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.

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6 thoughts on “Teaching on the Run

  1. If the Ministry of Education requires that French be taught in our schools, I can only assume that they see value in this second language for our students to learn. So it would seem beneficial to students to be taught by a teacher who has a reasonable space from which to effectively deliver the program. I think teaching from a cart, expecting teachers to fly down the hallway (usually filled with students) with all their teaching materials is shameful! Wake up school boards!

    1. Thank you Sylvia for your encouraging reply. Put in those terms, it does sound a little crazy. It does seem that it is the new reality (for Core French teachers that is). We’ll just have to become that much more creative and ressourceful.

  2. I truly feel for you. However, we must be prepared for the worse. Our profession is under attack, and honestly, I`m not sure we`re going to win this one. I, for one, have been teaching 12 yrs, moved to another board after 5yrs and now recently just got my wonderful pink slip (my position has been cut due to lack of seniority). I`m glad you have the guts to “let it all out” and thank you for that. But we must admit, it all relates to a bigger, broader issue. Our government no longer puts education as a priority and this is the beginning of the end. We must put the word out there, inform the public and vote when the time comes.

    1. I think you are definitely correct with there being larger issues playing out in different ways across the whole education system and political scene. Luckily, in the teaching profession, our students provide us with lots of distractions…I hope that you were able to find another position elsewhere.

  3. I have been teaching on a cart for 4 years, and it doesn’t get any easier. This year we’ve found it even harder, since we are now 30 minutes per period, not 37.5, 50 or 42, as they have been in the past. To top that off, my principal has me going from the front of the school on the second floor all the way to the back in a portable, with no travel time. Adding insult to injury, I am also teaching six grades to eight classes, with a gym class to boot.

    Despite many years experience teaching Core French, some in a classroom, some not, I have absolutely no doubt that this has seriously affected my program.

  4. Your situation sounds very challenging to say the least with the combination of such short periods (hard to get anything accomplished), travelling arrangements and a great deal of planning. Make sure you don’t get too run down. With regards to your programming, it’s important to feel successful and effective otherwise it is a disheartening experience. Perhaps try to focus on a couple of small-scale, realistic goals that are achievable for both you and your students. Best of luck.

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