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 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 this space

Translation Programme

In the days before the reforms to the Baccalauréat, I used to work intensively on translation as a skill to help the students to prepare for the test which was worth 6/20. In the final year before all changed, I had a fabulous group of 11 students and they got really motivated by translating. And of the 11, nearly all of them continued with languages in their studies, in some shape or form. Having worked for two years as a translator, in a previous life, I absolutely loved sharing with them the buzz of translating and searching for the exact word or expression. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I will grant you that, but if you love it, well, you really do just love it.


Translation is, to my mind, an excellent way of developing language skills and of encouraging a broadening of vocabulary. As part of my final chapter with my L LVA class this year, I am going to introduce them to translation. We started this morning, and I have to say, it was not as smooth as I would have liked. “Il faut lire tout ça ?” was one reaction. “Ca ne sert à rien”, was another !! Ho hum – keep smiling. We will get there in the end.

Maybe my text on Easter Eggs didn’t grab them, but to be perfectly frank, some of them wouldn’t know they were being grabbed by a text if it jumped up and bit them on the backside !! In a group of 32, half of whom will be giving up the option at the end of the year, I am going to have to accept that some of them will be left behind and that is never comfortable. But for those who will be continuing, they deserve the chance to see what it is all about and see if it does float their boat.

If you want to see more about what we are doing in the Translation programme, you can click HERE. Not only will we be working on translating different texts, but we will also do some machine translation and hopefully, a bit of live translating / interpreting, for fun. Watch this space.


Am I too demanding ?

Today I almost had a revolution in my classroom. Some of my studes were seriously cross with me and my methods. I am not questioning the methods as such, because I have thought about them long and hard for a number of years and I believe in what I am doing. What I find unsettling is the students’ reactions. Let me explain.

One of my classes, I call it my laboratory class because I am able to experiment new ideas and techniques with them, well, this class is full of well-meaning yet unstructured language learners. Some are beginning to show real signs of progress and that is really encouraging. Others are stagnating and I find that frustrating. To try to take stock of how to move forwards in a meaningful way, I took in their exercise books to look at. Blimey, I wondered if some of them had actually been in the same class as me !! Bits and bobs all over the place, poorly copied, papers not stuck in … basically a bit of a mess. I decided to put together a “mark scheme” to give the kids in question some feedback as to what I felt was not right with their books. At this point, I should remind you, dear reader, that the kids in question are16 year olds. My feedback system gave points for papers being stuck in correctly, in the right order, correct copying with no mistakes and all the work being done.

papers being stuck in correctly 5pts

in the right order 5pts

correct copying with no mistakes 5pts

all the work being done 5pts

This gave a mark out of 20. Hey, this is France, after all !!

The results ranged from 3/20 to 20/20. I must specifiy this was not a surprise. The kids were warned over a week in advance that I was planning to do it. I returned the books in class this morning and wow, the brown stuff hit the fan.

Of course, Philippe did not complain – he was the one with 20/20. Nor did Jean, a boy who is gaining confidence slowly and who works methodically in his attempts to progress and so got 16/20.

The revolutionaries were the ones with disappointing marks and they really let loose. Apparently I am treating them like babies, they had been told they were grown up now and so I had no right, yes I repeat, no right to check their books like this, it was patronising, it was abusing my power … Of course, the old chestnut of “it will wreck my termly average and that will ruin my life forever more” was there too.

Now, of course, when I tot up the famous “moyenne” at the end of the term, this mark for their books will have little if any weighting overall and if my aim was to shake them up, it worked. But my aims went further than that. I had hoped to show them that keeping on top of their books is a way of keeping on top of their work and as they work from their exercise books, then these objects are the very basis of everything else and if there is chaos in their books, how can they expect to achieve at their best levels.

I failed miserably at that aim with a large number of kids. Not all of them. I am happy to say that some get it – but unfortunately others don’t. And miserably, I conclude that the ones that don’t “get it” seem to be the ones that are cruising along below where they should be. And that concerns me.

Am I too demanding ? Should I just accept that average or slightly above or below average is OK ? Am I unreasonable to expect legible handwriting ? A date ? A title ? One young man said to me “I haven’t written a date in my exercise book for several years, Madame”. I find his remark scary and it shows how much banging of my head against a wall I am going to have to do. I also remember this lad has been in my class for five months and has got away with it til now !! Is it too late ? Should I just accept the obvious ?

What would you do ?

If you scroll down, you can read what I intend to do about it.


I am not going to give up !! I told this group of young men on the first day of the school year that I was going to be their “Maman Pédagogique” for the year and just as a mother wouldn’t give up on her child, I am not going to give up on my class. I am going to insist on correct presentation and handwriting. If it is not done properly, it will be done again. There is a parents’ evening coming up soon. I can collect the books in again just before and I am sure the parents would find it illuminating to check out their offsprings’ books. After all, how many of us take a peek at our teenagers’ homework books on a regular basis ? I am the first to own up to not doing so with my kids.

I am going to keep bashing away at this one. This class has been so pleasurable in so many ways so far that I am not going to let this happen. So, my sleeves are rolled up. Guys, if you think this is babyish and patronising, then I am sorry for that but one day, I hope, you will see what I am trying to do. And let us not forget that for every Daniel and Victor who are moaning about the injustice of it all, there are Philippes and Jeans who are finding their way after years in an English wilderness. For them, I will continue to be a right Royal pain in the a*** because I owe it to them. If I take this class on into next year, then it will be an investment for the future. If I don’t, well at least they will have seen one way of doing things before having to adpat to a new way with someone else.

Strap yourselves in and hold on to your hats, boys, the journey has only just begun. This could get rocky !!