After a good, long summer break, school started for staff only this morning. For the first time in a long while, I haven't really been into to school over the holidays. A huge amount of building work and re-wiring in the classrooms meant that we weren't allowed and so today, my classroom looked a bit sorry for itself with the posters and displays peeling off the walls and tables and chairs strewn around. Unfortunately, due to the full schedule of training events today and tomorrow, I won't actually be able to do an awful lot before I welcome my new Year 7 form and their parents on Wednesday morning. I'll have to do a last minute spring clean after proceedings have finished tomorrow night and get things tidied up, learner profile posters (photos of geography students at work, in the field etc linked to IB learner profile) and a new information board for the new arrivals.
Stepping back into the world of the form tutor .....
I have been out of the pastoral loop for three years now. Being the sole teacher of geography coupled with large classes at KS4 & 5 meant that I had to drop my original form class and free up registration & PHSCE periods for geography teaching instead. Of course, this meant an overall increase in workload but I am looking forward to getting back into the role with a new group of young students. It will be a stressful time for them, but they are generally off and running by the end of the first week back. Their biggest challenge will be getting to grips with their new laptop computers, working out network connections, Outlook email and the new Windows 8.1 system that we have just moved over to. Then there's the lockers, lost keys, spare keys, lost spare keys, caretaker with bolt cutters, lost network cables and all the other things that will crop up in the next couple of weeks too. I am lucky to only have 19 students in my form and so will aim to give them as much attention and support as I can to help them adapt to the world of secondary school.
In terms of geography, I have been busy developing a couple of new areas on geographypods. I have been long overdue to complete the Otzi Ice Man SOW to compliment the work of Russel Tarr (my colleague down here) and the book written by Alan Parkinson (@GeoBlogs). We plan to launch Year 7 with a joint geo/history unit of work. I have blogged about this previously and we are hoping to add photos, video and share our experiences in our subject relevant twitterspheres. More about that next week.....
I have also tried to introduce something new for Year 7 students (whilst we are waiting for them to complete the history part of the Ice Man mystery). The theme was inspired by Tony Cassidy, Alan Parkinson (not stalking him, I promise) and John Sayers at the GA conference in 2013. They ran a session called 'Poundshop Geography' in which one of the items was a washing line (information here). One of the suggestions was showing global interconnections (me, I think) where students connect themselves in an order based on a connection on both sides of them. I would like to do this with as few pointers as possible to get them thinking about everything from language, where they live, social media, clothing, computers, parents jobs etc etc. The outcome will be some sort of display that will hang from a washing line traversing my classroom. It is a bit of a jumble of ideas at the moment and I have tried to come up with a bit of a framework here on the geographypods site. This will change as I find out how the students cope with the task and won't be suitable for everybody in every school due to numbers, laminating etc etc. However, it does have the potential to grow into something good and with a bit of fine tuning, should be a really great way to launch the subject with the new Y7 students. It is something that could be revisited at the start of every year to see how those connections change and expand and would be a great geographical record of the careers of our geographers down here in Toulouse.
More cross-curricular ......
Russ and I have also been gearing up for our Year 12 IB induction sessions. This involves the new IB students having two full days off timetable and using each of the six subject areas to discuss the the question Was World War 2 a time of progress and development? You can read more about the project here that is the brainchild of Russ and the resources for my contribution (focusing on Africa and decolonisation) can be found here. It always works really well and generates some excellent first attempt IB standard essays (and a bit of marking too to get me in the mood!)
Other news .....
Last week, I was contacted by Larry Ferlazzo to write a piece on teaching creative geography for the USA publication 'Education Week'. The article, if accepted, should be published at some point this month and was the first that I have written for a USA based magazine. It was limited to a few hundred words and I would have liked to have written much more. I'll be interested to see how my U.S colleagues react to some of the activities in the article as they ranged from Everest role plays to Landscapes in a Box.
Thanks for your feedback ....
An lastly, I have received a lot of positive messages from users of geographypods recently from New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland and the USA. An increasing number of people use the website daily but as always with the internet, very few people ever leave any feedback (positive or negative), apart from the normal PayPal, hair loss and badly spelt swear words!. It is good to know that the content is sometimes useful and I hope that my playing around with the setup of the site, imagery and menu structure hasn't caused any issues in the last couple of weeks.
Enjoy the first week back / last week of your holidays
Author of geographypods.com.