Failing the French Test

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



6 thoughts on “Failing the French Test”

  1. Sabrina Janczak

    Very interesting article indeed. I can tell you from experience that politics also play a big part in the hiring/firing process. I am a native speaker of French so I do not think I am struggling with the language. However, I was let go from the first high school I taught in after enrollment numbers in French drastically dropped. Since I was the last hired and the other two French teachers were tenured I was naturally the one who had to go. It didn’t matter that the other French teachers’ language skills were lacking ( I am the first one to testify their grammar skills were very good, and they could recite their conjugations in their sleep). However, it became clear to me they refused to speak French back to me (World Language department that was!), so I reverted back to English after a while. Should I add I was the only French teacher doing TPRS along with the department chair and one Spanish Teacher. There was a war within the department between grammar based teachers ( the great majority ) and CI teachers (the three of us) . The department chair was trying to turn the department around by hiring CI teachers like me. Little could he do to save my job or turn the sail in the CI wind direction . Although I was by far the most fluent speaker but least experienced teacher, his hands were tied and I had to go.

  2. Yes, interesting article. Did anyone read the comments? Some were quite pointed.

    Here are a couple of the issues I see in World Language teaching specifically (and all teaching to a degree):

    1. Unions exist to protect teachers, not benefit students (contrary to much of their publicity). Most of the time protecting teachers is good for students as well, but not always – as seen in Sabrina’s instance. As a profession we need to work on identifying and protecting good teachers, not just the ones with seniority.

    2. How do we find, hire and keep the good teachers? Several things need to be done, among them better training, better screening and better compensation. My students express their surprise that I am a teacher when they know I could be doing any number of other things that would bring in more money. I get to remind them that money isn’t everything – but not everyone who is potentially a good teacher can afford to become a teacher. Whenever there is a shortage in an area, schools hire the people they can. What if Carnegie Mellon had received applications only from people whose languages skills were “inadequate”? Would they have cancelled all those sections of language and told the students to go elsewhere, or would they have hired the “best of the worst”? That is what many public schools have done in the past. Then the teacher gets a permanent contract and seniority; later a better teacher comes, but the inadequate teacher is protected. Then the politicians propose cutting teacher pay while raising their own because teaching is a “calling” and offering better compensation might bring people to the profession who aren’t “committed” to teaching. So the qualified teachers who simply can’t afford to be a teacher go elsewhere, and “those who can’t, teach” and perpetuate a stereotype.

    3. Not everyone who has “content competence” is a good teacher. Knowing something and teaching it are two very different things. As an example: a great many adults in the US have “content competence” in driving. We send students to driving schools, however, because not very many drivers can teach someone else how to drive. Simply going out and hiring a native speaker isn’t going to guarantee that students will learn. So, do you hire the person with teaching skills or the person with “content competence”?

    Sorry am I that I have no answers about how to correct this. I just go into the classroom and try to be the best teacher I can.

    1. I am a 100% in support of unions for teachers and for workers in general.
      Strong unions allow teachers to be bolder and stand up to all the madness that is coming down in K-12 education. The narrow minded corporate agenda that is shaping American education can only by confronted by progressive educators like ourselves who are willing to organize to protect our interests. I am around so many educators who are so afraid and intimidated and see no reason to confront the powers that be in order to promote something more beneficial for students.

      1. David –

        Dr. Krashen touched on this last Thursday. He said that Gates controls Duncan controls Obama and that current actions of the corporate interests, which are behind the IB school I mentioned in the last blog post (so that they can have the people needed to run their Machine, and which is behind the charter school movement also, etc.), represent what is essentially a move away from our democratic ideals so that, one day, the poor will not have a chance at an education (and will then have to serve the needs of the Machine in order to survive).

        That, according to Krashen, is the conscious desire of the monied and, as you well know – I am preaching to the choir, of course – is the goal of the union busting, so that the rich can inherit the earth. I don’t think it is conscious darkness, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful.

        Look especially in that post – Representing the Method to Others – at what John Piazza said. It’s the cov ers the aspect of the increased use of technology on this point. That is why both unions and comprehensible input become important weapons in our defense.

        In terms of technology, we are being told in much stronger terms than ever, stronger than even the book companies told us, what to do and how to do it. We need to keep and restore our humanity. Another reason for this blog to be private!

        I don’t like to get political, and I never have on this blog space, but I make an exception to my reserve here, just to say that I want to think in terms of continuing the great course of Jeffersonian ideals as they continue to play out in our great experiment of a nation.

        All we can do is stick to our guns and keep involving and motivating the disenfranchised, esp. your kids – those ultra poor – so that they move as far up into higher education as possible. Keep the faith, brother. Both of us have come this far in a our patriotism.

        Tomorrow morning, we’ll get up and go to work again, and there will be a reason for it and that reason will be, in some way that we cannot know right now, connected to the Divine and to the Supreme Kindness that protects children who are poor and those who are hurting, about 90% of them at least, de nos jours.

  3. Thank you for your insight Robert. Dead on as far as I can see.

    I am still reeling from this portion of the article:

    Granted, one would presumably prefer to get right to issues of theory and research with them; such issues are so much more interesting than the banalities of whether someone can or cannot speak a foreign language

    REALLY? Unbelievable!

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

Research Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

We Have the Research

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben