#AMA Webinars 

We hosted Ask Me Anything (AMA) webinars throughout the 2021-2022 school year. These sessions were to explore topics that emerged from stage 1 as important to teacher candidates and professors. The structure of an AMA is basically a Q&A with experts in the field where participants can send in questions in advance or have some questions on the spot. We had all our experts (teachers and researchers) prepare brief (2-5 minute) presentations about themselves and their work on the chosen topic to get the ball rolling. Sessions were moderated by one of the project RAs. All sessions were bilingual, although English was the most used language.

We planned 5 AMA sessions, but had to cancel the last one due to dwindling participation near the end of the semester. The topics covered in the AMAs:

We recruited students using posters which were sent through professors and via social media at both institutions. In most cases, we had to pose questions for the teacher candidates who were timid in asking. We had participants from York University (Glendon and Keele).

During the AMAs, there were several technology issues that arose with internet connections, wrong links, and missing passcodes which did impact many participants in accessing the sessions. Our first session had about 15 participants and after that, the sessions dwindled in size. Our French immersion session had zero participants and only our 3 guest speakers. This session had some serious issues with the passcode and entering the Zoom room. We held the discussion despite the lack of attendance asking questions we had generated based on previous sessions and our Year 1 data. In our last session, we had about 6 participants. All sessions were recorded (with consent from participants and speakers) and have been posted online at camerisefsl.ca.  

Feedback from participants

The AMA series was appreciated by attendees for giving them a space to create a wider network of FSL teachers, a place to ask questions, and to receive ideas and resources for their future teaching. Participants remarked that the collaborative element of this space was what they enjoyed the most, particularly the sharing of resources and the collaborative culture created through shared experiences and struggles. AMAs became an open and collaborative space where one respondent said that they felt they “belonged”. 

Another participant added that these sessions filled a gap in their knowledge in particular regarding the colonial ideologies in FSL and Core French. These sessions helped to deepen their knowledge and understanding which the teacher candidate noted were addressed in their program but more so in passing, lacking depth and significance for their teaching practices. 

Having the AMA discussion be bilingual, one participant noted that it did not have any effect on their LP because the session was carried out in English; however, this same participant did express feeling nervous before the bilingual discussion because they did not know what to expect and were nervous about speaking French in front of strangers. One participant remarked that the bilingual discussion was not a huge barrier to their participation and they felt able to contribute, but it did slow down their participation in the conversation slightly (due to processing time, vulnerability). 

One participant mentioned that the AMAs did not have much impact on them as an FSL teacher (identity, IC, PKS, CP), but did help them on the way to addressing these issues in their own practice as an FSL educator and there was helpful practical skill development. More specifically, one participant commented that the AMA session taught them some tips on how to scaffold lesson planning, to get better engagement with students, to meet their students’ needs and better cater to their interests as a way to show that French is a part of their identity as a means to encourage their continued learning of French. 

Teacher candidates also commented on feeling encouraged to continue their own personal lifelong learner and to continuously critically review and refine their teaching practices. 

One area for improvement detailed by participants was for speakers to have information they would like to share/discuss in their back pocket due to lulls in the question-answer format. There needed to be a smoother transition between questions. Indeed, during the sessions participants were often quiet. We were unsure if this was because they felt pressure to speak French, but we highlighted that it was a bilingual discussion for this reason. 

Despite feeling like the AMAs provided a venue to show that FSL teachers are “in the same boat”, one participant left feeling that they were solely responsible for fixing any issues related to this. 

“I’d say it reinforced that many of us are in the same boat when it comes to the challenges we face, but we’re still mostly solo in fixing them”