A new section on my blog

I am proud to announce a new arrival on my blog – I have created a page especially for Kids’ Literature. If you know me, you will know I have an unending passion for kids’ stories and I love including them in my teaching. Yes, even with a class of grumpy seventeen year old boys !! I am pleased to be able to develop this passion further in the coming months during various training programmes and in anticipation of that, I have today started the dedicated pages on this blog. If you have a moment, check them out. You will find them by clicking right HERE.

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That life-work-life balance thing again

This seems to be a recurring theme for me – how to balance family with work and what percentage to give to what ? I know that I get it wrong most of the time. When you actually enjoy reading about educational issues and experimenting with software and tecchie stuff, this is one of the dangers. It doesn’t actually feel like work to catch up on the tweets about lastest teaching stuff, or to flick through a new textbook as it is actually interesting. But, having said that, at the end of the day, it IS still work.

This picture sums it up quite nicely for me.work life balance I feel it is important to work on those little bridges you can see which take you from life to work and from work to life in this picture. If those bridges are solidly in place, I am sure the rest kind of clicks. But the bridges are definitely the key to success, in my opinion.

On my To Do list for the weeks to come, I definitely want to read a really gripping book, one that you really don’t want tp put down and that you can get totally lost in. I also want to look after my garden. I talked a while back about dealing with the front bed before the weeds took over. Well, guess what ? The weeds did take over and I am going to have one heck of job on my hands to get that cleared !! But I will. And I want to do some furniture restoration. I love tinkering with old chairs and drawers, bringing them back to life. Those are my plans for the weeks to come.

Work-wise, as school starts to wind down for the exam season, it is time to think about the Big Tidy-Up. I haven’t cleaned out my study for years (if ever) and it was originally decorated as a nursery for my son, who is now 13. The teddies stencilled on the walls could perhaps do with an update. Maybe some funky and groovy colours, rather than the baby pastels ???

In terms of tidying, the end of year brings mountains of papers to my attention, that sit there, just getting bigger as the year progresses. They will all need to be filed away and sorted out. I dream of a paperless office – ha ha !!!

Does that sound quite balanced ? Still a little way to go yet, but I am getting there.watch this space

A giant water slide in the centre of Bristol

Thanks to my nephew, Jamie, in the UK, I have heard about this giant project in Bristol, whereby the street is going to be transformed into a giant water slide today. It sounds like such a lot of fun. You can read more about it here : Bristol Park Street water slide project

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For one day only, the giant slide will be installed the length of the main high street and the demand for tickets has been unbelievable. For 320 tickets, almost 100,000 applications were received and so only the lucky few will actually have the chance to take to the slide. The concept is part of a project to “Make Sundays Special” and I am all for that idea.

I don’t know about you, but in our household, fun on Sundays has for a long time meant washing and ironing, catching up on homework and watching the recording of Telefoot. As an avid fan of The Archers, I listen to the omnibus every Sunday morning (or nowadays, it can also very easily be a podcast), but I am the only one in our household to do this ! The idea of hurling myself down a 90 metre water slide in the city centre may not be my idea of fun, but fun it certainly is !!

The brains behind the idea set in place a “Pianos in the City” project five years ago and that certainly would grab me. public pianosAs the mother of pianist sons, I absolutely love the sound of the piano and when we were in Paris this weekend, we spent a while in St Lazare station, listening to the young girl who was playing on the piano installed there.

How else to make Sundays fun ? Personally I don’t consider housework and chores as falling into the “fun” category. A trip to the cinema, a bike ride, a lunch party – those are more fun. reading a bookAnd, as the weather improves, hopefully a spot of gardening. Not to forget, of course, the time spent in the garden chair with a good book, because the pile of books to read never seems to diminish, does it ? So much to read, so little time to do to it in !!

For anyone who hasn’t had the thought, where is Bristol ?map of bristol It is a city in South-West England, not far from where I was born and spent the first seven years of my life, in a small town called Trowbridge. Going to the big city of Bristol was a huge treat when I was a little girl !! And there were no giant water slides in my day !!!

1742px-Panorama_of_BristolTo complete this post, a panoramic view of the city and an example of work by the Bristol artist, Bansky.220px-Banksy-ps

The big switch off

One of the aspects of the job of being a teacher that I am finding harder and harder to manage is the “switch off”. I seem to have one of these notices attached to me :

do not switch offI am finding it more difficult to deal with the never-ending nature of the job. You have never finished because there is always more forward-thinking that you can do. My lessons for the coming week are ready, noted down, on my USB drive (which is safely stored in my bag – as I have a terrible habit of forgetting it), papers are marked and Bob’s your uncle. But there are then the dratted reports to write – no, done those for this week). And of course, I also run training courses – but Friday’s is more or less ready and can be tweaked during the week – so, have I finished ? Well, I guess technically, I could say yes, but there is another lesson that I want to give some thought to, and my blog pages could do with tidying up a bit, and my office and my desk, well, how many piles of stuff can I accumulate in such a small space ? It all needs sorting and filing. And I have this new training course that will be in May … and for next year, I ought to add some new stuff to the training I will be doing on October …

NO ! STOP !

