60 Days of Summer: Week 2

60 days of summer logo This week has been crazily busy, and at times, frustratingly slow. We’ve got a date for moving house, and hopefully that will all go ahead as planned. So I’m starting to plan the move. Tim has been working serious overtime on a big project at work, and for 4 days this week, his car was in the garage, so he had to take mine. That had a bit of an impact on our days, but the weather has been incredible – I cannot remember another summer like this since moving to Manchester 10 years ago! On Sunday, Ben woke up talking about “baby sharks.” We have no idea where he got this from, but Tim made him a little cardboard baby shark, and we took advantage of a 2 for 1 offer to go to Sealife Manchester at the Trafford Centre. Sunday 18th The lighting, as you can imagine, was quite low, but here is Ben staring at some huge fish. Although I’d heard that the Manchester Sealife Centre wasn’t very big, but it was just about perfect for Ben – he walked around everywhere, and was suitably impressed by the little sharks in the tank. I preferred the turtle. On Monday, we had our friends Emily and Isaac over to play. Isaac is nearly a year older than Ben, although they’ll be in the same school year, and Ben thinks he’s wonderful. They played together really happily in the garden. Here they are, having a snack. SONY DSC On Tuesday, Ben and I caught a train and a bus to go to MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) in Manchester. This visit, he wanted to see the aeroplanes. Tuesday 21st MOSI is one of my favourite places to take Ben: it’s all really high quality exhibitions, never crowded, with loads of interactive stuff. Oh, and it’s all free. We had a day at home on Wednesday, so we played with cars in the garden. SONY DSC On Thursday night, Tim and I had a real treat: a meal out in Manchester. As it will be one of our last opportunities to go for a date in Manchester, we opted for a meal at Sapporo Teppanyaki, where the food is cooked on a hot plate in front of you. I plan to do a review of this, but here’s a taster… Thursday 24th.jpgFriday was another hot day (hasn’t this summer been amazing?) so Ben and I improvised a paddling pool with his old baby bath in the garden. Later on, we also went to visit his cousin James, where he played in a real paddling pool.

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On Saturday, we set off on holiday. We broke up our journey by stopping at Leeds Armoury, where they currently have a ‘Dino Jaws’ exhibition. This was excellent, and brilliant for little boys who love dinosaurs. Here are Tim and Ben outside: Saturday 26th My photos from inside the exhibition were really dark, so I’ll save them! Hope you’re all enjoying the summer as much as us!

60 Days of Summer: Week 1

It’s been a while (on the blog, that is) since I did anything as disciplined as A Month of Slow Cooking. To be honest, it took us all a while to get over that. However, as the summer holidays are almost upon us, I’m going to start a new series.

Introducing… 60 Days of Summer!

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The idea is inspired from Project 365, but, quite honestly, if I took a photo a day every day, some days you’d just end up looking at piles of exercise books. But during the summer, I’ve got time to have some fun. Seeing as one of the reasons I blog is to make memories, this seems like a really good way of doing that. Also, I want to take the blog more into this direction: sharing what our family is up to as we prepare to move away from Manchester.

I’m starting this on a Thursday, mostly because I don’t work on a Thursday at the moment, so Ben and I tend to have fun. So our first week is a it longer than 7 days long, but that’s ok.

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On Thursday, Ben and I got the train to Marple, where we had lunch in a lovely cafe, walked along the canal and went to a lovely play area. The train was definitely Ben’s highlight.

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When Ben napped on Friday (after a tantrum-filled morning), I went out into the garden and tidied up a bit. This hydrangea is looking beautiful.

Saturday

Tim got up early with Ben on Saturday morning and they went outside to play in the garden. They found a little frog, and so tried to make him a temporary pond in a bucket with some branches and leaves. The frog stay around for a good half an hour before leaping away. You can see it in the photo perched on the edge of the bucket.

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On Sunday, we went to visit Tim’s parents in North Wales. Even though Manchester was in blazing sunshine, in North Wales it was too cold for a barbecue, so Tim and his dad barbecued outside and we ate inside. Ben loves his Grumps, especially doing ‘Half a pound of tuppenny rice,’ like in the photo.

