Whit works?

I had the absolute joy of talking to some teachers in another local authority a few months back. The theme was leadership.

I was surprised to get the invite if I’m honest. It’s not really my bag having never really looked at it in depth and my own style has is purely based on what I’ve experienced and been part of.

I was absolutely in awe of the first speaker who spoke a language of leadership. She was confident, educated and an absolute professional. On a Saturday morning she captivated everyone. I sat there in my jeans looking every inch the burst couch.

After sessions, I had the closing session. Always a tough one. Folk are in the come down of the kit Kat sugar rush and want out to get the messages or to skull a gin and tonic.

As ever, I started off with an apology.

And explained there was no spelling mistake when I said I was interested in WHIT actually works.

Teachers.

I showed a slide with me and all the people I’m privileged to work with on a day to day basis.

It consisted of photos of us at work in various guises from flamenco frocks to plastic bags. There were photos of my languages family and to be honest from those photos you would think I spend my life dressed up with a mug (glass) in my hand. These are the people that are quite simply know what they are about.Weans.

There’s nothing magic about it. It’s sheer hard graft. There are no superpowers. (Unless you count the ability not to go to the toilet for hours on end) it’s community, It’s care, And for me, family.

I talked about leadership in the classroom. Where we,the teachers are the leaders. Where we lead by being the best teachers we can possibly be. So we need to be the best learners. We need to share. We need to support. However, we need to learn the word no.

I had a conversation with an HT friend of mine only yesterday about the culture of expectation and coping too well. It’s ok to ask for help.

Back to the first couch Saturday morning….I showed a video from SDS about the rate of change but the need for skills, ones you don’t get from a computer.

Oh aye. That would be teachers who help with that too.

At the end of the session we had a giggle and a former colleague admitted he’d only come when he saw I was there as he knew he’d get a giggle. Not a lot of sense….but still as relentless belief in the transformative power a teacher can have.

Especially in red shoes or trainers.

Manolo points currently off the scale.

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#choosekind

Anti bullying week starts today and the wee lady and I headef off to school and work with our odd socks on. A friend asked why bother as it’s not like wearing socks makes a difference. Well actually it does.

It gets people talking and in the words of my very wise 9 year old…..different doesn’t mean wrong.

I suppose we can all say we have been bullied…whether it’s cat calling, shoved in the playground or at work. Like the aunt who always referred to me as the fat funny one in the family, or the colleague who tried for months to catch me out by saying “Right little Miss Interpreter, how do you say this?” Or when you are left out of conversations because “you wouldn’t know as you are a secondary teacher”

Being a teacher and now a mum gives me a lot of exposure to different types of bullying every day. We can talk about resilience all you like but when kids are talking about how they wish you were dead, no amount of turn the other cheek is going to make you feel better.

I look at my wee lady and her impressive sense of self and social justice never fails to inspire me.

We watched the film Wonder the other day and cried, and laughed, and cried again. She’s studying it in school and was telling me how her class were looking at relationships, how they treat people and how to cope when others upset you. Their project is #choosekind

I had an episode of fairly aggressive online bullying. I found myself with two choices: do I stay quiet and hope it stops or do I create a stooshie about it. Staying quiet would hopefully mean less stress for me but what message would that send to my daughter? That bullying in any form is acceptable?

A final threat from the bully to which I didnt retaliate seemed to stop it.

Different opinions on how to manage it: acknowledge it? Legal? Go tonto?

No, this time we fixed it.

My daughter and I talk a lot about social media and how we use it. We talk about how we interact with friends. We talk about how we need to be kind. I guess there is always a reason why a bully behaves the way they do. – but it should never go unchecked.

However in the words of a very wise 9 year old ##choosekind

You’ve come a long way baby….

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Hard to believe that I have reached the point in my career where I am now being asked to give speeches at retirements.

I admit to being absolutely filled with dread when asked to speak at the retirement of four languages teachers, one of whom had a profound influence on my career. Not to mention that I was going to be in the company of the teachers with whom I had gone through my teaching adolescence with. The teachers who very probably saw me at my early stages wobbling about like a baby giraffe. Not really knowing if it was new year or new york. The teachers who seemed so glam, sophisticated and who used to roll their eyes whenever I recounted stories of a crazy weekend of adventures at the dancin’.

So where do you start? Well apart from the gin bottle and pray everyone else is well oiled before you start speaking?

I did my research, talked to colleagues and friends and put on my lucky pants.

