I was given an assignment for teaching and learning class the other day and I was told to read the Sunshine State Standards for my subject area and write a response to what I see. The Sunshine State Standards, in a nutshell, are just the hopes and dreams the state sets up for all teachers to follow as they form their curriculum. It's a long list of what a student should learn in a particular content area, in a few school years. The standards are broken down into Pre-K to 2nd grade; 3rd to 5th grade; 6th to 8th grade; 9th through 12th grade. And since Florida, the wonderfully education-driven state it is, decided to re-write the standards over a ten year period, has not yet re-written them for foreign language, I had the opportunity to read the older standards for my subject.
What I find interesting is just how much a student learning a foreign language is expected to know before entering 6th grade. There are things that I didn't learn until I myself traveled to Paris to study for four weeks! Some of the cultural integration and comparative knowledge about grammar and syntax styles just amazes me. I didn't even know schools offered foreign language before middle school, so it was only to my surprise to see what was crammed into six years of school for me.
The reason we were given this assignment was not just to read about the secondary schooling standards. It was to see what students were expected to know by the time they were handed over to us. We are to see what we're up against, and what we'd have to play catch up for. The purpose of this assignment was to see just how disparate some of our students will be upon entering our classroom simply because of a very not-simple issue; literacy. It's just now hitting me why it seemed so many of my peers struggled in French class in 6th and 7th grade. They weren't reading at a level that allowed them to be successful in English class, let alone any other content-area. The structures, grammatical comparisons, and overall use of mature vocabulary didn't make sense to them.
So now I'm left wondering, do I step into a classroom full of struggling students, knowing that the State will be on my back making sure I cover a certain number of standards, all the while my students struggle to read the instructions in English? Or do I step back and consider teaching Elementary level French, and have more time to help my students master the English language while learning a new one simultaneously? I hadn't considered teaching Elementary school since I gave up the notion that I could be as great of a kindergarten teacher as Mrs. Prewitt, but maybe literacy is where I could find my calling. Maybe I could make the difference I've wanted to make in a younger classroom, improving the literate abilities of a very impressionable group of kids.