Half term. All but one exam is finished and my shiny AS Spanish students are busy working away to fulfil their potential in the exam next week - then all finished for a year. It still feels, however, that I have a million and one things to do. This has been the hardest year of my teaching career to date. All of my students have been excellent - they are keen to learn and that brings a different type of pressure. It has also been the most enjoyable year of my teaching career - it has only taken 17 years so I guess I was due a good one!
I had the privilege of hearing Professor Chris Husbands speak for 2 hours on Friday. It was truely brilliant and I would highly recommend anyone jumping at the chance to hear him if you can - he is funny, engaging and thought provoking. For those of you that know me, that is indeed high praise.
Anyway, back to half term, it is really nice to be able to watch kids TV with my little girl first thing in the morning, like most teachers I seem to spend the majority of my life worrying about other people's children.
Yesterday was a lovely day, the simplicity of walking the dog, pushing a swing and playing hide and seek are the perfect way to centre oneself. The 8 week summer term beckons - it is not going to be a relaxing one - I have a few projects up my sleeve. Watch this space...
Back to Fireman Sam.
It has been a tough day today. Well, it has been a mixed day. My thoughts have been distracted by the terrible events in Leeds. I am not going to comment on it, but it has been at the forefront of my mind all day.
One of my 6th formers put in an amazing mock speaking exam before the real thing on Friday and that lifted my spirits somewhat for an hour or so. Thank you, you know who you are...
More 6th form speaking mocks tomorrow - they are all brilliant, hard-working and totally dedicated to being the best at French and Spanish. I will drive a little faster to work in the morning.
Year 9 Spanish were out and about filming around the school today - they all came back laughing and I am yet to see the results - I think I will post some of the end products on this website so stand by...
It was however, good to get home tonight. Bring on tomorrow, another clean slate to chalk on.
It is an extremely busy time. For everyone involved. Obviously not teachers, we finish work at 3:25pm every day and then go home and don't think about work again until 9:10am the following morning, but for everyone else involved, it is a busy time.
It is tricky being a teacher at this time of the year - especially with exam classes. Do you change the good old tried and tested methods to encourage one final push towards the exams, or do you push your own boundaries and step outside of your comfort zone? Dilema. It is often hard at this point to change the ethos of a class, the dynamics are set in stone, everyone plays their roles and the lessons trundle on - it is often levelled at teachers that we don't like change. It is quite often the students that inhibit change of style or technique within the classroom - they are comfortable, found their niche and don't want to take risks themselves. Truely great teaching challenges. It challenges ideas and methods, it takes students away from under their cozy rocks and places them out in the open. Exposing yourself to a change in routine sharpens the mind and allows different thoughts to arrive.
bowl into the fray.
Back to work in the morning - another 4:30am start. The drive across the county (Plymouth to Ilfracombe) is a long one and it certainly isn't something that I would have ever seen myself doing, well, certainly not every day anyway. However, I have to say, I look forward to it - it helps me to focus on what is important for the day and gives me a lot ( A LOT) of planning time. The villages come and go, Mary Tavy, Hatherleigh, Sourton, Meeth, Merton...the list goes on and on. Meeth always makes me laugh - there is a sign that just says "Best Kept Village 1997" . A proud boast indeed - I always start thinking about success criteria at that point in the journey, no idea why.
And finally to Ilfracombe. My classroom looks out on the Bristol Channel and across to Swansea - it is an amazing view. I am cetainly lucky to be able to work in such an environment - I have a new found admiration for lighthouse keepers.
Anyway, the summer term beckons - full of hope of exams success, activities day and quiet corridors at break times.
The drive home always centres me. The sign at Meeth only gets a shake of my head as I leave my beautiful North Devon life for another day. Back to Plymouth. Home. Ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Every time I read a news article about learning foreign languages it is always about how noone wants to do it any more and that numbers are on the slide, especially at A-level. Well in my 12 months here at Ilfracombe, I have found this to be wrong. This year we have a potential A-level language group of about 20 (10 in French and 10 in Spanish). This is a healthy number of future linguists and they will enter the world of work with a massive advantage over people who just speak one language. It isn't that difficult to be honest, we generally use the same patterns of language over and over again and being able to do that in another language requires a bit of concentration and practice. I have heard stories of people who have become very good at another language by playing the X box online. We learn language all the time and I think that as soon as students realise that they don't have to stick to the confines of the classroom to speak, read or listen to another language, then they realise that it isn't as difficult or embarassing as it can be sometimes stuck in a classroom hundreds of miles away from the target language country, learning how to order a strawberry ice cream whilst turing left at the traffic lights to get to the beach. Language is fundamental to us and the need to communicate is probably 4th on the list of things we instinctively do (after breathing, drinking and eating). We are the 4th emergency service. Try it using a different set of words - you might even enjoy it.
Welcome - this is more difficult than I thought. For someone who spends their life talking to people, sitting and writing is a different game altogether. I think it is easier when there is instant reaction and feedback to what you are saying...
Anyway, what to say? I could bang on about the benefits of learning a foreign language or my philosophy on how we should teach but I won't...yet - that will come in time, I am sure.
Let's kick off by wishing all the Ilfracombe students who are exam bound in the next few weeks the very best of luck with their preparation. I am sure it must be tough for you, as the sun is shining and you live in a beautiful place that will ensure that the coast is constantly tugging at the corner of your eyes. However, heads down for now - get the pieces of paper that will allow you to leave your comfortable lives and go and explore the world. You will always be able to call this home, but in order to return, you have to leave in the first place: and that will require a few weeks of concentration.
More thoughts as they arrive...