Challenging myself

20160624_071035Last week I attended the Core Breakfast “Non Māori roles in supporting Māori success” by Alex Hotere-Barnes. It was a thought-provoking sessions and made me question a few things and re-spark thinking around language learning and culture.  I storified the tweets of the session – while there are not many (and most of them are mine!) I think they briefly capture the main ideas.  I will come back and explore them more deeply once I have had time to formulate my ideas.

I am trying also at the moment to learn some Te Reo. As a linguist I completely understand the benefits that learning a language can bring to the understanding of the culture. But I am also nervous of offending by getting things wrong or appropriating a culture that is not my own.  Alex talked about Pākeha Paralysis – the idea that we are so afraid of making mistakes in our interactions with Māori and offending that we don’t even start.

This week were the inaugural Matariki Awards and the words of Scotty Morrison who was awarded the Te Waitī Award for Te Reo & Tikanga gave me heart.  I can still only recognise a few words in the linked video but on National Radio this morning I heard him say this:

If you’re living in New Zealand the Māori language belongs to you. You are most welcome to take ownership of it, to learn it and make it your language because there’s heaps of benefits. Once you open that door and you start learning Te Reo you’ll start to see what the benefits are“.

He went on to say that we cannot underestimate the power of the media – TV, Radio, Social Media to raise the profile of a language. Using the language in any way starts to give it ‘mana’ and others will start to use it too.  But there is a tension sometimes and not all Māori are as welcoming as Scotty to Pākeha using Te Reo.  That can be one of the causes of Pākeha Paralysis.  Alex talks about (see video link above) how knowing who you are, what your identity is, knowing whose land you stand on and acting with humility, honesty and integrity helps us to interact in such a way that we build good relationships. That this is an ongoing evolution and that by constantly reflecting those relationships can flourish and people’s acceptance of Pākeha using Te Reo grows.

So, on with my wee ‘wero’ – this week my ‘mahi’ was to make ‘a digital resource that others can access that uses 6 different locative sentences in Te Reo Māori.’
//www.thinglink.com/card/802410997263368193

Time to think

20160505_212235-1.jpgI’ve been doing quite a lot of walking/running recently and it provides me not only with a well-needed brain break from the computer, leg-stretch from a chair and eye break from a screen but also time for my brain to slow down and stop thinking. Well, maybe not stop thinking but it helps me to filter my thoughts, get them in some sort of order through disordering them, breaking them up and somehow putting them back together again. I don’t necessarily gain any answers but they get “un-piled”!

Data has been top of mind in my work in the last few weeks. What is data? Despite myself, but also because I am a competitive soul, I can’t go for a walk or a run anywhere without trying to do it faster than the time before. I find myself calculating how many minutes it takes me to walk a kilometre, how many kilometres I can walk in an hour, was it faster than last time, slower, was the terrain similar, how much should I take off for stopping to take a photo, should I take anything off? If I hadn’t had to wait 45 minutes in the gully while everyone went through the hole in the rock, and then another 20 minutes for people to cross the river and climb the 3m rope climb how long would I really have taken to walk/run 23km and how would that equate to a half marathon…? But it is clear that those calculations are not just based on pure numbers, on data, they are based on human action, on nature, on the terrain, on feelings, on emotions, on abilities and competencies and relationships. Relationships between people and the environment, on rational and irrational fears, on prior experience and knowledge and understanding.

Take this weekend, for example. As part of the event I participated in we had to squeeze through a hole in a rock wall to get out of a gully. ‘Squeeze’ is an interesting concept – it was clearly not that small a hole as plenty of large-ish men got through with relative ease. My prior knowledge and experience of caves and caving meant that I was unafraid, eager, in fact to face the “challenge”. People around me who didn’t have that knowledge were fearful, anxious, uncomfortable. Feelings that were made more acute by the wait and the conversations and the “chinese whispers” passed back – the “fishermen’s tales” – “the hole is tiny!!” with hand gestures that indicated the smallest of gaps. But with support from those of us who did know, with encouragement, explanations and modelling of how to do it, with patience and with care everyone got through.

If this had been a test for which we were being assessed, I would have got top marks. My prior knowledge meant that the test was easy, my experience and my preparation meant that I had no problems slipping through. I may have also gained extra credit for being a “leader”. For others it was not the case, they may have been ‘judged’ not to have got top marks because they hesitated, or didn’t slide so gracefully through, or took too much time.

