(Quebec) For those who still have cold sweats when it comes time to conjugate a past participle, French teachers have heard you. While the Legault government promises to “in-depth” review the French programs in primary and secondary schools, they propose to teach a simplified version of past participles, rather than hammering in rules that have been fixed for centuries.
During the election campaign, the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) promised to promote the teaching of French, which has since become a “government priority”. In January, Education Minister Bernard Drainville said that “the status quo for the teaching of this subject [was] unacceptable.” He finally met last week with representatives of the Quebec Association of French Teachers (AQPF), who had a lot to say.
In an interview with La Presse, Alexandra Pharand, vice-president of the Association and French teacher in 2nd secondary, does not hide her exasperation with the time devoted to exceptions “and exceptions of exceptions” related to the teaching of past participles .
According to Ms. Pharand, the reform that is proposed – and which has still not been adopted – would allow us to focus classroom efforts on the “regularities of the French language”, rather than on these “famous exceptions”.
“When a student says to me, ‘Ma’am, I don’t understand why we tune it like that,’ the only answer I give him is that people made the rules 400 years ago. It’s hard to convince him that it’s relevant. Four hundred years later, I have to teach rules that are no longer relevant in 2023. It’s out of touch with their reality,” she pleads.
Faced with the decline of French and to be in line with the government’s desire to reverse this trend, the AQPF wants Quebec to flood schools… with books!
“If you go to any French class, even primary, the books you find come out of the teachers’ pockets. In my class, I made a library by buying armchairs on Marketplace and sharing posts on social networks, where I wrote being in search of books. Teachers have to take time and take money out of their pockets to stock their classes with books. It’s really a problem and it’s unacceptable,” says Alexandra Pharand.
Just as a doctor would not be asked to buy his masks, the young teacher does not understand why teachers have to open their wallets to offer attractive books to their students, despite the investments made by Quebec to replenish school libraries. .
“It’s our tool of the trade!” Books are as essential for teachers as surgical instruments can be for a surgeon. The other glaring problem is that we often have old, outdated books. A book that’s full of sticky paper, that we’ve patched together as best we can and in which we find the muffin crumbs left by someone who read it three years ago, that doesn’t give the taste of reading,” she laments.
To those nostalgic for dictations, the French teachers gathered within the AQPF have a message to convey: “There are much more innovative practices”, to learn to write well, and they must be applied.
“The question I often ask people is, ‘Apart from school, when did you take dictation?’ Never. What is relevant is to put the students in writing situations that they will be able to reproduce outside of French class, ”says Ms. Pharand.
By multiplying the contexts of writing and by providing opportunities for feedback, children can combine the pleasure of writing and doing it so that it is useful in their daily lives. ” It is practice makes perfect. So if we want our students to be good at writing, we have to make them write every day,” says Alexandra Pharand.
In their interview with Bernard Drainville, the French teachers also campaigned for Quebec to reduce the number of school stages from three to two.
“With three steps, you have to produce a report card within two months, even if you don’t know your students yet. Just putting them back in the bath [of learning] after the summer is a long time. They have not yet returned from vacation when they are put in an evaluation situation. The time they are in assessment is wasted time teaching. It’s really bad time management,” the AQPF told the minister.
And to promote French among young people, the solution begins with “major investments in education and culture”, added the Association.
“It all comes down to valuing our language and our culture. If the government took the decision to invest by flooding our schools with books, Quebec literature, by taking our students more often to the theater, to see music and comedy shows, the students would end up taking an interest in it,” said assured Alexandra Pharand.
What do you think of the reform proposed by French teachers to simplify the teaching of agreement of past participles?