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Does anybody teach MFL and like it?

(36 Posts)
Besplendour Mon 14-Nov-16 08:30:53

I'm looking into doing a PGCE, but fear this may be a mistake going by Secret Teacher. Please give me your frank opinion of the job.

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namechangealerttt Mon 14-Nov-16 08:32:20

Don't have time to reply now, place marking so I hopefully remember to come back later.

Bobochic Mon 14-Nov-16 08:37:34

I'm not an MFL teacher but I have a degree in MFL, live in France and have lifelong experience of learning and teaching of MFL.

FWIW I think that teaching MFL according to the NC and GCSE and A-level would be an absolute nightmare. The language acquisition hypotheses underlying the syllabi are (scientifically) wrong.

namechangealerttt Mon 14-Nov-16 09:40:09

Ok, kids in school, I am back!

My husband did an MFL PGCE a couple of years ago. 15 started the course, at least a 3rd dropped out during the PGCE year, maybe half went into teaching, but after 2 years, there were only 1 or 2 left as actual teachers, if that. That is assuming the people he lost touch with were still actually teaching.

It is a non-core subject, and not even one the kids find fun like art. Year 7s had 1 lesson of Spanish and 1 of French each week. Because he had so many classes and they were all so large, at report time, which was a couple of times a year, he had approx 400 reports to write.

During his PGCE year, which was tough, he still managed time to devise creative lessons. When working in his NQT year, the work he had to cover, and the little time he had to prepare, meant he did not have the time to make it as creative as he would have liked.

In MFL you do not get the satisfaction I imagine teachers that stay in the job get. That satisfaction from seeing engaged children learning and feeling like you are making a difference. How can you do that teaching an MFL for 1 lesson a week? He even had to teach kids an MFL, that were native English born, and could not read or write English properly. The documentation of tracking the progress of so many students was ridiculous. I remember he had to prove his students had made progress, when the whole class had missed lessons due to things such as school trips and whole school assemblies.

He really didn't mind the time in the classroom, but of the number of hours he had to put in each week to meet ridiculous reporting requirements for so many students, the classroom time was much less than half the numbers of hours he actually spent working.

He left after completing his NQT year, and never regretted leaving for a moment.

Bobochic Mon 14-Nov-16 10:30:56

400 pupils doing 1 hour of MFL each per week 😮

No wonder schools are short of money if they throw away resources like that!

namechangealerttt Mon 14-Nov-16 13:26:49

They actually did 2 hours in year 7 of MFL. I hour each of French and Spanish, so my DH had to write 2 different reports. But yes, a total waste, therefor no job satisfaction.

Besplendour Mon 14-Nov-16 13:42:02

Fuck, that sounds like an absolute nightmare. How are you supposed to even remember 400 children, let alone write reports about them? I knew the bursary (25k) was suspiciously high!

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Bobochic Mon 14-Nov-16 13:44:44

There is another thread at the moment about budgetary cuts to schools. TBH if this is the way MFL are "taught" the very best thing to do would be to cut all losses and stop bothering. Budgetary cuts sound like an excellent way of focusing on removing wasteful activity.

Whynotnowbaby Mon 14-Nov-16 13:53:00

Yes I teach it and like it, have for 13 years but over that time I have seen its perceived importance diminish. We are finally leaving behind the most ridiculous GCSE spec I have ever seen for something a bit better but much harder for pupils to access. My school is very conscious of wanting all pupils to meet the all important progress 8 and so increasingly pupils are being advised against mfl unless they are absolutely at the top of their class, however much they may like it. I love teaching sixth form but every year is a scramble to ensure we have sufficient numbers, we always have had so far but many schools are losing languages at sixth form as they are considered to be too hard by many pupils. Added to the fact that at least in my school everyone seems to want to be a doctor so they all head for the sciences even when they are gifted linguists. The new A level spec is going to make this harder for us as we were often a fourth choice subject for bright pupils (who often then went on to study mfl at uni in the end!) but now there is pressure to just do one subject as they won't be able to do it for one year and drop with an AS (at our school.)

I would say do go for the PGCE, we need more good teachers but make sure you know what your school's approach is when you go for your first job. Not all are like namechanger's dh's but a lot are and they are not happy places to work!

Besplendour Mon 14-Nov-16 15:16:09

That's so true about small class sizes whynot. In my A-level class, everyone else dropped out and left me on my own!

Might I ask, do you find behaviour to be an issue? Do the children 'switch off' due to lack of interest or motivation?

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Bobochic Mon 14-Nov-16 15:23:03

It's crazy - paradoxical - that Progress 8, whose purpose is in theory to encourage academic progress, should put pupils off demanding subjects.

GCSEs should be scrapped, IMVHO.

Besplendour Mon 14-Nov-16 15:34:29

Agreed, 100%.