Personally, I think their achievement was all the greater. The obstacles they overcame to get through; emotional, physical, rational, irrational made their achievement more meaningful. Give me a situation where I have no prior knowledge, no confidence, no experience, irrational fear and I wonder how I would have fared.

So, how do you measure that sort of data when you assess people in academic tests? How do you compute immeasurable data such as emotions, human nature, social background, with knowledge and experience to make meaning, build connections and create pathways for learning?

This evening, I was talking with some friends. Both teachers and ex-colleagues. One of them is a drama teacher and some of her students do extremely well. Students who don’t do so well in other subjects. Students whose motivation for coming to school sometimes is simply because they have drama that day. Part of her inquiry this year is looking at why those students are motivated and engage in drama but not in other subjects. She said that one of the things she does is talk to her students about who they are, about their families, what they like doing, what their parents do, how many siblings they have, where they are in the family, what they do when they aren’t at school, where the family comes from, who they live with, who they spend the most time with; she finds out what makes them tick. She builds a relationship with them, trust, respect, interest, she cares. That’s what makes those kids come to school. That’s what makes those kids do well in drama.

So, in schools we need to look at our students, not just as they are in front of us, but who they are in their family, their community, their social groups, what they do in the classroom, of course, but what they do on the sports field, in the arts, in the community. Build on their experience and use all of that information, that data to gain insights, and generate meaningful action to personalise learning for them, give them and their whanau a voice, a stake in their decision-making and the pathways they choose.  That is the rich data. It’s not all about test scores. It’s about who we are, it’s about building relationships, making connections, trust, respect, humanity.

#edblognz Challenge: Learning with Media

20160422_162132
Arc du Carousel, Paris 1975

At the GAFE Summit in Auckland this week there was a lot of interest, in fact more than interest – fascination, excitement, an insatiable curiosity for VR in various forms.  Jim Sill‘s sessions on the Google Cultural Institute and the VR experience through Google Cardboard were well over-subscribed and there were at least three other sessions on 360° photos and Streetview.

The opportunities that being able to see the world in 3D offers for education are undeniably huge. We can send our students on virtual field trips – indeed LEARNZ already

“assists New Zealand teachers to provide online experiences for their students that are

  • interesting
  • relevant
  • real
  • flexible
  • safe
  • 21st century”

Geography teachers can enable students to immerse themselves in the volcanic landscapes they are studying and see the impact on landforms without leaving the safety of the four walls of their classrooms, history teachers can visit archaeological ruins, battlefields, museums, and sites of significant historical importance, English students can put themselves in the shoes of the characters of the books they are studying and walk down the streets of the novel’s setting, and art students can visit galleries, see artworks so close that they can explore the brushstrokes and details of the colour they couldn’t possibly see even in real life.

But where am I going to here? The Edblognz challenge for April is;

THE LOVE-HATE RESOURCE: Re-evaluate an old resource in your subject area.

20160422_162051
Champs de Mars from the Eiffel Tower 1975

As a language learner and teacher being able to immerse myself and my students in the culture is a key element to successful language acquisition.  Capturing the curiosity and fascination of a country, its people and its culture is what engages us to want to learn more about the language.  My first memories of learning French in the early 1970s were at the age of 9 when our teacher showed us grainy black and white images of Paris via a manual filmstrip projector (can’t for the life of me find an image of one!) but I was hooked. I wanted to go and actually see what those blurry buildings really looked like in colour. My desire to travel was sealed then and there. Likewise in geography, our teacher showed us slideshows of his travels – snapshots where the scenery looked so far away but a glimpse was tantalising enough to whet my appetite.

In the mid 1980s as a new teacher, I remember winding similar film reels on to the bobbins of the projector and showing photos of France – by now in colour – to my students. Over the years slides gave way to videos, videos gave way to DVDs, DVDs to Youtube films and now we have 3D and Virtual Reality.

The power of images and especially moving images to capture the imagination and excitement of learners is not in dispute. However, my wonderings last week as we explored what the Google Cultural Institute offered, and the “surround sound” experience of Google Cardboard went like this;

  • Are we taking the “comfort zone” out of field trip experiences? Much of the learning happens when we are outside our comfort zone, when we have to “mind the gap” and adapt to new surroundings, new experiences – are we sanitising exploration too much?
  • Can we really learn about culture, language, history without being able to touch, smell, hear, connect, communicate and build relationships with the people and the place?
  • Are we taking so much of the mystery out of the world around us that our young children will not seek to travel and experience the “real thing”?

