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Summer time

The time for the big switch off is fast approaching as July comes to a close. You may remember a recent post about decorating and turning out of my study. Well, it is now done and virtually finished. I am now writing from a magnificent 3 metre long desk with more space than I know what to do with (not for long !!), the tidiest bookshelves in the history of mankind and a cool, subtle colour palette of cream and macaroon-coffee (well, that is what it said on the tin !!).20140730_163702[1]20140730_163641[1] It smells clean and fresh and will be awaiting my return from our family break by the pool. Three weeks of work, on and off – but an immense sense of satisfaction now that it is completed.

Work will be resuming in my new study after the summer break. For the moment, it can remain all tidy and beautifully neat – for the time being.

Happy summer holidays to everyone. Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the chill-time and the relaxation, enjoy the big switch off which is almost upon us !!

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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.

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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.

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My Writing Jar

I really like this activity that I am going to talk about now, called “My Writing Jar”. It involves literally a jam jar, filled with random (or seemingly random) words. The students pick out a certain number per table and they have to make up a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, incorporating those words. It is such a simple idea but it works brilliantly every time. You can vary it by getting the pupils to add their own words to the jar, if you prefer.2014-04-14 20.19.51

So proud

Today three groups of my students from Terminale STI2D came along to one of my training courses to present in English their final year projects to those present. I was truly astounded at how good tehy were and how well they did it. Even R, a student who doesn’t always want to go along with what is being done in class was a star. And quiet, retiring W was full of explanations in clear and comprehensible English. A was totally at ease, drawing us diagrams on the board and explaining at the same time. I was so proud of what they achieved today and I hope they realize how much I respect their attitude.

The aim of inviting them was to give a starting point to our training. All too often, we get bogged down in the theory and forget the kids who should be at the heart of everything. By starting off with the kids, we gave the afternoon a direction that it would have been hard to achieve without them. It also showed what I firmly believe – my students have a better level in English than we give them credit for. Give them a bit of leeway and off they will go – but in the most positive way possible, as they proved today.

The teachers said that they admired their ease, how comfortable they were with the language and how motivated they seemed by their projects. I would agree with that. Hats off to my colleagues who run the projects, who dream them up and who put it all in place. And hats off to the pupils in question. A second group next week – let’s hope they will do as good a job as those today.

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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 photo that made me smile

I just came across this photo that really made me smile. Anyone who knows me will know I have a bit of a Royal Family thing going on, but I also love spoofs of any kind. I particularly liked the mock-up film of the wedding a few years ago :

I actually managed to convice a class of 1ère (well, some gullible students at  least) that I had received an invite to the Royal Wedding. A mother crossed me in the supermarket and asked me about it, so I knew some had believed my story.

And now, several years on, this photo which I dedicate to my students who love tatoos and to one student in particular, with her red/purple hair and tatoos – who knows where she will go in life ???

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Back to reality …

From this … 2014-02-05 18.04.46

to this …

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with the boiler on the blink, so a chilly house to welcome me back to. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my life in my damp Normandy countryside, but what a pleasure to be sent to a warm, sunny place where people are leading such different lives and to meet lots of new and interesting challenges.

To the trainees on my course this week, welcome to my blog.

To the new people I met from Nouakchott, Mauritania, I hope to see your flag featuring often on the stats page here and I will think of you each time in your “sandpit”, as you call it.

Dakar is a place full of contradictions and lots of stuff I don’t understand even after six visits, but I have brought home with me so many memories and in particular, the memories of those ten-year old kids at the Dial Diop school, reading stories with me in English and their thousands of questions about England. Pure sunshine.

Now back to reality, and back to work. I have to try to remember where I left off just a week ago but it feels like three centuries ago.