I met up with a few of the old gang for an apero beforehand. It was lovely. In fact, it was really lovely. Despite the fact I had not seen a number of them for years, the chat was great and the laughs aplenty. The old relationships were resumed, I felt 22 again and they were again laughing at my escapades. I found myself with new members of the department that I had trained – who were let in to some of my antics as a new teacher. The less we talk about that the better.

We met up with the rest of them and if retirement makes you look that good, sign me up now. Here were these elegant women and men who still managed to make me feel like I was a burst couch. (Despite the fact it was a 10/10 for the shoes – a gold sparkly pair of KGs) A few eyebrows were raised as we updated on jobs and where everyone was. Yes, even a scheme girl can do well you know. “you’ve come a long way from the days you were skipping out at 3.30″

You are right, I have. What do you don’t know is that when you came in 8.45, I’d been up since 6am so get to my desk for 7.45 to get the disco on at the top end of the corridor.

The speeches were not scheduled till after the meal and as it always had been – the meal was a long affair, and I just lined up the grappa to have if I survived.

My former boss, mentor and friend was first up – as ever, accomplished and with a few notes on her phone.

Then it was me….7 pages in pencil. Yes, really. It’s the translator in me. First version, scored out bits, arrows, different colours and handwriting only I could read. (I should have worked for the Secret Service)  It was a joy to see the faces as I was able to quote from references, interviews and friends.  We discovered some special talents that they had forgotten about – guitar playing, running, netball, etc…..

I was particularly chuffed to use the line ” If you want to blame anyone then look no further – two of you interviewed me and let me in……”

To talk about the impact and legacy these four amazing women have left on teachers and children alike was great but it did leave me wondering about who fills that gap?  I am biased, I know that – but the enthusiasm these women have always had has not left  them and they leave a massive hole in the teaching tapestry. They did come a long way. And have a long way to go in their new adventures.

For the record, I didn’t cry and the grappa was welcome.

Then we went to the dancin’ till about 2.15am  – oh yes we did. As did the oldest retiree in the group.  You can take the girl out the department……..

You’ve gone blonde…..

 

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Hi Sweetie, I’ll be in Scotland for 7 days. Are you able to meet?

Eh??? The last time I saw you was 20 years ago or thereabouts as you put me on the train home from my year abroad after half a bottle of tequila. My recollection is there was a fair amount of tears and promises to stay in touch.

Well here we are, a long time down the road and we are still in touch.

Part of my time at University was spent in Salamanca and I had the good fortune to share a flat with 2 Spaniards, a Catalan and a Mexican. I spoke Spanish the whole time and developed some very unusual swear words. Cesar and I hit it off straight away and he had a love of all things Scottish.  He was like something from a movie I kid you not. The cheek bones, the johnny depp hair and he had a leather jacket and boots that made you look twice. He was studying literature at Uni and cut quite the figure as he walked across the plaza mayor.  My amigas were quite taken with him – naturally so. However, when you have seen this handsome man in his pjs with his hair looking like fluffy ducks first thing in the morning, it puts a different slant on it!

I have memories of concerts, drinking lots of tea and laughing and you cant imagine my joy that 20 years later it was just as much fun when we met up.

Oh yes, this time we had some more people in tow with us. Namely our respective ladies – C with his girlfriend and me with Mini me.

So a wee Friday evening in Edinburgh.

My opening gambit – you’ve cut your hair.

His – you’ve gone blonde.

He was gracious enough not to mention that I may be a tad more rubenesque than in my svelte days on student life and a diet of curly wurlys and gin.

The conversation was fabulous and we caught up on 20 years of life – studies, music, politics, travels, adventures, the lot.  We talked a lot about Brexit, Trump and Erasmus.

My sadness at Brexit is beyond description and my fear is that my little lady wont have the chance to do the crazy things I did (well she can and just not tell me)  Being part of Erasmus allowed me to make friends – that I can see 20 years later and catch up with. It allowed me to have adventures that I can use in my teaching (for better or worse) and afforded me a chance to develop my confidence away from the classroom.

I left Cesar in Cafe Royal with a whiskey in his hand and promise of a return visit.

Trip planned for Mexico. With tea bags and trainers.

Go big or go back?

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If I am brutally honest, it’s not getting any easier.

Not being in a class is not getting any easier. Not being with children every day is not getting any easier.

However, this year, I had the most wonderful group of young people for Advanced Higher Spanish. They were from all different schools and twice a week we met up for some very intense Spanish classes with our Spanish assistant too.

It was hard to establish a rhythm with them as I genuinely had no background to them or their families and all I had to go on was the fact that they all had either an A or B at Higher Spanish.

Whenever I have taught a CSYS (as it was back in the day) or Advanced Higher,  I have usually had the class for at least a year. Best Case was when I had them for 4 years…..

