Did I ever tell you about the time I taught Year 7 French? The Head called me into his office one summer and basically said that they didn’t have enough to fill my timetable and could I please teach a class of Year 7 French as there was no one else to do it. He added that he knew I’d got a GCSE in it, been to Paris on holiday and had noticed I usually had a baguette for lunch, so I would probably pick it up quite quickly. “Bonnet de douche!” I thought – having to teach a bit of French is better than getting made redundant, so I agreed.
I bought a text book and some online materials. Everybody I spoke to said not to worry as there was loads of stuff available online for learning French, and the kids would probably pick it up from watching Youtube videos in their spare time. The first lesson arrived and I was feeling pretty nervous, but we learnt how to say “Bonjour, tout le monde” and some basic vocabulary and ‘voila’ it seemed to be pretty straightforward! I was feeling good, the vocab was flowing and I was able to keep just ahead of the kids by looking at the next page of the text book when I did my planning.
Then after a while things got a bit difficult. There were tenses to learn and the kids had to get the right tense along with the right form of the verb, as well as knowing the vocabulary. To be honest, I didn’t feel very ‘creme de la menthe’ about whether what they had written was right or not, but I had to keep ploughing on. There was one kid in the class whose mum was French, so that kid basically acted as a second teacher, showing the other kids what to do and fielding the tricky questions I wasn’t sure about. I tried really hard to learn more French at home during the evenings but to be honest I was completely exhausted from the day’s work already and it was so hard to learn a new thing with no head space or training for myself.
The weeks passed and we muddled through. A couple of people laughed at me because I asked what they thought was a stupid question in an online forum for French teachers. ‘Pas de Calais’ I thought, I won’t bother asking for help again. I learnt a lot alongside the kids but it was hard work. Eventually the end of the year came around and the Head called me into his office again. ‘Mon dieu!’ I thought, it’s the guillotine for me! However, he actually said what a good job I’d done, made me Head of French and asked if I could teach GCSE and A-Level next year.
And if you think this story is ridiculous, replace French with Computer Science and shed a little tear for the teachers for whom this is a true story.