You know, for the past almost five years, I have thought that I was a French teacher. I have loved being a French teacher while I thought that I was a French teacher. I did a lot to make sure I was a good French teacher while I thought I was a French teacher. I take bi-monthly trips to Montréal to immerse myself in the language, to keep it sharp. I spent seven weeks in Paris last summer to absorb the culture and the language, with professional development as one of my goals. I spent another two weeks in Paris over winter break and am currently planning another eight and a half week trip there for the coming summer. I hire someone to meet me with twice a week, to sit and talk French with me. I read French books and I watch French films. I work hard to enrich and fuel my passion for all things French, and I love love love being a French teacher.
Today that love was crushed with a four-letter word. You see. Today we teachers were given our teaching assignments for next year, and written on my eight and a half by eleven inch sheet of official school letterhead was the word: Prep.
« What? What does this mean? » I asked, confused, to administration. That’s your assignment, I was told matter-of-factly. That is how it appears on the system. PREP. I cover other teachers’ preparation periods. So. Even though I have a university degree in French Literature. Even though I had to take an additional Board test to be a French teacher and not just a regular homeroom teacher. Even though I have my Specialist Qualifications in French as a Second Language. I am not recognized by my employer as a French teacher. I am recognized as the Preparation Coverage Teacher. Forgive me, but I feel extremely disappointed, disrespected, and angry.
The fact of the matter is, there is a systemic lack of respect for French teachers. I am often told how « lucky » I am to have my own classroom. The sad thing is, they’re right! French teachers are made to scurry about from class to class, often out to a portable, then back into a school, and cart around all their necessary materials with them. It doesn’t make the use of technology very viable for them! After the transition time and then setting up a Smartboard, not to mention redirecting a class after the unstructured time necessary to do so, there isn’t as fair a shot of executing a quality lesson as there is for a teacher who has a home classroom always at their fingertips.
But yes, I have always had my own classroom. Why would this one subject, or this one teacher, not have the same resources alotted to them as any other subject or teacher? Systemic disrespect.
Do you know that the other French teacher at my school last year was tucked into the tiny, cold gymnasium office? A cubbyhole already full of other odds and ends and gym supplies and random equipment and a defunct shower at that. I was mortified for her. How was that allowed to happen? Systemic disrespect.
Do you know that the other French teacher this year was kicked out of her room mid-year because another teacher, who already had his own classroom, complained that he needed a BIGGER classroom, and so he took her class and now she has to bounce from classroom to classroom? Systemic disrespect. And the students pick up on this. Kids are clever like that. They see everything. But they are still kids. And monkey see, monkey do. The system itself is the one cultivating a culture of disrespect among students.
Because I teach French while homeroom teachers have their preps, kids are often getting pulled from my class for this or that reason by their homeroom teachers during my lessons when they have the time to work one on one with the student or give them extra time for a test. I finally realized that correlation today. For example, last week. There was a student who had been absent for a week and had missed a science test. She came to me and asked if she could write the missed science test during French class that day. « What!? No! » I was incredulous at the request. The student was genuinely surprised at my refusal. She responded: « What? No? » She expected it would be okay. Where did she get such an expectation from? Her homeroom teacher. Systemic disrespect. She had just missed a week of French and now I was supposed to be hunky dory with her missing yet another day? I don’t think so.
I am humiliated and infuriated by this title I carry, have unknowingly been carrying for the past almost five years, in lieu of the one that I have worked for, that I continue to work hard for, that I deserve.
I am not a teacher who exists so that other teachers can have their preparation periods, for crying out loud. I am LIVID at the notion.
I AM A FRENCH TEACHER. With or without the official title, with or without the systemic respect.
Merci beaucoup et bon soir.