The latter I met at the Alliance Française AGM held in Christchurch where I was invited to attend as representative of the NZAFT. It was a timely reminder, considering where my thoughts were at earlier in the week (as vented in my comments) that Languages must be, ought to be, have to be celebrated as a main dish on the Smörgåsbord on offer to learners in New Zealand schools. And tonight, thanks to the company I kept recently, I am even almost ready to say French rather than the generic Languages ;-)!
|You are here flickrcc|
My presentation at this meeting allowed me to focus on what most teachers of French do very well: they love French! Not just French the Language but also all things French. Conveying the love to dwindling numbers, through complex pedagogies which need to be given more time than seems available to internalise them, with the perceived end goal limited to striving for a credit count is at times a tall order.
Compare that to the situation of our Alliance Française colleagues whose role (apparently!) consists of teaching students who come through their doors with a self motivation, a need, a reason to learn French, free of any formal assessments, one would have reasons to be thoroughly jealous of these conditions!
Last November I had the opportunity to work alongside some of the young "volontaires internationaux" at the AF in Wellington as we were training to be DELF examiners. I realised I had much to learn from their take on the Approche Actionnelle as well as their approach to evaluation. To my pleasure they too expressed a vivid interest in understanding more about French in NZ schools. It thus indicated that there are grounds on which to build a rapprochement in order to learn from each other. Yesterday's meeting reminded me of this and it was an opportunity to formalise a wish in public for it to actually happen. What shape it takes is yet to be devised and as NZAFT decide things at committee level, it certainly is not entirely up to me.
But just now I think I know how it could possibly be put to good use for the greater good!
And this is born of several other things happening this week:
- talking about New Zealand school teachers of French lead to talk about NZ schools, in particular the recently opened primary and secondary schools with their modern learning environment, open plan spaces and collaborative teaching aiming to have students direct their learning. It is indeed here to stay with many existing schools embracing this approach and embarking on the journey of innovation. This was news to the French Embassy Education attaché who was very interested in knowing more. All I know is names of schools, a few teachers who I follow on Twitter and have occasionally met, but enough to understand that this is working on transforming education right here and now. What I also seem to pick from these new schools is that Learning Languages doesn't seem to feature much. It was a shame he thought and why he asked. I suggested, unsure: Teachers not ready for the leap of pedagogical faith, new principals not ready to give it full attention while either the Correspondence school or the VLN can somehow attempt to fill that gap, not enough parents pushing to have a language taught, teaching teams fully focused on literacy and key competencies and forgetting that the cultural competence of our NZC is intrinsically linked the intercultural competence developed through language learning? Who knows?
- exchanging with you here along our last posts and comments, you describe your attempt at weaving in your new classes a pedagogy which invite students to direct their own learning is meeting with resistance at this stage. As we discussed I am surprised to read that students are so change adverse. This could indicate that it is such a departure from the usual expectations they have grown used to in the environment they are learning in, that it will take time and continuous effort on your and their part to start to see the long term benefits of the approach.
So from this one could jump to a very quick (and certainly wrong) conclusion:
- new learning environment, self directed learning=not conducive to language learning
- traditional learning environment, Sage on the Stage teaching= conducive to language learning
- upon talking new NZ schools with the young AF teacher her eyes just lit up and it all seemed to make sense to her: open space where furniture is arranged to support interaction, nooks and crannies for practice in solo or pairs, breakout spaces for recordings or rehearsing, devices for listening and research, students looking for what they need to make meaning in their own term, decent time allocation to allow for continuity, having her course and resources online for students to access whenever wherever, doing on the spot tutorials when the need arise, offering specific breakouts at specific times, planning with teachers from other learning areas to incorporate language and culture where and when necessary, ... she pictured it all there and then! She got it. Which told me:
Where am I going with all that I hear you say?
There is a need to investigate, demonstrate and reflect on how French can be incorporated in a student self directed curriculum in order for language learning to fully contribute to make learners connected to the world they live in, confident to meet others and being able to walk in their shoes in full knowledge of who they are, as well as gaining an awareness that learning is a life long journey and that languages can pop in anytime in their lives.
- of the bloggers who have contributed to this thinking is Claire Amos, a New Zealand educator whose excellent online presence I have followed for some years now and whose work has gone a long way in explaining and convincing me of the role of Teaching as Inquiry. The lady is a sharer of good stuff. I can't say I know her but I can say she sure has the most awesome eportfolio I know of. Anyway Claire in her current position is undertaking with a team of NZ teachers an edutour of self directed schools in the US and Canada. I have been reading with interest her accounts, which prompted me to google the schools that they are visiting . Through visiting these schools' websites I could see that Languages featured fully. Sure Canada has a different relation to learning languages that NZ has but that sure indicates that it can be done.
Jacques Cool a French Speaking Canadian whose tweets both in French and English I value highly for state of the art information. Hence I DMed Jacques this am to ask him if he knew of any English speaking Canadian self directed learning school where languages were fully a part of the curriculum. He was interested by my question and has sent it on to an expert in this field! WOW there are experts in this field! I now am truly excitingly waiting to hear back.
And then what? A little dream situation: advice from an expert + model schools to learn from + language teaching clued up AF teacher + keen to learn and inquire NZ French teacher(s) + new schools environment in NZ + Learning Language integration+ networking = being proactive in ensuring French (Languages!) is an integral part of a varied rich modern curriculum.
Now where do I start to make this happen?