Tag Archives: CPD

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?

My knitting is ripped


Well that’s my knitting well and truly ripped.
I imagine I must be in a queue to have tea and scones with this gentleman and ram a French dictionary up his derrière. All with an entrepreneurial flourish.
All those teachers who don’t want to come out on a Saturday to learn about how to be more entrepreneurial and see what work is like in the real world.
Clearly, what we do is not real and not creative and if we were to judge ourselves based on this poor assessment of our qualifications,experience and professional conduct, then it will be P.45s all round.
I have one thing to say.
Why is it that people who know nothing about teaching and learning are the quickest to criticise not only the profession but everyone involved in it.
Most teachers performed a balancing act throughout their studies to earn enough to survive or pay for tuition. To reduce that to a summer with camp America and a dalliance with bevvy is not only insulting to Camp America and alcohol,it’s just wrong.
Partnership is one of the areas that schools work on and it brings so many benefits to the teachers and learners. Bringing in experts from various different work related contexts gives a local, national and international slant on learning and skills development. Most Secondary teachers specialise in particular subjects,not just because they “quite like it” but because they realise how valuable their subject is for young people. I teach languages because that’s my area of expertise, passion and joy. I think I am quite entrepreneurial in my approaches, I think encourage and develop skills rough my pedagogy, and I think my own experience ( which was not Camp America and cheap vodka) tells the story of how you can do anything if you are determined and work hard.
When I look for professional development, I look for things that directly impact on my ability to do my job better for the learners I am privileged to work with. Going to training on a Saturday is not a new thing for me, or any of the fabulous professionals I work with. We train,discuss and collaborate. All with the intention of making things better for our learners.
There really is nothing worse than someone offering snake oil to fix the problems they perceive to be at the heart of Education.
Working with young people doesn’t turn teachers into extras from the walking dead. Other things help very well with that, but I have yet to find someone who has left teaching because of children.
That’s why we are in it. For the weans. Every decision is based on what are the best outcomes for the learners.
We can’t have inspired children without inspired teachers,and yes there is still work to be done on that( discussion for another day)
So,Jim,I know it’s well meant,but perhaps the next time you want to tick your corporate responsibility box, you can know your audience.
Kind regards.

Be Good?


So,two days in. So far so good.
It’s actually been quite a nice way to get back into the new year.
I was recently chatting with a gorgeous linguist friend of mine and we were laughing about the wee words and phrases we use in class.
I have a friend that whenever we meet says to me “it’s good to put eyes on you”and when I leave he always tells me to “be good”
To be fair,he recently had to get glasses so I reckon I must have been blurry for a bit but I figure I look better in soft focus or with a filter anyway. However,I have to say it’s good to finally out eyes on this new year. Even with a filter or soft focus, 2016 was a bit sharp. Too many things going on globally that I don’t need to mention here but I love the fact that the new year is another wee start midway through the academic session. I had a some really good catch ups with my language family and to be honest,they were shattered at the end of the year but excited about coming back to get tore in to their own learning. I know that I learn better through doing and it’s always good to get another set of eyes on standards or ideas particularly in relation to pupil work.
At university studying translation and interpreting, we were always encouraged to do a version of a translation then come back to it with a fresh set of eyes.
In our usual adolescent way we used to joke about eyes hanging out our heads and new sets going in ( that may have had more to do with students night out at century 2000 in Lothian road but that that’s another story)
It’s amazing when you put a wee bit of time on things then go back to them. I’ve found it’s a technique that’s worked well especially at work.
(It’s worked well particularly with emails that had I sent in haste it would have been the P45 pronto. )
So I’m putting fresh eyes on my own teaching and learning. I have now finally committed to my Gaelic learning and the app is on the phone and I’ trying in earnest.
I’m also taking a fresh look at the opportunities for all my learners to make sure they are getting the best possible learning experiences too.
So, Be Good? I can’t imagine why my friend would say this to me. As if I would be anything other than that. (Reminds me of my Papa C,who used to say that too) I don’t plan n being good at all. I don’t think good cuts it. I think we need to be awesome. In every sense of the word.
I hope this year is going to be in sharp focus for all the right reasons. It’s good to put eyes on it, and no, I don’t plan on being good.