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MrsGuyOfGisbo Mon 14-Nov-16 17:29:21

I trained a few years ago as an MFL teacher (native Spanish speaker) via School Direct PGCE at a mickey mouse 'university' so did get the bursary, but decided not to do NQT because of the crazy and pointless demands. Did supply for a couple of years and now do a part-time job teaching another (not MFL) subject in an independent school on the strictly negotiated proviso that I teach only that subject and do not have a tutor group, extra curricular or clubs.
I would not teach MFL now for reasons in other posts, and also because:
- is not core subject but a 'hard' subject - four entirely different skills to be mastered
- is a partly a practical performance subject without the smaller classes and extra resources that drama/DT/Art/PE get
- expectations by non-MFL SLT that kids should all be fluent and spontaneously speaking and debating if SLT ever drop in
- expectation by kids (and PGCE mentors who have long ago escaped the classroom) that it should be non-stop whizzy entertainment and games.
- you will be expected to teach other MFLs to the same standard as the one(s) you are fluent in
- if you love a particular language you will be bored witless by the formulaic requirements that suck any joy out of it

Bobochic Mon 14-Nov-16 17:34:44

So sad. I loved MFL, did several at school/university and my DD loves MFL too - she is bilingual French-English and has done three years of Spanish and has just started German. She has always had native speaker teachers. Teaching/standards are much better in France than in England.

Helbelle75 Mon 14-Nov-16 21:13:15

I've been teaching mfl for 16 years now. I was hugely demoralised with the system, so set up and ran a tutoring business for 8 years but am now back in the secondary classroom.
When it's good, it's fantastic. Today, for example, we wenter off course a little to talk about what being a native speaker meant and which languages were most spoken (not English!). I work in a very rural setting and students have limited experience of language and culture, so bringing it alive for them is great. It is very rewarding in some ways - those who aren't great at writing tend to be good at the speaking and listening elements of MFL, so it's good for them in raising their confidence. We do often have 'lightbulb' moments, where a class are really understanding and flying with an idea.
However, like any job in education at the moment it has its downsides. The administration is ridiculous and it's quite difficult to show progress, particularly to those outside your subject area. The same with observations -non- specialists often don't understand the methodology, or why the students can't do more independent work.
The pressure on teachers is immense. The students are no longer responsible for the grades they get, it all falls on the teacher.
And the new GCSE, although arguably better than controlled assessment is incredibly difficult and i'm not sure how accessible it is going to be to those who are not academically brilliant.
Spend some time in a school and see what you think. I'm lucky that I'm in a small school, am the only French teacher so I get quite a lot of leeway in how and what I teach, particularly at ks3, and GCSE classes are small, so we can do a lot of intensive work in KS4.

Whynotnowbaby Tue 15-Nov-16 07:22:24

Behaviour in my school is good but I find myself constantly working to ensure there are a range of activities that are accessible to all in lower years to keep interest up - sometimes at the expense of reality deep analysis and understanding.

Bobochic Tue 15-Nov-16 08:21:00

Helbelle75 - surely it is quite difficult to show progress in KS3/KS4 MFL because the syllabus and exam spec do not actually allow real progress to be made? This is no reflection on teacher quality or engagement, just a sorry reflection of the low quality of the meagre resources allocated to MFL.

Besplendour Tue 15-Nov-16 10:19:11

Thanks for your responses folks.

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ReallyExhaustedLlama Tue 15-Nov-16 10:25:46

It might be worth looking at some of the language teaching companies, particularly if you'd be interested in KS2 as they send teachers into schools and then you don't have all the other class teacher stuff. I looked at people like Lingotot and language angels. But did some volunteer teaching and decided it wasn't for me! Just another thought. Good Luck!

TulipsInAJug Tue 15-Nov-16 10:26:58

Very sad thread.

I did both French and German A level, back when they were considered worthwhile, valuable subjects.

I was one of 3 pupils in A level German but our teacher was fantastic, we were all motivated and had a ball.

Last year, 18 years on from having got an A at A level, I went to Germany on holiday and found I could communicate fairly well with people (who, particularly in the east, spoke zero English) . I also have a huge interest in German history and culture, partly as a result of studying the language.

Helbelle75 Tue 15-Nov-16 12:07:03

Absolutely bobochic, and cultivating a love of learning is no longer important. When I started, my main focus was on increasing confidence in the students and giving them a love for languages. I found that it had the bonus of ensuring they also made progress. I hate that our students are now nothing but a number.
I did KS2 langauges for 8 years ReallyExhausted and it was fab, but ultimately funding ran out. The government have changed the requirements for languages so frequently I can no longer keep up. That's why I'm back in secondary.
I'm currently pregnant and will be going off on maternity leave in March next year, and I'm very pleased to be having some time off. I certainly won't be returning full time.
I love working with children, love my job, but I don't like at all what is being done to our education system.

Besplendour Wed 16-Nov-16 12:17:34

Would things be any better in private schools maybe? * clutches at straws... *

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Bobochic Wed 16-Nov-16 12:22:11

Some private schools (the better public schools) do go beyond the NC and the limitations of GCSE and A-level for MFL.

mumonahottinroof Thu 17-Nov-16 09:08:40

OP, yes, you would have a MUCH more enjoyable time of it in a (good) private school.

Naveloranges Thu 17-Nov-16 23:07:19

I love teaching Spanish!! Yes it's hard work and often undervalued by SLT. But the kids really seem to enjoy it. It's so satisfying seeing a student ' get' a grammar concept or put their work into practice.
My best moment was an A level student who was very science orientated but totally fell for Spanish after being in my class for 2 years!! She now helps in my classes and is going to Uni to study Spanish.
Just wish we had more hours to teach.

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