All fur coat and nae knickers

Whit an absolute hoot. I had the privilege of spending 2 days in schools in the south of France doing observations, having professional discussions and setting up training both there and at home.
Teachers had no qualms whatsoever about having 3 of us in the back of the class. I was accompanied by inspectors! (That may have been to keep me in check rather than observe the staff)
I was heartened to see amazing teaching with very little resources. Just lots of tinnies who were engaged and were quite simply a joy. The inspectors were at pains to point out just what a tough area it was and how it was really hard for staff. What I could see were teachers who genuinely cared for their students. The relationships with them and interaction was clearly genuine and there was a real affection and respect. If this was one of their “tough schools” it was nowhere near the definition of tough I have.
I secretly loved that in one particular school there was no IT. I loved that they had handwritten everything on the wall in that beautiful French script. I loved that primary fives could split up a sentence in a way that reminded me of my time at University in France. (Grammar geek)
Listening to the teachers talking in English was a hoot. Straight away I was able to identify solely from the vowel sounds where they were from. The pronunciation of eggs was also hilarious. One teacher pronounced orange is aw-ray-jay and one couldn’t make up his mind about Mom or mum. I was desperate to tell the weans the word for Granny! There was a debate about what was best, american English or British English, I was asked which one I spoke. Actually nearly fell over.
Some of the teachers had spent time either in the USA or in England – and had some fabulous accents – the type you hear on safety announcements in the airport.

However, and this will come as now surprise, same teaching techniques for language acquisition as we use. Imagine! Flashcards, the hungry caterpillar, paired speaking, oral feedback, songs, visual cues….
When some of them asked me a question there was much hilarity! Even by dropping my voice and doing my best received pronunciation they still laughed!
Like many of my own students, they were used to hearing perhaps only their teacher – again similar to my time in China- the first native speaker they hear? An old bird from the west coast.
I spoke French with them and they were just tickled pink. Asking questions about nessie, and where abouts in England Scotland was (!)
The conversation with the teachers and inspectors was somewhat different. The general feeling of being scunnered was in evidence.
We talked round professional development structures and lack thereof. I suppose I hadn’t realised just how invested we are (or should be) in what we do. My colleagues were shocked to find out that we were responsible for maintaining our development records and surprised that we would be prepared to go out on a saturday and twilight courses for further learning.
We discussed parental involvement, rote learning, transitions, curriculum and teacher training.
I know we often complain about things in the profession but I was proud to be able to talk about the achievements in Scottish Education – sometimes you need take a big step out to look in and realise it’s not as mince as you would think

I think they enjoyed the chance for a moan – don’t we all – about professional recognition for what they do, how they are viewed nationally and what they would do if they had the chance. The day was too long, they would welcome school uniform, they would like improved conditions for their wee people.
Couldn’t help but ask what they were doing about it, to which they laughed and said but it’s not like that here.
We talked about how there are good intentions and big announcements but the practicalities may not be as well thought through – I translated “all fur coat and nae knickers” as an adequate sum up of it to which ensued some proper tena lady moments.
I guess it’s quite easy to see, good teachers will always be good teachers no matter where you drop them.
Loved it.


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