Patricia Killian: Being a French Teacher in Gainesville, Florida
e-Toile : Ms. Patricia Killian, you are a French teacher at Eastside High School in Gainesville . So you’re on the ground, in touch with the realities of learning a foreign language, French in this case at a high school in Florida.
What can you tell us about this vocation, the pleasure but also the obstacles you face?
Patricia Killian: I have been teaching French for over thirty years, and I love my job.
It is very rewarding to help students become proficient in a foreign language, and for me it is especially gratifying to teach a language and culture that have been my passion ever since I was a young girl.
I believe that teachers now have a wealth of materials at their disposal, and I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to use current videos, songs, news reports, and podcasts with my students. When I began my career, we had text books, a blackboard, audio tapes, and a few movies.
Now that we have so many resources available, I am able to choose materials according to my interests and those of my students. On the other hand, the availability of so many documents can sometimes be overwhelming.
Most of my students begin their study of French in the eighth on ninth grade, and it can be difficult to work with those who have never been exposed to another language.
Also, I find that there is a great deal of competition among the different languages offered in a school.
Many parents feel that since we live in Florida, their children should learn Spanish. Recently, there has also been a push for Chinese.
I recently read an editorial in the newspaper which stated that the only reason students learn French is because there are so many French teachers who need to keep their jobs. It is truly disheartening when one feels that his contributions to the teaching profession are not valued.
e-Toile : You have been working as a Teacher for many years, how would you rate the evolution of the teaching of French in your school and, more generally, in Florida?
As I stated earlier, the teaching of French in my school and in the state of Florida has drastically changed due to the variety of materials now at our disposal.
Our teaching methods have also changed, and now we use a communicative approach and authentic documents.
There is a greater emphasis on speaking and writing in natural situations instead of dialog memorization or translation.
The collaboration I have experienced over the years with other French teachers in Florida has been extremely beneficial, and I feel that my instruction has improved because of these relationships. I think my students are more prepared to travel to and live in French-speaking countries than in the past.
e-Toile : You are a member of the Association of French Teachers in Florida , A.A.T.F. Is an important relay for your action?
Yes, the AATF is very important and has helped me to grow as a teacher.
I have attended many workshops presented by AATF members that have inspired me. After attending the presentations of my colleagues, I feel rejuvenated and can’t wait to try the new ideas in my classroom.
Recently, the AATF has also organized an immersion weekend for teachers only, and this event allows us to collaborate and to feel a sense of camaraderie.
e-Toile : The Congress of the French Culture will be held in Florida for the 60th time in Orlando from17 to 19 March. How do you evaluate this event, synonymous with influence of France and French in the education system in Florida?
The Congress of French Culture is a very important event for my students. It allows them to perfect their skills in certain domains and gives them the opportunity to work with French students from different schools and areas of Florida. I teach in an International Baccalaureate program, and my students thrive on competition. They love attending Congrès. Such an event motivates them to do their best work and to continue their study of French.
The fact that the Congrès is based on a different theme every year also helps them to learn about a specific aspect of French or Francophone culture.
To know more about the "Congres de la culture française en Floride":