Saturday, 7 January 2012

Warning: When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple

On Monday I start my first assessed teaching placement...ARGH. Real life is hitting me hard. I knew this course was going to be difficult, but I did not realise how much work goes into planning a lesson! When I taught in Italy, you basically played games with the kids all I wish the English scholastic system would allow for that. I am launching into teaching my year 4/5 class first thing with a maths lesson on factors, place value and rounding numbers. Sounds simple enough, yes? Not so much.

In other news, this has been strange couple of weeks. I feel a bit like I have been kicked in the heart. But I suppose it is about time someone was cruel to me, instead of always being the other way around. Karma, and all that.

Wish me luck with the's terrifying to think that everything I do now actually matters.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Where, oh where, oh where is Emily?

So go the cries that I have been hearing in the blogging world...not so much. But I will explain. I think I mentioned in my last post that somehow Google has become inaccesible on my laptop...I can't log in to blogger or youtube, because they both run through Google. I can't explain it. I can't change it. So it's very difficult for me to find time on another computer to write on here. But here I am, in the library, meant to be doing understand.

Well, what have I been doing? Of course, the biggest change in my life has been starting my PGCE in Primary Teaching, which is amazing and surprising and frustrating and the hardest work I have ever done in my life, but also - so far - the most rewarding. During the first two weeks in November I undertook my first placement teaching Year 1 children (I had the most amazing class), and it went really, really well. The feeling you get at the end of a lesson when children have actually undersootd you, had fun and learned's inexplicable. There is so much surrounding teaching that makes it difficult and, at times, feel completely pointless, but when you're there, actually doing it, it is fantastic and I love it. In January I start my first assessed placement teaching a mixed Year 4/5 class at a school in Hull. It's all exciting stuff.

Another marvellous thing that happened was that I finally graduated! For some odd reason, York St John wait until November to have their graduation ceremonies. It was one of my favourite ever days. Because I hadn't seen anyone since before I went away to Italy (IN JUNE) it was an absolutely magic reunion. The ceremony itself was beautiful, my parents looked very proud, and I swished around like Harry Potter in my robes. In the evening things got a bit messy with the old group (Hayley, Steph and Ruth) and I woke up with a horrific hangover. At the weekend after my graduation, my family had a big party for me. Epic times all round.

Friday, 26 August 2011

“You may have the universe, if I may have Italy” – Giuseppe Verdi (PART 1/2)

I apologise that it has taken me this long to do this post - for some inexplicable reason blogger has decided that it will not load on my laptop, so this is the first chance I have had to get on another computer and write about my adventures in Italy this summer. I suppose I should start off with a quick summary: I recently spent six weeks in Italy, during four of which I was a tutor, teaching English to Italian children aged 7-13. It was without a doubt the most inspiring, life-changing experience of my entire life. Not only did I have the chance to teach my own class (good practice for when I start my PGCE in a couple of weeks), but I also travelled across a lot of Northern Italy and had the opportunity to live with Italian families, an experience that simply being a tourist in Italy just does not provide. I came home just over three weeks ago feeling a completely new person, and since then I have been doing nothing but pining for a country that I felt more at home in than my own. Here is the first half of the (what I'm afraid will be rather long) story of my June 16th-July31st 2011. It will likely make no sense to anyone but myself and those mentioned, but my attempt to keep a travel diary while I was there failed dramatically, and this is my way of getting some of my memories put in order.

Nice-Cannes-Monaco-Monte-Carlo, France (16-19th June)

I began my travels by flying to Nice, where I spent three nights in a suprisingly lovely hostel, accustoming myself to the heat (didn't want to be passing out during my orientation/training week because my fragile English body was melting) and travelling around the French Riviera. Nice is, as the name suggests, very nice. I loved the old town, which had an almost Venetian feel about it; it was all tiny little streets and sunshine-yellow buildings, huge churches tucked away down alleys and beautiful little art galleries and shoe shops. Around my hostel was very lovely, too, but the beaches and seafront I can take or leave. It seemed to be either for very old, retired people getting overwhelmingly brown and wrinkled, or very young, tanned people spending their parent's money. As I am entirely disinterested in getting brown or wrinkled, I didn't spend much time there. The sea was beautiful, though.

Nice felt a little like a sundrenched, overpriced Blackpool, but Cannes...Cannes stole my heart. It was a little bit of heaven, it truly was. Have you ever arrived somewhere and just known, completely known, that you could spend the rest of your life there and be totally happy? I felt like that in Cannes. The designer shops along the seafront (sunshine, sea and Chanel? More, please), the sweeping promenades, the glitering ocean. God, it was perfect. I explored everywhere, including the beautiful, winding old town and also got a boat trip to Ile St Margherite, where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned. It was such an amazing place. I wandered around for ages and had my lunch on a deserted beach, paddling my feet in the Mediteranean. There's not much that beats that.

