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This Tuesday two of my Year 12 girls and I had an amazing experience. They went on the Lessons From Auschwitz trip organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust. The group met at 5am at Birmingham Airport and flew on a chartered flight to Krakow. We began the visit with a brief trip to a small Polish town and went to the Jewish synagogue to listen to a fantastic talk by the Rabbi. Afterwards we were taken to Auschwitz 1 where we had a moving and emotional tour with our guide Martyn. Our second camp visit was to Birkenau and we began with a walk up the watch tower to see the extent of the camp. The vastness was astonishing! We were then taken into the various barracks and shown some of the replicas of what life would have been like for the prisoners. We finally landed back in Birmingham at 10.30pm after an interesting albeit exhausting day. I would thoroughly recommend this trip and to anyone who has the opportunity to go. I am looking forward to the follow up session this Sunday 6th May at the University of Aston.



I am just about to watch “Schindler’s List” ahead of my trip to Poland tomorrow (when I can manage to persuade my husband to watch the football on his phone) It is a 1993 film directed by Steven Spielberg and I can remember watching it once before: the most vivid thing that I remember is the girl in the red coat. The plot focuses on a guy called Oscar Schindler who was a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand refugees during the Holocaust. They were mostly Polish-Jewish refugees and Schindler (Liam Neeson) rescued them by employing them in his factories.  I think I remember that Ralph Fiennes played a role as an SS officer…..just looking at the visual image of the theatrical poster makes me feel sad so it will be interesting to see how I cope with the Holocaust Educational Trip tomorrow…..One thing that I am looking forward to is going on a trip where everything is organised for you. It is a huge responsibility as a teacher when you run a trip so it is lovely to have everything organised by someone else! The “Lessons from Auschwitz” trip has been brilliantly organised so far – I have had a message on my phone this afternoon with a number to call if I am running late in the morning! I am usually the one panicking about other people running late! It will be nice to be part of the 200 people going on the visit. To go back to the iconography and symbolism of the girl in the red coat; Schindler sees a little girl wearing a red coat which is one of the extremely few instance of color. The film is primarily shot in black and white: red is used to distinguish the little girl. We discussed this flash of colour at our orientation seminar on Thursday as we talked about our expectations of what we would see and hear at Auschwitz. Later in the film, the girl in red is seen among the dead, recognizable only by the red coat she is still wearing. I found this quotation from Steven Spielberg about his use of the colour red:

“America and Russia and England all knew about the Holocaust when it was happening, and yet we did nothing about it. We didn’t assign any of our forces to stopping the march toward death, the inexorable march toward death. It was a large bloodstain, primary red color on everyone’s radar, but no one did anything about it. And that’s why I wanted to bring the color red in.”


Lessons From Holocaust

I have just returned from the Orientation seminar organised by Holocaust Educational Trust. Our specific trip is part of the Lessons From Auschwitz project. The seminar has taken place at Aston University from 3pm-7pm this afternoon. Two of my Year 12 girls have been lucky enough to secure a place on this prestigious course and I have also managed to bag a teacher place! The course was expertly run in preparation for our visit to Poland next Tuesday 1st May 2012. We had a whole group talk and then a smaller session with our group and our educator Steve.

We put the visit to Auschwitz next week in the broader context of the Holocaust at the start of the seminar. We looked at photographs from a variety of people affected by WW2. We were encouraged to interrogate the terms of the course: the idea that lessons can be learned from Auschwitz.

This was followed by an amazing talk by Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper who gave an inspiring testimonial. The 82 year old repeatedly stated that he has had a happy life and the reason he wants to share his experiences is to promote his motto “Do not hate and don’t give up”. He talked about the importance of friends in time of need and how important his family are to him. Zigi was both an inspiring yet humble and humorous communicator; a real joy to listen to. He certainly gave us a human perspective on the Holocaust which I am sure will help us when we physically travel to the site.

We are in group five with Steve which consists of many students, one other teacher and a journalist called Bobby Bridge  from CIN: Central Independent News and Media. We had a really productive session discussing our expectations, photography and the logistics of the trip in our smaller group. I am really looking forward to the trip next week (despite the 5am check in at the airport!!!)


Ironic really considering that I work at a predominantly girls school….

We had a really successful forum meeting last night for parents of Year 10-13: it was a great opportunity for the new Headmaster to meet some parents in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Three sixth forms girls presented and shared their distinctive experiences.

Last night we went to see “Mrs Brown’s Boys” at the Civic in Wolverhampton. It was fantastic! I love the character of Agnes Brown aka Mammy and there were so many moments where you could see that “she” was off script and winding the other characters up to try ad make them laugh. The heated argument between Mammy and Cathy about the badges in particular was hilarious. Most of the content of the show had been seen during the episodes aired on the television previously but it was even funnier second time around in a live context. There were some moments which were obviously not planned when Rory laughed uncontrollably “What’s the story Rory?” and Buster dropped his ping pong ball! Overall this was an excellent night out which I would thoroughly recommend – although tickets for the performance at the NIA in Birmingham have already sold out!

Tonight we have watched “About a Boy” on DVD which is the second time I have seen this film. This is actually another film adapted from a book which I should add to my list of film adaptations on the open air blog last week. I find it hard to believe that I first watched this film when it came out in 2002 – ten years ago when  had just started teaching! However, looking at Nicholas Hoult playing the character of young Marcus it is obvious that so much time has elapsed. I particularly like the dual voiceover from the perspectives of Will and Marcus which allows great insight into their thoughts.