A while back I wrote this in a blogpost called the Blimage Challenge:

“We can learn about the world from books, from the internet, we can “see” the world through the millions of photos , videos and TV documentaries and we can learn about cultures and people. But travel offers the chance to touch and feel and smell and taste and hear.  How do you transfer those tangible aspects of knowledge to a machine? These are the things that give understanding and compassion to knowledge.  …….  A sense of belonging to the world, of having your place in the world, interacting with people , the culture and the environment.”

Grainy black and white photos inspired me to learn languages and to travel but for some of my classmates it was enough just to see the pictures.  I loved being able to show my students photos of France and Spain and other places I had visited – images and videos, used appropriately, are a powerful way of engendering interest and engagement which leads to deep learning.

cardboard.jpg
Google Cardboard 2016

Google Cardboard and the Google Cultural Institute are the natural next step on the continuum of media use that has underpinned my language teaching. My latest “thing” is taking 360° photos, uploading them to Streetview, exploring photos that are already there and looking at them through my Google Cardboard. I love the sense of “being there” that they provide. I know that for many VR experiences maybe the only way they can “be” in these places and I certainly wouldn’t deny anyone the chance to have them as there is so much we can learn from them. But, like any resource, beware the way you use it in the classroom. It is a bright, shiny, exciting, tool so keep learning and the learner at the heart of how you use it and it will send students into another dimension of learning.  Hopefully, they will still have the opportunity to connect with people and touch, feel, see, smell and taste the world around them and let those experiences inform who they are and make a difference to their lives.

 

PS – just because I can ….. check out my 360° photo of Mount Thomas in Okuku, Rangiora and this one of Mount Eden , Auckland.

All images used in this blog taken by Anne Robertson- CC BY-NC-SA

A school without walls

The #edblognz challenge for March is to imagine my ideal school.  The challenge asks me to consider the following:

  • What would it look like,
  • How would it function?
  • What would be its purpose?
  • What would its vision be?

I am going to start with Purpose because I think everything else follows on from that. Alfie Kohn suggests that a school’s purpose is to:

purpose of education 2

 

I am not so sure about number 4 especially the bit about corporate profits, but the reality is that we need to prepare students for life and work is part of life, and we need money to buy the things to sustain us, so wealth has to be created and someone has to do it. I would just hope in my ideal world – getting beyond myself now, that that wealth could be shared a little more equitably than it is now.

Anyway, if the purpose of school is to do all of those things, then the vision for my school is going to be something like:  “Dream Big, Aim High but Keep it Real and don’t forget your Mum”.  Okay then, a bit tongue in cheek but I would encourage my students to try their best, aim to be the best that they can be, recognise their talents and those of others, be humble but be proud, care for each other, their family and friends and the wider community, be empathetic, courageous and always remember where they have come from as they strive for what they wish for.  I would encourage them to learn widely, not limit themselves to a narrow experience of subjects, be curious about nature, the world, science, arts, languages, make connections with the past and create pathways to the future, build relationships, laugh, sing, run, jump, make time for themselves to be quiet, to reflect and to talk to as many different people as they can.

I would encourage all members of the school community to make connections with the land in which they live, both the physical geography and also the people who have shaped it, the conflicts they have endured and the relationships they have forged.  I would  help students understand that the hub of all cultural locatedness is the ‘marae’ or the spiritual centre of a place.  Depending on the country and its cultures this could be a church, a mosque, a ring of stones.  As citizens we have a  responsibility to find out and use correctly the names of local landmarks such as mountains, rivers or lakes and buildings.  We also should gain a basic understanding of the different protocols and language that enable us to interact in culturally sensitive ways. 

My school would not have any walls.  The world is my school.  Learning is everywhere.

I haven’t really thought about how it will actually function yet – this is an ideal, a dream isn’t it? So I have made a ThingLink to illustrate how learning can happen. (It is still under construction, but thought I’d share anyway).  Hope it works!!

 

What will it mean to be educated in 2050?

Today I was lucky enough to be at the first of 2016’s Core Breakfasts in Hamilton. Derek Wenmouth challenged the thinking of a group of Hamiltonian educators and inspired them to question their practice.

By way of recording the conversations I have created this Storify.

What will it mean to be educated in 2050?

