Why LPW is so special to me and why I wouldn’t teach anywhere else
Creativity… Freedom... Teamwork...
These three words are the first ones that come to mind when I think of why I love teaching at LPW. When I consider the concepts that lie behind these words and how rare it is to find this combination in a job, I realise how precious it is to me to work in a school that offers me such an extraordinary opportunity.
There are not many schools like LPW. If as a teacher, I feel so happy in my job, so enthusiastic and free to express the various pedagogies I believe in, you can imagine the positive and empowering impact this love of teaching has on the children in my classes.
I have taught in various places in France. Teamwork is not the norm in secondary schools there, except perhaps in schools in areas of deprivation, where working together was a more of a survival strategy! Yes, I did experience a certain amount of freedom and creativity but the opportunities were limited due to the lack of funding.
In England, I have volunteered in various nurseries and schools when my children were little, to help me understand better how the education system works in this country. Many of the adults I meet who learned languages at school say that they are rubbish at languages and can’t communicate. A lot of them say that it was boring. I have to say that I can understand why.
In terms of foreign languages, all the schools I have experience of rely on textbooks that should be thrown away after four years because half of the topics needed updates (music, TV programmes, expressions, reading, food…) otherwise the teaching becomes stale and little more than a factory churning out stereotypes.
In addition to the environmental impact of replacing textbooks regularly, the cost involved eats up school budgets and leaves little scope for what children really love, and need, to engage with, to get the most out of learning a new language: living books, authentic activity books, DVDs, prizes, festivals in the target language and above all, time to immerse themselves in project-based learning and in competitions that widen their horizons.
This year, children at LPW had the opportunity to travel virtually around the world by following the Vendée Globe yacht race and some extended their learning beyond France herself to explore the wider French-speaking world.
They all encountered authentic children’s and teenage books that French children and teenagers love to read at the moment, for real! I encouraged this habit of reading children’s books in French by asking the children what they would like to read about and then finding suitable works. From a Year 4 girl who wanted a story about pigs (and nothing else would do!) to a Year 8 pupil reading a mid-19th century classic, Les malheurs de Sophie, my aim is that gradually all pupils will feel undaunted by, and of course enjoy, reading a whole book in a foreign language, whatever its size. For this Easter break, 30 French books have been borrowed by pupils and I hope to build on this number for the summer half term holiday.
Wherever possible, we explored areas beyond the curriculum that weren’t necessarily topics I might originally have planned. For example, one child asked to learn more about the iconic French designer, Coco Chanel, so I focused on Chanel in the lesson about International Women’s Day. Not only were this child’s voice and interest heard and nurtured but the other children really enjoyed discovering more about this famous French woman. Another pupil asked whether we could do some work on French Revolution. It is a huge subject and rather more complex to incorporate into the curriculum but I have started to gather some resources (books, videos) that he is able to explore independently, to delve deeper in a period of history that is of particular interest for him. Delving deeper is another activity that is encouraged at LPW for those children, whose imaginations have been fired by something they have learned about in class, to take their learning further.
The Year 8 scholars engaged in a nurturing cross-curricular project on the opera L’enfant et les Sortilèges by Colette and Ravel, initiated by Mrs Casey (Head of English) and involving Mrs Goodson (our Director of Music), Mr Lucas (Head of IT) and myself. This is just one example amongst many others activities at LPW. In most schools, there is no space for this kind of project, no opportunity for the children’s voices to be heard because teachers have no time and the only things that matter are the grades.
I know now that I wouldn’t like to teach anywhere other than at LPW because for the first time in my career, I have found the place that is right for me, that combines creativity, freedom and teamwork. A place that offers a varied and consistent feast of culture, a place where soft skills - the keys for the future - are at the centre of each subject, a place where kindness is not just one word amongst many others in a prospectus. Above all, for me, it is a place where each teacher is passionate about their subject and shares ideas with their fellow teachers, to improve their own skills and feed each child’s interests.