Well what another year it has been as we continue to find ourselves navigating a Covid world. In some ways, this has been a pretty tough year and in others it has been completely joyful. Riding the emotional wave that is life can take it’s toll but something like this – the Nurture blog – forces us to recognise all the good too and it has been utterly joyful to look back across 2021.
The day job
Professionally, it’s not been a great year. I’ve never quite felt so invisible within my career. I suppose that is the unintended consequence of choosing to not take up or continue a leadership role. I’ve spent many months feeling frustrated by this – my pupils are doing some amazing things and to not feel as though this is really valued has been a challenge. But after finding myself hauled into a meeting because of a post on Twitter about just this, I’ve given up trying to contribute and have my work valued. And I’m already more content because of it. I’m happy with what is going on in my classroom, as are the majority of my pupils and their parents and that is all that matters.
Recently I was clearing out my emails and sorting my resources from years gone by and it made me really appreciate what I had at my old school in the way of a team. The sharing, the banter and the support. That’s a culture we create and it’s a culture I miss. (Although I wouldn’t want to go back to working those hours). Instead, I feel like my dialogue has been pretty much reduced to nothing. I feel as though my contribution – counts for nothing. I feel as though my experience – counts for nothing. I feel as though my talent in the classroom – counts for nothing. And it’s interesting that a recent thread has come up about this – how teachers who have previously worked their way up to SLT to then step back into classroom teaching feel as though they are invisible. It’s dominated my mood over the past few months and made for a miserable year and a bit but I’m determined that with a new year comes the possibility to reframe (for me) and that is exactly what I intend to do because my Roman life is a great one.
When in Rome
I love living in Rome. It’s a brilliant city. Culture, food, art, theatre – everything is on the doorstep. And I like to think that between the months of March – October I live life to the full. The spring / summer time is the best time for me – lots of Spritz in the many piazzas and bars…so much so that this summer, I barely spent any time in my apartment at all. I made the most of a lack of tourists to visit the Vatican and the Colosseum and went back to the beautiful Ninfa Gardens. I also visited Castel Gandolfo for the first time and found my perfect beach spot.
And, despite being in the middle of a pandemic, I have been lucky enough to be able to travel and enjoy the country a lot this year. I have been to Pisa, Florence, Lucca, Siena, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and Puglia amongst many others. Sorrento was a particular highlight and the tour of the Amalfi Coast was stunning. I also loved ‘hiking’ on Mount Etna – my first volcano experience. It was the best way to spend my birthday and whilst I was mortified when the restaurant burst into Happy Birthday – to be in a room full of so many nationalities just enjoying the moment was awesome.
Cinemas, Art Galleries and Theatres have more recently opened. I really was moved by the National Photography exhibition and adored the Damien Hirst exhibition at Villa Borghese. I was able to visit our version of the Globe to see the production of Romeo and Juliet, which I enjoyed immensely despite being completely in Italian. Seeing the first films back at the cinema was a joy to behold. No Time to Die and Dune being favourites. The Klimt exhibition was totally enjoyable as well and I can’t wait for more cinema, art and theatre trips in the New Year.
Good friends have kept spirits high. My bestie and bitch have both had a difficult few months. One lost his mum and the other got Covid but nonetheless, we have always been there for each other. Our breakfast crew each morning bring some much needed relief and laughter to kick start the day and our Roman group has expanded by three since last year. We now have regular supper clubs and dinners out and it is so lovely to have a network away from school too. I have eaten a lot of great food.
And finally….back to Buda
After 18 months of waiting, I finally made it back to Budapest. I had set my heart on going to my all-time favourite restaurant Konvybar for my 40th but sadly, due to the pandemic, had to cancel. Patience pays out, however, and I finally made it back over October half term. To be able to sit in my favourite restaurant and eat the five course tasting menu (for Harry Potter) was a real moment for me this year. It was wonderful. Here are the incredible five courses I ate:
The city itself is awesome – historically challenging but rich in culture, architecture and art. It was also brilliant to eat such a diverse range of food again and finally have that Starbucks. I loved it and it really reinforced how much I had missed travel across the past couple of years.
And, of course, I can’t round off a year without mentioning food. I’ve eaten a lot of it. And a lot of it was good. I really think that perhaps I should have been a food critic but another life, perhaps….
One thing that didn’t change this year was a love for reading. Despite a slow start, I have managed to read 54 books. My favourites this year have been Shuggie Bain, Becoming, When the Sky Falls and Making Meaning in English. What has been most brilliant though, is getting my classroom back and, therefore, being able to really work on creating a reading culture once more. My pupils in KS3 are avid avid readers (with the exception of a couple). It is permeated throughout everything we do and I love seeing how engaged they are. I particularly enjoy our Carnegie challenge, which is well underway. I’ve bought 16 of the books so far and they are constantly borrowed from my pupils who are literally devouring them. By the time we go back I will have another 17 of the nominations to share with them.
