A day in the life of Alison Laycock

23rd January 2015 at 00:00
This French teacher counts her blessings as she journeys to work across the remote tropical island of St Helena, a paradise of spectacular views, fascinating history and friendly people

I am often struck by the thought that I have the most amazing job. Here I am, living and teaching on St Helena, one of the most remote islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, introducing the French language to pupils in the very place where Napoleon was exiled in 1815.

I am predominantly based at Prince Andrew School, the only secondary on the island, which has 240 students aged 11-18. I teach French to Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils, as well as three Year 10s who are the first to study the language at GCSE level after it was introduced to the school last year.

I also teach French to Year 5 and 6 pupils in the three primary schools on the island, and I'm training the teachers of these classes to be able to deliver the language curriculum for themselves.

Wednesdays are my most varied day. I arrive at school after a 10-minute drive past spectacular views of the ocean and James Bay. I'm used to driving on St Helena now, but the steep inclines were a challenge at first.

One of the many things I love here is the kindness - people are always quick to say hello and everyone waves to each other as they pass on the roads. With such breathtaking views, it's a wonder they aren't too distracted to greet each other.

When I step out of my car, students say, "Bonjour, Madame. a va?", a welcome that is repeated as I arrive in the staffroom. My day starts with registration for my sixth-form tutor group. The rest of the morning is filled with classes for Years 7-9, broken up by an enrichment session with some Year 12 students. They are writing their CVs and personal statements - there's a real mix in their choice of university courses, from marine studies to medicine.

It's frustrating to see my French students only once a week as it hinders their progress. And living on this remote island means they don't have the same access to the French accent or culture as students based in the UK. However, all of them are doing tremendously well. I'm proud of them for the effort they put into their learning.

After my lunchtime duty, I go to Jamestown where I'm teaching French to six members of staff at the tourist office. They are learning the language ahead of the Napoleon bicentenary celebrations in October and in anticipation of French-speaking tourists arriving once the island's airport is completed.

I have a quick break before my adult French class, made up of beginners and intermediate students from across the island. All of them are doing very well and their humour shines through in the lessons, especially when we discuss the pitfalls of Google Translate.

On my journey home, I am always captivated by the view of a heart-shaped waterfall. When I arrive, I reflect on the day, the learners I have interacted with and all the positives of the lessons I have shared with such a variety of characters. I really do have the most amazing job.

Your day

Do you want to tell the world's teachers about your working day, the unique circumstances in which you teach or the brilliance of your class? If so, email chloe.darracott-cankovic@tesglobal.com

We will give your school pound;100 if your story is published.


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now