I have been asked many times why I moved to Australia. Aside from the lifestyle-related responses (weather, sport, and more of which you can read about on my blog), there are a number of professional reasons I wanted to teach in a different environment to the UK state school system. I have only taught here for a month, and it is now the school holidays, so this is only a first glimpse.
The past few years in the UK have seen a steady decline in the number of young people studying foreign languages at GCSE, A-Level and university. In other words, as soon as learning a language becomes optional, the majority of students give it up. But why, when languages offer a variety of proven benefits (see below), are they still seen as an unnecessary subject by so many? And what can teachers do to inspire their students – not only to persevere with languages, but actually to enjoy them?
The job at the International School was advertised in the January of 2009, and after two interviews, I was appointed two months later. I would taking over from Richard Allaway of geographyalltheway fame at a laptop school, and teaching International Baccalaureate (IB) having never previously taught KS5! This seemed like a big deal, never mind the move to France, taking a significant hit on the sale of our house in the UK and the packing up and leaving my home country perhaps for ever. On the plus side, I spoke some of the lingo having been together with Gaelle, my French wife since late last century.
Some of the most special moments during my recent visit to Rukungiri, Uganda this June were at the project at Kitazigurukwa Primary School where we spent much of our time. The SEN school and dormitories for the disabled children are already in place and so we have been working on a kitchen and storage building specifically for the children and then another for the teachers house.
Isn’t it funny how as toddlers, we question absolutely everything? At three years old, it’s all about the ‘why’. Why is the sky blue? Why does a dog have four legs? Why do I have to eat green vegetables? Why does Mummy work? We’ve all experienced this phase with a toddler in one way or another, at times finding it exhausting.
It’s 5.30am. and the day begins like any other – my dog Oakley, a six year old chocolate Labrador, is ready for her morning walk. She really is the best alarm clock. I’m not quite awake yet, and the thought that there will be a strong cup of my home-delivered coffee, waiting for me when I get back keeps me walking. Without time to rest, I head to The Cedars Primary School where I am not only a teacher but the ICT coordinator, member of SMT and school governor.
Teachers have used phonics as a method for teaching reading since Victorian times! Look at a photo of a Victorian classroom and you will see rows of children being taught to sound out letters to make words such as ‘cat’. Move forward to the 21st century and you still see children sounding out phonemes (sounds) and blending them to read (or the reverse - segmenting the phonemes and turning them into graphemes to spell).
“Something wicked this way comes” is a phrase that every teacher I know can relate to. You don’t have to be a fan of The Bard’s wonderfully evocative imagery to know that within every classroom there exists, just beneath the surface, a complex interplay of social and emotional dynamics that if expressed can make teaching almost impossible - unless one is mindful of the emergent possibilities and exquisitely judicious when dealing with the consequences, should they be necessary.
Educational company Succeedin have begun running introductory workshop which allow teachers, both new and experienced, to get the most out of their interactions with young people. These workshops are delivered over four hours, priced from £675 + VAT (subject to location).
Scenario-based learning is a type of lesson planning methodology that I have used, developed and enhanced since my PGCE year. Its roots come from my childhood love for the Fighting Fantasy books that I was bought by my parents to try and encourage me to read in the mid to late 1980s. In these books you had to make decisions that moved you to different pages and ultimately trying to get to the end of the story. Don’t worry; I grew out of this phase and definitely never entered a Games Workshop.