Friday, June 6, 2008

Dreaded CM2 Exam

Next week I'm giving my CM2s (fifth graders) their final English exam to place them in sixième next year. Actually, I think they take another placement exam when they start sixième, so this basically says.... nothing. Well, I guess it evaluates how well I taught them/how well they learned/general status of English education in the elementary schools.

The tests are standardized by the education department of the région, and I was so ecstatically happy when last week out of nowhere we were sent a totally new exam! Not the one that's been on the website all year! I've known all year long that there was no way I would be able to cover all of the stuff they were supposed to lean, so since March I've been making sure we cover all the stuff that would be on the exam... And then they changed the exam, and I had to scramble this week to cover things we haven't covered (like prepositions). I'm very concerned about how they are going to do on the exam. One of my teachers was very nice and told me that the results aren't going to reflect on me, but that region-wide people are going to have trouble with the different exam and that is what the results will show. I know that other English teachers are upset about this, but I just feel like yet again the fact that I'm a lousy teacher has been brought front and center.

No, I don't mean lousy teacher. I honestly think I did the best that I could in the given circumstances. I have no teaching experience or training and yet I was thrown into a situation where I had no resources and had to come up with an entire year's English curriculum and lesson plans on my own. It took a long time to get used to. Since mid-January I've hit one groove where teaching got easier, and even since March it was like a whole system of progressions and how to teach one thing or another magically appeared in my brain. That's one of the reasons I want to come back next year; to proove that I can do a better job. I also think that the French English program is a load of baloney and ridiculously ambitious. My kids take forever to learn anything and they remember very little of anything they did the year before. Everything has to be reviewed again and again every year to develop a real base of knowledge, and there's no room for that in the curriculum as it stands, which is about shoving new stuff at them contantly. I don't know who they think actually learns that quickly. Robot children maybe?

On the other hand, since March one of my CM2 classes has been really exciting and gratifying to be part of. This is at Nice Director School. We learned the conjugation of be and have, along with clothing, personal characteristics, adjectives, etc, and the kids are so excited to be able to make real sentences in English! Instead of using formulaic phrases like "where do you live/I live in," they get to say real things that mean something and can be produced spontaneously. Even the kids who struggle in English get excited about this. It was so cool on the bus going to Boulogne sur Mer when my kids all of a sudden started making up sentences in English for fun! I was so proud of them. It's really enjoyable to see them being so creative and smart. And the memory of that is something that I can take with me no matter what happens with renewal or the test results. I know that they can use English.


Anonymous said...

None of my schools ever even mentioned to me this exam about CM2, but they did make me fill out little evaluation forms to send to their prospective colleges. Basically the exam means nothing because of the one they take in college which places them into the smart class or the slow class (or so I'm told by a college assistant). Sounds like you're doing a good job by the way!

I don't understand why they don't standarised the English program across France and actually have a set curriculum with set texts and so on? Having teachers will all the same resources would surely make things a lot better.. I couldn't believe it when I found out that all the things for English had to be purchased or made by the teachers. Do they get reimbursed for spending that or what? Sorry, it's a bit off track..

Andromeda said...

Ditto Le Tigre, I have heard of no such exam, so don't stress about it!! And I got those forms on a particularly bad day, so they all failed in my book, , except the ones that are nice and actually try.

I feel like real teachers get reimbursed, or are given a stipend every year to buy stuff, but it's not very much. Not enough for what we need. So you are doing great without anything and I hope you get to stay too next year it's supposedly 10000 times easier the second time!

Au Soleil Levant said...

Thanks for the encouragement ladies!

LT - a bunch of other instits were complaining about the fact that the kids get tested again when they get to college, as if the profs didn't trust them to do a good job teaching English!

The deal with the book buying is that each teacher is given a stipend every year to buy books for their class with, but it's small, so teachers usually end up buying stuff for English out of their own pockets because the stipend is used up on math books, etc. And the teachers like having the "liberty" to be able to buy whatever books they want to use in their courses. But I agree with you, it is yet another reminder that France doesn't actually care about the English education the students get.

Interesting article in the New York Times today about the importance of learning English in Korea:

Anonymous said...

Like to me, the fact that the coursebooks aren't standarised across the country means the whole system is just totally hypocritical. It's meant to be the same education for every single person in France but what a lie that is!

Like in Australia for exmaple, it varies from state to state but within a state there are certain prescribed texts..the teachers can choose certain things from the list however but they can't just choose whatever random thing they want. And they sure as heck aren't paying for them.

At one of my schools the teachers had to bring their own paper to school and they didn't supply any for me. So as an assistant I was expected to not only bring my own paper, but print out stuff at home with a printer I had to buy, along with buying textbooks and songbooks and being told I had to make all these creative little things to use as props in class. They seem to be under the illusion that we're made of was easier for me because I didn't have to pay rent but for other assistants there really isn't the option to do all that shit. I resent the fact that we're just expected to have a printer and materials. When I was having problems with my schools the person who co-ordinates the assistants here asked them if they had any materials I could use and they got all huffy and said the last teacher brought her own and it wasn't necessary, of course the last teacher was an actual teacher!

Sorry for hte long rant!