French's Sad Lament

Renée Meloche

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

Support at the ministry level is also lacking: currently, there


Teacher using projector to teach classroom

What could be more important in an increasingly global community than to be able to communicate effectively with as many people as possible?