Christmas Professional Downtime


The last term was a rough one for just about everyone. Stress, illness, dark days and rain. Many meetings were prefaced with “excuse the state of me, I’m nursing a bug”
The start of the holidays saw many people saying I’m just burst. I noticed that even my most energetic of friends were happier to have a night in front of the tv when the usual would have been doing the high kick painting the town a redder shade of red.
It’s not a sign of getting old, it’s maybe just a realisation that we do need to look after ourselves better and charge rather than continuing to run on empty.
This holiday for me , I am going to be honest…..I am 9 days into it and have not looked at an email, piece of paper, or had a work call. It never of fails to make me giggle about the amount of people on social media declaring how long it has been since they looked at work email ….guess what….the world is still turning.
I have spent time with family and friends, we have spoken a lot about teaching and learning. All in a very generic way and believe it or not it has given me plenty of food for thought. Those conversations that give you a what if thought…..
Someone asked me ” what do you do to relax?”
I had to think.
I’ve watched a bit of telly. Most of all I have spent time with people I wanted to. Family and friends whom I often find it hard to see as we are all mostly working parents and resemble burst couches.
Relaxing is an art. I think perhaps a discipline. I hate rules and am not good at following them, however, getting better at switching off has given me a better sense of recharging and clarity of thought.
I’m not sure if the GTCS would sign off 14 days of informal discussion, intercultural understanding and fact-finding ( food and drink appreciation) and blue sky thinking…. But as I look to 2017, I’m excited about the challenges and adventures at work. So maybe the best Christmas professional downtime should count too.

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.

Keep calm and….


Recently we had our national conference for language teaching and learning and it was a steep learning curve. In terms of programming it, pulling it together and taking a chance on a few things. This biggest aim for me was what was right at the heart of it! For teachers, by teachers.
We tinkered with times to give people as much time as they could to talk, discuss, question and share and it made for a really interesting day.
Our key-note challenged every one of us to think about just what is at the core of what we do and why and I was left feeling very inspired but also having had a few of my own ideas prodded at.
200 teachers investing in themselves can only be a good thing -no?
We had a session where we talked about CPD and how and what we could do. When was the last time we had invested in ourselves as linguists and practionners? We talked about how the daily challenge of teaching and learning in schools often didn’t leave us enough time to think about teaching and learning. How we often undertake CPD at a time when we are not always ready to give of our best to engage with it.
Some commented that they would like a wider variety of types of CPD. Could we do more podcasts so people could listen while working on something? Could we do look at moving our meetings to more far-flung places as despite the amount of technology we have, noting replaces the impact of a face to face conversation.
One of the conversations was about observation and how people would like the chance to go and observe colleagues from the same subject area, just for the sheer luxury of being able to do it. No pro formas no agenda, just the chance to enjoy, learn and have the chance to reflect on approaches. That sounds like a revolution to me.
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the most enthusiastic and engaged educators who have the same curiosity for learning that I have. Our conversations are animated and thought-provoking and challenging. I waste libertine training with my team the other day and two of us were finishing sentences for the other. The observations and professional dialogues we have are vital to us progressing as a team and being successful in what we do. We have the luxury of time ( well now and again) which is one of the rarest commodities in education.
One of the best pieces of CPD I have ever done was attend the researchED conference and it was a chance to get some space to think ( no distractions of the day job) engage in conversation about pedagogy and ideas. It was also an occasion to have some ideas prodded and some cemented.
Time, communication, development, space…..better learning for better teaching.
Keep calm and CPD on.

You mean you like it?


Having looked long and hard at the progression of CPD for our primary teachers this session, we decided to see if we had enough interest to run a higher class. To my absolute delight I have a good number of primary teachers who have decided to study for this. Not only does it give me the chance to deliver the new qualifications but also get back into the class albeit in a different context.
Some of my peers are absolutely horrified that I am teaching this but I can’t tell you the buzz I have from doing it. You see, I like teaching.
A number of years ago I was speaking at a youth event and got chatting to a recently elevated member of the clergy who told me that given my then post as a development officer I had clearly moved far from the job I had trained for.
He was on the end of the arched eyebrow and the reply, ” well I could say the same about you, no?”
My teaching has evolved from young learners to learner teachers and continuing teachers and I have never felt that I stopped being a teacher. Many people who I meet will often say “I used to be a teacher” to which I often feel I should be offering my condolences.
However, it is true that for so long people just coasted through teaching and were never really challenged, didn’t really like kids and quite happily took the pay check.
I had the pleasure of speaking to undergraduates who are considering teaching as a career and we had a closed-door session with no other academic staff there. I told them about my teaching journey, the highs, the lows and more importantly the joy. Yes, there were flash points when work was bonkers, but this was more than repaid by the young people and adults you are privileged to work with.
Yes, I may have changed from being in a class of young learners every day but it’s not changed the fact that I am a teacher.
And guess what, I like it.