Mathias Maurer took part in the ‘Welsh in a Year’ sabbatical scheme at Cardiff University from September 2018 to July 2019. After various previous attempts at learning Welsh, this was the scheme that finally allowed him to turn into a confident Welsh speaker and teacher.
Part of my role as primary teacher in the English medium sector is to teach Welsh as a second language. Before becoming a teacher, I had acquired basic Welsh skills through the Mynediad Un course with Welsh for Adults, and the Say Something in Welsh oral course. Although confident enough to deliver the primary Welsh curriculum, I always felt that a better command of the language would help me to be a better teacher of Welsh as well. Therefore, I considered the offer of a place on the Welsh in a Year sabbatical scheme as a golden opportunity.
The aim of the programme, which is funded by Welsh Government, is to increase the number of primary teachers who can educate through the medium of Welsh or bilingually. The course is unique in its form as it combines the learning of the actual language with the study of methodology that is relevant to the primary classroom. Both elements were taught expertly by our team of four tutors, whose wealth of knowledge and range of experiences was instrumental in making the course the success it was.
Learning a new language is hard work. Being back in the role of the learner for five days a week took some adjustment for all of us on the programme, but it also offered the unique opportunity of seeing from the inside what our pupils back in school go through daily.
Experiencing a variety of effective teaching strategies and having time to hone my own personal study habits helped me to develop a clearer idea of how I want to teach Welsh back in school, and how I can develop the incidental use of Welsh across all subjects effectively.
Rigorous and ongoing course assessment was achieved through a combination of portfolios, essays and lesson observations. In these regular micro-dysgu (micro-teaching) sessions, our class of primary teachers turned into (well-behaved) primary pupils while one of us delivered a 20 to 25-minute-long Welsh lesson, through the medium of Welsh only. Which initially was exactly as scary as it sounds! Over the course of the year, these repeated opportunities to improve our methodology, create a bank of teaching resources and develop our use of Welsh in a semi-realistic classroom setting played a huge part in preparing us for our role as teachers of Welsh back in our schools.
More than happy with my progress both in speaking and in teaching Welsh, I was genuinely excited about returning to school and putting it all into practice in my own classroom. Even more importantly, I feel the course has given me the tools to make a genuine impact beyond my personal practice by gradually transforming the teaching of Welsh through mentoring and collaborating with colleagues who haven’t yet taken advantage of this wonderful opportunity.
I wholeheartedly recommend the Welsh in a Year sabbatical scheme to any English medium primary teachers who want to become fluent Welsh speakers and significantly improve their teaching of Welsh as a second language.
Mathias Maurer took part in the ‘Welsh in a Year’ sabbatical scheme at Cardiff University from September 2018 to July 2019. Six years ago he decided to retrain as a primary teacher after having played the violin in the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera for nearly ten years. He has been teaching in St Athan Primary School since September 2014.