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Retirement four years on

Four years have slipped quickly by since I gave up my job at Ripon Grammar School. I only rarely dream of teaching classes now, stress levels are down, but I soon discovered that I couldn't stop thinking about resources, methodology and sharing ideas. "Semi-retired" describes my situation well.

You see, when I began teaching in 1980 I had two possible ambitions: one was to be a Head of Department and the other, more uncertain, was to get into training teachers. I achieved the first ambition by the age of 32 and enjoyed 24 years leading some great teachers at Ripon. The second route really became unrealistic as teacher training moved gradually out of university education departments and into schools. It's also true that I would have missed teaching if I had gone into teacher education.

Since July 2012 I have kept my hand in by writing lots of resources for frenchteacher.net, which, with over 1400 schools/teachers subscribing, has become more successful than I had envisaged, blogging copiously, writing a book, doing some work for AQA leading meetings and writing training resources, and doing the occasional training sessions with teachers, for example for the York PGCE course. I get great satisfaction from working with trainees who seem so enthusiastic, agreeable and keen to learn.

So my ambition of sharing my own enthusiasm and training other teachers has, ultimately, when I think about it, been achieved thanks to the internet and social media. I can connect with far more people this way than by working face-to-face with teachers. The "online space" also means I can pick up loads of new ideas, which has given added impetus to my interest in theory and methodology. I can partly thank my friend Gianfranco Conti for this; his blogs got me thinking in different ways about language learning and questioning some of my beliefs. Other online influences have come from over the Atlantic, where teacher-trainer-bloggers like Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell share their own experience.

As time goes by I have become more pragmatic about "what works", and see a valuable role for both ends of the classic learning-acquisition spectrum. Comprehensible input is great, but you also need to build skills - the two are not mutually exclusive, as I see it. I remain sceptical about "panacea methods" but don't accept that anything goes. I like some uses of new technology, but am suspicious of tasks which take a lot of time for little return. I wish teachers were better informed about theory and research (I was always keener on this than my colleagues!), but recognise that it only provides partial answers.

One aspect of these last four years has been adjusting to the role of minor entrepreneur, rather than teacher. Frenchteacher.net was originally, from 2002 to 2012, a free site which I used to store and share worksheets. When I retired I wanted to carry on writing resources, but there was little point in doing it for nothing since I was no longer teaching. When Gianfranco and I produced our book, this reinforced the need to market resources, so I use Twitter and, to a lesser degree, Facebook to do this. Sharing resources for nothing is great, but there's nothing wrong with teachers being rewarded for their work. Sites like TES and Teachers Pay Teachers make this easy. I still share a good number of freebies, partly to encourage teachers to subscribe to others.

So four years on I am very involved in the language teaching community and hope to be so for a good few years to come.

Comments

  1. Keep up the excellent work Steve. I love the resources and the tweets. Jon Meier

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  2. Thanks Jon. I used to use your grammar pages in class for display. Good luck with your latrst resources.

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  3. And all of us across the pond are better for your voice staying in the conversation. :)

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  4. And how lucky we are that you are 'semi-retired'!. Thank you, Steve, as ever, for all your resources (I don't feel that I could teach A-Level successfully without my subscription) and for your continued dedication to help teachers in preparation for upcoming changes. This past month a new colleague and I have both bonded over our love of your website, and even more surprisingly, I made the link that a housemate in my house share near Birmingham is an ex-pupil of Ripon Grammar School who even studied French there(!) Such a small world! Thank you again for all your advice, wisdom and resources.

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  5. Thanks. I'd be curious to know who the flatmate was.

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