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Advice please! Teaching French at secondary school

(18 Posts)
knowler Mon 09-Jan-17 13:21:12

Hello all,

I am currently a solicitor, aged 38. I'm thinking of retraining for a career change and have always liked the idea(!) of teaching. I did a year abroad as part of my degree many moons ago where I was an English assistant in a French school where I had classes of 30 by myself and I loved it.

If I were to be a teacher, I'd teach French at secondary school level. But I am hugely put off by the complaints by existing teachers of paperwork and having to work long into the evening every single day.

Please can you explain to me what the paperwork side of things is, how much marking you have to do and what else occupies your time outside of 'school hours'?

My mum was a primary school teacher (retired 7 years ago) and she did diddly squat in the evenings and weekends smile

Wolfiefan Mon 09-Jan-17 13:22:33

Lesson planning
It's very long hours. That's why I don't do it anymore!

knowler Mon 09-Jan-17 13:39:25

Thanks Wolfiefan. Do you get any time during the day to do any lesson planning or marking at secondary level? Or do you teach more or less from 8am til 3/4pm?

Eolian Mon 09-Jan-17 13:40:36

I started as a secondary languages teacher 20 years ago. I loved my job for quite a few years but in the last decade, and even more so in the last 5 years or so, the workload has become unmanageable.

It's a bit difficult to describe it all in detail to a non-teacher, but what it all comes down to is accountability and the ludicrous quantity of data required on an ongoing basis. I shall resist going into a long rant about the pointlessness of the data and why it is required, but essentially teachers spend sooooo much time monitoring pupil progress, providing evidence of this progress, creating proof that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, marking work in increasingly detailed and ever-changing ways, planning lesons which have to demonstrate provable, measurable progress at all times etc that they are burning out a couple of years after qualifying. It is horrible. Pupils are not children for you to inspire - they have been reduced to sources of data. There is constant scrutiny by senior leadership- scrutiny of lessons, marking, progress, plus the necessity of fulfilling your own performance management targets. If pupils fail to make the required levels of progress, it is your fault, never theirs.

I now teach a bit of part time primary mfl, some private lessons and do general non-subject-specific supply teaching (a.k.a. babysitting/crowd control). The latter is pretty unsatisfying and doesn't make any use of my languages degree, but it's a million times better than the alternative.

Eolian Mon 09-Jan-17 13:43:43

OP - you get a few free periods during the week, but they only provide a fraction of the amount of time you need to do the work. Almost nobody leaves at 4pm, or if they have to for childcare reasons then they are working late at night. Part time is more doable but it's essentially like working what full time hours should be, but being paid less.

Spam88 Mon 09-Jan-17 13:50:25

Bear in mind also that if you work in an academy or free school then you have no right to protected time for planning, marking etc.

Also, I could be completely wrong (trained as a science teacher, not languages!) but I thought for languages you have to be able to teach at least 2? Might be worth checking smile

knowler Mon 09-Jan-17 13:53:05

Thanks Eolian. I don't want to jump from the frying pan into the fire. I have a lot of complaints about my current job but it pays very well and my hours, if anything, sound slightly better from what I would be doing as a teacher.

It is probably self-evident from your posts, but would you recommend not becoming a teacher? (!)

Eolian Mon 09-Jan-17 14:05:51

Spam88 is right too - it's been a long time since I've seen a secondary mfl job advertised which didn't require 2 languages.

OP I don't like saying 'Don't become a teacher' because it is all I ever wanted to do. Decided age 12 and never wavered. But, as someone on a similar thread once said, going into teaching these days would be like watching people running from a burning building and deciding you fancy running in.

