This month, we have a special teacher interview arranged and conducted with the help of Mary Glasgow Magazines. So a big thank you to their team for interviewing Cindy Chasseloup who has been a state English teacher in France for a number of years. Cindy has a number of years experience as a teacher (as well as a language learner) in various countries such as the UK, Canada and is currently resident in France. It is such a wonderful opportunity to interview a non-native English teacher and I hope to interview more NNETs in the future – so if you would like to be interviewed please drop me an email. Nevertheless, let’s start with interview with Cindy.
Tell me how you got into teaching.
Being a teacher was the dream career I had in mind since I was a teenager. At school I had a yearning for languages and it was only after my graduation in college that I decided to be an English teacher. To be really sure that I was made for teaching, I spent a year as a French assistant in a school in Basingstoke, England. That experience helped me understand that I was not keen on teaching according to mainstream teaching methods. I enjoyed being creative and genuine when preparing lessons. It helped me being and remaining enthusiastic and cheerful when sharing them with pupils. On the other hand, I realised that I did not really like being taught what to do since it felt like I had to conform to something that did not belong to me! I felt it was difficult to motivate pupils when you did not give yourself body and soul in what you were doing. When I came back from England, I decided I needed more time to explore the English language so I passed my master LLCE degree. Then, I went through the French competitive exam for teacher called CAPES that I passed. Yet, instead of being a trainee teacher the next school year, I postponed it and applied to be a French assistant in Canada. That teaching experience was completely different since I was teaching students at UVIC university and was given complete credit for the preparation and planning of my lessons. At the university, my supervisor gave me the possibility to use all the rhetoric and didactic methods I had learnt while preparing the CAPES exam. That experience helped me understand that each learner is different and needs to gain self-confidence thanks to a teacher who is reliable and trustworthy. In the end, I came back to France and after a year spent as a trainee teacher in a high school, my career as an English teacher in secondary schools started off.
Could you tell our readers about France and potential teaching opportunities?
In France there are drawbacks but also advantages when you’re a state teacher. Let’s start with the drawbacks:
- You cannot pick the school and place where you’d like to teach! If you’re lucky enough you will remain in your hometown or province but most of the time you’re too young and do not have the necessary points required to be allotted in a very popular area and school. In the end you usually end up hundred of miles away from home for a few years!
- You cannot pick the grades you will teach. Most of the time, when you start your career, it will be in a secondary school. Usually, only experienced teachers have access to high schools.
Now, the advantages:
- You have a general and national curriculum to follow but you are free to use whatever material you feel like having. You have a freewill and even if we have some recommendations to use some educational methods rather than others, you are still able to decide what you will do in your class.
- The headmaster gives you an administrative mark but it is your academic supervisor that will assess your educational skills when S/he visits your class once every 7/10 years.
- You do not have to use a textbook, every other materials are welcomed as far as your lessons make sense and are educational.
- You can also do some cross-curricular activities with teachers from other subjects and realise some wonderful projects. Team work is highly beneficial but you are not bound to do any if you don’t feel like it.
You are using magazines instead of a textbook. Could you tell our readers more about this?
- It is true that I’m not into textbooks. I’d rather use other resources, such as Mary Glasgow Magazines which are very attractive for teenagers since they are colourful and deal with the youngster interests. I would use some articles as a support to the sequence (for example POP STAR sequence, we started the first lesson with an article ‘stress on stage’ which helped the students understand the topic and the goal of the sequence).
- Sometimes I ask them to read some articles during the holidays and do the games as a way to revise their lessons.
- I can also ask them to read an article so as to debate in class and it leads to a communicational project. For my beginners, I sometimes ask them to read the articles and I myself prepare a questionnaire to check their understanding. It is perfect for the revisions. There is another thing I like doing with my students. I ask them to choose an interview in Mary Glasgow magazines and to write another interview themselves. It is very funny! They get to present celebrities and people they like.
- Some other time in class, it is an efficient manner to make them more aware of some cultural and historical notions while playing rapidity games with the articles captions or headlines.
- The variety of the topics and the various activities offered in these magazines really suit me. It gives me the opportunity to include them in some educational projects and to explore different teaching paths. I like the idea of getting the pupils to achieve something at the end of a sequence. (through acting/cooking/drawing/making things/ interviewing..)
How do you prepare your lessons when you use magazines in the classroom?
What is important for me is to know in advance what it is coming up. The digital previews sent by Mary Glasgow are very useful for that. I can prepare my lessons according to the subjects, which are coming soon. For example, this time I have chosen to work about pop stars. I introduced the theme through an article in Team called ‘Stress on stage’. They had to write about how they would feel on stage. After that, I asked them if they knew any ‘talent shows’. For my beginners, I am going to use the article about pack lunches. It is ideal for my theme about food. I am also going to complete my lessons with some activities. I saw that there were more things on the website.
What are your favourite subjects?
I love teaching about sports and this year, I am spoiled! My intermediates are very sporty and are loving the magazines too! Earlier this year, there was an article about Andy Murray who was talking about his problems before the Olympic games. I asked my students to imagine which kind of advices they would give him. They get to use the structure “should” and other modal verbs. It was a perfect exercise for them and a lot of fun for everybody. I also got to introduce the structure like “If I were…, I would..”. It worked very well. The subjects about internet and technologies are very appealing to them as well. I wish I could teach more about Australia or New Zealand but I sometimes miss some materials about those countries. I love the news articles at the beginning of Mary Glasgow magazines. They are always very updated. It is very quick for me to get them talk about those for some prompt discussions at the beginning of the lesson. They don’t realize how much they learn vocabulary from those. I also love the cultural articles. It is hard to believe but some did not know that there were red buses in London. Some themes are coming back every year but it is actually good for them as reminders. They are very excited when they can say “Oh Madame, we have already seen this last year…”
What is the most memorable thing that has occurred during your teaching career within the classroom?
It was on my first day of teaching! At that time I was a trainee teacher. Due to my experience with the Canadian education system, I was not aware that French kids would really be hostile to English and teachers in general. On my first lesson I suddenly realised that students were not going to be standard pupils that would kindly do and listen to what I would tell them to. That first hour of teaching was really chaotic; students were chatting, doing whatever they wanted to do, the lesson was so noisy that I ended up with a major headache! I felt bullied! I was so disappointed and wanted to give up teaching after all! It was so far from what expected, I did not manage to get them to learn and do anything I had prepared for them! The bright side of that memorable moment was that I became aware of the fact that you had to make students want to learn, listen and speak and do English. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to achieve this! Hopefully, I had a wonderful tutor who made me understand the reasons of the students behaviour. He helped me get that mutual respect and discipline are essential when it comes to teaching. Standard students may exist but they are blended up with others in heterogeneous classes. The challenge is to captivate each individual in the class so as to get them work as a team that will be willing to communicate and learn together in English. Since then while preparing lessons, I always keep in mind that each pupil is different and that learning difficulties should not prevent students from enjoying learning a Language.