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.