Tag Archives: Teaching and learning

Go big or go back?

blur book stack books bookshelves



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.

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com


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.