I joined the PGCE Modern Languages course in September 1980 after having completed a BA at the University of East Anglia and an MA in the German Department at Bristol. After my MA, I worked at the University of Göttingen in Germany as a translator and administrator in the Inorganic Chemistry Department. This was great fun at first as most of my colleagues arrived from the UK without any knowledge of German and my work was varied and challenging. Over time they settled well into teaching in German and research in crystallography and I wanted a new career.
I had done lots of voluntary work with children since my school days in Switzerland and also tutored adults and children in German and English in Göttingen. I explored the possibility of gaining teaching qualifications in Germany but at the time PGCE programmes like those in the UK were not available in Germany. I decided to return to the UK to do my PGCE and chose the University of Bristol because of the city, close friends that lived there and the reputation of the course.
On the PGCE my fellow students were a fantastic bunch and very supportive. We worked very hard on our studies and teaching practices but also had a brilliant social life. I lost loads of weight that year because of the amount of dancing I did! Charles Hannam who worked with us on a project with children in Lockleaze was amazing. We had three very eccentric tutors: John, Herbert and Roy.
The PGCE was demanding. The three tutors really brought language teaching to life for me and set very high expectations. Herbert taught us Russian in different ways, to make us feel what it is like to be a novice learner. I have copied this by teaching my own PGCE students Swedish with a similar intention. I still meet up with my mentor for my main teaching practice at Haysfield School in Bath. She is as opinionated and as passionate about language teaching as ever!
I loved observing pupils at Filton High School and was mentored by an outstanding teacher (John Budd) who influenced the rest of my teaching career, including teaching German very visually by kicking wastepaper bins to emphasis teaching ‘ich bin’ (I am) to beginners. His body language was fantastic and I worked hard to make sure I copied some of his visual strategies. My own education at an international school in Switzerland had been very different. Most of us were bi- or tri-lingual so learning a new language was never seen as the challenge it is perceived to be in the UK.
I got my first job at Linton Village College in Cambridgeshire teaching German and French. I loved this school and had wonderful colleagues. I have since then also taught in Bath and Bristol before becoming a teacher educator as a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Bristol myself. I started my work with Terry Atkinson and Ian Gathercole in the very office my own tutors had used; that was a strange feeling. Over the years I have also taught on the Master’s in Education programmes in Bristol, Malaysia and in Hong Kong and have supervised many masters and doctoral students. I also managed to return to school teaching for three years to keep myself grounded in the realities of language teaching and administration. Working with Arlene Gilpin and Eric Hoyle and the students at Institute Aminuddin Baki in Malaysia was one of the highlights of my career; along with seeing my son cycle happily off to work as an assistant language teacher in Japan.
I tell young teachers to keep true to their principles – policies and trends can change so rapidly in education, it can be hard to remember why we are in this field. I feel very privileged that I was able to return to the Graduate School of Education and that this has allowed me to make a direct contribution to the professional development of new generation of teachers.