Helene Combe

Through my journey as an English teacher and a language learner

Month: June 2017

I didn’t know that about myself

I used to know who I was: a strong, very direct, natural and straight forward girl. I am also sensitive and all, but my favorite movie is Die Hard. I don’t like love songs, because I’d rather listen to a live CD of British rock band Iron Maiden. You get the picture.

And then, I got an internship in a primary school.

I always pictured myself as a teacher in high school or college. I wanted to specialize in business, since I already hold a bachelor in business and management. But after two weeks in a bilingual primary school, I wasn’t so sure anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I am still interested about ESP (English for Specific Purposes). At some point, I will teach it. But working in a bilingual environment blew my mind, literally.

How is it possible that a child, without even thinking about it, pick so fast? I work with extraordinary gifted children, not only most of them are bilingual but at least 15% is trilingual. Sometimes, they even compare themselves the differences between langages. Working in a primary school is complicated: you play cops most of the time, you must repeat a lot. Also, since it’s not their native language, you must create an interesting and simple course in order to avoid them to sleep. Sometimes, they don’t even care.

I wonder a lot, lately, about bilingualism. A lot of researchers are, of course, saying that the sooner you start, the better it gets. I think that if you don’t actually work with children, you cannot really now. I will probably write about bilingualism later, but it’s kinda logical to wonder about that precise question when you work in a bilingual primary school!

You can learn about yourself while doing your studies and your internships. I sure did when I found out that I was happy surrounded by kids, wondering what kind of courses could catch their attention. I also think that beginning a foreign language really early is a chance that every kid should have all over the country, not only the one whose parents can afford a 500$ monthly fees. I am not going to save the world, obviously, but I would like to share my enthusiasm for the language to kids in order to make them discover it, and maybe, who knows, becoming bilingual?

Why citizenship shouldn’t matter when it’s about foreign language teaching

You may have realized now that I am fighting discrimination, every kind of discrimination, but more especially when it comes to hiring policy.

I recently got interviews here in France, to be an English Teacher, but despite my accent and my name (which sounds vaguely english enough to get the interview in the first place), the fact that I am not native (aka I have a French passport) is blowing my chances, at least on the private sector.

It’s stupid to say that students prefer having natives teachers. My best teacher wasn’t English at all, she was Russian, yet, she hold English degrees (CELTA, DELTA..) and was passionate about her job. She is the reason I applied for CELTA: she told me citizenship shouldn’t matter when it comes to language teaching, only knowledge.

If I follow the logic, I could teach French as a foreign language (but I don’t want to, because I love English way too much) or Italian, because my maiden name is Italian (despite the fact that I could ask for the Italian citizenship, my level isn’t enough to teach anyone: I am actually taking classes in order to increase my speaking abilities!). But I couldn’t teach English.

Citizenships shouldn’t matter when it comes to foreign  languages teaching. Knowledge, skills, degrees, experience should matter. The fact that I went in England in order to become an English teacher should matter, not the fact that I am born 30 km away from Paris. We need good teacher to learn effectively a language, whatever the citizenship.

I can’t hardly picture a student saying to his/her teacher “You are a great teacher, you are really committed, but see, I checked with the administration, and you don’t hold an UK/US/Canada etc… passport, so I don’t want you as my teacher anymore.”

What should matter is the result.

© 2023 Helene Combe

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