Becoming a confident language teacher
I’m going to tell you my story about how I became a confident high school French teacher, and I’ll tell you right away that it wasn’t easy in the beginning. I had a lot of self-doubt, worrying about making mistakes, thinking my accent wasn’t up to what it should have been. Of course I had those feelings. Looking back over the last 20 years shows me that without questioning myself I would not have given myself the opportunity to grow.
I guess the only thing that really helped me become a confident high school French teacher was practice, years of experience, having excellent resources at hand (or creating them myself), and knowing that I had a few veteran French teachers working with me and who were there for me no matter what. I now know how fortunate I was. I’ll tell you some stories if you ever want to chat.
I know that many teachers are the ONLY teacher of their language at their school. These days, thank goodness for the Internet! Even if you find yourself alone in your discipline at the school where you teach, there is a wealth of information on the net. You can look up grammar rules, find really great resources to use in class that you would never have time to make on your own, watch French grammar YouTube videos, and you can also find a mentor. I don’t know where to tell you to find a mentor, but I know that they exist because that’s what I’d like to be to you. You can write to me about anything school related. If it is about French, I’d be happy to answer those little questions that you just can’t find the answer to anywhere else. Seriously, write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
During my first few years of teaching, I often thought my grammar questions were embarrassing. When students called me out on mistakes I had made I was devastated. Yeah, they really did that sometimes. They were never mean about it, but my confidence was low! I thought I should know it all.
My first year of teaching French was at a public high school in Louisiana. I was the only French teacher, and that was in 1995. I was straight out of college, had never been to France, and had no internet. Oh my goodness, the mistakes I made…. BUT my students learned a lot, and you know what? So did I. Then I decided to go to graduate school and really learn all of the ins and outs of the French language (or so I thought).
Grad school certainly helped, but being in the classroom with groups of 25+ students at a time is what really taught me how to teach, and that’s when I became a confident expert in my field. Don’t you think you learn more in the classroom than anywhere else?
I found confidence by making mistakes, correcting them, and practicing every single day that I was in the classroom by learning my lessons well before venturing to teach them. Have you ever felt that way? I taught for 15 years at SLUH in St. Louis which only accepts la crème de la crème, and sometimes I thought my students (all boys) were way smarter than I was. They certainly were in many ways, but not at French, and that’s what I was there to teach them. It took a very conscious effort for me to tell myself that I was good at teaching French, and loving the language and culture helped so much. Students really feel whatever energy you’re putting out there, and in my experience they actually mimic it!
The day I told myself that I was a really good French teacher, though not perfect, was the day when everything changed for me. I felt it, my administrators felt it, but most of all my students did. It may sound silly, but this became my mantra: I am a really good French teacher! I think you should try it out and see how you feel after a month or so. Stop telling yourself it isn’t true. Just the fact that you have read this far means that you ARE a really good French teacher. Only really good teachers strive to be better, and by doing that you WILL find confidence in the classroom.