MondayThis is a selfie taken after work. Ben’s current catchphrase is ‘What’s that?’ and that’s just what he’s asking.

Tuesday

Fun with Play Doh after nursery.

Team english.jpgThis is me with my English department. Kim (our lovely head of department) and I are both leaving this year, so we went out for a lovely meal in Gusto in Didsbury to mark the occasion.

Thursday 16thScooting in the park before it got too hot!

Friday 18thBefore going to my leaving staff meeting, Ben and I went to the Trafford Centre. He hasn’t really been there before, as I work so close, so if I needed to go in I would pop in after work. He loved the dolphin fountain!

Saturday 19thIt poured with rain all morning yesterday. So when it finally brightened up, Tim said, “I think we should all get some fresh air,” and we walked to the park. Ben had an amazing time splashing in puddles and got his shoes well and truly soaked.

That was our first 10 days of summer!

Leaving Work

chalk-592163-mYesterday was my last day at the school I have worked at for over 4 years. Despite qualifying 9 years ago, it is only the second school I have worked at. In those 4 years, I have seen 4 head teachers and 2 Ofsted visits, taken 3 GCSE classes and 2 A Level classes through their final exams and marked more exercise books than I care to think of.

I arrived at the school in May 2010 after an emotional farewell from my previous school. During that first week, I remember being struck by 2 things: the hard work of the teachers and the aggressive hostility of the pupils. In that first half term, students swore at me more times than in the whole of my career to date. It’s the only time in my career that I have been close to being physically assaulted by a pupil ( a girl threw a book at me).

In a bit of a contrast to my previous school, teachers worked really hard for every lesson. Differentiated resources and pacy, fun lessons seemed to be the norm. I quickly had to pick up my game.

In my first year there, I wasn’t allocated a classroom, and consequently taught in 10 different classrooms in a week. Not one was an English classroom. Some classes had a different classroom for every single English class. It was tough.

The observation process felt relentless. We would live in fear of getting our 2 day window notice. A bad observation could result in all kinds of “intervention.” There seemed to be another agenda too: I remember being told that I couldn’t achieve Outstanding as another colleague in my department had already been given that grade, and they couldn’t be seen to be favouring us.

After four months, the colleague who had been appointed with me resigned. She went back to her previous job, as she couldn’t cope with the behaviour. At that point, I seriously wanted to go with her.

Even so, I stayed. I complained enough about the rooming situation that by my second full year, I was given my own classroom. After a bit of soul-searching, I decided to focus on 2 things in my teaching: pace and marking. I took a course in co-operative learning and integrated that into my teaching. I was asked to mentor on the GTP programme. I started to enjoy my classes.

This was the year I got pregnant with Ben. When I told my classes that I wouldn’t be teaching them the following year as I was going to be on maternity leave, they were both supportive and curious. So many students asked me to name their child after them, while I was struggling to find a name that didn’t remind me of a student!

When I left in July 2012 to have Ben, I took so many presents home with me. He was probably dressed by staff and student gifts for the first 3 months of his life. I could not believe the generosity.

For the first 6 months of maternity leave, I barely thought about work. Then, when I started to get the hang of motherhood, I started looking forward to getting back. I planned, prepared and used all my KIT days. By the time September 2013 came around, I was really keen to get back.

I have loved working 3 days a week this year. I’ve thrived off it, and have been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it. However, it has been a more-than difficult year. A dip in results last year, a new head of department and a sudden change in leadership led to a lot of new initiatives, including an unforeseen early entry for Year 11. Redundancies were made. Combined with Mr Gove changing the goalposts every few weeks, it has been exhausting. Teachers 30+ years into their careers have said they’ve never known a year like it.