On the genuine red carpet.

On my first Saturday I caught the train the opposite way up the coast from Cannes to Monaco/Monte-Carlo with a couple of girls from my hostel room. It's almost comical how pretentious Monte-Carlo is. I mean, it's absolutely stunning - the architecture is gorgeous and the views are mindblowing, but please. Yes, we see your Ferrari/Bentley/Porsche. Get over it. Also, I was stuned by how tiny the place is. I mean, it is literally a bay, maybe a mile across, with Monte-Carlo on one side and Monaco on the other. I did fall quite in love with Monaco, though. There was flags everywhere for the marriage of the prince (how very Gossip Girl) which was a couple of weeks after I was there, and the palace was beautiful. I went inside and it was fabulous. The tiny town of Monaco is stunning too. I walked around all the little streets and went in the church where Princess Grace and all the other (less famous) princes and princes are buried. It was all very grand and beautiful, but if I had millions to spend on real estate, I think there are a hundred places I'd prefer to live (such as Cannes).

The most millionaires per square foot, or something like that. Looking from Monaco to Monte-Carlo.

The palace in Monaco.

San Remo, Italy (19-25th June)

On the Sunday I caught the train along the coast into Italy (woo!) and San Remo, a gorgeous town on the coast just over the border. Here I spent a week playing games, learning songs, putting on ridiculous shows, building my confidence and basically learning how to interact, teach and deal with Italian children. It was one of the most invaluable weeks of my life, not just because of the skills and lesson content that it taught me in preperation for actually having my own class, but simply in how confidence boosting it was. There were a hundred and fifty or so of us there, and on our first morning we were put into two huge circles and had to do a bunch of ridiculous chants and songs, and I literally thought what the fuck am I doing here? By the Friday I was playing a doctor in a show about monkeys, and the Monday after I was leading a group of kids singing a song involving the lyrics 'get loose, get funky, get down to the beat'. I also met some really fantastic people, most notably Anna (from Manchester, with an accent that made me feel close to home), Shafferon and Paulina. One of the most surreal things about the trip was how quickly you become so close to people, but there'll be more about that later. The whole orientation week about building your confidence and getting you talking to new people. A surprising amount of people went with their girlfriends, boyfriends or friends, so being on your own was a little daunting, but it ended up being epic. We had dinner on the beach a few times, went dancing in the tiniest club I have ever been in in my life, and watched a bunch of amazingly talented people play live music in a fabulously cramped little bar. On the Thursday I found out where my first teaching destination was...

Milan (25th June-2nd July)

Some people got sent to English Camps in little villages nobody could pronounce the names of. Some got sent off into the mountains, or across the country the the other coast. I got sent to central Milan. YES. CENTRAL MILAN. The fashion capital of the world. As in, I lived in Milan, 12 minutes walk from the Duomo and shops and the Galleria. Oh God, it was perfect. I still can't get over how lucky I was, both in location and who I lived with. I spent my first night with Vittoria, one of the camp directors and then I met my first Italian host family: Irene, Giovanni, Tatiana and Galia Longhi. It is impossible to describe how wonderful Italian people are. The warm-heartedness and generosity of the families that I lived with was the most beautiful and touching thing. They really opened up their lives to you and made you - a complete stranger - feel a real part of the family. With the Longhi family I instantly felt at home; I got on so well with both the parents and Tatiana and Galia (the daughters, 14 and 13 years old respectively. Galia was my student at the camp) and we always had a great time and a good laugh together. I thought it would be incredibly weird, stepping into someone's life like that, but by Tuesday it genuinely felt like I'd known them forever. I loved them so much and shed a few tears when I left Milan.

L-R, Tatiana, Me, Galia

Just outside my apartment.

The other magic thing about Milan was meeting the other tutors. A great thing about ACLE is that they have tutors coming in literally from all over the world, so you're being introduced not just to the Italian culture but are also working with people who are completely different to you, with wholly different backgrounds. I arrived in Milan with a lass called Jodie from my orientation (a fellow Brit) and met some of the most epic people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing: Ozzie, from Canada, and Cherie, Sarah and Angeline, from the USA. I ended up teaching and travelling for just over four weeks with Ozzie and Cherie, and three weeks with Sarah. The perfect thing about Milan was that we all lived really close together and we met up pretty much every night, along with our two lovely camp helpers, Luca and Gabrielle. On the Tuesday we had our camp meal, where ACLE basically pays for everyone to go out, and ended up getting so hammered that not only did I black portions of the night out, but I had the world's most painfully nasty hangover the next day. I almost died, it was so horrible. Trying to teach and play games with and communicate with teenagers who don't understand a word you're saying whilst attempting not to throw up on them is not an experience I ever want to relive.

