Everyone wants to survive high school, even the teachers. That’s why Missouri Western held the first ever Surviving and Thriving as a Foreign Language Teacher for students who are preparing to teach a foreign language in secondary schools.
The event started off with introductions from four teachers from different St. Joseph high schools. Students attending sat and listened quietly to the teachers talk about their experiences. Though none of the students had questions for the teachers, Western professors in attendance asked questions on how to better prepare their students for the world of teaching.
Corinne Russell, a native French speaking teacher at Central High School, said that getting students to realize they can function in another language, even if they only had one or two years of the language, was rewarding, but hard. Most students don’t go far beyond the second year of studying a language.
Most students aren’t going to be conversing with people in the language they are learning on a regular basis, which makes transitioning harder. Russell had to take education courses to become accredited in America to teach French, even though she grew up north of the French Alps learning French, English and Spanish.
It was just as hard for Russell to adjust to teaching in the United States as it was for Melina Paden to adjust to teaching in France.
“It was really hard and very different from anything I’ve ever done, Paden said. “I was only working 17 hours a week; I’d never heard of such a thing. I had always worked 40 to 50 hours a week, work, work, work.”
Paden had started out as an elementary education major, but quickly changed her mind after she had studied abroad. She worked only 17 hours a week teaching English in France to a class that was only 30 percent French. Most of the students she was teaching were from North Africa.
Something may not be as acceptable in one culture or as harsh as it maybe in others. However, teachers can’t let that sway them in keeping order in classrooms. Joe Davis, a recent Western graduate understands how important discipline and classroom management is.
“I learned this real fast,” Davis said. “After the first couple of days I taught my lesson and I still had half an hour left of the class. It was miserable when that would happen, kids would get rowdy, jump on each other, it doesn’t work out very well.”
Davis currently teaches at Truman Middle School.
“You learn real fast what to let the kids get away with,” Davis said.
According to all four panelists, the real trick is to keep students focused on the class, which is a task that can be very hard for first-time teachers.
“It’s really a challenge to figure out and prioritize what’s important,” Tory Punzo said. “But as you do it, you get a feel for it and understand that it will be there tomorrow and it will get done.”