Yes, it’s been tough. Probably tougher on the staff than the kids, but they’ve had it tough too. I think we’ve probably all questioned over the course of the year why we’re doing this. Teaching part-time has had its challenges as well: every class is shared, and communication is vital. There’s also the fear that the students will compare you unfavourably to the other teacher. By Thursday, after 3 days of work, I’ve definitely felt the need to recover. Then you find yourself worrying that you’re missing out on something important.

Then there’s the work-life balance. That’s been a whole other battle, and one I definitely haven’t won yet.

But ultimately, each year, I’ve become a better teacher. This year, I’ve really focused on my differentiation. I’ve found ways to make it manageable without it limiting students’ achievement. I’ve become much more traditional than I first thought I would, understanding through experience the skills that really make a difference in terms of results.

I’m not as creative or as engaging as I’d like, but ultimately, I get good results. This is perhaps because of my teaching allocation: in the time I’ve been at the school, I’ve never had a top set. Instead, I’ve been placed firmly with students who are, or will be, at the D-C borderline. While I’m very skilled in this area, I’ve possibly become de-skilled at teaching Gifted and Talented students. This, then, is an area to work on in my new school.

Also, the culture around observation at the school has changed. All teachers were asked to wedge their doors open. Senior management spent their time wandering in and out of lessons, picking up on the good practice and where people needed supporting. When we were told that we were being graded on these observations, that was fine: we all felt that those making the gradings had seen a lot of our day-to-day teaching.

Despite a poor Ofsted rating (we are currently judged as ‘Serious Weaknesses’), it doesn’t feel like a failing school. It feels like a school that has been through the mill, and has had some difficult results to deal with. It feels like a school that is working hard, but perhaps doesn’t quite know the direction it’s going it. I’d argue that this is the result of 4 years of temporary or acting heads, some of whom have been put in to position at a moment’s notice. I’m looking forward to working a school where there is such a clear vision and direction.

In some ways, I’m really sad to leave my current school. I’m really sad to leave the English Team, who I’ve grown very close to. It’s even sadder because I think they are now quite vulnerable with a new Head of Department coming in, as the current Head of Department is also leaving. I’m sad not to see my Year 10s go through to Year 11 and beat all their GCSE predictions.

But I’m also really excited about this change, because it will be the first of many for us as a family. I’m moving jobs, but we’re also moving house and relocating into Lancashire. Moving jobs has meant having to go back into work full-time, which I’m kind of dreading, especially as I’ll have a heavy teaching commitment, but I’m also excited. I’ll be teaching a new A Level syllabus, and will have a top set year 9. I hope I’ll be a better teacher by the end of next year than I am this year.

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Thoughts on joining a new church

psalms-1184199-mAt the very end of 2013, Tim and I decided to move on from the church we had been attending. In fact, we were fully signed-up members. We had met through the church, and got married there. Ben had been dedicated into that community. It wasn’t a decision we took lightly.

However, once we had made the decision, we did put it into action swiftly. We knew that we did want to start attending another church in Manchester, and we were aware that it may be a temporary thing. We were planning to try to move further North this Summer.

Now it is Summer, and the move is hopefully going ahead, although dates and times are still unknown. So again, we’re starting to think about attending, and perhaps officially joining, another church. This, as you may imagine, is easier said than done. We like familiarity, and it takes time to build relationships. In my experience, you don’t really feel part of a church until you feel that you are part of the community. That takes both time and effort. I firmly believe that what you put in, you will get out in these instances.

One ministry where I have been able to get a bit involved in our current church is with the Women’s Bible Study on a Thursday morning. This academic year, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work part-time, and Thursday is one of my days off. This has meant I could attend the Women’s Bible Study.

As a busy mum, it’s really hard to find time just to study the Bible. If you attend an evening Bible study, you tend to have to alternate with your husband so that someone is at home with the child. Then, when you do get there, you’re so exhausted you can barely focus. To be honest, most evenings this year, I have been planning or marking, so an evening Bible study wouldn’t suit me at all. During the day, even on my days off, I find I’m either cramming so much in or can’t take my eyes off Ben, that I get few chances for a quiet time alone.

