Training a Trainee


To become a teacher in France you take a rather demanding exam where you are expected to show that you have the academic knowledge to teach (English in my case). You are then appointed to a school for a year where you are entrusted with classes. You have training sessions reglarly and a tutor who helps you learn the job. I have been such a tutor on three occasions before.

Two of the former trainees only attended my lessons for a few weeks. They were in charge of a class or two in a Junior High School and came to our school to see what a High School was like.

Five years ago I had a trainee for a whole year. He was a young man from Ireland and was in France because he had fallen in love with a French girl. He attended some of my lessons and I visited him in his classes too; first to advise him, then when he asked me too. This, however, was plain sailing since he was in his early thirties (which meant no discipline issue) and had taught before, in language schools in Ireland and in the South of France.

He obviously had no problems speaking English and knew how to interact with teenagers. I felt only helpful in that I could explain what teaching English in a French public school involved. His priorities and mine were not necessarily similar but confronting our ways and means was quite stimulating.

This time it is a little different. My trainee is only 25, she has never taught before and, because of budget cuts, her formal training will be quite scarce. For the past two weeks she has sat in my classroom, watching me teach. At the end of each lesson, I try and explain my objectives and what I think went well and not-so-well. So far she has been very pleasant but a little too quiet. I encourage her to ask questions and express her thoughts but she usually says very little.

I am not sure whether it is because she is reserved or because she hasn’t had a chance to start teaching yet – a colleague takes her classes for three weeks while she observes what goes on in my classes and has a few lessons on teaching sklls with our inspectors and some trainers.

It seems quite a responsibility to be a tutor, not to mention that having another grown-up in my class can be a little stressful. I need to find the right tone when I describe what I have done or intend to do (not too preachy or paternalistic), I will probably have to help her come up with solutions when problems arise and above all I will need to provide words of praise and encouragements, not what I am best at.


9 thoughts on “Training a Trainee

  1. Your trainee is very lucky to have you as her tutor!

    not to mention that having another grown-up in my class can be a little stressful.
    I think that if I was in your situation, I would find this aspect to be the most difficult part of all.

    • Thank you Mrs.S.
      I was very apprehensive the night before her first visit and slept quite badly. I now seem to be getting used to it and even sometimes forget that she is in the classroom.

  2. 25 is young. It sounds like she has a bit of a reserved personality, too, which probably makes it hard to read her.

    “provide words of praise and encouragements” – maybe you could think of what you could say? Did you do with the Irish teacher or did he respond more easily or just not need the encouraging words as much?

    Good luck.

    • 25 is young indeed and to think that I was 22 when I started. I sometimes wonder how I survived.
      The Irish teacher had a lot of confidence and he more or less knew how to teach. He just needed to stick a bit more to the “French way”; not something I found absolutely essential. It was also easy to praise him because he had original ideas.
      This young woman hasn’t started teaching per se so I’l have to think about this when I observe her lessons but writing it down is a good suggestion.

  3. Some people need more encouragement than others, and there is a fine line in knowing who does, who doesn’t.

    If she is normally reserved, she probably needs to come out of her “shell” in order to react to the school standards and in order to relate to the students.

    Some trainees learn better by observing, which she is doing. It would bother me, though, if the person didn’t ask many questions. I guess questions validate my own sense of worth as far as teaching and what is being retained.

    It sounds as if things are coming together a bit, especially if you forget she is in the classroom. That sounds reassuring.

  4. 25 is definitely very young! My sister is only a little older than that and teaching university students!

    I wish you the best of luck – I would find it very hard to have someone I was supposed to be training, who was giving me no feedback of Amy sort. Maybe she does need time to feel more confident, before she feels able to do so.

  5. Pingback: Yearly Review: Selected Posts of 2010 | Ilana-Davita

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