Professeurs de Français vs. American Teachers: What’s the Difference?


Sebastian Koppehel from Wikimedia Commons

UP students were excited to meet French students when they arrived on Monday, April 29th, to learn about how school is in America.

Leslie Tello, Journalist

After three exceptional and insightful days, UP had to solemnly bid adieu to the French foreign exchange students on Wednesday, May 1st.

Many teachers used the unique opportunity to learn more about their culture. One teacher engaged a student in a conversation about the differences between American English and British English. Others wanted to “immerse” them in the educational setting, typing French translations under the English instructions on a slide show and encouraging them to actively participate. And yet, some just wanted them to have fun; one introduced them to s’mores, and another showed a french-dubbed version of Black Panther. Most made a point of making them introduce themselves on the first day of class. All of these components left very positive impressions with the students. French student Margot Delacour said they seemed very nice with their students.

When asked how teachers in France were, Delacour said, “strict à mon goût” or “strict to my taste.”

In an article published on The Telegraph‘s website, Peter Gumbel, author of a book called They Shoot Schoolchildren, Don’t They?, expressed his views on the French school system based on his experience and research. He said it is designed to provide an excellent education, but it can yield unintended consequences like anxiety and under-confidence. The students are expected to remain silent and not interact. “It’s an environment where they’re constantly told T’es nul – you’re worthless. And it’s damaging.”

In a post on the Harvard Education Publishing Group website, the author, Colleen Gillard, described her own daughter’s experiences with the French school system. According to Gillard, she was “mortified to tears” on the first day and teachers would interrupt presentations with “unimpressive” or “really?” When she confronted a French teaching friend about it, they said “Americans are too careful” and that the methods were harsh, but effective.

French student Lena Hariel said that the teachers are stricter in France because students lack discipline. She said that it really just depends on the teacher and that the style works better for her. Delacour agreed and said it works really well. Their peer, Enzo Costinha, varied drastically with his views. He said it does not help him learn and compared it to a prison; Costinha also said, “toute ma vie” or “all my life” he or someone he knows has dealt with a mean teacher. Hariel said all her teachers were “gentils” or friendly.

Although some institutions may be tougher than others, it may simply come down to personal preferences and national customs.