Saturday, June 15, 2013

Happy Clappy...

I arrived in the French classroom all prepared for a lesson to develop the children’s ability to describe themselves & their facial features. However waiting for me was a large envelope from the teacher in England, with letters inside from the children, written in their beginners French. Times like these require change. The children were intrigued and so I abandoned the carefully crafted lesson and ‘went with the flow’.

It was then, whilst listening to them read what their UK classmates had written, I remembered. This is what it used to be like in my early days of teaching; pre-National Curriculum, pre-Ofsted, pre SATS and league tables. Yes we had curriculum and planning, but we also had the freedom to use our professional judgement and be spontaneous.

An unexpected visit from the local MP, someones mum had had the baby, a child brought a postcard in from abroad, the daffodils were suddenly all in bloom. All these & so many more, could take you on a magical learning curve, with the children so motivated and eager to learn. Stories, cards, poems, pictures plays and number games. Real life in the classroom, not just dictated curriculum with carefully measured outcomes.

‘Happy Clappy’ we were not, grounded and flexible to learning style we were. Its true consistency was needed across the education system and that curriculum could vary, but we have lost something precious in all our preoccupation with measuring, assessing, listing and ranking. We lost the flexibility to bring learning alive and respond to the real world the children exist in.
As I watched the light in those French children’s faces and their sheer pleasure, I wondered if teachers trained now can move outside the format, the plan, the targets, could they kindle that special flame?

We did continue with our oral descriptions, we did meet our written objectives, the curriculum requirements were met, but all were embedded in enthusiasm to communicate with those children in England.
This was a lesson they will never forget, so thank you to my teaching colleague Emma who took real world of language, worked with, sent, built on and kept the flame alive.