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.