The Structural Flaw in QHHS French


Picture by Ola Elmahdi

By Melissa Canales and Ola Elmahdi

French has long been regarded as the “language of love,” so one would expect students to flock to several teachers and classrooms to learn the language. However, this is not the case at Quartz Hill High School, where Madame Andrews-Dent teaches every available level of French: French 1, 2, and 3 Honors, in addition to IB French. In the French 1 classes, the honors class sits at the right side of the classroom, while the regular class sits at the left. The IB class had an insufficient number of students to be taught alone, so it shares the classroom with the French 3 students. This mixed arrangement provides an unusual learning environment for the students in these classes, and it is disadvantageous to honors students.

Madame Andrews-Dent expressed the presumption that students with the will to learn would succeed in any environment and does not believe that the mixed class arrangements affect their performance. Madame also explained that she organizes few interactive assignments because she believes that the students who care little about their success in the class would only use the allotted time to converse with their friends and cause chaos in the classroom. She feels that this would be the case even if honors classes and regular classes were separated.

While some students may not choose to spend their time wisely, this should not limit the honors students’ opportunities to engage in French conversation. Note-taking and the memorization of vocabulary are crucial when learning a language, but the effort spent on these activities is futile when students do not have the chance to apply these terms and grammar rules in real-life conversations. If honors classes were separate from regular classes, there would likely be significantly fewer students who are constantly off-task. There is never a guarantee that all the students will remain on task. However, the number of unfocused students will become a minority in the classroom. The minority’s grades would suffer, but the majority of the students would be able to apply what they have learned and practice their French pronunciation.

The mixed classes also cause the honor’s students to work at a slow pace. Nathaniel Atallah, a freshman in French 1 Honors, has opined that “segregating the classes could allow honors kids to learn at a faster pace, or learn more about a topic at once [e.g. learn past, present, and future conjugation over the span of 2-3 weeks, not 3-4 months].” With an entire language to learn and a limited amount of time to study, it is no surprise some students are anxious to progress through lessons more quickly. Getting held up by a concept for too long could mean that not all the necessary material is covered throughout the school year.

On the other hand, sophomore Nasim Tavakoli, a French 2 Honors student, found no discomfort in the arrangements of the classes. She stated, “It is not inconvenient because the only difference between honors and regular is how many questions are on our tests. She teaches IB when we are busy.” Though extended periods of time go between each lesson, students claim that they are able to learn effectively, as they are given dedicated time to study and memorize their set of vocabulary words. In fact, the interviewed students stated that they would not mind switching to smaller classes of just their level, but are satisfied with the current arrangement of the classes nonetheless.

With the requirement of at least two years of foreign language to graduate, many students stray away from the more popular choice of Spanish and choose to begin studying French. The language is one of the most commonly used worldwide, and as such, can be a useful skill in the future for many students. However, with the peculiar class arrangements, learning French effectively and efficiently has become a more strenuous task. Students have limited opportunities to work on their French in real-world conversations and group assignments, but are given an abundant amount of time to study their newly-learned words. The current situation may need to change sometime in the future. Until then, any dedicated student will need to learn on their own, and those who need a more specialized classroom environment need to adapt to their disadvantageous learning circumstances.