Teaching a foreign language in two primary schools in south-east England is an experience that enriches me every day. As the schools’ only French teacher, I teach about 700 pupils each week and at least four different classes per day, sometimes as many as eight. Despite this, I know all my pupils’ names.
I don’t need an alarm clock as two robins in my garden wake me with their singing at 6am every morning. Often I stay in bed for five more minutes listening to their serenade.
By 7.45am I am in Send Primary School in Surrey, where I work from Tuesdays to Thursdays. All is quiet. It’s like the building waits for the children with all its shiny armour ready: clean rooms, tidy tables, coloured displays, empty pegs ready to hold book bags and PE kits. A school without children is like Sleeping Beauty: only their laughter, games, songs and chatter can bring it to life.
I take my morning coffee in to the office I share with Charlotte, my PE colleague. The school has two sites, one for key stage 1 and one for key stage 2. As I teach half the day in each key stage, I walk over to the other school and am greeted by some of the parents who recognise me with a big smile and their best “Bonjour’’. It is so nice to be identified with the language you teach.
Today I am teaching two Year 4 classes, followed by two Year 2 classes. My pupils and I speak as much French as possible and we smile as often as possible. This morning I am teaching the colours and adjective agreement. I have with me plenty of materials, including a funny song (we often sing French songs and sometimes we dance, too).
After lunch I walk back to the other school for my Year 2 classes. We have great fun learning fruits, playing games and dancing the samba. At 2pm I swap with Charlotte: she takes my class for PE and I take the second class for French. I have some plastic fruit in a bag and, after practising the vocabulary, we play guessing games. Little hands feel the fruit in the bag and the children guess which fruit they’ve got. I struggle not to smile while watching them shut their eyes and concentrate hard. The class nearly forgets to breathe; it’s like the pupils expect a white rabbit to pop out of my bag, not just a bit of coloured plastic.
Early age fascinates me. When I teach KS1, I feel like I am in a story. I can pretend I am Cinderella or any other character and, in a blink of an eye, the children are in my game.
At 3pm the children prepare to head home but for me there is an extra hour of teaching as I run an after-school French club.
At the end of my teaching day, I feel good. I take my energy from my pupils: they are my engine. I feed back to the class teachers in the staffroom then print some materials in the “magic room’’. This is what I call the printer room because in there I have amazing conversations with colleagues while waiting our turn. Languages, maths, geography, history, school, future, family, technology, holidays…what a variety of subjects we cover. One day, the headteacher came in and said she could only hear our laughter and had to join us as we were having too much fun.
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