Cycle of substitutes ends for French students

After enduring two months of various substitutes, French classes have a new teacher who’s here to stay.


Faith Fuller

Sophomore Mariana Forero works on a vocabulary assignment in French I. All French classes have gone without a permanent instructor for most of the school year.

Faith Fuller, Staff Writer

A few days into the school year, French students walked into the classroom expecting a normal day. The same colorful grammar posters hung on the walls, the same wooden desks filled the room in neat rows, but something critical was different – an unfamiliar substitute stood in the place of French teacher Rajini Christadoss, and after several days of absence, it became clear she would not return.

“Mrs. Christadoss, our French teacher, was here for about two days, and then she left,” French III student Sarah Arnold said.

As Christadoss was the only French teacher at school, her disappearance left all French students without a permanent instructor for the first two months of school. This unexpected departure launched students into a whirlwind of substitutes and busywork as they adjusted to a greatly altered classroom environment.

With no teacher and no knowledge of when this situation would change, the students faced an unknown future for half a semester.

“The hardest part is the uncertainty. After our teacher left, we were very unsure about what was going to happen,” French I student Mariana Forero said.

Christadoss left due to her father’s health and moved to California, where he lives.

“Her dad got very ill, so she went to go take care of him,” Arnold said.

 Over the next few months, the French students endured several substitutes who didn’t speak French. This made it difficult to learn new material and work on a consistent unit.

“Our subs tried to talk to the French teacher at Tomball High School and figure out lesson plans, but because our French class is so behind, they basically gave us busywork,” Arnold said.

The French students found ways to succeed despite the inconvenience of being teacher-less. French III and French IV, for instance, are combined into one class period with a total of eight students. The small class size has been an advantage, bringing the students together as they’ve become more proactive in their learning.

After our teacher left, we were very unsure about what was going to happen.”

— Mariana Forero

“We all know each other really well. It’s a very comfortable environment,” Arnold said. “None of us are worried about making mistakes because we all help each other learn.”

After the initial struggles students dealt with in the wake of Christadoss’s departure, things improved when administration hired Lisa Diamont as a long-term substitute for the class, becoming the first with knowledge of French.

“She was amazing. We learned so much with her, and she always kept us on our toes,” Arnold said. “She put up Halloween decorations and named them in French, and we had to guess what they were. She would ask, ‘How do you say skeleton in French?’ and we had to figure it out.”

Diamont departed on Friday, Oct. 11 after getting a job offer in the oil and gas business, but she left the students with some resources to improve their French in her absence.

“She tried to make lesson plans for three weeks for the new sub. She also gave us some really good French apps, so after she left we still had resources to use,” Arnold said.

Next up in the line of substitutes was Jackie Drummer. From the view of French students, Drummer used more unconventional methods to make sure students were still learning, although she wasn’t completely fluent.

“She told us that she studied French but it had been a while, so as she taught us she was also refreshing her memory,” Forero said. “As far as lessons, she showed us different French videos, but we didn’t focus on a specific unit.”

Then, according to students, a rainbow appeared at the end of the storm – or, more accurately, a teacher appeared at the end of a line of subsitutes. Madame Ullmer arrived on Monday, Oct. 28 and put the French students back on track, reviewing what they’d learned and picking up with a new unit.

“Madame Ullmer is incredible,” French I student Izzabel Colwell said. “She’s very thorough in her teaching, and she’s reinforcing what we learned with the substitutes. The fact that she speaks multiple languages [English, French and German] is also very cool.”

Now that they have a permanent teacher, French students will begin shifting to normal working conditions. The cycle of substitutes provided a different, often difficult, environment to learn in, but by banding together within their classes, French students managed to make it through an unexpected situation with new bonds and knowledge of French.

“Things were very unorganized, and it’s been hard to learn,” Arnold said. “But it’s also been cool because our French class is a tight-knit community, and we’ve been helping each other study. We’re all working together.”