What? A language assistant is allocated for one language only but the language assistant should be made welcome by all of the MFL department.
When? Generally the language assistant arrives around the 1st of October and stays until the end of May. Please note for German, they can choose to stay for six months only.
How? Applications are available from the Department of Education and Skills from the beginning of January. The deadline for applications is usually the beginning of February and are allocated by Easter. The application form is referenced as FLA01.
Cooperating teacher: A language teacher specialising in the target language of the assistant should be designated as their main contact. That teacher should contact the language assistant before their arrival in Ireland, providing them with information about the school and local context.
Responsibilities of the MFL department:
The members of the MFL department should take responsibility for the language assistant. This includes explaining the role and work of the department, the roles and responsibilities of each member and sharing key documents with the assistant. This might include your assessment calendar, your units of learning, your departmental policies and your development goals. It is important to guide the language assistant on how they can best assist you in the classroom and contribute to your goals as a department but also to reinforce their role in promoting their language, culture and country. Make the language assistant aware of the school code of conduct. To this purpose, we have devised documents
to help you with planning.
It is also very important to inform the language assistant of SEN students they will work with and offer support in this area. The language assistant is an asset to your classes but must not replace you as a teacher and /or plan lessons or correct your work or exam scripts. They cannot be used as dictionaries and should not be asked to write sample essays, oral paragraphs or role plays. Please also bear in mind they might require help with IT.
- Advise the language assistant where to find accommodation. Some staff members might have a room to let.
- Advise them about public transport.
- Plan as a department how things are going to work (what year groups the assistant will teach, what tasks they will do, etc.) This will allow the assistant to plan and bring resources.
Once they have arrived
The assistant might need help buying a mobile phone or SIM card, registering with the GP, applying for a medical card or opening a bank account. Remember that these simple tasks are often bureaucratic and differ from the systems that they are used to in their own countries.
During the academic year
Remember to regularly check in with them to see all is going well with accommodation, workload, etc.
You may want to make sure you cover the following areas with the assistant:
- Planning documents such as year plans
- Department handbook
- School calendar with keys dates and special language days
- Events the language assistant could attend or help with such as European day of languages, open days and language clubs .
- Code of behaviour expected in class (reward and sanctions)
- A timetable of 12 hours (one day free preferably Friday or Monday)
*Please note: Timetable must include working with junior and senior classes, not just exam classes
- Explain to students and parents how the assistant will be an asset to the learning process.
You may want to make sure that you do the following:
- Welcome and introduce the assistant to the whole staff.
- Arrange for language assistant to observe classes
- If there is a need for an extra room, help the assistant book a room.
- Have details of where resources are available in the school (paper, access to computers, books, ebooks etc.).
- Make time to meet regularly for feedback and suggestions.
- Leave enough time for preparation if you ask the language assistant to prepare something.
- Make a list of students and go through it with the language assistant, especially in the case of students with extra needs.
- Explain the assessment methods.
- Explain the lesson to the assistant in advance of classes .
- Explain the goals of the lesson: 1. what do you want students to achieve? 2. Specific details, such as: topic, language structures, vocabulary and opportunities for intercultural development 3. Suggestions for assistant-led activities 4. Progression of the lesson 5. Resources to be used.
- Review how activities went.
- Reflect on what went well with the assistant and could be replicated with a future one.
- The assistant might be able to help with contact with schools in the TL country for exchange, penpals, school trips, etc.
- Help run a language club.
- Drawing from the assistant’s own interests and those of the students, they can use their talents and passions to help someone build skills in the target language while having fun doing it. Examples include: starting a debate, playing a trivia game, putting on a play, and teaching a dance or a new sport.
- Prepare tasks/projects/resources on the target language country or its traditions.
- Play target language games.
- Start spoken interaction with students.
- Help in the class by assisting students with doing tasks.
Check out this video (also given below) about a school who hosted an assistant for more ideas
Watch this video outlining reasons for hosting a language assistant. Thanks to the German department in Newpark Comprehensive School for facilitating this.