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 16.34.22.png

My Passion Project

I am a bit of a photograph nut and always have my eye out for an interesting subject, odd angle, quirky perspective and tricky bit of light.  I have always had cameras – my Dad got me started when he bought me my first camera – an Olympus Trip – for my 18th Birthday.  Before that I was allowed to borrow his camera occasionally and I remember having a  little Instamatic camera to take away with me when I was lucky enough to visit Berlin when I was 12 years old.  I still have all the photos in albums. Some are rather faded now but they still prompt memories.  

20160122_105639
Berlin 1975
20160122_105752
From top left anticlockwise: Paris Zoo 1975; Family on holiday 1975; Noel and Grandmere, Siran, 1975; Christine, Andre and me, Siran, 1975

I have most of the negatives too, all collated in envelopes and numbered according to month, year and which photo album the prints are displayed in. I started with the albums that have sticky pages and the cellophane leaves that hold the photos in place as well as protecting them but soon found that I couldn’t fit enough in them and they were bulky to store.  So I turned to scrapbooks.  The size of the pages also allowed me to create collages with the photos.  I rarely got the perfect shot but every picture told part of the story so I would cut around the bits in focus or smiling faces and put them together to form a pictorial story of an event.  Real cropping, cutting and pasting!  Later on I got a bit arty and started to take panoramic pictures.  Of course, the light and the varying height as I turned around as well as the curvature of the land meant that the individual photos never quite matched so I ended up with semicircles of pictures that were too long to fit in the album.  I would carefully sellotape them together so that they would concertina together when I closed the book.

20160122_110010
Caucasus Mountains, Georgia, USSR 1990
20160122_105938
The Kremlin, Moscow, USSR 1990
20160122_110243
Torridon, Scotland
20160122_110454
Family Holiday in the Jura, France

In those days I also had to be careful about how many photos I took – after all a film reel only held 36 photos. Remember the anticipation when you sent the reel away to be processed and waited for the envelope to arrive back in the post? How many times was I disappointed when what I imagined were going to be amazing photos turned out to be not up to expectations?  

By this time I had a fancier camera; as my Dad replaced his cameras I would be the grateful recipient of his old ones.  I now had an SLR and I also moved on to slides rather than prints.  Slides are difficult to display in an album but don’t you just love slide shows?  I think the magic for me stems from when we were kids and Dad used to show us slides of our holidays. We used to love it when there was a photo of us; very narcissistic, but I used to wait in anticipation of the photos of me and be very excited when there was one!  A few years ago when I inherited my Dad’s books of slides I excitedly set to and scanned them all and shared them with my sisters – delight and embarrassment in possibly equal measure!

10
The Hodgson Family on an East Coast Beach: Kate, Anne, Mum (Shelagh) Steph, Paul (cousin), Jo
36
Me, collecting flowers behind our house (33 Coal Hill Lane, Farsley)

I think by this time I was seeing myself as a bit of a photographer – I had a couple of lenses and spent time taking photos of plants and landscapes. I also had time pre-children to stop and compose a picture, fiddling with f-stops and apertures and focus.  My Dad still criticised the technical shortcomings of my photos (his were always technically excellent) but I reckon mine had more interesting perspectives and had more “soul”.  

So there is a period in my life missing from the photo albums when I search through them as it is represented on slides tucked away in boxes.  Slide boxes were a bit like how we stored digital photos originally – hidden until we had the means to look at them.  We had to get out the slide projector and screen and load the slides into cartridges, close the curtains, switch out the lights and enjoy the magic.  For photos stored on our computer we needed to connect to a projector or all peer around a small screen. Not as easy as just whipping out the albums.  Although, of course, all the photos were in one place and certainly much easier to carry one computer around than a box of albums!  But now with mobile devices and easy to share to sites like Flickr, Google Drive, Dropbox, Facebook our photos are so much more available an visible.  We can share across continents to family and friends and get instant feedback, we can also edit and create so much more easily.  And did I say I was also an Instagram nut!  I have my phone in my hand all the time, just looking for a photo.  My Instagram account is linked to FB and Twitter and the notifications “Anne-Louise has just uploaded a photo” that my husband receives several times during a day have become a standing joke in the family.Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 15.46.34.png

Once children arrived the focus of my photos was people – well my children to be more precise!  And we have a comprehensive photo history for us and them to pore over.  My eldest son was 21 last year so I spent a few evenings taking photos of old photos and making them into a digital slide show and video with WeVideo which I then uploaded to You Tube.  