L-R Sarah, Ozzie, Cherie, Angeline, Me, Gabrielle

And so to the actual teaching, because, believe it or not, I wasn't just in Italy to sample the Limoncello. Since I'm doing my PGCE in primary education, I was hoping to get some experience working with younger kids, but being the laidback lass I am, when we had our first meeting with the camp directors I was offered blue book level kids (my class being aged 12-13) and I said yeah, of course, why not? What I didn't realise was that my class was entirely seperate from the rest of the school, being a whole tiny camp all by itself. So I was kind of dropped into it, with no experience, and nobody to help out if things turned into a bit of a disaster. However, for me that kind of worked because it forced me to up my game, to plan a hundred different projects a day that we could do, and to kind of let go of all my inhibitions without worrying about messing up in front of the other tutors. Despite being one of the most difficult, exhausting things I have ever had to do, teaching this class of thirteen 13 year-olds (seven boys and six girls) was life-changing. I've never worked so hard or had to think so quickly. The Italian scholastic system is very strict and lessons are almost exclusively classroom based, so letting them loose outside to play games or to shout chants at the top of their lungs kind of sends them a bit wild. And working with teenagers is SO DIFFICULT. Some of them were stubborn, rude, and basically incredibly teenagery, but some of them...oh man, I had some kids in that class who were just so lovely and funny and intelligent. Like all children, their imaginations are astounding. At the end of each teaching week, you put on a final show for the parents to come and watch, and my class did two shows - girls and boys. The girls did Sleeping Beauty and the boys did a hilariously twisted show that they composed themselves called Rambo Balboa and the Six Dwarves, involving one kid who was Rocky AND Rambo, and the other six boys playing dwarves. It was FANTASTIC. And they wrote it themselves. There were times when I couldn't stand to be in the same room as them, but those moments, like when they excitedly showed me the script for the show, or when they all shouted 'thank you, Emily!' at the end of the week, or when a kid who can't speak a word of English can sort of hold a conversation with you at the end...I cannot imagine anything more rewarding. And because I was seperate from the rest of the school, I was constantly with my class so I felt like I really got to know them. It was a huge learning experience for me, and one of the most satisfying weeks I spent in Italy.

I forgot to teach them how to spell 'bye'.

Come si dice...

Rambo Balboa and some dead dwarves

Turin (2-8th July)

From Milan, Cherie, Ozzie, Sarah and I moved to Turin, home of Fiat and the Turin Shroud. This time we were on the outskirts of the city, about a 30 minute drive from the city centre. We were joined there by two more tutors, two of my favourite people ever, Ellen and Sean. Turin (or Torino) was a two-week camp, and for the first week I lived with an amazing woman called Chiara, and her lovely son Mattia. I think I should mention at this point the spider bite. So, I was basically eaten alive by the insects of Italy, most notably by Italy's spiders. Either, they were poisonous or I was allergic to them, but I got bitten by something on three seperate occasions, the first time in a park in Milan. My ankle swelled up and turned black - it was disgusting. The first thing poor Chiara had to do was take me to a chemist to get some stuff for my poinsoned leg. I had to wear a bandage so that I didn't get a spider bite scar from the sunlight and basically it was very painful and very uncool. This drastic event reoccured at the end of my time in Turin also, but more on that later.

Me in Turin

Anyway, on my first weekend in Turin, bandaged up and ready to roll, Chiara and Mattia took me north to the mountains, where I did the most physcal exercise I have done in about five years. Basically, I climbed a mountain. It was painful. It was also one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I have ever been in my entire life. Literaly I found myself looking around, thinking what did I do to deserve to see this? It was stunning; absolutely mindblowingly gorgeous. I wish there was a way that I could eloquently describe what it felt like to be surrounded by something so beautiful, because photographs really don't do it justice. I just felt completely peaceful, and in my hectic mind that was an amazing thing in itself. Chiara also took me to visit some of her friends who lived in and about that area. The fact that people actually live there...I found a new life ambition. It was a fantastic day.

