by Ricardo A '13

Six Years of the French Language

Imagine walking into a classroom full of faces that you have seen for nearly six consecutive school years. This is a scenario Mr. Rajiv Mahajan, the current French teacher at BSGE, has dealt with before. As the French teacher, educates some BSGE students on the French language and culture, which he has been doing in BSGE since 2006. Currently, he teaches classes in the 7th, 9th, 11th and 12th grade. He has a different view of students than that of other teachers in BSGE who may see students for only two or three years. He is tasked with teaching the students for all the years that they are in BSGE, preparing them to receive the IB diploma. This may amount to six years in the end, so he sees students mature in BSGE. Considering this, I asked him if working with students for such a long time proves to be a ‘double-edged sword,’ or rather, what advantages and disadvantages generally arise.
One advantage is that by continually teaching the same students, Mr. Rajiv learns what their habits are. He understands what they do well, who they work well with, and if they study well. By assessing that, he can determine what it is that some students need help in, and over the next few years, can help improve what needs to be improved. While Mr. Rajiv learns about his students, students also get a great understanding of who Mr.Rajiv is, such as what may annoy him, and therefore learn to not do any of those things. Another advantage is that he also finds that students in French class act different than when they are in another class. Having spoken with other teachers in different classes, he finds that some problems present in one class disappear in French class, it changes the behavior of the students. A possible reason could be that the students are too wary about talking in English to even disrupt, since they are in French class. Since they may have trouble speaking in French, it may make them quieter, and less disruptive. Another advantage is being able to improve on his curriculum. Since he has new students almost every year, he can Mr. Rajiv he has the opportunity to change his curriculum whatever for needs to be changed or added. He enjoys this continuity of learning a language at BSGE for so many years because of the ability to truly study the language and culture in depth. He can build up his students’ understandings from the very beginning and is able to narrow down in multiple fields, so he can concentrate on very specific topics throughout the year.
Mr. Rajiv also says that he can build students up by teaching them through immersion as often as he can. This idea of immersion is the complete mixing of the French culture and language into his class. By using immersion, he improves the students’ learning of the language at a quicker and successful rate. He believes that this idea is the most logical way to teach students, since they will be hearing the French language for 70 minutes. By hearing the French language, they continually learn the way the new vocabulary is used, as well as improve their accent. When asked about Mr. Rajiv’s methods of teaching by means of immersion, Andrea Joseph ’13 said “I love that Monsieur Rajiv speaks to us only in French [since day one]. It’s become so normal that we speak it all the time! At home, at school, on vacation, anywhere!”
However, Mr. Rajiv does not find continuity to always be positive. Since he is working with students for years, they must find an agreement on how to work with each other, no matter how difficult it may be to do so. He also sees how students get very tired of seeing him for so long. Since the students must see him for such a long time, he believes that students just get tired of seeing him year after year. He also finds it difficult at times to‘re-wire’ students in the way that they will learn, since he has a different approach.
When asked about other schools, Mr. Rajiv finds that they are not as firm on the use of immersion as he is at BSGE. He finds that some teachers barely speak French in classes. To him, he does not understand how it can be that a language teacher is teaching students about another language through English. It, quite simply, does not make any sense to him. English in a language course should be used to the bare minimum, only to be used when there are no other options but to speak it so as to explain something in French.
You may find yourself thinking that to Rajiv, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages of teaching a class for such a long time. This is true; he finds that it is a fantastic way to teach students, for they gain such a clear understanding of the language and culture that, by the end of the course, he learns to never underestimate students because they understand more that he believes.

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