We were aiming to use the flipped learning model and then use out time together as tutorials – with the best will in the world,. this did not suit my learners one bit. They wanted to get to know me as well as each other and we needed to take some time out of teaching to just chat and establish those relationships. The characters soon started to come out: The cool one who never did homework but could speak great Spanish, the go getters who were just the most fantastic group of girls who were up for anything and full of enthusiasm, the thinkers – 2 of them who had the deepest thought processes I have ever witnessed in 17 year olds, the worrier – the girl who could do it but was frightened of letting everyone down, the quiet one who NEVER spoke but laughed and smiled when you spoke to her, the mysterious boy who said little but when he smiled he lit up the room. The one who needed a cuddle , the one who always had an excuse about not coming to class……All in all, a joy an absolute joy.

They found my style of teaching a bit different to adapt but soon realised how much we were doing and that going off piste didn’t mean we were not learning.  We filled in gaps of cultural knowledge, powered through some difficult grammar and developed a love for Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Some people argue that teaching is based on routines, some will say it is built on relationships. I think it is based on the young people in front of me and meeting them on their road.

We had some hilarious moments as I recalled stories from my travels. Some sad moments when the only thing I could think to ask was “do you need a hug” And it never fails to surprise me when a 17-year-old girl says yes please. Half an hour later and a shirt covered in tears and snotters is another special moment that will stay with me.

The moments I deal with policy, paperwork and admin, funnily enough don’t stay with me.

After the exam we went out for lunch and I reverted to type. I am horrific at saying goodbye to students. I get more upset than them. I still have not mastered the technique of not being emotionally attached. They gave me a beautiful card and wee gifts but when they presented me with a first edition signed book by Gabo – that was me. In bits. My turn for greetin.

So is it time to go big or go back?

The annual conversation with my pal of I think I need a new job. I can’t continue to do this.

His annual answer to me – don’t be daft. What is it you say – can’t have inspired weans without inspired teachers.

The answer from my boss when I get like this too:” the minute you stop missing the children is the minute you change careers.

I love my job. Just saying.

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Are you lot professionals?

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Well the day finally came – the big brother was having his happy ever after. I was privileged to be playing for the service. 006 was of course involved, my baby cousin and another very good friend and some musical magic was made.

At the end of the service, some of the guests were complimenting us on the music and asked if we were professionals. We all laughed and said ” no, not at all. we are teachers”

Yet – being a teacher is a profession. We are professionals. Yet we don’t often think of ourselves in that way. Like the time I was speaking at a careers event and a woman said to me “oh yes, you are JUST a teacher” Aye hen – thank a teacher you can read. Just saying.

The music didn’t just happen because we had all be trained in our respective instruments and by all accounts can sight read music.

Ideas and versions of songs that would be most appropriate were kicked about via text message and you tube links. I did my usual of scribbling down some notes, 006 turned up with the sheet music printed and I quote “I know what you are like so I have printed it out for you” P came with the words printed in bold font and in a large size and L did everything on her phone.

There was a bit of time between rehearsals then another one. All were present and correct and the neighbours warned.

Another round of fine tuning, harmonies, recording, words and laughs – we were pretty much ready to go. Another rehearsal on the day.

The music for the ceremony was beautiful.

That happened because of the talented people I was playing with. Let’s not kid ourselves here – these people force me to up my game and make sure I read the music properly before taking any kind of creative licence with it. It happened because we didnt just read the music, we listened, explored, refined and rehearsed.

I have compared teaching and learning a lot to playing music with other people. I still find so many similarities it frightens me.

Then there is my Dad. He played with his band at the reception. Now HE is a pro. His quote? “Plug it in, turn it up and play”

 

 

 

The fog has lifted

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It’s been a wee while! my last post was while we travelling in South America and we got so caught up in our adventures that I didn’t write.

I have not been writing as we’ve been a bit busy. Living a little more. It has been an eventful 10 months and hard to believe we are at the Summer holidays again.

Like every other educator in the land, I crawled to the end of the term. A really busy six months with lots of changes going on at national and local level. Am I as hopeful about education as I always have been? Of course. We cant change a system or help to improve it if we are not part of it and perhaps more importantly, if we are not prepared to make a difference.

We cant have inspired weans if we don’t have inspired teachers.

Similarly, I can’t have an inspired little lady if I am not inspired.  Lots to be inspired about again.

The shoes continue to be fabulous. Today, it’s time for a new pair of the wee lady.

What’s not to like? It’s still mammy, manolos and methodology. Looking forward to writing again….