The Women’s Bible Study, which meets on a Thursday morning, has a creche provided. Not only that, you pay a donation. The church employs a member of staff to run the creche weekly, with a rota of volunteers. I felt so much better about leaving Ben with the creche for an hour, knowing I had contributed financially to the sustainability of this.

So, with Ben looked after, and hopefully enough functioning brain cells to engage with the Bible at 10am, I sit down with my small group of ladies, one of 3 groups that all run at the same time. I have to say, I really appreciate all-women Bible study. I think I actually appreciate them more now I’m a mum, and hearing wisdom from other women who have been there, 1, 5, 10 or 45 years ago has been brilliant.

We’re a very mixed group – several mums on maternity leave, several who stay at home with small children. Some women who work part time, whose children have grown up, or who are at school. Some women who don’t have husbands or children but seem to have the most exotic and exciting holidays. Women from all four corners of the globe. Some women who have been attending for years, and some who only attend for a few months (like me). But I’m sure that every single woman who attends feels blessed to have been a part of it.

I haven’t been to many churches, and I haven’t come across something like this before, although I’m sure it’s not unique. I certainly hope it isn’t unique. But I’m incredibly grateful, both to God and to the ladies who run the Women’s Bible Study, that I’ve had the chance to be a part of it this year.

10 things to do in Reddish with a baby or toddler

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I’ve lived in Reddish, Stockport, for nearly 5 years. I moved here when Tim and I got married, and was fairly happy with the area: it was a reasonable commute, close to the train station with a fast and cheap train into Manchester. I missed the bars and trendiness of my former residence, Chorlton, but Tim had a bigger house than I did, and a garden.

Fast forward 3 years to August 2012 when Ben was born. We were still living in Reddish, but now I was on maternity leave, complete with baby. Not to mention, without a car. In that year, and the following year, I discovered some of the treasures of Reddish.

So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Things to do in Reddish with a Baby or Toddler.

1. Reddish Vale

We have spent many happy hours here feeding the ducks.

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There is also a lovely playgroup in the visitor centre on a Thursday morning, and if you happen to get caught in a downpour, you can wait it out inside. The staff will even give you a cup of tea and a biscuit.

2. Reddish Vale Farm

This deserves a separate entry, because it is an entirely separate event. We’ve been several times, and it is absolutely lovely for young children. Buy a bucket of carrots on entry for 50p, and you can feed the cows, llamas, alpacas, pigs, goats, donkeys and sheep. If you can reach high enough, you can also feed Kylie the shire horse. There’s also an area with rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and birds, where staff will help you to hold the animals safely.

Around the corner in the barn is a soft play area – beware, the ball pool is deep! – and a concreted area with ride-along tractors and trucks. A current favourite for Ben is the climbing frame and slide, which is just the right height for him.

We’ve also been to a birthday party at the farm, which was excellent, although Ben really didn’t want to have a pony ride as part of it!

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3. Swimming at Levenshulme Baths

If, like me, you are car-less, there’s an excellent bus service to Levenshulme run by Manchester Community Transport. We relied on this bus quite a lot last year, as it went into Fallowfield and Withington.

In Levenshulme, there are the Victorian Swimming Baths. On a Thursday morning, they do baby and toddler swimming lessons, which are excellent. They get fairly busy, but never too over-crowded (the earlier and later sessions are quieter), and the instructor is excellent. We also go to the family swim sessions and casual swim sessions, as the baths are clean, warm and the people are friendly. The only downside is that the changing cubicles are pool-side, which can be tricky with a baby, but I have discovered that the ones in the corner are double-sized, so grab one if they’re free!

4. Debdale and North Reddish Parks

From around the time Ben was 8 months old, and the weather eventually started to warm up (the winter of 2012-13 was a long one), we started taking him to the park. First he loved the swings, and would shriek with laughter when we pushed him.

Considering how much he loved the swings, we have hardly any photos of him on them.

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He’s now big enough to climb up the ladder on the small climbing frame, crawl through the tunnel and slide down the slide.

