Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Well, it's December (craaazy!), which means I have officially finished my 13-week internship in a French Immersion classroom. It is the final practicum of my program, and it has definitely been long, tiring semester, but also so so rewarding. Usually, when friends and classmates hear that I completed my last placement in a French classroom setting, a ton of questions immediately come flooding in.
SOO...this post is dedicated to all those queries, and then some!
Quick context of my placement:
Since the first day of the school year, I have been in a Grade 1 French Immersion classroom, with 20 students and 1 classroom teacher, in the Danforth area. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I spend my entire day with my students, and on Wednesday to Fridays, I spend my mornings there before heading off to classes with OISE.
How much French knowledge did you have before this placement?
I was enrolled in the Junior French Extended program (where half of my subjects were taught in French from Grades 4-high school), before choosing to complete my undergrad at Glendon-the bilingual campus of York University. There, I majored in French Studies, and also went on Explore (a 5-week exchange to Quebec) twice.
Do you teach completely in French?
Yep! Every subject, every conversation with my students. Even when the students are gone and it is just the classroom teacher and I, our conversations and our planning sessions are all done in French. Among French Immersion teachers, I would say that the teachers converse 50/50 in French and English when the students are not around. If you want to teach French, there's definitely no slacking off!
Was teaching in French difficult?
Yes and no. If you know French, the act of using the language will not be 'difficult' per se. That being said, speaking in a second language will always take more brain power and energy. I remember September being an especially challenging month, because I was adjusting to my students, the school environment, and also forcing my brain to always be working.
Expect lots of tired evenings and a overloaded brain at the end of each school day. After I got into the swing of things though, the fluency of French definitely took off and I stopped needing to think as hard for every little thing. It will get easier!
General impressions of teaching in French vs. teaching in English?
When I taught in English, class discussions were definitely a lot easier. I could focus most of my time and energy engaging the curriculum and the lesson content, rather than always having to keep vocabulary and comprehension levels at the back of my mind. I also did notice that the teaching styles of French Immersion classrooms to be more traditional than English ones. This is not to say that the French Immersion teachers are bad, in fact, I have encountered some of the most amazing teachers in this school! However, the inquiry-based, research practices that I often see in a lot of English schools have not yet been fully transitioned into French classrooms. As a result, certain other aspects of school life cannot be given as much attention, such as social skills building, or teamwork and collaboration among students.
How are the teaching resources in French?
If I am to be frank, the teaching resources that we have access to are nowhere close to the resources available in English. That being said, most things are easily transferable. Also, each school that you are placed at or will eventually teach at will definitely have a resource room. Teaching in French definitely requires more flexibility and creativity, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much can be done, without the language barrier being an issue in this area of the classroom.
Job market for French teachers?
Definitely far more promising than teachers without French. I obviously cannot guarantee a 100% hire rate, but my other French-teaching classmates and myself have definitely been getting shout-outs at every speaker/workshop session that we have attended.
Do you recommend everyone who can teach in French to do so?
Definitely not. Though this may sound a bit firm or extreme, my #1 advice is for people to refrain from simply get their French qualifications if they are only looking for a chance to get hired faster. Once you have French on your record, it will stay there forever. Meaning, if you don't like the thought of teaching in French for the rest of your career...you probably shouldn't get it in the first place. In my program, there were some classmates who also wanted to enrol in a French AQ course or a French placement as well. However, after realizing that they may never get the opportunity to teach in an English classroom, they decided against it.
Did you enjoy your placement? Any regrets having done it in French?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and have absolutely no regrets. As I fully intend to teach in French afterwards, I wanted to experience what that kind of a classroom is like. I am so grateful for the experiences and knowledge that I gained in my practicum placement, like how to talk slower in French so my students can understand me! It was a different kind of experience, and one that I highly recommend for anyone unsure. Trust me, if you're not sure if you want to teach in French, why not test out the waters by first doing a French practicum? Chances are, you'll know for sure afterwards!