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5 Subjects! Secondary Teachers

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by emartinez_1971, Feb 24, 2018.

  1. emartinez_1971

    emartinez_1971 New commenter

    This is simply ridiculous, eTeach just published a worrying article which I completely believe to be true. Schools are making a joke of specialities and forcing Teachers to teach subjects they might not even know about. Even 5 subjects.

    Not too long ago I already experienced something similar at a School which supposedly gave MFL adequate importance (Languages is part of its name, at the end of the day!). I am a native Spanish speaker with a QTS in my mother tongue and I am not happy teaching any other language simply because I do believe that specialist MFL Teachers should have at the very least a C1 for KS3 and C2 for A Level. Otherwise we enter into charlatan's territory, not respecting the profession nor the students. I do not have that command in other languages, just enough to travel and enjoy a few days using a bit of the lingo, I would not dream to pretend that I could teach them. However, at the interview at that School I was told that next term I could have to teach French, and not to worry because " a good Teacher can teach anything", at the end of the day MFLs are just a bit of Grammar and Vocabulary. Of course, if I was not able "to teach anything", it would be only because I am a bad Teacher. Talk about bullies!

    I have met many Teachers with supposedly a high command of the language, teaching at A Level and I could not even understand them, lots of mistakes and poor fluency. And they are teaching!

    What's even worse, it does not matter how badly they teach that language, but if they say that they can also teach another one, they are given the position over honest Teachers saying that they have a real and proper speciality and are able to teach at all levels. I am being pressed into entering SKE with online systems so that "I can teach" another language, but I know -and WE ALL know- that that is ridiculous, don't we and don't they know?

    SKE? To think that in one year somebody with basic language skills can improve enough as to actually teach children without attacking their right of a good education is nonsense. Maybe if they start with a good B1-B2 they might end up at C level in a year. But no, I'm not saying that only native Teachers should teach their language, I have met many British Teachers with a fantastic command of Spanish (the only language I can comment on), but that comes with a long time learning and long stays in the country in real immersion. However I get comments from other Teachers saying that they managed to "become able to teach" another MFL in one year with Rosetta Stone, KS3, mind you. Yes, that is the very best way of introducing a language to the children, by giving them a Teacher with a low command of the language they are told to learn, and still try to infuse some interest and passion into them so that they will want to properly learn the language later on. It also shows how important the School believe that subject to be, giving them a Teacher with the barely minimum to be able to give a ready made lesson but please do not ask me anything out of the plan.

    That School with the "good Teacher" mantra has been trying to get a Spanish Teacher for a while, they don't seem to last. And the other School where a Teacher was chosen over 2 native Spanish applicants because he was supposed to be able to teach Spanish and French, is already looking for a Spanish Teacher, I guess a few A Level students told how badly his level really was. In the meanwhile I still cannot find a job as a Spanish Teacher, I am not getting School experience and I am being wasted.

    Why does it have to come to this? I would prefer a part-time position teaching my real speciality than faking a command that I perfectly know I don't have, and knowing that students will end up exposing me for what the School made of me, a disgraceful charlatan.

    And to see that the very same happens in other specialities is heart breaking.
    agathamorse and pascuam49 like this.
  2. lifereallyistooshort

    lifereallyistooshort New commenter

    Whilst I agree that is not good for pupils to be taught by staff with an inadequate command of the language and that there are many schools where this is the case, nevertheless it is also true that to secure an MFL secondary teaching job these days you need to offer more than one language - at least to KS3 level. A good linguist can learn the basics of a second language in a couple of years. At my school, staff are encouraged (but not forced) to learn new languages, offering them at KS3 when they feel ready (usually after 2 years' study) and up to GCSE once they have got themselves to A level. They sit the exams too - GCSE and A level - to provide a focus for their learning, and this also gives them valuable insight into language learning from the pupil perspective, which in turn, informs their teaching. As a bonus, they have also strengthened their CV.
    They do not resent, but rather welcome, the chance to teach their "new" language and pupils respond well to them.
  3. meggyd

    meggyd Occasional commenter

    Sadly there are virtually no students coming through with two languages at A level. There are few schools offering two languages at A level. In fact not many offer the opportunity to do two languages at GCSE.
    agathamorse and Idiomas11 like this.
  4. Idiomas11

    Idiomas11 Occasional commenter

    This. I'm a native speaker of English with A Levels in both - I notice that the ones doing two languages at this level in my school tend to be a native speaker in one of them. I could only do the GCSEs in both languages by entering as an external candidate and doing the exam for one of them a year early.
  5. Idiomas11

    Idiomas11 Occasional commenter

    However, we have been able to enter talented linguists in for both at my school - I have a student who is doing both FR and SP for their options :), but this does not happen in most schools.
  6. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    Just to add a bit of levity.

  7. emartinez_1971

    emartinez_1971 New commenter

    Yes, we all can learn a lot of new things and become students of everything and masters of nothing. Maybe it is just me who thinks that Teachers are supposed to actually know a lot more about the subject they teach than their students? Maybe so that they can give proper answers out of the carefully planned lesson "please do not catch me" and connect normal issues and solutions as languages are alive and interconnected? Whilst I agree than in 1-2 years of focused study one can get a decent grasp of a new language, I believe that this command goes well for touristic scapades or the very occasional email or phone call at work, not for the huge responsibility of teaching others and introduce an appetite for the subject so that they might want to continue learning it later on. The poor quality of KS3 MFL Teachers has a very deep effect in how students see the subject and how many will continue learning it. Get Teachers with a poor command of the subject to start with and you are presenting the subject as non important, thus killing MFL in practice.

