Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year

It’s been a long old term. I’ve just finished for the Christmas break, or as I like to think of it, The Best Festival of the Year. I don’t know why I like Christmas over and above all the other festivals of the secular and non-secular year, but apart from the summer break, this is the holiday where I properly switch off: a brief burst of glory and feasting in the middle of winter, where there is no time at all to think about work. Like Bede’s account of the story of the sparrow flying across the mead hall, the Christmas break offers a respite from the darkness without. My only concession to Scrooge is the weird pointlessness of Christmas cards, both traditional and “electronic”, which I rarely send to more than five people. (No, really, why?)

It is in a break with tradition, then, that I write this: my Christmas card to ESOL, or perhaps thanksgiving. But either way, dear old ESOL, thank you. Thank you for giving me a job and a focus and a thing to be passionate about. I didn’t get into this subject on purpose, but I don’t think I would have got this passionate about journalism or the restaurant business, both of which I contemplated for a time. I’m not even sure I would have got this passionate about primary teaching, another briefly considered career. I can’t put my finger on it: something about that intersection between the personal, the social and the political, perhaps, or perhaps it’s just that now, after over a decade of doing it, I’ve met so many interesting and wonderful students. 

Thank you, then, to all those students who make my life fascinating, complicated, difficult and fun. Occasionally all at the same time. Thanks for challenging me, for giving opportunities to share in your lives, and for letting me experiment on you in the hope that it works out better. I’d say, on balance, that it has, but just in case the lesson that sticks with you is the naff one, thanks for bearing with me. Thanks for making an effort, for working hard, for remembering to value a bloody English class when you have a tonne of other stuff going on in your lives. Thanks for doing amazing things, like becoming student governor (as one of my students did just this week), having a baby and then coming back to college mere days later, coming to class in spite of depression, PTSD, and goodness knows what else, not to mention passing exams, and jumping through some of the random hoops we set you. Thanks for all that, and more.

Thanks also to colleagues, present, past and soon-to-be-past as the funding cuts begin to bite at work. You can, of course, be a right royal pain in the arse at times, but nevertheless I do enjoy working with you. On balance, of course, I can no doubt be infuriating, useless, unreliable and flighty, so I would like to say thank you for your patience and continued support. I love that I can shamelessly steal your ideas, or argue with you on points of practice (both soberly and otherwise, as long as you recognise that I’m right about learning styles). I love those times when you ask me about something just as I am about to go and teach, and that you don’t mind when I do it to you. I really really love that you challenge and question and support me, and that you do the job you do. 

It’s great, as well, to be part of that much bigger community of teachers, through NATECLA, through connections online, through random meetings and conferences. It’s great to be a part of that, and to know that your own worries and fears, and your own loves and passions, are shared by someone else, and that you can have that conversation with those people. Let’s keep it up, shall we? 

Thank you as well lovely readers, all 3 of you, for continuing to read the drivel I post here. It sounds odd, but I like having an audience: call it ego, call it purpose, call it what you like. Sometimes I post with a particular person in mind (no, don’t start trying to guess), but usually it just helps to know that someone somewhere is reading it. As any English teacher can tell you, audience is crucial as knowing who you are writing for gives voice and purpose to the text. So knowing that maybe there is a reader out there reading this helps give voice and purpose to the blog. Thanks for that, you. 

I know I don’t do positive as well as I do critical, but I’m having a go, for a change. It’ll be business as usual in a few weeks. In the meantime, however, have a lovely Christmas, and a fabulous New Year. 



  1. Happy Christmas and thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I always enjoy your posts and you vocalise (in writing ) a lot of things that I’m thinking. I look forward to more of your musings in the new year. Thanks and hope you get to relax over Christmas.

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