Feature

Meeting the Professional Development Needs of FSL Teachers

Sharon Richardson

What could be more important  in an increasingly global community than to be able to communicate effectively with as many people as possible? Language teachers hold a critical key to unlocking global understanding. As French teachers  we have always sought to provide students with the ability to communicate with a broader audience. Furthermore, research and experience confirm that learning a second or additional language strengthens students’ abilities in their first language.

Despite the value of learning additional languages, teachers of French as a second or additional language (FSL) sometimes feel  marginalized, as  though  they  are working just outside of the main focus of  our  educational  system.  However, the current emphasis on literacy should encourage FSL teachers as their  role in promoting literacy becomes more widely understood. The key  to  supporting language teachers lies in helping them to recognize  their  valuable  contributions to  developing  lifelong,  literate  learners and in providing ways for them to advance their practice to encourage success for all students. In the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board in eastern Ontario, we have taken steps to do just that.

Many of the schools in our board are far apart and FSL teachers are often the only second-language teachers in  their schools; these two conditions, which are common to many Ontario boards, may serve to  heighten feelings  of  isolation for  FSL  teachers.  But we  have  found that  there  are  ways  to  navigate  and bridge  the  distances   between  schools and between classrooms. Progress along the winding road toward enhanced professional  development for FSL teachers has involved many events and has been marked by several stages. Here are some of  the  places  we  have  travelled  along the way.

Determining the needs

Four years ago, as the board’s  curriculum coordinator for languages, I visited each school to meet with FSL teachers and discuss their wants and needs. I found that these French teachers wanted to know about the latest research in teaching and learning. They wanted to network with colleagues and to find other teachers from whom they could learn. They wanted opportunities to explain what works in their classrooms and what needs to work better. They wanted up-to-date resources and the training required to use them to their full advantage. They wanted a forum for discussion that recognizes the value of their work and the effort that goes into it.

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