Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend the Learning@schools conference in Rotorua where I listened to some inspiring speakers and shared teaching experiences and ideas with colleagues from all over the country. I should give some background as to how I got to be there. My background is in Language teaching – I am a pretty good French speaker, and would possibly once have claimed to be a fluent French speaker, but although I can usually communicate what I want to say and can understand most of what others say to me, I am constantly learning new words and expressions so I’m not sure that fluent is the correct description. Then again I am always learning new English words and expressions too, I can’t always make myself understood and I don’t always understand what other say to me, so maybe I am not a fluent English speaker either!?
Anyway, I am rambling so will get back to the point. I have also taught Physical Education over the years too; I have no formal qualifications in Phys Ed having done my Post Graduate Certificate of Education at Leeds University in French, German and Outdoor Education, but was a qualified gymnastics coach and have always been involved in sports. There is always a shortage of Phys Ed teachers, especially ones that can fill in the odd lesson here and there, and I pride myself on being flexible (both physically and metaphorically) so am happy to fill the gap when necessary. Having extra strings to my bow also gives me the opportunity to get out of the classroom sometimes, see students from a different perspective and keep me on my toes. Variety is the spice of life!
I had thought that after seventeen years at a great school in the north of England and after travelling across the world to NZ, I would have a break from teaching, but once a teacher always a teacher, I suppose. Here I am working in another great school in the Waikato and my ability to be flexible has stood me in good stead. That, and my inability to say “no”, despite promising a former colleague that I would learn, has landed me with an interesting mixture of roles. I am still teaching French part time, I am also Outdoor Education Co-ordinator in charge of organising all the school camps, and I am the Teacher IT Coach. What sort of job is that, you ask? Well, at some point during my time in the great school in the North of England, I was having one of those natural slumps and a crisis of confidence in my abilities to be an effective teacher. I was getting rather bored with the daily grind of teaching the same old thing day after day, and I had had two or three years of always getting the lower ability French classes in Year 9 that were mainly populated with disaffected boys. Great kids on the whole but they just didn’t want to learn French! Fortunately for me, computers hit the scene and I thought that maybe this was the way forward to motivate these disaffected boys, after all they loved computer games! Our school was also blessed with a couple of inspirational and forward thinking ICT teachers who supported me and gave me lots of ideas. Fast forward a few years and despite not really understanding any of the tecchie stuff to do with computers, I love the opportunities that technology offers to us as teachers in our classrooms, and have developed some skills that I am in a position to pass on to others. I am often only one step ahead, and definitely several steps behind some of my colleagues but love being able to help and support those who need it and want it.
Anyway, back to the Learning@schools conference – it was a great opportunity to find out what was going on in other schools around the country, network a bit and also share some of my ideas, so there I was. Rather than ramble on at length here are some links to the notes I made about some of the Keynote speakers and Break out sessions I attended.