There is something about those old albums, though. The tactile nature of them is so much more in the present than the collection of digital photos. Maybe it’s the time and effort it took to put the book together, the story they tell, the fact that there are only a few photos rather than the hundred I can take with my phone or a digital camera.  Who knows?  But my plan for this year is to organise my digital collection more efficiently and put them into albums or slideshows that tell a story.  I will also create some picture books like the one I create to mark our very first year in new Zealand so that we have books to pick up and thumb through. 

 

 

Teachers as Learners First

Sheryl Nussbaum talks about schools being “Future Ready” and there are four elements to being future ready 

  1. learning is student centred
  2. the technical infrastructure will easily support the learning,
  3. distributed, collaborative leadership which happens when many people share leadership functions. 
  4. remembering always that teachers are learners first

The final element of “teachers as learners” has been an important part of my last few weeks. They have been a whirl of learning.  In my new role as a Connected Learning Advisor I have been in a team running Professional Learning days for leaders.  First we headed to Whangarei, then Hamilton and finally, yesterday we were connected with educators in Christchurch.  Principals and eLeaders travelled from the far north and the deep south to engage in rich conversations, challenging thinking and robust questioning over the three days.

The sessions dealt with strategic planning, shifting teachers’ thinking and managing change through professional learning, and exploring how social media can build connections between schools and the wider community.

But the focus was on collaboration and connectedness and teachers as learners. Providing time to have conversations, share stories and good practice, plan and make connections was a key element of the days and it seems that it was appreciated by those who attended.

23311485055_44cbe20a63_o

 I know that I have learned as much as the teachers I have been working with. There is such power in conversations and I have been inspired by so many people and the work they are doing in schools, grappling with overwhelming change with commitment, positivity and open minds.  Thank you.

After each event we “Storified” the days and published posts on the VLN to encourage the participants and those who couldn’t make it to continue or join in the conversations.

The links to the Storifies are below.

Whangarei

Hamilton

Christchurch

We also used Todaysmeet to “chat” and record the conversations. Here is the transcript from some of the discussion in the sessions on Professional Learning.

Are you a Connected Educator?

Last week as part of the CLA webinar series we met up with 5 school leaders who chatted about why being connected provides them with such powerful professional learning.

Here is the Storify of the twitter back channel. Why not have a listen to the Webinar on the VLN and join in the conversation by posting your comments and answers to the questions posed to our panellists?

  • koru - unfurling frond of fernWhat does a “connected leader” look like?
  • How would you encourage a reluctant teacher/ leader to get connected?
  • In your role as a connected leader, what do you do to support/model/advocate/facilitate e-learning?
  • What attributes do you think you need most, to make this role successful?
  • As ‘time poor” senior leader, “What’s in it for me”

#edblognz Week 2 Challenge 1

Rather late in the piece because my head is buzzing so this will be a quickie! Just waiting for my breakout to start the morning after the night before! And what a night it was. Ulearn15 put on the razzlemadazzle once again out on the high seas with cutlass wielding pirates, rum tipsy sailors, shimmering, glimmering jellyfish, the “undead” of the Titanic and the crowd favourite “out of the box” thinking Pavarotti. He got my vote and the Twitterati vote – almost trending for the evening!

tweet

But this post isn’t about the Gala Dinner.  One of the challenges was to find two blogger I admire, take a selfie with them and then write a blog.  The first blogger I met as I entered Sky City on Tuesday morning was the MAGICAL Anne Kenneally who amazes me with her passion and excitement. This comes through in her tweets, her FB posts and her blogs.  I didn’t buy her a coffee but I did get her safely to the Twitter Dinner!

20151006_095552

My other inspiring blogger is actually one of a special groups of people: my fellow #efellows14. Marnel Van der Spuy is such a passionate teacher. Her sheer joy of teaching and learning is infectious and inspiring.

efellows 14

Have a read of their blogs, and connect with them on twitter @annekenn @1mvds. Be inspired!

#edblognz Week 1 Challenge 2 People who inspire me

Mmm…

A good word…inspire:

1. fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something.

Who has inspired me?  Got me thinking… so many areas to think about… and makes me think of what my passions have been over the years. There are two types of people who have inspired me; those who I have met and who through their interest in me and the care they showed me have had a profound effect on who I am today. And those who I have never met, but who through their actions, deeds, philosophies fill me with admiration and who make me want to aspire to be or act like them.

As an eight year old I was introduced to gymnastics by my PE teacher at primary school.  Mr Biscombe.  I was a quiet little thing, didn’t say boo to a goose in public (although a complete chatterbox with my friends).  He recognised that I had some talent, he nurtured it, he believed in me and he encouraged me.  I spent the next 20 years of my life pretty much immersed in gymnastics as a gymnast and a coach.  It is probably partly because of Mr Biscombe that I became a teacher.

