Teaching is "like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
After 15 years of teaching every and any age group, starting with unsettled Reception children and finishing with retired adults, I think I am ready to add something else to this quote: you get what you give, 10 times more. You give love, you get love – you give smiles, you get smiles. But, most of all, we give knowledge and we get even more knowledge back. How does this work is the question, I suppose? The answer is simple: every day we stretch ourselves and we challenge ourselves. We try to teach our subject to perfection: different materials, new methods, old methods, acting or even dressing up. As teachers, we talk all the time about "the light bulb" moment we can nearly feel and see among the pupils, when they have got that "Eureka" light on their faces. But what about us? I have found myself often in this "Eureka" moment, while trying to plan a lesson and preparing different materials, when suddenly a great idea pops into my head. That moment is of such intensity that I feel full of energy and I can almost hear my brain puffing like an engine. Don’t laugh, I even see myself with a cloud of smoke steaming out of my ears. And it feels so good, I know you know what I mean.
This year I have been given the chance and the opportunity to lead a 20-minute French singing assembly every Friday. After all the excitement of the moment I have realised that, even if I knew the songs I am going to practise, I must think of an engaging and easy way to teach a whole school the same song. I had to consider the age (early years to Year 6), the fact that I am not a music teacher and I don’t have a great voice – and the fact that the songs are in a different language. How to keep them focused for 20 minutes? The great advantage I had was that I like teaching games and music and I have experimented with many French songs in my lessons. I have a song for nearly each topic I teach and some of them had great success among my pupils. As I am the only French teacher in this school, I know exactly what the children have learned so far, so I could easily relate the songs to the studied topics.
French singing assemblies plan
We live in an age when the technology allows us to perform incredible tricks, so my challenge was to put every song in a nice, colourful presentation to help me teach the lyrics easily, making sure that we know what we sing. For each song, I have created a presentation that allows the sound to be embedded in a PowerPoint, macro-enabled presentation. Each slide has pictures related to the lyrics, while the music plays in the background.
Another "trick’’ I use is actions. With pictures and actions, the lyrics are easy to remember and more likely to be learned very quickly.
The second challenge was to put in practice the vocabulary we have learned while singing. So, each assembly starts with a short conversation in French, with a partner. The staff walk among the children, helping them or just listening, ready to step in if the pupils need any support or encouragement. Funnily enough, even my colleagues enjoy singing and they often told me that "now I have this song stuck in my head."
We are just small at the moment, but we are getting better and better each Friday. And with every new song we practise, the horizon grows bigger and brighter.
Is teaching like a box of chocolates? It is indeed! A big box full of different flavours, so many in fact that we can try a new one every day.
Florentina Popescu teaches in a primary school in the South East of England