Letter to the Editor: Shasta High French Course at Risk


Editor’s note: The following is an email sent to the Shasta High School Board on Feb. 10 by Tami Bennett, Shasta High School French teacher. 

Distinguished Board Members:

I have been the French teacher at Shasta High for 17.5 years. I will be speaking to you (at) the meeting on February 12.  I requested to speak upon learning that Superintendent Cloney decided to not offer French I at Shasta High School next year. Students are currently registering for their 2019/2020 classes so this inability to request a class they want is time critical. I disagree with this cut.

The Agenda topic (re-worded from my original title) is:

  1. 12.3  Instructional Services
    1. The Board, Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services and Superintendent will discuss the direction of the French course offerings (Discussion)

Because of time limits and my nervousness, I would like to summarize some information for you below. Shasta High’s motto is Tradition, Excellence and Vision.

Tradition

  • French classes have been offered at Shasta for well over 60 years .
  • One of Shasta’s most distinguished alumni is film producer Kathleen Kennedy studied French, went on to produce some of her movies in French. She was happy to receive one of Shasta High’s French club t-shirt when she brought her film “The diving bell and the butterfly” to the Cascade Theater, followed by her Q & A session.
  • French 3 was approved for Shasta College’s Dual Enrollment college credits (FREN2) in 2010 at Shasta High School. In 2011 both French 2 (FREN1)and French 3 began receiving college credits. Students in French 2 and 3 classes have been earning 5 units per year college credits for 8 years now, or 2035 college credits for students.

Excellence 

    See Dual Enrollment above.
  • French classes increase diversity by offering students more opportunities to learn about cultures in many other francophone countries around the world including Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Haiti, Tahiti, French Guyana and the fast growing economies in Africa.
  • Shasta’s AP French Language and Culture program has 100% pass rate.

The reason given by Superintendent Cloney is not enough students are in the program.

  • I think class sizes are ideal for language learning, averaging 18-25 per class.
  • Class sizes for FREN1 and FREN2 are limited at Shasta College to 25 students.
  • Recently there are about 100 students registered and starting French classes. The enrollment has declined some to that number from previous years of 110 to 120.
  • Currently there are 93 French I, II, III and AP French students and 3 Teacher’s Aides in French classes.
  • Of those students, nearly half (45) are earning Dual Enrollment credits of 5 units from Shasta College.
  • Fifteen of them are in French 3 earning those units for the second time (FREN1 last year, now FREN2 this year) going to college with 10 fully transferable college units.
  • Foreign Language requirements are completed for most college majors, saving the cost of university textbooks, registration, and a lot of time as college students in the future.

Vision ?

  • Eliminating French I reduces the French instructor position to a part time and temporary job.
  • I have been a full time instructor of French for most of my 17.5 years at Shasta. 

  • The filing cabinets in French class (Room 110) have more exercises, games, worksheets and pedagogy imaginable due to the numerous additions over the years by myself and my many predecessors.
  • French classroom is stocked with textbooks, dictionaries, stories books, verb conjugation books and materials for all levels of learning.
  • Many of the latter were purchased by Shasta College’s Dual Enrollment Program.
  • Shasta College also provides notebooks for all entering French I students which are used that year and the following years of French study.
  • Textbooks for French I and French II are also available for students to use online until 2023, an expense paid by the District already (not reoccurring) Incoming 9th graders and current students at Shasta should be allowed to select French I this week. Eliminating French classes at Shasta High School is not in the students, nor our community’s best interests.

Tamra Bennett
Professeur de Français
Shasta High School
Dual Enrollment Instructor
Shasta College

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Tim says:

    I wish you luck. I still think “kids today” ought to learn Latin – especially those headed into STEM.

  2. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    I took Latin in high school and never used it. Today’s kids need to take Spanish, Asian or Arabic to stay competitive in the Business world. Most other countries start a second language in the second grade, the main choice is English.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Like it or not, English is the international language of business. Multinational companies such as Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, SAP, Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent, and Microsoft in Beijing (to name a few) mandate English as the corporate language. English is also the international language of the airways—one of the reasons that a few of the Chinese students flunk out of the local technical school for airline pilots is that they trip over learning English.

      I wouldn’t want to live anywhere for long without gaining a working grasp of the native language. I took German in high school. It probably came in handy two or three times, but for nothing particularly useful. If I could do it over again, I’d take Spanish. If I were retiring to Costa Rica, my first stop would be Spanish emersion school.

      Joke I encountered today: “I’m fluent in mansplaining, thanks to Brosetta Stone.”

  3. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Bruce, I’m sure you know there are many languages spoken in the Asian countries. I think some of the schools teach Mandarin, not sure about others. I took Latin, and find it very useful it for comprehension of many English and other languages (but not conversation, of course!) I think learning any second language is good for expanding our worldview.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      They have a Mandarin Program at Redding School of the Arts.

      Very McConnell Foundation-ey, I would say (without any snark intended).

  4. Avatar T Bennett says:

    My students have chosen to study French, not Mandarin which has been offered for over 10 years now. The students currently in French classes at Shasta High feel they have no voice in this matter. Our Superintendent will not allow the topic of cancelling French I class to be placed on the School Board Agenda for March 12, 2019. Censorship of students is validating the “no voice” perception. This is what they are feeling while being cheated out of college credits their predecessors earned for 10 years.

  5. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Thank you for sharing this letter Tamra. I believe learning a second language is one of the most important things a a person can do for many reasons. It’s obvious that the French program at Shasta High has been successful for decades and continues to be successful. I don’t think it matters which second language you are learning, but that you have a desire to learn that particular language. And why stop at one language? A cousin of mine was learning her 7th language when I last saw her. I’m glad you took your request public. I hope the school district makes the right decision for students at Shasta High.

    • Avatar T Bennett says:

      Thank you for this comment, High schoolers are required to take 2-3 years of a foreign language to get into college. French has been the choice for many of them, keeping the college goal attractive and attainable.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      Off topic, but learning multiple foreign languages reminds me of an Amos Tvserky story. Here it is, as told by Michael Lewis in “The Undoing Project”

      ***
      Michigan required that all PhD students in psychology pass a proficiency test in two foreign languages. Weirdly, the university didn’t count Hebrew as a foreign language but accepted mathematics. Though entirely self-taught in mathematics, Amos chose math as one of his languages and passed the test. For his second language he picked French. The test was to translate three pages from a book in the language: The student chose the book, and the tester chose the pages to translate. Amos went to the library and dug out a French math textbook with nothing but equations in it. “It might have had the word donc in it,” said Amos’s roommate Mel Guyer. The University of Michigan declared Amos Tversky proficient in French.
      ***

  6. Avatar Candace C says:

    Good luck Tamra, I’m sorry you have to keep facing this proposed cut. I know my son, Sam, benefited greatly from your French classes.