Tag Archives: Education

Class of 2016

Hey guys! 

I’ve disappeared recently because everything is changing and that makes life very busy. I know it’s a fact of life, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by lots of change at once. Also, I always feel slightly strange when Year 11s leave. It’s harder when they are an amazing group. I’ve been incredibly lucky, but again I’ve had an inspiration group. 

I feel genuinely honoured to work with young people. They are so unique and we need them; they are our future. 

Yet, the majority of us have demanding jobs with different pressures. I definitely have had times this year where I’ve felt tired/emotional/drained/overwhelmed/delighted all at once. It’s hard to ‘roll with it’ sometimes. 

I gave my Year 10s random images in a lesson and asked them to rank them. There was no criteria, I just wanted them to be able to justify their choices. The images were: a book, flowers, a clock digging a grave, numerous hands holding iPhones and a sign saying thank you. What fascinated me was the many hands with phones came out as most important. Yet, the discussion we had about the thank you sign was most poignant. 

Thank you’s seem to be ‘dying out’. In a world where everything changes on a daily basis, this appears to be left behind. The students seem to blame people’s attitudes. Some valued it as ‘less important’ than friendship. Some believed I was very ‘old school’ for believing in pleases and thank you’s. Hence why, when I received little thank you gifts, it hit home that actually, deep down, we all have moments of reciprocity. 

I was so touched this year to receive the following gifts. My boys clearly know me well! A giant cookie, a big box of chocolates, cards and a book I’ve never read with a personalised inscription. (All of which brought tears to my eyes.) I’ve had countless thank you emails and messages from my students. It makes everything worthwhile. Knowing you’ve made a difference, no matter how big or small. 

It all matters. A thank you can touch your heart in the deepest way. 

Prom was equally special. I don’t remember a time when I laughed so much. Again, the students were a credit to me. I just beamed the whole evening with pride. More thank you’s were given here too. (Maybe it’s not quite dying out just yet?!) 

So now I’ve got to focus on the next lot of students I need to help get through the next 12 months of school. Hopefully, I can help them as well. 

As I reflect now, feeling emotional whilst doing so, my lovely class of 2016 will have a special place in my heart, like the class of 2015 before it. (You can read about them Here) After all, if it didn’t matter, why would I even be doing this? 

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Big love xx


Filed under Education

The Penguin Lessons – Tom Michell

Hey everyone! 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and engrossed yourselves with numerous festivities. 

Today, I’m going to review The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell. I really enjoyed this book. The first person narration made it easy for me to feel like I was a part of this book and if I’m perfectly honest, I wanted to be a part of it. It left me wanting a little penguin of my own! 

Set in Argentina during the 1970s, the narrator explores the issues of this period: the collapse of the Peronist government and living with high inflation as well as his own adventures: hiking in the high Andes, wandering in the snowy, pine-covered wilderness of Tierra del Fuego. The core of this novel: the Magellanic penguin he rescued and befriended. 

‘It was a time when liberties, opportunities and attitudes were so completely different from those of today.’

At the start of the novel, in 1975, Michell was a 23 year old Englishman living in Quilmes, Buenos Aires. He has been offered and thus accepted a post as assistant manager at a prestigious boarding school. He had gone with the intention of exploring and meeting different people. His free time usually came at weekends and this is when he did his exploring. 

On one of his free weekends, he decided to visit Uruguay. It was here where he stumbled upon the penguin, well a vast number of penguins, to be precise. At first he did not  identify them as penguins due to the state they were in. They were lifeless, black, unmoving shapes, which were littering the beach as far as his eyes could see. Upon investigation, he could see that the penguins were covered in thick, suffocating oil and tar.  I was utterly heartbroken to learn that most of those penguins were dead or dying. Except one. 

‘Each wave that broke piled more birds on top of those already there. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. One valiant bird was alive: a single surviving soul struggling amid all that death.’

In the corner of his eye, Michell saw a tiny movement from one bird that was still alive. He rushed over to see a tar soaked penguin, lying on its belly, holding his head up and slightly shuffling his wings. In utter defiance, as he approached, the penguin struggled to his feet. The penguin glared at Michell. He took it as a view of rage for what has happened to him and his penguin family. Rather aptly, the penguin blamed man. 

Panic, adrenaline and compassion urged Michell to scan the beach to look for anything that would help him with this penguin. He only found a paper bag. He manages to find a paper bag. He gathers the bird, who is still relatively angry and places it in the bag. He has a vague notion as to how to help this bird and heads back to his friends apartment where he was staying. He tried a number things to try and remove the tar: butter, margarine, olive oil, cooking oil, soap, shampoo and detergent. It was a slow but steady process. 

Things weren’t as easy as originally thought. The penguin, still angry and still covered in tar, caused some hurt for Michell as a battle between the two continued. However, perseverance pays off. By the time the penguin resembled a penguin again, both were exhausted. Michell has blood pouring from his fingers. I felt physically tired reading it. But, it made me feel so sad that a penguin would be so worried about a human trying to save him. I guess that could be seen as a good thing! 

