Kelliefish13's Blog

Travel writing, Poems and Stories

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Italy – Florence, the learning curve.

Florence Briges at sunset
Florence was an amazing place and I’m sure we walked around and through the city at least 3 times a day, partly because we kept getting lost and partly because there was always something going on, something to see that we had missed. It is a city full of art and there is no way that we could see it all in 3 days, but we gave it a good try. We learnt a lot in Florence about travelling and sight seeing. Lesson number 1. Plan what you want to see, at least a little bit and order them into what you really want to see and what would be cool if it fits in. Then circle them on the map and work out which group of things you want to see that day. We of course didn’t do that and instead spent lots of time walking in circles and missing some of the things we did want to see. Plus we had really really sore legs by the end of the day.
Lesson number 2. 1 big museum or art gallery in a day is plenty. We tried doing more and found that after the first one we had had enough and stopped reading the signs and looking at things properly and appreciating them. Why wait in line, pay lots of money for things that you no longer care about seeing because you are tired and overwhelmed.
Lesson number 3. Lines are long, get up early and line up before they open or book in advance and pay extra. When your only there for a couple of days 4 hours is much to long to be standing in line. Luckily we worked this out by looking at the length of the line and not by standing in it, neither of us would survive 4 hours in line, the one hour we waited before opening was bad enough, even with yummy pastries.
Lesson number 4 afternoon naps/breaks are really really good. Spending some time lying down and reading a book or watching tv gives your legs and brain a rest so you can carry on later with out being grumpy and horrible, not that we were ever grumpy and horrible… nooooooo.
Lesson number 5. We both need sometime in green spaces eg parks etc. On our last day we took the bus to the top of a near by hill which had parks at the top and chilled out and took cool photos out over the city (we also like going places high up), and had a really good time and felt much better afterwards.
Florence was where we really got challenged and we came through the other end and still had a great time.

Robbie up high.




One of the things I posted early was that one of the reasons I blog is to help improve my writing and spelling by practising. Today I was filling out application forms to do a TEFL course, teaching English as a foreign language. It asked some really hard questions to do with grammar, well actually the initial question wasn’t hard, it was the explain your answer part that was. Somehow I didn’t think because sentence A sounds right and sentence B sounds wrong was quite what they were looking for. It took me a while but I got to an answer and it had to do with singular pronouns generally use was and plural pronouns generally use were. Turns out there is a big difference between knowing something and explaining why (though I did know this I had just never used it in this context).
Another question asked me to compare teaching a language to teaching mathematics, in answering this questions I worked under the assumption they were really different and pointed out many of the differences. However now that my brain has slowly had time to tick it over, maybe they aren’t that different at all. And perhaps treating it more like maths would make it easier seeing as I always enjoyed maths. Well maybe not the whole language just grammar and spelling. This is why I think they are similar – There are rules, they may come with exceptions but in general knowing what the rules are will help you work out how to pronounce or spell a word, know were to put all that pesky punctuation, and even how to set up a sentence.
Turns out knowing the rules helps, pity I didn’t learn half of them in the first place, but I am trying to learn now. I have had many eye opening moments while preparing to teach phonics (something I wasn’t taught and is great fun to teach to English children in a New Zealand accent) where I suddenly realised that those two vowels together made that particular sound, every time. Or how the magic e made the middle sound long, another thing that I had missed as a child and had only worked out from what I heard or saw in books. I have also bought myself a book awhile ago now that is full of mnemonics and rhymes to help you remember everything from grammar rules to history that I need to look at again and stop just reading the fun songs in the history part.
I am really excited about doing a course about teaching someone to learn a language and learning more about the language I speak, read and write in. I really wish I hadn’t always been stuck in the belief that I was not good enough in English since I keep finding more and more parts of it that I really enjoy.

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Wow I have been here a whole year.

Well actually a year and 13 days to be exact, and Oh boy I am not the same person I was when I left NZ.
I arrived in Coventry excited, nervous and absolutely shattered after an extremely long flight. Full of wonder and awe of this new country which seemed to have all its colours muted but vaguely resembled many movies from my childhood with rows of houses stuck together and people talking funny.
The weather was cold but a few patches of snow made it worth it, I have never seen snow falling before.
So many new things to see I went a little made with Castles for a while and I think I saw 13 in 4 months or something like that, don’t ask me which ones I only remember the cool ones. Not all castles are created equal and time changes that too. My favourite castles are the falling apart ones.
I love seeing new places and meeting new friends. My house mates in Cov were fab and taught me lots!
Teaching here was an experience too, slightly different curriculum, teaching styles, classroom set ups but overall not really that different. Accents however at first caused a few misunderstandings and miscommunication, along with a few occasions where nothing was being communicated at all (the blank stares give it away), trying to understand 3 year olds with strong brummy accents was rather tricky for a while but we got there. And then there were the word differences with the most hilarious (to the kids at least) being pants, which here means underwear and has caught me out far too many times.
As a teacher I have become a lot more confident in behaviour management (meaning a strict and mean when an older class muck about, or positive and over the top in the lower ones and almost anything in between). I no longer care that occasionally when I walk into a year 6 class I over here whispers of oh no not her again, we will have to do some work (though I do love it when they are really happy to see me back).
Seeing so many different plans, classrooms, teaching styles means I now have a much bigger knowledge base to work from. Teaching different ages means I have more of an understanding of the progressions and stages children go through.
Along with that I have met and worked with so many amazing wonderful children and know that we have lots of hope for our future.
Supply teaching has been the best professional development I have ever had.