At the camp in Turin I was lucky enough to get the youngest class, with students aged 7-10. The first week I had some difficult kids, but working with that class was brilliant. They were so competetive and excited and a little bit wild that it made every game so much more fun. They were kind of hard to handle and really difficult to please, but when we got our final show together, I was so proud of them. They did a sweet dance to Lady Gaga's Poker Face, with three of them dressed as Lady Gaga and the rest of them dressed as playing cards and poker chips (think Alice in Wonderland). It was EPIC. I think now is the time to give an honorary mention to my olympic team during that week. In the afternoons, all the classes came together to do team games. The age groups were all split up and each tutor had their own 'olympic team'. I kind of struck gold with the students I got. The Super Super Super Stars (yeah, we were THAT super) were so enthusiastic and so lovely and so hilarious; I missed them when the teams were disbanded on the Friday. Not all of the children stayed for both weeks of camp, so at the end of the week half of my class left and half of them stayed on. I also got five more children in my class, creating - in my opinion - an absolutely magical group. But that was week 2. First, I went on holiday.

Knicker Squad Six (Note my dramatically bandaged ankle).

Me dancing with one of my students.
The Super Super Super Stars

Water games

La Spezia/Cinque Terre (9-10th July)

All week we, the tutors, had been trying to organise a weekend trip somewhere to have a bit of a break. The good thing about a two-week camp is that you didn't have to travel on the Saturday to your next camp, so you can basically do what you want. By Friday night, we still hadn't got anything planned, so we decided to just wing it. We caught the train at about 5am from Turin to La Spezia, arrived mid-morning and booked into the first hotel we found. I think the aim was to go to Cinque Terre, but we missed one of the boats from La Spezia and it was too late to hang around for the next one, so Ellen and I bought some classy cartons of wine, and we got a boat to one of the little islands off La Spezia.

It's never too early for biscuits.

It was such a lovely, chilled out day. The six of us went swimming, two of us went on another cheeky boat ride, we had some warm wine, we sunbathed, I fell was grand. We caught an evening boat back to La Spezia, had something to eat, showered, and then went out for a drink. I was so knackered by this point though that I was basically falling asleep into my Malibu and Coke, so we went back to the hotel.

On Sunday we caught the train down to Monterosso, one of the five villages of Cinque Terre. We didn't stay for long - only long enough for photos and a drink and an argument with a barkeeper - before we had to catch the train back to Turin. It was so, so pretty, and so hot, but I was dead tired and actually glad to get on the train and fall asleep, ready for Turin week 2.

Next Time on Emily's Adventures in Italy: more Turin, a perfect class, Stresa, spider bite-induced hospital visits, the worst class on the planet, being punched by a 12-year old, Florence, Pisa, climbing the leaning tower at night, and more Milan.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

My stay in Italy has been pretty much destroyed by the news that my dog, Ben, passed away last Saturday. Ben was the kindest, sweetest, most loving soul on the planet and the best friend anyone could want. RIP Benji

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

I'm on the Edge of Glory

It's genuinely impossible for me to explain how astounding these past almost-four weeks have been. I know I said I would try and update, but I have had almost no free time whatsoever; I am exhausted, but I have probably never been so happy. As cliched as it sounds, this experience has been entirely life-changing. I feel like a completely new person, in the most positive way imaginable.

I started off with three nights in Nice, during which I also visited Cannes (perfection) and Monaco-Monte-Carlo. Then I went to San Remo in Italy for an orientation week in preperation for teaching English to Italian children - it was intense and tiring and the most fun I have had in a long time. Then...then then then...I went to Milan. Central Milan. I lived in the centre of Milan with the most fabulous host family you can imagine. It was one of the best weeks of my life. After a week in Milan I came to Turin; I am now halfway through my second week here. Teaching Italian children is difficult, frustrating and at times feels almost impossible, but it is also the most rewarding, hilarious, fantastic thing I have ever done. I'm too tired to go into details about anything now, so until later...ciao.

Thursday, 16 June 2011


I'm about to board a flight to Nice, where I will stay for three nights (Cannes here I come!) before getting train across the border to Italy. There I will begin what will hopefully be a whole summer of teaching. Wish me luck! More updates as soon as I can get on the internet. BYE BYE.

Monday, 6 June 2011

"The eyes of the world are upon you."

Today is the 67th anniversary of D-Day.

The older I get and the more I read and watch and learn about World War 2, the more I understand – and if not understand, then at least begin to comprehend – the immeasurable bravery of the men who fought, not for themselves, but for their families and friends and children and grandchildren and country. So that we can grow up and go to school and say what we want and choose who we want to be. Both my granddads were there in Normandy on D-Day; they both landed on Juno Beach.

Thinking about it makes me want to be a better person; it makes me want to earn what thousands of men fought – and thousands of men died – for. It makes me want to prove, in their memory, that we were worth it.

Forever remember and appreciate what they did for us. To those who died, RIP, and to all of them: thank you.

Some more fascinating photos here.