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You’ve come a long way baby….

group of people holding wine glasses

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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……..

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You’ve gone blonde…..

 

silhouette of big ben surrounded by fog during daytime
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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?

grayscale piano keys

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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….

Face down

Face down.
Aye that would be something I wasn’t expecting to hear the day after I arrived in Columbia. The things they don’t teach you at University eh?
So here I am with my little lady writing another chapter in our book of adventures.
Are you mad? Why there? Wtf? all common reactions but I was calm and told them it was for drugs and a hitman.
Ah, well that’s fine then.
I made a promise to a beautiful friend that I would come to visit her. Time to make good with the promise.Flights booked but not really a clue what I was going to do when I got here…..off we went.
First stop Madrid. Lots of people going on a cruise, returning home and heading out to Spain for the school holidays. The wee lady is a great traveller and we laugh a lot….
The plane to Columbia was clearly going to be nothing short of rammed and there seemed to be some kind of queuing system I had not been initiated into. A woman asked me in Spanish what the sketch was and I replied I had no idea but I was just happy to wait. What I can only describe as the quintessential English gentleman in his best pink shirt, chinos and blazer informed her that she had to go to ” la awtraaaah feeelah” ( la otra fila) in the loudest voice ever. He smiled and told me that would explain better to her where she needed to be and would sort it all out. Really? It was straight out of Brits abroad….I was mortified on his behalf. No amount of Rosetta Stone Input was going to sort his bog awful Spanish!
The flight was great, 4 films and a snooze later were were in Medellin.
The little lady was absolutely fantastic and immediately started speaking Spanish without any fear whatsoever. It was a joy to listen to.
Cleared customs with my giant bag of scottish blend and there was our friend waiting for us.
We were sprinted away to our finca and it was really like something from a fairytale.
The sound of the rain on the roof was welcome as were the wee birds at 5am!
The masseuse arrived and all I can say is I was rag dolled for 3 hours Colombian style. “Face down” says she. Whit?
No, seriously, it was face down, covered in a tonne of essential oil and I was pummelled by this tiny wee woman. She was just being gentle on me apparently? Really? Well, I wouldn’t want to take her a burst pay packet.
Being her first scottish person and of a slightly more rubenesque nature, she took no time in telling me what I needed to be doing to maintain my body, lose weight and hydrate my skin.
How about you, hen, take yer oil and stop putting it where it doesn’t belong, take your instruments of torture and do a bunk.
I of course did not say that and pretended to sleep.
Still it did me the world of good.
A few days in Medellin before travelling to Bogota was just what we needed.
The little lady made friends straight away and it was fab to see her play and interact even though none of them had enough of the language to hold a conversation, they just got on with it, swings, trees, picking fruit.
It’s not hard is it?
Again, despite all threats of study and travel, I’m always amazed about how much I don’t know about other cultures and how desperate I am to fill the gaps. I was also so aware that my Spanish was Spain Spanish: so many different nuances in words here and terminology. I have been like that child learning to talk and constantly asking why is that used? Why not this?
It’s really quite something.
Wonder if it could actually count as CPD?

Chase yersel

Letting it go.
What a year. Lots of changes and we are not done yet. Lots of time for clear outs both in the very real sense of black plastic bags and making room for more adventures.
I even cleared out my shoes. Yes I did.
Some sandals I had been holding on to because they were full of memories of happy travelling and nonsense. But in a freezing cold Scotland, of nae use to man nor beast.
A fabulous sparkly pair of heels to get arrested in. Loved them but the proverbial car to bar shoes and not for the Royal mile, but I did make a good go of it!
I also had a massive clear out of old bits of paper that were long overdue to go in the round file. A bit like that first break up as a teenager when you rip up the photos and keep everything except for the nice jewellery you were gifted.
Lots of half notes from colleagues as I was clearly bored out my head in a meeting where I ought to have been paying more attention.
I also cleared out the text messages. The ones that made me laugh, the ones that made cry and the ones I couldn’t bear to see anymore.
Granted there is always a few you want to hang on to just because they make no sense to anyone else but mean a lot.
The pins…..the downloaded quotes, the daft nonsense from your pal on Skype. All hogging up precious space that could be filled with new nonsense ….cache cleared. ( and stuff to move to an external drive as a I wasn’t quite ready to delete it entirely. Watch out hard drive you are next)
I had a cull in my social media too. That felt quite good but made me laugh. I was clearly following some absolute nonsense and it needed to go too.
Felt good for doing it.
I am much more aware of the nonsense I send, mostly daft pins and quotes for my friends that I think might need it. A bit like birthday cards….I keep mine up for nearly a month as I love my birthday. I keep really special cards and ones with the pictures I love. The others don’t get put in a drawer they go in the recycling to make something beautiful for someone else….so it’s sent on its way with love to bring happiness to someone else eventually down the line.
Well that’s what I think and it’s my way of rationalising.
In terms of letting it go, I am also learning to let the daft things go. The things I can’t fix.
And I find my self on the other side of the world as I decided it was time to let it go and keep a promise I made.
With my little lady and only two pairs of shoes.