Both Debdale Park (which is huge) and Reddish North Park have excellent children’s play equipment. As a bonus, the park is always free!

5. Levenshulme Market and Heaton Moor Market

Levenshulme Market is a fairly recent discovery, although I have been following them on twitter for ages. Ben and I toddled down there a couple of weeks ago, and it’s brilliant. A really vibrant, exciting community market, with handmade goods, vintage finds and amazing food. I tried some Spiced Bun Ice Cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and was not disappointed.

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The day we went was absolutely beautiful – yes, the sun does shine in Manchester – and Ben was more than happy to spot the trains arriving at the station while I perused the stalls. The market has a fantastic array of food, craft and vintage stalls, which changes every week. I highly recommend it.

6. Manchester Gymnastics

Behind Gorton Tesco, off the A57, is a large, one-storey building. It always looks closed up, and the metal spikes around the roof are less than inviting. But get yourself buzzed through the door and you will discover a huge, clean, professional gymnasium. On one side is the proper equipment, and on the other side is a layout of crash mats, trampolines, beams, ramps, slides, bars and all sorts. You can even dive into the foam-filled pit if you choose. On weekday mornings (check the website for details), you can attend an ‘Under 4s’ session, where toddlers can run around and try out the equipment in complete safety. It’s a really excellent session, and, as it’s a bit low profile, usually very quiet. My only issue with this is that it’s quite pricey: £4.00 for a 45 minute session, plus a drink and biscuit afterwards. That’s a bit more than soft play, but I think it’s worth it – Ben is always exhausted when he’s finished!

7. Reddish North Children’s Centre

When I was on maternity leave, Ben and I did three courses at our local children’s centre. All were excellent, and I would highly recommend them.

The first was when Ben was around 3 months old, and was Baby Massage. Then, at around 6 months, we did Baby Moves, which was a sensory course. Then, at around 9 months, Little Explorers, another sensory course but with a focus on encouraging crawling and co-ordination.

All were free.

All courses gave me ideas for what to do with Ben, and connected me to other mums in the area.

8. Anchors Away

Soft play at Anchors Away is probably the reason most parents come to Reddish. I have to admit, for a toddler, it’s not the best – their little Under 4s area is quite limited, and often over-run by bigger children. But I did come here quite often when Ben was a baby. There’s space for the children to crawl around, and quite a wide range of Jumperoo-style toys for non-crawlers.

We’re giving it a bit of a break for a while, as Ben’s not big enough for the really good soft play section, but I’m sure we’ll be back at some point.

9. Trains at Reddish North

I don’t know what happens, but sometime before the age of 2, little boys seem to become obsessed with trains. For Ben, a visit to Reddish North Train Station is heaven. Trains go in, trains go out. If he gets to go on a train, that’s even better!

Catching the train from Reddish North into Manchester is easy and cheap. On the way back you’ll need someone to help you with the pushchair over the footbridge, but I’ve never had to do it on my own. Another good trip is to Marple, and then a wander along the canal.

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Ben looking for trains at the station!

10. Reddish Library

I’m a big fan of our local library, and it has an excellent children’s section. They have a very popular after-school homework club, and there are always reading programmes advertised in the school holidays.

Ben has been a member since he was about 3 months old – I’m an English teacher, it was a major priority – and we’ve made the most of the books. There’s also a good Sing and Rhyme session on a Monday morning.

I didn’t really appreciate living in Reddish until I had Ben. It’s been a great place to have a child, and I’ll be a bit sad to leave his first home.

But I’ll be more excited about moving on… More to come on that prospect!

 

 

 

Blog on MOSI, Blogging and Me

At the beginning of May, I went to my first blogging conference. This was Blog On MOSI, and I wrote my introduction to it here.

