Hard at work when you walk in, each Year 6 pupil is focusing on their own piece. Then the silence breaks and their lively English teacher Debbie Andrew invites someone to share their descriptive piece for the others to critique. Attentive listening, applause, thoughtful comment and useful feedback and then it is someone else’s turn. A great sense of energy, respect and pace is evident in this classroom and it is really interesting to hear what they and their teacher have to say. They learn from each other, reference a book or two that they love and the mutual learning goes on.
‘I challenge the children to explore, love, feel and ultimately to own words, so that they feel a sense of control when they write. All I do is facilitate their writing, so that they can put their fantastic mind pictures into words. I also teach them to love reading. My passion is children’s literature. I read all the books myself, so that we can talk about them. I see myself as a really rather good matchmaker and I set them all up with blind dates. This child with that book, that child with this one. Sometimes it is a match made in heaven, but I show them that it is also fine not to like a book, to give it back and to move on. We have a school of passionate readers and, what is more, reading makes you informed, interesting, knowledgeable. Reading takes you into other worlds and allows you to travel and have great fun.’
Debbie follows threads in her lessons and answers questions that arise from those threads. There is always a new journey, a new idea, a new book to read. This was evident to see during last week’s World Book Day. Although the day was online, Debbie filled the day with fun and interesting reading related activities including an online quiz, designing your own book in a jar, a poster of your 5 favourite books and why and so on. The English language (when properly understood) is a wonderful, creative vehicle that can take you anywhere, and is also vital to get you through your exams!
Debbie is creative in her personal life too, passionate about gardening and growing. She is a native South African from Pietermaritzburg, Natal and says she is inspired by the history of the Zulus and warrior women, not to mention Joan of Arc! She loves nature and walking in the great outdoors with her two dogs. She is a very happy person, talks lovingly of her son and daughter, and clearly wears her heart on her sleeve, passionate and committed to all she does in life.
A definite mother-figure to the children, Debbie nurtures them, and keeps them in order. There is a contented authority about her and she loves them no matter what they do. They appreciate her energy, her humour, her commitment, her high standards and the fact that they really go somewhere together. They probably surprise themselves sometimes with their own burgeoning love of language and literature. What better gift could she give them, we wonder?