Sunday, 31 October 2010

Practice, practice

This morning, I made a start on my new blog - written in Italian! Having started the course on Friday, if I'm to regain any sort of proficiency at all, I've got to practice in between lessons, and so I thought that a bit of writing - even if only a few words - is going to help. I struggled and had to look up quite a few simple words in a dictionary, as well as not remembering how you form the future tense, so I had to refresh my memory on that as well. However, considering the last time I wrote anything in Italian was forty-five years ago, I don't think I've done too badly. I deliberately kept it simple, and resisted the temptation to compose an entry in English and just translate it. No doubt it's more than just a bit stilted, and it's going to come across rather obviously as a first-form beginner practising tenses and simple nouns with articles - but hopefully it'll grow into something a bit more substantial as time goes on.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Back to skool school!

Maybe it's because I've been reminiscing an awful lot just lately, and maybe it's because the nights are really starting to draw in... but I started getting the vague feeling I ought to do something a bit more useful to occupy my time, and maybe even my brain cells as well. Without really thinking consciously about it, I started to feel drawn towards the idea of picking up the study of languages once again. Having already got A levels in French German and Latin, there seemed limited mileage in progressing any further there: I'd never really done much more than dabbled with either Spanish (which I'd done as a General Studies 'extra' for a term or two in the sixth form) or Portuguese (which I'd looked at many years ago on a BBC TV series which I don't even recollect getting to the end of). Which left Italian. In the two terms I'd spent briefly at Uni straight after leaving school, I'd got up to O level standard - or so I was told - but I'd got nothing to show for it, or at least not "officially".

So over the weekend I did a bit of ferreting around. I felt attracted to the idea of a proper class or course as giving perhaps more in the way of motivation than just doing something online - and found that
Warwick University have a 'Post Beginners' course on Friday afternoons, which sounded just what I was looking for.

As this afternoon approached, I was looking forward to it - albeit with an odd butterfly or two - and once we got underway I was surprised how easily I slipped back into the old routine. It's been thirty-odd years since I did my degree, and another fifteen previous to that since I last studied Italian (or anything else full-time), but while I'd be exaggerating to say it all came flooding back, there was definitely more than just a trickle. And I certainly didn't feel anywhere near as self-conscious as I thought I might.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

Those who can, do: those who can't, teach

I was rather touched this week to read about the poor guy who gained the dubious honour of being the first teacher "banned for life for being useless". Part of me feels to compelled to say that some of my old schoolmasters were regarded as pretty useless, but largely escaped the consequences of it - apart from being played up by us all the time! And that was the main yardstick by which we all judged a "good" teacher, basically because if the teacher couldn't keep order in lessons, no-one learned anything. Or at the very least, it was an uphill struggle.

And I'd therefore argue that it's every bit as important for today's pupils as it was for us... and for the same reason. However, that doesn't seem to have featured in the General Teaching Council's reasoning, perhaps because it's a tricky thing to measure or quantify. They cite poor lesson planning (which for us was a non-issue: all the teacher had to do was remember where we'd got to in the textbook and carry on from where we'd left off) and delayed marking (which a lot of our Masters were guilty of, although we did always get our homework back eventually).

But then - and it isn't clear what standards prevailed at the school concerned here - teaching an O-level stream or A-level set in a Grammar School would at least in theory have attracted a high standard of applicant, as well as giving our Headmaster an incentive to do something about anyone who didn't come up to scratch.

Monday, 11 October 2010

And on this day in ........

It's my birthday today! Another year older, another year (perhaps) wiser? Not especially remarkable - certainly not compared to all the excitement and magic of childhood birthdays, anyway: receiving cards, opening presents and celebrating another milestone. I can't any longer actually remember anything distinctive about any of them - just a part of the happiness of growing up, and the anticipation of getting closer to being an adult and being able to do all the things I wasn't allowed to do as a child. Though I suppose the novelty of that soon wore off!

Nevertheless, a day to relax, chill out, enjoy the warm autumn sunshine and look forward to whatever another year has in store for me.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

When in Rome.....

I seem to have done quite a bit of reminiscing about my childhood and schooldays since I started writing this blog some six months ago. It's not really a conscious attempt on my part at a 'theme', more that every so often something happens or catches my eye and gets me thinking back. Like this one, for instance.

Schools which still have the shirt, blazer and tie as obligatory uniform are probably in the minority nowadays, outnumbered I'd guess by polo necks and sweatshirts in the school colours. Although it's just like the uniform I wore (minus the cap, thank goodness!), and I daresay designed to serve much the same purpose, that hardly makes it "Dickensian". And the schoolmasters who taught me were properly attired in shirt and tie - and gown... that I don't suppose is still de rigeur nowadays.

I haven't worn a tie for many years, in fact I'm not at all sure I've still got one. But then I no longer need to: I don't have a job where one is required. There's a definite argument in my mind for saying that if pupils are required to dress smartly and correctly to the school's standards, then the staff are morally obliged to adhere to some similar sort of standard too. But the real crux of the matter is surely that if it's the stated 'custom of the house' to do something or not do something, then it isn't really incumbent on the individual to refuse merely on the grounds that he/she doesn't personally like it or agree with it.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Battle of the sexes

A new survey claims today that mothers are "more critical of their daughters than their sons and let boys get away with more". I can only comment from the perspective of having been on the receiving end of this scenario, and in my case I'd say it's rubbish - from what I remember, my mother treated my sister and me pretty much equally from the point of view of getting away with anything, and I certainly don't remember her being unduly critical of my sister.

Having said that, I'd be the first to admit I was a "mum's boy". My mother and I were very much alike temperamentally: I was always given to a 'what you see is what you get' personality, whereas my sister was given more to quiet brooding and occasional sulking and in that respect took after my father. The other thing that needs to be said is that she's seven years older than me, and she doubtless compared the treatment and discipline meted out to me compared to a perhaps stricter standard which had prevailed seven years earlier. Whereas I in turn got packed off to bed earlier, and got less pocket money... always accompanied by a 'when you're her age' line of reasoning.

I did better at school than she did, putting the lie to the modern educational view which regards boys as "under-achievers" compared to girls, and got rewarded for my efforts, but neither of us got spoiled. Looking back on it all, I think it's true to say that in some ways we were treated differently, but that was as much to do with us as individuals, and how and where we grew up, than either of us being favoured over the other.