textbooks, some dictionaries, pencils, pens, pencil crayons, overhead markers, scissors, tape, magnetic strips, stapler, etc (you get the picture)
  • hanging file folder box to store extra worksheets and assignments
  •  cds, camera
  • visually decorated with French/Quebec flags and postcards so that it was a large-scale rolling tourist brochure
  • a horn

Finally, a few suggestions for teaching on the run which I have gleaned so far from my own experience. Truthfully, they would work a whole lot better if I had the wherewithal to implement them consistently after my dash across the school and up two flights of stairs in 1 min and 30 seconds (that’s if I’m running on time).

  • If you’re not supremely organized, enlist the help of a professional organizational consultant to get you on track. No matter how organized you think you are, you’re not organized enough.
  • Get into the habit of putting things down only in specific places.
  • Have a physical checklist of important items that you actually check before leaving the room.
  • Colour code things in bright colours for different classes (class lists, folders, etc) so they can easily be spotted.
  • Ensure your lesson includes some down time for you to get organized at the beginning and end of the period (structured student-run games, conversation starters, short audio recordings).
  • Have responsible students take inventory of borrowed items such as textbooks and school supplies.

If anyone else has any other ideas that work for them, please share them. Thanks to Michelle, Kate and Sylvia who responded to my last post with their thoughtful commentary. This is obviously a justifiably sensitive subject. Hang in there all of you!

Photo of Erin G

Teaching on the Run

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.