Most teachers could tell you exactly what's wrong with the system and how it could be improved (and most of that would have nothing to do with salary, contrary to popular belief), but I see little hope of any government in the near future actually paying any attention. Until they do, things are only going to get worse. In a way, I hope the mass exodus of teachers from the profession gets worse and worse so that something drastic HAS to be done.

fussychica Mon 09-Jan-17 15:59:33

My DS wiilingly ran into the burning building in September as an NQT MFL teacher and he hasn't come out since! He loves the teaching side but like all teachers finds the marking and other paperwork takes up a huge amount of time.
The pay is not great, you would get less than£23K outside London to £28k in inner London and you could be stuck on that for sometime as these days as there's no longer automatic progression up the pay scale and no protected pay if you move jobs.
He speaks several languages but is only being asked to teach one currently, though the advert asked for two. Just French would be pretty unusual these days.
He visited us at half term and Christmas and bought a bag of marking with him on both occasions. I know he works most evenings and some of the weekend. He is also expected to run an after school club and attend various meeting, parents and open evenings.
The government ignores everything teachers say and constantly expect schools to become responsible for something else. Just yesterday, it was training to identify mental health problems in their pupils.
Have a look at the TES community pages, that will put you off and if it doesn't you are obviously made for teaching grin

knowler Mon 09-Jan-17 16:40:59

Thank you all. I could, at a push, teach Spanish too although that would be a definite second choice. Looks like I need to think long and hard. I have a terrible "grass is always greener" tendency and I suspect this may be one such instance.

Thanks again.

MrsGuyOfGisbo Mon 09-Jan-17 18:12:21

Most job ads are Spanish, or Spanish with French, As HoDs who specialised in French retire, French is withering on the vine in the state sector.

leccybill Tue 10-Jan-17 23:21:56

Yes, French has all but disappeared in my authority. Spanish and a smattering of German.

I did 11 years in secondary MFL. As a teacher, you are on show/performing all day long, but especially so in MFL. It's tiring 'acting' as a foreign person all day.
It's a pretty universally disliked subject, SLT are trying to shunt it out of the timetable, it's hard and it's in a constant state of change.

Wouldn't touch it with a barge pole tbh.

BareBum Tue 10-Jan-17 23:32:03

Kids hate French and it's harder to dowelled in it than most other subjects. Therefore SMT also hate French.
Could you teach a nice humanity instead?
I teach in a private school and it's ok but all the state school data wank is creeping in.

BareBum Tue 10-Jan-17 23:32:26

Do well, not dowelled.

Rathkelter Thu 12-Jan-17 21:16:32

I tried to get out of secondary MFL and did a bit of freelance translating, corporate tuition and private tuition but the pay was lower and there was no pension. So I'm back in it... but I certainly would NOT jump from your (what sounds like) better job, financially and socially into the current education system. If you'd like to teach why not get yourself onto a private tuition website like tutor hunt and find a KS3 or GCSE student to whom you could offer tuition after work once a week? Then you keep your job and do a bit of French teaching on the side.

MollyHuaCha Thu 12-Jan-17 21:28:42

Hello OP, I think you might be a great teacher! But because everyone has been to school themselves, they think they know what teaching is like. Being an assistant in a French school some years ago is not the same. I suggest you arrange to take a week off work in order to shadow a French teacher in the kind of school you imagine yourself working in. You wd need to contact a few schools to find a willing teacher and then pay to get police clearance to be in a school - this can take ages y fortunately, so plan well ahead. If you like what you've experienced in yr shadowing week, then go ahead and organize yr teacher training. This country needs enthusiastic teachers and if you love teaching your pupils will thank you (well done of them might) smile

knowler Fri 13-Jan-17 10:08:25

Thanks very much for all the advice. I've spoken to a friend of a friend who's a secondary school teacher and she wasn't discouraging but not over enthusiastic either. Think I'll look into shadowing but I've got to be realistic bearing in mind all your comments.

YippieKayakOtherBuckets Wed 18-Jan-17 00:30:27

You would certainly need to be able to offer a second language at least at KS3. I would only consider training in 11-18 even if you plan to work in 11-16 schools so it is also worth looking at the syllabus for A Level French and checking if you would be comfortable teaching the content.

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