Tuesday, 19 August 2014


When it seemed that, without intervention, the Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki) would become extinct due to a chytrid fungus infection, conservation scientists removed as many of the remaining population as they could, to give the species the best chance of survival in a controlled, fungus-free environment.

Seeds of the world's smallest water lily (Nymphaea thermarum) were collected before the plant's habitat was destroyed forever, to preserve genetic diversity and grow new plants with a view to repopulating similar habitats in the future.

In both these cases, the organisms were saved from their environment before it killed them. It seems rather brutal to gather up all the surviving members of a species and take them away to a terrarium or greenhouse, leaving the ecosystem without a significant component. Some may think this is an interference too far.

These came to mind today, because several of my students from my previous workplace have come to enrol at my new college. I've done the calculations, and this does not leave a lot of students for A-levels at the old place. With declining numbers and support over the years for this qualification in this organisation, the localised extinction of A-levels is imminent. So my students, with my blessing, have moved to a nurturing and supportive habitat, and assured their survival.

At least that's what I keep telling myself when I worry that, in trying to do the best for the students, I have been the one to kill off the qualification I fought so hard to keep going at that place.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Mind The Gap

Given that I have a policy of removing blogs from my RSS reader after six months of inactivity, I suspect that a gap between posts of 11 months might have lost a few readers, but I shall attempt to restart the old blogging machine.

People close to me will know this year has not been particularly easy on a professional level. When you play the Game Of Thrones you win or you die, and it was very nearly the latter. With A-level, Access and HND - all very intensive, high-level courses - plus the "professional challenges" faced on a daily basis (which I do not intend to discuss, but oh boy are you going to find out about them), there was nothing left of me at the end of the day to fulfil even my basic physiological needs. My weight and mental health both took a dive, and I'm sure colleagues got as sick of my sarcastic responses as I did of their constant questions as to what my weight-loss secret was!

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. I interviewed for and was offered a position at another college. With a stronger A-level provision, an established sixth form, and a good track record of Oxbridge applicants, it's in a different league altogether. I will predominantly be teaching A-level, and you have no idea how good that feels. Nearly four years ago I interviewed for a position that was exclusively A-level, and I turned it down because I felt I'd get bored. Now I don't think that's possible. To be able to focus on one subject and one specification and really strive for brilliance in me and my students could be the most fascinating role of my career yet.

The academic year 2003-2004 was absolutely awful. The academic year 2013-2014 has matched it, but for (mostly) different reasons. Ten years ago, I felt broken. Now, I can use the painful memories to help me be a better teacher, friend, wife, daughter and sister. Maybe I'll be able to put this year to similarly good use. To those of you still here, thank you for not getting round to sorting out your RSS feeds!
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