As a nine year old I was introduced to French at the same primary school by Miss Larraine Francis. She was passionate about French and her interest in all her students was clear.  She treated us all as if we were special and brought out the best in us.  I have spent the rest of my life with a passion for learning languages, for exploring cultures and travelling.  She also shares my love of Roquefort cheese!  Miss Francis is probably the other reason that I became a teacher.

(Oh, and do you know the best part? Mrs Biscombe and Miss Francis, my two favourite teachers, fell in love and got married!)

My Mum and my Dad both inspired me too but I didn’t think they did when I was a teenager. They were just, well, Mum and Dad! Doh! Looking back though, how much of what you do is not inspired by your parents? They are the ultimate believers in you, everything they do is for you, even when you don’t think it is!

woman doing a handstand on the top of a hillAs a gymnast I was inspired by my coaches, Mrs Pollard and Mrs Marjorie Carter.   Mrs Pollard was an old lady – well she seemed that way to me as a 10 yr old – small, wrinkly, white haired and extremely agile. She could still do the splits and handstands.  I was determined that at 60-something I too would still be able to do the splits and handstands!  A few years to go yet but the challenge is still on!  I was terrified of Mrs Carter at first but soon realised her bark was worse than her bite and as I got older and started to coach alongside her I appreciated her determination, strength of character, integrity and absolute fairness.  Her belief in us all was absolute.

Olga Korbut – every gymnast’s idol in the 1970s. I so wanted to be like her, do what she could do. But it was Elvira Saadi who inspired me with her grace and poise.  She was the gymnast who “flew under the radar”. She didn’t turn the tricks of Korbut and the Comaneci, she did her own thing beautifully. I never met these people but I was inspired to train hard to be like them.

caver doing a handstand in a caveAs I left gymnastics behind, my new passion was the outdoors. In particular caving.  The old guard of the caving club were incredible. Their longevity, their dedication to their passion and their perseverance to keep doing what they loved was, is inspiring.  As their bodies grew old, they moulded their actions to their abilities. They caved less “hard” but still went out every week passing on their passion and their skills freely to any who would listen and accompany them.  They tell their stories, many have gone down in the annals of caving lore, embellished, growing richer in the telling.  I have moved on, I wonder if I was still in Yorkshire whether I would still be caving, but motherhood and a move to the other side of the world has broken the continuity. Who knows – it is never too late…

Man diving from a rocky outcrop into a riverNorbert Casteret is my caving hero.  Maybe partly because he is French and he links two of my passions? A highly talented sportsman he won many national honours in an array of sports; diving, running, boxing, ski jumping. He also explored more caves than appears humanly possible often with very little equipment. It is documented that he stripped off, attached his clothes to his head with a candle and matches firmly enclosed as he swam through sumps to continue exploration of caves in the Pyrenees. Anyone with that sort of dedication has got to be inspiring hasn’t he? But he was also deeply patriotic and risked his life in the Resistance during WW2 rescuing many fugitives and hiding important documents deep in the caves.

The last person who inspired me (not the only one but this post could get even longer than it already is if I go on!) is a colleague of many years in the UK. Actually, I’m going to cheat here and slip another inspiration in. Both these women, had qualities which I admire and aspire to. I’m still working on them.  Mrs Adam, a diminutive, white haired Scotswoman with half moon glasses who taught me Latin had such presence and commanded such respect that even the biggest, loutish boys at school would obey when she stood at the end of the corridor and shouted “WALK!”.   She was fair, had high expectations of us all, was always prepared and taught us with interest and passion for her subject.  Mrs Sue Cross, my dear colleague, just retired, had such serenity, her classroom door was always open, invited anyone in and her students were always clearly engaged in whatever task she had set them.  Her passion for French was, is, such that her students couldn’t fail to be infected by it.  She rarely raised her voice, was calm, firm, fair and stood absolutely no nonsense.  Of course, she had difficulties from time to time, don’t we all.  But she didn’t pretend, she asked for help when she needed it.  She accepted everyone and was generous with her time to help others.  And her sense of humour was infectious.

It is the human qualities of all of these people which connects them and inspires me. Their passion, their humanity, their integrity, the way they communicate with me and show absolute interest to make me feel special, their belief in me.  If I could go half way to being anything like any of these people, I would be a rich woman.