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Rachel Middleton on teaching modern foreign languages

Rachel Middleton on teaching modern foreign languages

Rachel teaches modern foreign languages at West Somerset College. Now in her second year, she’s had a role in turning the department around with the support of her department head. Her passion and enthusiasm for languages inspires her pupils every day, raising the profile of the subject and exposing them to opportunities they might not have had. Recruiting? Find a Rachel for your school.

It was the year Rachel spent teaching English in France that consolidated her love for the classroom. It convinced her to take the plunge and teach modern foreign languages (MFL) full-time.  

“I was studying languages and knew I wanted to continue sharing my passion for the subject. Lots of friends from my course are now doing things where they rarely use what I think is their greatest skill -  the ability to speak another language. I wanted a career where I could speak French every day”.  

Lots of friends from my course are now doing things where they rarely use what I think is their greatest skill -  the ability to speak another language. I wanted a career where I could speak French every day. 

That’s where Teach First came in. “It was on my radar because I had some teaching experience. I was talking to young people and those conversations made me think ‘yeah, this is what I want to do'. I want to pursue this.’” 

“I just love being able to communicate in other languages. It’s really cool if you can then pass that onto young people. It’s nice to be able to kind of foster that curiosity. It can give them an extra interest that’s not necessarily something that’s sparked at home but actually that school can give you.” 

It’s really nice to be able to kind of foster that curiosity. It can give them an extra interest that’s not necessarily something that’s sparked at home.

Rachel also believes in the power of MFL to help young people become more culturally aware. “I think being able to look beyond your own culture and appreciate other cultures is so important. Not necessarily in terms of future employment or even being able to travel but just that kind of understanding of small differences. I think learning a language helps with that.” 

Being able to look beyond your own kind of culture and appreciate other cultures is so important... I think learning a language helps with that.

Rachel’s already helped take MFL beyond the classroom. “Recently my Head of Department and I ran a trip to Paris in October. It was amazing. Whenever there’s a French film showing in the local town we go to that. Things like speaking to them in French around school has been quite motivating and inspiring. They quite like that their friends don’t understand the words they’re saying.” 

West Somerset College teaches year nine through to year thirteen. Having students around who’ve chosen to study MFL to an advanced level is useful for younger children. “They’ve got some great role models in year eleven who are thinking about going on to study languages at A-level. If someone really loves their subject, it’s great to be able to push them on.” 

As well as working with her Head of Department to switch things up internally, Rachel is committed to overturning the stereotypes around languages in schools.  

“I think there’s a bit of a perception that it’s just if you’re a high-flyer then you should consider a language. I think everybody should be given that opportunity. I would love languages to be compulsory because it’s an important skill that everyone should be able to do. If you’re able to learn one language then maybe it would be easier to learn another language in the future.” 

And what makes teaching such a unique career? In Rachel’s eyes it’s that “you’re surrounded by so many people that offer such valuable support. I also think there is so much to be learnt from working in an environment like a school I’ve learnt so much about how to deal with situations on a day-to-day basis and making decisions really quickly, without necessarily having all the information.” 

Find out more about our fully-salaried route into teaching.

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