‘…moments, from being terrified and hostile, it became a docile and cooperative partner in this clean-up operation. It was as if the bird had suddenly understood that I was trying to rid it of all that disgusting oil rather than commit murder.’

Michell had zero confidence that the penguin would survive the night but, ready and waiting for him, very much alive was the penguin. He was hungry! Thus begins Michell’s relationship with the penguin. He names him Juan Salvador, or as he translates it, John Saved. 

Now the penguin had survived, more difficult questions and decisions were arising. What next? Should he take the penguin to Argentina? What could he do with him? 

Human kindness is demonstrated when Michell smuggles the bird into the country. It took great wit and skill to pull it off, but successful he was. The more time man and bird spent with each other, the stronger the bond between them became. 

Once at home in St. George’s College, a new world was waiting for them both. Juan relished in it. They met with new visitors, socialised with people, consoling the housekeeper, cheering on the sports team were the tip of the ice berg. He’s adorable. The description of his looks and engagement with humans is just beautiful. I fell in love. 

‘That was the first of so many times when I observed how completely at ease he was with humans.’

The students in the school too adored him. They shared responsibilities of feeding and looking after him. The dorm housekeeper turned Juan Salvador into a trusted friend and confidant. She shares all her problems and worries to him. Even the rugby team adopt him as their team mascot. This little creature brought out the best in all he met. With his natural swimming talent, he bought out a shy, lonely boys swimming ability. Another love struck teenager asks Juan for advice: Should he ask his crush out? His stares, his non verbal reactions, provided the answers that people needed. 

‘That was one of those extraordinary seminal moments that makes teaching so worthwhile. There had been a rebirth, a new beginning. The ugly duckling had become a swan and the most astonishing part was that the boy had not yet perceived that his life was on the cusp of a radical change.’

Michell certainly fulfilled his urge for exploration and the exotic. He found above and beyond this. Rescuing this bird helped him make a home for himself, helped him to bridge the gap between the old and the new in terms of his employment. He helped Michell make new friends and take risks. He also provided him with added experiences and adventures. 

Thus, the death of this little penguin, whilst on his travels, is the most difficult and uncomfortable aspect of the story. He’s offered no time to prepare or to even say goodbye. But, as the novel closes we clearly see how much this little penguin, this slight interruption to his life meant to him. 

‘Juan Salvador was a penguin who charmed and delighted everyone who knew him in those dark and dangerous days.’ 

A charming little book, with a heart warming plot and a historical setting makes this book a great read for just about anybody. The little sketches of Juan throughout are utterly adorable and break up the narrative nicely. Be warned: you will want a penguin after this! You’ll fall in love, hopelessly. 

Big love x


Filed under Book review

Class of 2015 – Goodbye To A Group That Changed My Life. 

I’ll apologise now because this isn’t the type of post I would usually write. It’s not about books or bakes! I’ve been thinking and working on this post for a few a days now, yet I can’t seem to formulate it. I know what I think and feel, but it’s like I’ve lost the ability to spill the words out over the page. In fact, I feel like I’m constantly tripping over the words I’m desperately trying to find or use. I’ll do my best. Hold onto your hats, this one is emotional! 

I started teaching back in 2012, being thrown right in at the deep end and training on the job. My first class were a top set year 9; very bright and able, eager to do well, desperate to achieve their potential and then some. I was terrified. What if they were smarter than me? What if they asked me something I couldn’t answer? Or worse, what if they didn’t like me? 

I remember my first ever lesson. I was teaching Gothic Literature and exploring the Victorian period. Three years later, they are the top set GCSE group. I remember our last lesson, analysing and comparing the language used by Sherlock Holmes and Watson. We worked our socks off to turn D grades into A*s, to make U grades into C grades. Every child in that class should pass at C or above. Without a doubt they deserve it. Something was happening before my very eyes. They were maturing, growing and glowing in their intelligence. I feel so lucky to have seen them progress over the three years. 

But it’s more than this. They made the teacher I am today. My feedback from observations and marking was always outstanding. I am not big headed or arrogant enough to think I’m the best at this job or the most amazing teacher. Of course I’m not! There are people out there who are more intelligent, more inspirational and more experienced than me. But, I owe this group a lot. They kept me on my toes, they constantly questioned and analysed, they demanded their books were marked every week so they could improve their skills. And yet, I can honestly say they made me a better person as well as a better teacher. 

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine. They were challenging in their own way. Laziness was their biggest problem. The ‘I’m smart so can pull it off in the real exam miss’ line was well quoted, whilst I was stressing about this weeks book trawl or mock exam results. 

At the end of the day, I do this job because I want to make a difference. I want to give children the best possible start in life. It’s a big scary world out there! (Not the most ambitious vocabulary used by an English teacher!) They need to be prepared for it. Surely that’s why we all become teachers? We want to inspire, to change lives, to give them the skills for real life. 

So, whilst I’m very excited about moving to a new school with new challenges, I will always remember that group. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget them. It’s like your first house or your first love. Whatever happened, you never forget it. I like to think I made a difference – just a small difference to some of their lives. By the amount of tears and thank yous on the last day, I have a small feeling that I did something right. 


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Filed under Education