Ms Elaine Tarran commenced at Scotch in 1996 as Head of Languages. She is responsible for 13 staff who teach one or more of the five languages offered in the Senior School. She teaches French and German to VCE level. Languages are her passion, and to this end she has also studied Japanese and Italian. She was a tutor in Davidson, and coached table tennis and hockey until 1998. In 1999 she became Director of the Community Education program, which offers after hours languages and cultural courses for adults and VCE students in the Language and Culture Centre.
Ms Tarran was a member of the Independent Schools Victoria Languages and Asian Studies Group from 1987 to 2010, has served on several committees for the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority, and has been actively involved with local language teachers’ associations. She was also the Linguistic and Methodological Consultant for a popular Years 7 to 10 German course.
The most enjoyable aspect of my job is to getting to know students individually: their particular interests, their motivation for learning a language, and of course their particular sense of humour. The excitement when students return from an exchange experience feeling they really have lived and become familiar with another language, its people and culture, is a real buzz.
Equally fulfilling is the glow of understanding when a student has grasped a challenging new linguistic concept, or realises he has been able to understand, and be understood by, a native speaker of the particular language he is studying. Language teaching offers the opportunity to get to know individual students well, both through oral and written language activities, as well as the informal chats that occur beyond class.
When I started at Scotch in 1996 I got to know quite a few boys, thanks to their friendships with students from my former school, MLC. In that first year at Scotch, it happened quite often that a boy would introduce himself and pass on a greeting from some of the MLC girls I had taught, and that created a nice link for me between past and present students.
Especially memorable have been the school trips which I accompanied: the Scotch exchange trip to Lyon in France, and the China tour. I remember the stallholders at the Silk Market in Beijing being entertained by our students’ bargaining skills – in amazingly fluent Chinese – as they struck deals. ‘These boys drive a tougher bargain than we Chinese!’ was one local’s comment.
Similarly, in a restaurant in Paris, the kindly manager suggested to me that one of our students may not realise what was in the special of the day which he had ordered – andouillete (a sausage made from pig’s intestines) – but our student replied in confident French, saying he knew exactly what an andouillette was, and had been introduced to this delicacy by his French host family in Lyon. I loved observing our students’ willingness to push boundaries, and their confidence in giving new experiences like this a go.
Boys make big strides as they move through Years 7 to 12, and along the way develop from little boys to young men. Some set challenging goals right from the start, and pursue them with dedication – in their studies, in their engagement in some of the many activities on offer at Scotch, and in their friendships. To stay focused on these goals requires commitment, hard work and passion.
However, just as impressive are the boys who struggle to achieve academically, or lack self-confidence, but who make choices and keep trying until they find the right studies, or activities, for their particular skills and talents.
Encouraging exchanges and in-country experiences through which students learn to communicate in a different language and behave in culturally appropriate ways is one of the goals of any language teacher, and so is encouraging and challenging our students to step outside their own culture and look back at it with a critical eye. I like to challenge students to identify positive and negative aspects within their own and other cultures.
To be a successful linguist, you often have to work things out for yourself – there won’t always be a dictionary or interpreter there to help you. To help develop that skill, students often encounter new linguistic patterns before learning them formally. Usually someone queries the unfamiliar pattern, and in the discussion that follows, students are regularly challenged to work out the grammatical rule from their own reasoning, before being given the formal explanation. Similarly, in comprehension tasks students are challenged to use their existing knowledge of vocabulary and grammar to work out the unfamiliar parts of a text.
There’s not much time during the working week, but I am a keen reader – of fiction and non-fiction – and at weekends I enjoy coastal walks with my husband, going to theatre and films, dining out with friends, and most importantly, supporting Melbourne Victory at their home games.
Scotch College: ABN 86 852 826 445 ACN 005 650 395 CRICOS 00624A (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students)