Berry Blog


I don't normally write much about school as almost everything is confidential but I thought I'd share a few thoughts from the beginning of the new school year.

This year, I'm teaching first grade again. It's the hardest grade in some ways, as they can't do much for themselves and need a lot of teacher input and time. It can sometimes feel as though there are no breaks in the day. On the other hand, it is the most exciting grade to teach because they are interested in everything and soak up all the new activities like little sponges. We get to see a lot of progress every week, probably more so than in any other grade.

I say 'we' because this year, we are trying something new. Instead of having two separate classes and just swapping for certain subjects, we are treating the two classes as one and team teaching. We have a nice, big double classroom. The other teacher, Riikka, is a Finn and so she teaches all the Finnish, with me supporting. She also teaches all the creative subjects, which is good because I'm not that good at them. I teach English, maths, science and religion, with her supporting. So far, we have found lots of benefits to this way of teaching. It means that there is always a 'spare' teacher to deal with any little incidents, without the class being disrupted. We both get time to do one-to-one tasks with the kids, which is really important with first graders. Plus, I think it's a bit like children having two parents. It's nice for them to have both of us there to talk to, to ask for help, etc.

Andy is in grade 9 now and just like Josh did a big project a couple of years ago, now it's Andy's turn. He's got to keep a journal for the year and he's going to do it in the form of a blog. Have a look and then follow his progress through the year. He's taking his first lesson this week. Obviously there will be an adult there supervising but the idea is that he plans with me and then teaches most of the lesson himself.

When Josh did his project, he made a website with login area for my class. The kids loved it, so after the project had finished it, I took the site and continued developing it. I wish I could show you but it is password protected. My class use it a lot. They have their timetable there, homework, class information, subject information and assessments. So far, the parents and children seem to like it and it saves a lot of printing and carrying of papers back and forth. I still need to develop a proper user interface and then other classes could use it if they wanted.


Pilates kitIt feels like my already busy life has now been completely consumed by physio, swimming and pilates! When we went back for the post-op check, the specialist said that the operation was successful, I'm getting good strength back in my leg and I'm generally doing well. He also said that there is some swelling and damage in the vertibrae either side of the disc, not much disc left and I will always have back pain and will have to do daily physio for the rest of my life if I want to remain mobile. I don't want to ever have the kind of pain I had before the summer, so I have been trying to work out an exercise regime that helps, is manageable and will strengthen my core muscles.

Generally, if I do the prescribed physio routine 5 times a day, life is pretty good but it only really keeps me moving, rather than building strength. Pilates was recommended, so I sent off for some DVDs from Amazon (the book store, not the forest) and started learning 'our method'. The lady on the DVD is very good but she can be quite repetitive: keep your pelvis in neutral, zip and tuck, breathe in to prepare, etc. I find that now, as I do daily tasks, I can hear her voice in the background, telling me how to wash up, put my shoes on and so on. It must be helping though, as I've progressed onto the harder exercises and my balance and strength are improving.

MinecraftWhilst I was off work, I decided to investigate Twitter. I know of some other educationalists who use it and at BETT, all the presenters use it, so I thought I'd try it too. I haven't followed family and friends. It's more for educational purposes - sharing teaching methods and resources. I'm finding it really useful for those things and also just for keeping me in contact with others. Teaching in Oulu can be a bit isolated. We're shut away from the rest of the world and don't get out much. One of the best things I've found, which I probably wouldn't have without Twitter, is MinecraftEdu. The first time I really sat down and watched the boys playing Minecraft, I thought it had enormous educational potential but now I've found that there's a teacher pack available so that I can make resources, control the class, set up problems to solve, etc. It's great! I managed to persuade school to buy it and now Josh and I are running two extra-curricular clubs, where the kids can mainly play but I can get familiar with the teacher stuff. Also, Andy is hoping to use it as the basis for his personal project, developing resources for grade 1 maths and doing lessons with my class. I think it's very exciting!

Temperature graphFinally, I've just sent Andy out to the car where I accidentally left my camera. When he brought it in, it was freezing and the lens misted up (hence the slightly foggy Pilates picture). It made me look on the weather site and last night we hit zero. That must mean winter's coming - hooray!


Recent work done outsideI know the last couple of months have been pretty focussed on my health but as well as all that, Neil has been a very busy chap outside. Before I went into hospital, he got the decking laid and since then, he's built the fences (piece by piece) around the terrace area and the garage. Some of it still needs painting but I think it's looking really lovely! My mum sent me an early birthday present - a waspinator. Recent work done outsideIt's a fake nest that is now hanging from our terrace. The idea is that any wasp that meanders into our space, sees it, thinks it is an enemy nest of scary vicious hornets and flies away quickly. It doesn't work completely but I don't think there have been as many around the decking as there were before. Of course, it is possible that they are all in training somewhere in the forest, getting ready to launch an assault on the fake nest but I hope not.

Recent work done outsideAnother thing Neil and the boys have been busy with, is clearing and burning all the palettes and other spare wood that has been lying around the plot. We want it to look a little bit more like a garden and like less a building site. Of course, there's no way we'll actually get the garden done this year but it looks much better without all the rubbish there. This year, we have to get the outside of the house finished and that could take a while. Once I'm better, I hope to plaster and paint the inside of Neil's office.

Recent work done outsideTotally unrelated to the photos, but I went to the physio yesterday and got the next level of exercises. I was really excited as the old ones were too easy and I was bored with them. Well, the new ones are certainly more difficult. My body felt like it was going to give up completely after the first couple of workouts. Today though, I'm getting used to them and quite enjoying them. If you hear groans and oohs and aahs though, it could be me! Recent work done outside

The final pic is nothing to do with the house but I happened to be outside with the camera as Andy arrived home from footy. He looked really happy and I couldn't resist a pic. He had cycled all the way to the city, played football for a couple of hours and then cycled home again. He should certainly be fit!