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The day itself was great. There wasn’t a train which would get me to MOSI in time on a Sunday, so Tim dropped me in to the city centre. Next to Starbucks. I had half an hour to kill before the conference opened, so I had a solitary coffee and played around with Tim’s fancy camera, a Sony hybrid. It had been one of my aims to learn to use it, and I hadn’t actually sat down and got to grips with it. Well, I learned to focus it that morning, so there’s a start.
The conference was held at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, which was a great venue. On registering, we were given a coloured lanyard to wear, which sorted us into one of 3 groups. I was in blue group. Your colour simply dictated the order of the sessions you attended.
There were three sessions, each lasting an hour: social media, writing and photography. Each one was hosted by a group of experts in that field, each with their own particular specialism. In between the sessions there was time for mingling, meeting other bloggers and meeting ‘The Brands.’
When I first saw the programme, I was a bit apprehensive. A whole hour for morning break? And again at lunch? And another in the afternoon? That was a lot of time for mingling. I’m ok at small talk, but that’s a lot of small talk to make. I didn’t know any other bloggers, in real life or virtually, and that was a lot of time to kill if no-one wanted to talk to me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’d never been to anything like this before, and the interactions with other bloggers were fascinating. “What’s your name? What do you blog about?” were standard opening questions. Then, “What’s your twitter?” Before I knew it, everyone had their phones out and were following me. Lots of people did seem to know each other, and many were talking about Brit Mums, another blogging conference, but there were definitely a few newbies. It was also kind of reassuring to see that people were tweeting about the same things that I was!
Then there were the brands. Sweets, children’s clothes, food, events and activities were all represented. All were keen to work with bloggers. Many of the bloggers there do sponsored posts, which they may get paid for or receive certain products. I was curious to find out more. We had been offered the chance to get business cards before arriving, but I didn’t take up the offer. More than once throughout the day, I wished I had.
I’ve never worked with brands. Since signing up for Blog On MOSI, I’ve had some opportunities. If you look for them, they are there. And at the time of the conference, I wasn’t really sure about working with brands. I thought I was open to it. But actually, I think it might be a bit like selling my soul. Blogging, for me, is a really nice hobby. I do all those cliched things, like ‘finding my voice’ and ‘think things through as I write about them.’ I love reading other blogs. I love that I choose what I put on the blog. I didn’t want to lose any of that. Also, with the prospect of moving away from our friends in the very near future, I think the blog might be another way of keeping in touch with people. I don’t want brands or products to get in the way of that.
So. That was the brands and the breaks. But what we were really there for was the workshops. Three workshops, on writing, photography and social media.
Social media is a strange one. I love facebook, but it doesn’t really generate any traffic or help me to promote the blog. I do have a blog facebook page, and you can ‘Like’ it here. The facebook discussion was an interesting one, but the main point seemed to be that facebook isn’t great for promoting your blog. Hmm.
I also love Pinterest. I could happily spend hours on Pinterest. Rebecca from Here Come the Girls held the discussion on Pinterest, and she uses it proactively to promote her blog. I’ve been following her, and she is really systematic. I think it helps if you have a real niche – hers is Children’s Activities. Perhaps I’m just a bit too vague and drifting for that.
I also spent some time listening to a discussion on Google+. I have to admit, it’s something I haven’t come across, and haven’t done anything about. One for the to-do list, perhaps.
The writing session was really good: three experienced bloggers from the following blogs held a discussion. Penny from A Residence, Helen from Actually Mummy and Jane from Northern Mum. They took questions, and had some really interesting and perceptive points. It was good to be reminded that we can let our blogs evolve – they don’t have to emerge onto the Internet fully formed. It was helpful to think about my own voice – not getting sucked in with other peoples’ style. I also absolutely loved what Penny said about her English teacher influencing her, and I’ve bookmarked her post about writing creative copy. The session reminded me of one of my original aims of the blog, which was to improve my own writing. Completely selfish, but true nevertheless.
My last session of the day was the highlight. Photography is definitely not one of my strengths, but I was inspired (as were many other people) by Lucy from Capture by Lucy. She had an incredible set-up, and spoke about props and styling. And she had a lot of props! She must have taken over three tables with trays, tins, flowers, books, papers, fabrics and so on. She had also set up a fabulous display with all kinds of bits and pieces on it. It’s probably easiest to link to her post about the day rather than try to do it justice myself, but here are a few photos I took during her session.
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Lucy also did a good tutorial on styling food that doesn’t look too appetising. This was originally a microwave meal stew.
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I still have a long way to go before I take decent photos. I have to really think about it, and I don’t have a natural instinct for it at all. However, I believe it is a great skill to have, and worth working on.
I do have the occasional crisis of confidence when it comes to the blog. You do put yourself out there, to coin a cliche. I’m not sure that I’m really creating the kinds of blog I admire. Yet at the same time, I’m aware that life is running on all cylinders, and there’s rarely time to fit everything it. When I go back to work full time in September, my time will be even more limited.
But I want to keep blogging. Mostly because I enjoy it. It’s a great resource for us, particularly with recipes and reminders of things. But also, I hope it’ll become a way of us keeping in touch with many of the people we see more regularly when we move. One day, yes, I might have time to really focus it onto something specific. But I’m not there yet.
The blog is still evolving. That’s ok.

