Imagine the scene as Madame Bonprof goes through her day: the gas tank in her car is full in anticipation of the drive to the two schools where she teaches core French; her plastic milk crate contains all of her materials – flashcards, CD player, CDs, a set of textbooks enough for half the class, and students’ notebooks, each grade indicate by colour.
The entry bell rings, and she starts class in Room 1, at the end of the main hall. But wait, the red ﬁle of ﬂashcards for this class is missing – she probably left it in the car when she reorganized her supplies. Madame looks for space on the chalkboard to illustrate vocabulary but notes and chart paper cover the walls, and there is no room to demonstrate the lesson.
The bell to end class ﬁnally rings, and Madame proceeds to climb the stairs, milk crate in hand, to get to Room 26, at the other end of the school. The principal stops her along the way to confer about a parent issue, and she arrives ﬁve minutes late, reducing her colleague’s preparation time. This grade 7 class runs a little more smoothly, although she has to deal with two ESL students who have just registered. Class over, Madame now heads to her other school, but a train crossing puts her behind schedule, and she again arrives late, this time for outdoor duty. At least tomorrow is a PD day. Then it occurs to her: the morning agenda calls for a session on using manipulatives in math, and the afternoon will focus on team planning. Where does core French ﬁt?
The challenges of FSL
Recent studies and surveys have veriﬁed the discouraging state of FSL teaching and learning.1 Unfavourable conditions for FSL (especially core French) relative to other “core” subjects reﬂect its diminished status. Teachers and students are expected to make the situation work, and to achieve high standards that require considerable resources and support, even when these are in short supply.
The issues are many: itinerant assignments (between classrooms and schools); lack of designated classrooms; limited support for IEP and ESL students; scarce resources; requirements to provide preparation time and supervision duties; isolation in school and board communities. Added to the list: expectations to integrate technology despite insufﬁcient software and computer access; few professional development opportunities (for the most part sessions are offered only after school); and a lack of an autonomous budget and funding. Is it any wonder that almost 40 percent of respondents to a survey done by the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT) have considered leaving FSL teaching, at one time or another?2
FSL is not a ministry priority