After much debate heading into the school year the change in the French program at local schools is well under way.
“There was a community consultation held in February of 2010. This was structured as a “World Café” where participants had the opportunity to express their views in writing, through conversations at tables and to the whole group (and there were numerous written submissions following the meeting). The theme of the evening was based on a question about how we could increase the number of students graduating from a high quality French program in Golden. This question arose out of concerns about attrition in the Immersion program and concerns about the sustainability of the current program structure, considering the consistent declining enrolment pattern in Golden,” said Superintendent of schools School District 6 Paul Carriere.
Carriere went on to explain many people in the community stated clearly that they felt an independent review of French programming should be undertaken.
“The Board of Education engaged a consulting group to carefully study the situation, consult with stakeholder groups, and make recommendations. The Board, in voting to implement the recommendations that came out of the report, was clear that it was committed to providing both a strong English language program and a strong French language program in the Golden zone, and that the recommendations were the best way forward. The recommendations are about Immersion and Core French, i.e. they are integrated, and designed to be implemented for the benefit of all students in Golden, not specifically for the benefit of one group of students or the other,” he said.
As for why the decision was made to implement this type of program for the area Carriere explained how the new program was implemented.
“Specifically, the District has hired a French Language Specialist Teacher, Krista Fouillard, to help us to implement key recommendations in the report around improving the outcomes in Core French, as well as putting parents in a good position following the primary program to choose between Immersion or Core French (commencing in 2015-16 at the Grade 4 level). The basic design is about providing regular exposure to the language from Kindergarten through Grade 7, developing a positive orientation to the language, and focusing on conversational skills.
“This is done in a team-teaching context, where the specialist and the classroom teacher work together with the students during specific time slots during the week, developing capacity and creating the potential for various language activities, games and songs to be learned and repeated by the classroom teacher when the specialist is not present. When the current Kindergarten students enter Secondary School at Grade 8, they will have had much more exposure to the language than we have been able to provide in the past. In time, this should develop a whole different picture at the Secondary level in terms of reaching higher level outcomes with students,” Carriere said.
As for Fouillard she has been working hard with the students since the start of the new school year.
“I teach it with the teacher in the class whereas before individual teachers taught it regardless of their French Language background. This helps the teachers to learn more French and use it with their students throughout the week.”
One of the interesting parts of the program is that it brings Fouillard into the classrooms in different schools.
“I am very busy but don’t see this as a challenge. The positives definitely outweigh the challenges. The students are definitely positive and enthusiastic about the program and I see them using it in the hallways interacting with FI students and the staff,” Fouillard said.
Carriere praised the accomplishments of the program saying, “It is a difficult model to schedule, but things are falling into place nicely. Really it has been a remarkable example of creativity and responding in a positive way to the challenge of encouraging more success in French.” He went on to say, “Although it is a big job, there are some good benefits to having a strong teacher like Krista being the key player in the program. She is in contact two times per week with every non-Immersion elementary student in Golden. Because she knows all of them, knows how they are progressing, and knows all of the staff who work with the students each day, she is in a great position to sequence the program, and to make necessary adjustments along the way, with a view to ever-increasing proficiency in the language.”
Since this is the first year for the new program, Fouillard is bringing a positive energy into the classroom.
“All students are taught similar content adjusting for their age. The focus is on oral French and fun (I use a lot of music and actions), to give the students an opportunity to have a conversation in this language with a native speaker. Raise the level of French for all students. Have students have positive outlook on learning another language.”
When asked what message Carriere felt it was important for the public to know he said, “If you are a parent of a child in elementary school you may have noticed by now the positive impact the program is having on your child. You may have heard them singing songs, playing a game, or demonstrating a knowledge of words or phrases in the language. This is exactly what we are trying to accomplish, so we hope you will continue to support the French language learning of your child.”
As for Fouillard, she is enjoying working at the schools this year. “Absolutely, but also with the teachers. I enjoy every aspect of this job. I am also learning with them,” she said.