Please re-think, Mr Gove

I don’t blog that often on school-related things. I’m toying with the idea of setting up an English Teacher blog, but in all honesty, I have enough trouble keeping up with this one. But this weekend, something has happened which I feel too strongly about not to discuss.

The issue is that of American Literature being part of the GCSE English Literature syllabus. Michael Gove, apparently in line with his own personal tastes, has stipulated that students must be assessed on literature written in the British Isles. This is as part of his minimum ‘core’ that must be studied. I should clarify here that teachers can still teach American Literature, but they will not be examined.

I have been teaching English for nearly 10 years, in contexts which have repeatedly been described as challenging. I have taught The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird and, most often, Of Mice and Men. These novels are amazing. Themes of growing up, friendship, racism, innocence and dreams permeate them. These novels engage and capture the imagination of 15 and 16 year olds across the country. So why would Gove want to take them off the curriculum?

I believe he is trying to extend the depth and breadth of GCSE English Literature. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. Yes, many of our children do come through our education system without having read Austen, or Bronte, or even Dickens. Many more will never have heard of Orwell or Huxley. But is effectively banning Of Mice and Men the best way to improve standards? I don’t think so.

There is simply not time within the English Curriculum to study more than one novel. Once you start English Language and Literature at the beginning of Year 10 (or even in Year 9, as some schools do), there is no let up. Controlled Assessments follows Controlled Assessment. Speaking and Listening assessments still have to be done, despite not contributing to the grade. Dozens of poems have to be studied and understood for the exams, all with significant contextual factors. There is no let-up.

In addition, many of our students (in my experience) start Key Stage 4 without secure ability in the skills they need. No matter how much we teach our students to write analytical essays in KS3, they cannot do it to an adequate standard by the end of Year 9. Many of my students don’t really have a grasp of Standard English, and struggle with spelling and grammar.

I, and my colleagues, and teachers across the country, work exceptionally hard to engage and motivate students like these. Often targeting the elusive C grade, these students can easily become frustrated and disappointed with the results that they achieve. Having engaging, and, to an extent, accessible texts like Of Mice and Men is such an important part of their course. So many times, I have heard students (who would never read a book independently), discussing their love of George and Lennie. Disaffected lads will say to others, “No, don’t tell me how it ends, we’re reading it later.” There will always by at least one student who cries. The themes of friendship, loneliness and dreams are powerful ones to a teenager. They are relevant to every teenager, irrespective of their academic ability.

I taught ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ in a very culturally-mixed class. Atticus was our hero. For many of the students, he was an example of a good father-figure. Surely we need these heroes in our classrooms and our imaginations?

Surely, every English teacher in the nation is, to an extent, angry about Gove’s decision. Our curriculum is being based on his personal tastes. Our students’ grades, and their futures, are being based on his personal tastes. When, and how, can we say, enough is enough: this is in bad taste?

I’d like to link to Geoff Barton’s excellent blog post on this; he is much more eloquent than I.