    Of course I blame Schools more than Teachers, but I also think that there is a thin moral line in this matter and that Teachers should fight more for the quality of their teachings and defend their true especialities, looking at what is best for the students rather than how far can they go in charlatan mode.
  8. vuvuzela

    vuvuzela Occasional commenter

    You're upset, aren't you?
  9. emartinez_1971

    emartinez_1971 New commenter

    Yes, very much so. Maybe I am one of the few still to believe that Teachers in Secondary Schools are to teach their specialities in order to always be ready to answer propertly those precious enquiry minds and to instill the interest for a subject from KS3, in this case MFLs, which might allow them to look at the world as an opportunity for their personal and professional life. English speakers tend to expect people in other countries to speak English, which many do, but one thing is visiting and a completely different thing is living as an inmigrant. Most countries expect immigrants to achieve a decent level at their own languages, just as people here expect the same from immigrants. It goes both ways, which many people seem to forget.

    If we really think as "normal" that MFL Teachers in KS3 might only have a GSCE command of the language they teach, it is our own fault that these subjects die, as they are simply not taken seriously neither by Schools nor Teachers. Students are fast to dismiss any subjects seen as "marias" as we Spanish people would say. No surprise so few students bother to continue learning them as optional subjects later on. So good-bye good Teachers with the adequate command of the subject, you are not needed as nobody is interested in your specialism.

    But hey, let's just focus on how many languages I can teach at KS3, it does not matter how badly because I can simply play audios and videos and use premade resources even if full of mistakes, nobody cares. Yes, that means that in only a year and by taking a extremely low level exam I can teach French, German, and any other language if I take a SKE with Rosetta Stone. It does not matter that I would hate myself for being a terrible Teacher unable to even pronounce properly and completely unaware of all exceptions and funny language rules. Great solution, thank you so much.
    minka1 likes this.
  10. lifereallyistooshort

    lifereallyistooshort New commenter

    Interesting. Many schools have science departments where expert Physicists, Chemists and Biologists teach Physics/Chemistry/Biology outside of their specialism at KS3. This is not perceived as a problem. Why should it be different for languages? What matters most, in my opinion, is that fully qualified (and passionate) linguists are teaching the classes. I am lucky to be in a large school, with a strong MFL department. The flexibility of staff at KS3 is one of the reasons why we can reliably offer 3 languages at KS3, languages for all (including dual linguists at GCSE level) and still run A levels in 3 languages.
    Resources are important - we have text books, FLAs and colleagues to help out. Specialist colleagues are always happy to cast an eye over materials.
    Arguably, it is better to have a specialist linguist teaching a 2nd or 3rd language, than to have a non-linguist native speaker teaching a language. Understanding the nature of 2nd language acquisition (even having recent 1st hand experience of grappling with the grammar of another language) is fundamental to good MFL teaching. Recent learning can really help teachers empathise with students and give insight into how to tackle trickier language points.
    In an ideal world, we would all wish for a rich supply of talented specialist linguists to staff all classes. As we all know, we are currently a long way from such a situation.
  11. emartinez_1971

    emartinez_1971 New commenter

    A good MFL Teacher is not simply a polyglot, they should still be able to instill some interest for the subject and pass their knowledge of the language, as well as see and help with the stickier points of second language adquisition, we completely agree on that. But the fact is that normally we have MFL Teachers with their native language, a second language that might -or not- be fluent and a very basic knowledge of a third language that they teach at KS3 level, and in most cases they are not linguistics, they simply studied languages. If these Teachers cannot even communicate at a decent level of fluency in that second or third language, and sometimes they cannot even be understood by their speakers, I simply think that they should not be teaching it. Some subjects might be connected in their basics, and a linguistic might be able to connect the way that different languages work even if not speaking them, but in order to teach a language one still has to have a sufficient command of that language so that he would be able to communicate and answer questions.

    Of course one thing is the ideal world and another the sad reality and funding cuts, but I just cannot take necessity as something defendible per se, I see it as a sorry state and an actual danger to education. So please allow me to moan about it now and then because these Teachers are not precisely ideal to keep students interested in taking their MFLs further, and that affects all MFL Teachers, linguistics or not.
  12. vuvuzela

    vuvuzela Occasional commenter

    emartinez_1971, can I ask how long you've been teaching languages in the UK? Your idealism is rare among the teachers here (and I don't mean that negatively).
  13. Eflmeister

    Eflmeister Occasional commenter

    The sad thing is this isn’t a UK only thing. I used to teach Spanish in the UK and now teach English in an academy in Spain, and the amount of secondary English teachers I teach without even a B2 level is worryingly high.
    pascuam49 likes this.
  14. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter

    I share your desire to see able linguists teaching well in our schools, but please remember that when you say " they should still be able to instill some interest for the subject and pass their knowledge of the language," the ability to do those things well is a skill totally apart from being able to speak the language well. It could be that one teacher (with lesser language ability) with the right kind of personality, dedication and ability to organise their teaching properly can be more effective than another teacher with significantly greater language ability.

    There is not necessarily any correlation between the ability to speak a language and the ability to teach it.
  15. pascuam49

    pascuam49 New commenter

    Rightly said Incommunicado. I've met highly qualified specialists who put beginners off learning languages as they considered "teaching" just a way to support themselves while pursuing their "more scholar" interests. Zero lesson preparation, boring delivery and minimum feedback given to students on their performance. I think this can be worse for languages at KS3 than teachers who may not master the target language but are responsible professionals.

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