I’ve always been obsessed with travelling. As a teenager I volunteered with my church group to traverse India working in villages, prisons, NGOs and hospitals. The experiences fulfilled me in ways I cannot fully explain and each year, I looked forward to doing more meaningful work and exploring my country every chance I got. As a young teacher some years later, I began organizing regular domestic travel for my students. I have such incredible memories of those early trips to forts and palaces in Southern India, ancient monuments hidden in mountains of the North and paragliding over sparkling waters in Goa. It’s quite possible that I had more fun than the kids on those journeys, but as I reflect on those experiences, I realize that they also allowed me the unique opportunity to see students developing an understanding of essential skills and it was pretty remarkable to me how a short break of eight or ten days could educate children in a way that classroom teaching never could. In fact, I am a firm believer that travel experiences can do more for character education and a sense of identity than any other experience in life can.
This article is brought to you by the letter C. As I started drafting out how I would tackle writing about 21st Century Learning Skills (often referred to as the ‘5 Cs’ or ‘soft skills’), at the same time I am starting my summer holidays, (my last day of teaching was June 28th), Sesame Street popped into my head. I noticed that my summer mode was significantly different than my teaching mode and that when I stopped to actually compare the 2 modes- there was a distinct pattern of “c words” in both modes.
If you got the jobs that you needed to get done finished an hour before you were due to complete them... would you just find something else to add to your list?
How often have you said, “I don’t have time”? You were lying to yourself! As you are reading this, time is ticking away and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Time exists; how we use the time we have will either lead to exhaustion or a work life balance. As a serial procrastinator and queen of never stopping, I have had to learn many tricks to avoid that impending sick note that would be on the horizon if I didn’t sort it out. If you are always rushing to meet deadlines at the last minute or exhausted but nowhere near the end of your to do list, perhaps it will be worth five minutes of your time right now to read some of the pointers that I learned to help me put time back into perspective.
I am guessing many of us remember at least one teacher who really stood out from the others, someone who has made a real impact on our lives. I am often tempted to define a brilliant teacher as one who passes the thirty year test: when you catch up with them thirty years later, you want to go up and talk to them, because they made such a difference to your life. The thing about making a difference is that you can never unmake that difference. Once you are "that" teacher for a child, you will retain a special place in their hall of fame for ever.
Sitting in the department meeting, lists of issues are being fired at you from the usual agenda. Your colleagues’ eyes are rolling, arms crossed and lips pursed in distaste at the never-ending problems. You are sweating! Your cheeks burn and your hands tingle as you choke back the solution you think just-might-work. You can barely hear the rest of the points as you run over and over in your mind, how you might disrupt this meeting with the solution that is buzzing to be heard. If you could just bring yourself to lay the creative idea on the table… or is it a stupid idea? No matter, the meeting is over. It’s just another idea that you didn’t dare share.
“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you find some way to break the rules, and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”
– Nora Ephron, 1996, commencement speech at Wellesley College.
After 24 years as a teacher you learn a few things about the job. Within this 24 years I have had time as a head of department (four as Head of French, and the last ten as a head of a large, vibrant modern languages department) and this has really enabled me to learn about myself. Just as with teaching, as a head of department I am still learning but have collected a few top tips. So here are my top nine things I’ve learnt about this job.
The only time black history is celebrated is in October. This connotes a separatism between stories in history, which creates an implicit understanding of ‘our’ history and ‘their’ history. I do not agree with treating the black experience as a separate entity. The black experience should be interweaved throughout the curriculum when possible.
Looking for a way to boost writing progress amongst your pupils this year? Searching for that elusive hook to inspire reluctant writers, or a way to showcase pupils’ work to a global audience? Step forward LitFilmFest - the Primary school festival, sponsored by YouTube Kids, that offers Key Stage 2 teachers free, fully-planned and resourced literacy units on a whole range of writing genres.