In addition, I also managed to contribute two case studies to two Edubooks: The Boy Question and The Teaching Life. Whilst I’m not sure I have a book in me, I would like to use my blog space more as a reflective tool for some of the things I have been doing.
It’s been a good year within the classroom. My year 13s did good – although they didn’t sit formal examinations and their grades were capped. My IGCSE class made astonishingly good progress after taking them over in September – one pupil even improving by 5 grades! The hard work that goes into a class when you take them over mid-course can never be underestimated and their results are something I am really proud of.
However, being full time in my classroom is a particularly enjoyable thing. I am loving my new approach to the IGCSE and especially the use of flipped learning and the harkness method to tackle the anthology. It has been wonderful to be supported and guided by one of our Oracy leads with this and have her feedback in an instructional way to improve what I do. I have also really loved working with my KS3 pupils in a more metacognitive way – with improved process based success criterion, a new way of using knowledge organisers, self-quizzing etc etc. I really really loved their video reflection journals about the learning process for the first unit and am looking forward to working more on this across 2022. I really enjoyed leading an assembly with one of our amazing Heads of Year on cognitive science – a real positive step and direction for the school to be heading in in supporting our pupils to be more metacognitive and independent with their learning.
I also really enjoyed presenting at the Teachmeet English icons event on the topic of writing. Having only ever really spoken about creating reading cultures, I was keen to branch out into something I am less knowledgeable about and really enjoyed presenting online. I am looking forward to doing more of this next year.
After 18 months, I finally got to see my family. The first instance was for a day to celebrate my sister’s wedding. It was so lovely to see everyone and so nice for my parents to finally have one of us married off. Being able to come back for Christmas, although nerve-wracking given the pandemic, has been wonderful. Proper time with the family and a much-needed top up of British treats. Living through the pandemic in Italy as a single gal was both scary and a challenge. Christmas Day last year, alone, was less than ideal. Being able to jump on a plane and be back in England in a couple of hours is something I have always taken for granted and, whilst I don’t want to return to England, getting my fill is soooo important. I’m hoping that things will begin to return to normal next year.
So as I sit here, waiting to fly back to Rome, what’s the plan for next year?
Key word: contentment
Continue with much the same. Enjoy the simple. Do things that make me happy. Act with integrity and live life to its fullest.
- Accept the status quo but not let it be the determiner of my own worth.
Am I happy in the department I work in? No. Do I feel seen? No. Is it the right school for me? Once upon a time I thought so but now…not sure. However, Rome is my city and therefore I have to accept the status quo but not let it define me.
This means I am going to keep my head down, stay in my classroom and simply crack on working with the amazing pupils I do. I love my KS3 teaching and am really enjoying developing a new year 10 course approach. I need to work on my IB teaching – it’s the area I feel least confident in and I will continue to reach out to our amazing Twitter group for help and support in that area.
What I need to remember is that whilst I don’t feel my voice is valued, it doesn’t mean that I am not of value or what is happening within my classroom is not of value and this is what I will need to remind myself of across the year. I know I am a bloody good teacher and I am not going to lose sight of this. I just need to find other channels and networks to tap into to discuss, collaborate, challenge and be inspired.
- Learn Italian
I live in Italy but I’ve been saying that I am going to learn Italian ever since I moved here and before. I really need to do this though. I am getting more and more frustrated by my inability to speak with the locals. What this means though is that I have to be a better student. I literally don’t study. So step 1, has been re-subscribing to Duolingo, Memrise and Babbel. Small steps…key words and over time, it will come.
- Finish CTeach
I love learning and challenging myself to always get better at what I do. I really like the CTeach course and have recently stepped back on. I need to make sure I give it the time and dedication it deserves so that it is enriching for me. I also want to read more edubooks to stimulate my thinking and write more to reflect upon my practice as well. And who knows, I might end up speaking at another edu event or two.
- Revel in the simplicity of life and the joy of just living
I am currently giving my lounge a makeover and have really enjoyed spending time in my apartment. In the spring / summer months I genuinely spent 1-2 evenings a week at home but do tend to go into hibernation a bit across the winter. This has enabled me to rest and relax and I need to remember we don’t always have to be on the go. Snuggling down at home, with the candles on, the blankets thrown over and a good book is equally as joyous. I also want to cook more at home, which is a challenge because the variety of food on offer is not as wide ranging as here in England but I’m going to get creative! I want to continue my Goodreads challenge and am going to aim for 60 this year. I also want to continue to make friends away from school, go out for dinner lots and enjoy many many Spritzs. Finally, it’s time to start the travel back up – I have a few more places in Europe I’d like to visit and I’m sure there are some hidden Italian spots that I have not yet uncovered.
5. Go see the doctor (or try and work the health system out in Italy)
I have a few niggles but the language barrier and not really understanding what I am supposed to do with the receipt the doctor gives me has so far put me off. I must tackle this head on next year…I should also get my Permesso sorted out as well after losing the key piece of paper…I am so not good at life admin.
Here’s to 2022. It’s going to be a corker…I already know it 🙂