Personally I have grown up heaps. Become more knowledgeable, so much amazing history here that is fascinating to learn about. I care about my appearance more, I have even taken up wearing dresses and make up regularly. Plus I am going out having fun and meeting new people more often, something I normally hate doing, I like having my close friends and sticking to them. So many other things too, will comment on them later.

This year has been amazing, how has your year been?? What have you learnt?

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I have been thinking today about achievement and what happens when we aren’t achieving what we should be.
A year or so ago I was really struggling in my job, it seemed like things kept piling up on top of me, I was getting pulled up for not doing things right, so I would try and change them and somehow manage to do something else wrong and overall I felt like I was failing. This had a huge impact on me, I felt really stressed, I wasn’t sleeping very well, I felt really guilty because I wasn’t doing my job right and I started feeling like there was something that was wrong with me. This of course just made it all keep getting worse. In the end I decided it was time to try something new and have gone travelling.
It was the best choice I think I could have made, while travelling I have been working in a similar but less responsible version of my job and my confidence is slowly increasing again, so that I no longer need a complete career change but I am still really worried about going back to what I was doing before.
What concerns me is this is happening everyday in our classrooms. Children are trying to keep up with our ever changing curriculum and a few are always being left behind and they get further behind each year. They know they are being left behind, they look around and compare their work to others and see, the listening to class discussions with no idea what people are talking about, they over hear adults conversations. Imagine feeling like you are failing from the time you start school? If that was how I was feeling for a few months I can’t imagine how soul destroying it must be for those children.
Now I know that’s why we vary the curriculum, so they have other activities in which they can succeed at and enjoy, which kinda works. Its why we sort children into groups so they are working with children of similar ability, and why some schools stream their students.Along with using lots of praise and setting up tasks which they can do. But is it enough? What else could we do?

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Being Polite

Being a teacher I spend a fair amount of my day harping on about things like saying sorry, please and thank you and as I was sitting on the bus I saw a 13 year old boy hope onto the bus and very politely say a return ticket into town please, it was perfect. But is it worth it? Should I bother trying to teach manners?

I decided saying sorry was very important to learn especially for kids who are constantly rushing past and bumping into each other, who don’t realise their strength, and who don’t look where they are going (too enthusiastic and still learning, not malicious). For these things I teach that if you hurt or annoy someone that it is important to say I’m sorry I didn’t mean to because that way the other person knows its an accident and you weren’t trying to hurt them (which is confusing if you don’t know and I often get children telling me that so and so doesn’t want to be their friend any more, how do they know? the other child ‘hurt’ them as often as not the other child has no idea what they had done and upon asking other children it is usually an accident like stepping on someone’s fingers, bumping into them as they go past etc). And before someone goes into it it takes many children until they are at least 7 before they can tell with some accuracy when someone has done something on purpose or by accident (I am not quoting studies just what I have seen from watching children at playtimes and in a classroom).
Learning to apologise when you have made a mistake is important, it takes away the confusion for the person affected.

But what about please and thank you? Are they as important?
They definitely make what your asking sound better, and from my experience they tend to make it more likely that the person your asking will say yes. Which is a rather important part of the whole exchange, I don’t normally ask people for something hoping for them to say no. Also it makes the person you asking feel better about it (generally not always), I myself love being told thanks for that etc, and am more likely to help out that person again even if it means going out of my way to do so.
But back to the classroom, one complaint I often hear is she/he stole my rubber/pencil sharpener/pencil etc 9 times out of ten they were just borrowing it but hadn’t bothered to ask, so then I model “please may I borrow your pencil sharpener?” or “can Mary please borrow your eraser?” to which the child being asked normally looks up nods/hands me the item and carries on with what they are doing. So then remind the borrower that that is a good way of getting what they want.

The conclusion I have come to is that manners are important mostly to stop confusion because it communicates to the other person what you need, that your are grateful or that you didn’t mean to. Just asking may/can I, may not actually need a please and is miles ahead of just taking but it helps. Thank you and sorry are the most important.