I entitled this blogpost “The Big Switch-off” because that is what I am about to do. My desk light actually conked out on me last night, flickered a bit, fizzed and then died. So I took it as a sign. It is Friday and I have a whole weekend ahead of me. In approximately five minutes, I am going to switch off my computer, not just standby, but actual switch off, and close the door on this corner of my life.

switch off pc I will not return until Sunday evening, not even to spy on my statistics to see who has read this blogpost in which countries. I will not fiddle, twiddle, tweak or even peak at any of it. I have the in-laws coming for the weekend and I will relax !! I have selected three novels to read – proper paper books and not e-books – and I am going to get halfway through at least one of them. I think it will be the juicy scandal about Henry VIII – the sort of novel I love but don’t take time to read. I will light a roaring fire in the fireplace, make an apple cake and enjoy a nice cup of tea, watching the blue tits on the feeder in the garden, hoping they will find the nesting box that my dad made me for Christmas.

Do you believe me ?

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I am determined to do it. How difficult should it be to decide not to work over the weekend ? It is, in my view, one of the big issues that faces teachers (and I am sure, other professions, but I don’t know about them). Surely anyone who works from home will empathize. I am not going to feel guilty about it. I am going to enjoy the downtime. If you are a teacher reading this, and you fancy joining me on the “Downtime Cruisade”, well, welcome aboard but don’t message me here about it, as I won’t be looking. This computer is now officially out of bounds. Do not enter. Go away and relax – yes, Frankie says Relax, so now go and do it. The Big Switch Off offically starts HERE …

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A quiet little corner in England

When you are feeling tired and in need of recharging your batteries, I can thoroughly recommend a quiet corner in the New Forest. This lovely little thatched cottage is where we have just holidayed for a week. My eldest son, studying in the UK, was able to spend the week with us and my aim was to relax and to recreate a little home from home. Job done !! I made cakes, read books, fiddled with my computer and shopped !! Oh boy ! Did I shop !!!

Now the batteries are indeed recharged and it is time to look forwards to the coming term. There are mock papers to mark, lessons to prepare and training courses to plan – but the warmth of our little Horseshoe Lodge will remain for a long time. The weather here in Normandy is getting better – the daffs are out in the garden. The sky was a beautiful clear blue as we drove home from the ferry at 8 o’clock this morning. Optimism for the coming week.

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Let’s ban tippex now !!

I HATE, LOATHE and ABHOR tippex, or whitener or blanco, whatever you like to call it. This stuff here : tippex liquidtippex mousetippex penWhy do I dislike it so much ? Well, it isn’t the stuff itself. I have no personal problem with having neat work and actually use it myself, BUT when put in the hands of my untrained students at school, this turns into a weapon of mass-destruction !! Why do kids feel they have to erase their mistakes ??? Why ??? How can you learn from something if you just zap it from existence ?

One girl, I shall call her Rachel (not her real name, as they say in the magazine stories !!), was working on an individual listening comrpehension activity in class a while ago for me. She completed the answers and came back to the group for correction. We started sharing answers and correcting the work when it came to Rachel’s turn to give her answer to one of the questions. “Oh Madame, I can’t,” she said to me. When I asked her why not (for heaven’s sakes), it turned out that she had rubbed out all her answers ready to fill in the correct answers that she assumed I was going to give. To say I was furious would be gross understatement of the year. I think “apopleptic” would be nearer to the truth (even if I am not sure how to spell it).

It revealed to me a really serious underlying problem, or even a  series of problems. Rachel obviously thought her work and effort was not worthy of keeping. She also seemed to think that I would consider her work in the same way, which actually upset me quite deeply. She also seemed to believe that only perfection will do and finally, she seems to equate “copying down the right answers” with “getting things right” – two totally different things and in my experience, the ones who simply copy down the right answers are rarely the ones who get it right.

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What is wrong with making mistakes ? Is it so shameful ? My students seem to have a seriously warped relationship with their mistakes. A boy recently mistook the word “candle” for “condom” and so we had a great presentation of condoms on his Christmas table and condoms flickering on the mantlepiece. Apart from being absolutely hilarious, it was a superb example of how the boy speaking, Alex, and the rest of the class, have all learned from this mistake and be assured, no one makes that mistake any more. We have all learned from it. No one got hurt, no one died, a kid made a mistake and now he won’t make it any more – get over it !!!!

By banning tippex in any shape of form in my classroom, I encourage the students to make mistakes and not to hide them. You do not need to feel ashamed of your mistakes. If, as a school pupil, you never make any mistakes then one of two things are true : a) you are not normal or b) you no longer need to be in my class. I want my pupils to take responsibility for their mistakes and in doing so, to understand why they have made them and most importantly, see how they can learn from them to avoid making the same ones in the future. That is why I love mistakes and I hate anything that serves purely to erase those mistakes.

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A truly international blog

A quick glance at my blog stats tonight has revealed that my blog has been visited over 12,000 times since I first created it on July 4th 2012. That in itself is quite a mind-blowing statistic. But further clicking led me to see the following picture, which I am reproducing for you here, showing all the different countries where people have clicked onto my humble little blog.

blog stats 28 12 2013I hope you have found what you were looking for and if you would like to drop me a line, a message or just let me know who you are, you can contact me via the form below.