Talking of voiceovers, one of my Year 12s has used their Dad to do a voiceover in their Media Practical production piece at AS level – it reminds me of a previous dad voiceover four years ago which really tickled me! That candidate will be amongst the first cohort from our newly established sixth form to graduate from university this year! Unbelievable how time passes! Another girl from the same cohort is just finishing her English degree at Birmingham University and wants to come into our school for work experience in the summer. I am hoping that she will be able to help me set up some sort of alumni……

LinkedIn to Young Enterprise

I was fortunate enough to be invited to join the Board of Young Enterprise recently and attended my second meeting this morning. Despite the early hour, it was an excellent meeting! There were some new appointments made to key positions: a new Chair, Vice Chair and Secretary were all appointed. The new Chair is a contact of mine through Business for Breakfast who has helped me tremendously since I have been appointed to my new role as Head of Sixth form. He has been constantly reminding me to create a LinkedIn profile for myself in order to facilitate business and networking opportunities. This morning his reminder was particularly emphatic and I think he may be pleased with me for finally getting organised……Therefore Stuart Walton please follow my link on twitter and add me as a connection onto LinkedIn as per your instructions!!

“Blogging is a form of graffiti with punctuation”

I saw this quotation on the Facebook status of a friend of mine from my first degree in English at Hull University….. I haven’t seen him for 13 years and I reflected how like him it was to be subversive….

Imagine how intrigued I was today when watching “Contagion” to realise that the quotation actually came from there and was not his! I have mentioned this film in my blog before as I had listened to the interview with Steven Soderbergh with Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo. My thoughtful hubbie had remembered my comment that I would like to see this film and bought it.

The film is pertinent to the issue of blogging and how it is represented in the media. The microphone image reflects the quotation by the blogger Alan, the character played by Jude Law:

“They trust me. All 12 million unique visitors. I’m a trusted man stepping up to the microphone in front of a very large crowd. That’s who I am. That’s the brand.”

This raises all sorts of issues in terms of his identity and perception of himself, trust (he knows he is fraudulent), audience size, brand identity of a blog…… Alan gets the sufficent response to his arrest and “plight” to be released from prison by his audience therefore demonstrating the power of the blog! (I tried to do a screen grab of a shot of Jude Law in character with the snag tooth from the trailer but could not just get the shot to save – the link was to the whole of the trailer – any input on how I am going wrong would be greatly appreciated….)

It was interesting to think about the depiction of Law as a freelance “writer” trying to “sell” a story to the newspaper in the film called “The Chronicle” and the issues this raised relating to the contentious relationship between blogging and the mass media. Rettberg P 31:

“Blogs tend to be understood in terms of their differences in comparison to the mass media tha dominated the 20th Century. This is especially true in the media’s representation of blogs, which repeatedly attempts to understand blogs as a (possibly flawed) form of journalism….”

This reminded me of a DVD I used to teach at school entitled “Blogging” which I will dig out to share with you at a later date…………It also made me think of “State of Play” both versions but in particular the film version. The approach of Russell Crowe to the “big” print news story and his rejection of online news sprang to mind. This reminds me that I have presentations from Year 12 Media first thing tomorrow morning….lets hope the girls have done a good job in preparing them!!!!


Can anyone please advise me how to display my content on twitter….when I blog from the laptop it asks me if I want to tweet but when I do it from my mobile phone I don’t seem to get the option….would a widget do it automatically as I publish my blog???

Jerry Springer returned!


The one and only Jerry Springer my crazy springer spaniel returned home last night! He has been in “foster” care with my friends for far too long! They offered to keep him until after our honeymoon and arranged to return him last night! First walk at 7am with hubby, just done a second walk and got caught put by the rain! However he is now dry and restored to his favourite position overseeing events in the street through the window! Bless him!!!

Has anyone else been to an open air cinema like this?

Our trip to the local Odeon to see “The Hunger Games” tonight has highlighted the severe contrast between cinematic viewing experience in England and Egypt! Last Thursday we went to see “Man on a Ledge” and the Thursday before “The Descendants” at a FREE open air cinema in El Gouna in Egypt! See the pictures of the screen and the projectionist’s room.

The use of an amphitheatre setting from a disused night club combined with the warm climate and the fact that this was free of charge made it an amazing experience! Contrast that with tonight’s showing at the local Odeon and the honeymoon seems a million miles away!!!

I had an interesting conversation with my Year 8 class today linked to our moving image scheme of work. We were discussing the book reviews the girls are going to undertake over Whitsun break and hand in immediately after the vacation. Every book selected also had a film version  and the girls suggested that they would also do a film review alongside the compulsory book review this half term. Titles included:

  • The Lovely Bones
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • War Horse
  • The Woman in Black
  • Twilight
  • The Hunger Games
  • Harry Potter
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Does anyone have any other suggestions suitable for Key Stage 3? I would love to hear from you……

to veil or not to veil….that is the question…..

Our new Headmaster began his tenure at school today with an address to all of the staff. He made clear his vision for  education at our school and I admire his clarity and explicit approach to this new role. The Head’s wife and two sons were present Imagefor the whole staff meeting. This made me reflect on the whole identity issue in blogging in cyberspace as opposed to physically present: the public and private divide I have been preoccupied with the last couple of days. In fact a quotation by Viviane Sefarty in the Rettberg book “Blogging” refers to “the veil of the screen” on Page 12. This is an interesting description that has resonated with me. Why have I chosen a wedding like veil image to depict my response to the issue of online identity today? Is it more appealing to readers than the new garden fence I depicted yesterday? The subjective meanings are hidden behind the veil: this image reminds me of my wedding three months ago which is nostalgic (even though I didn’t wear a veil!) In contrast the fence yesterday represents the practicalities and reality that we are having my crazy springer spaniel (“Jerry Springer!”) back this weekend. Which is more private? Which of these two images is more reflective of me? How is my online identity different from my real life identity?

The first chapter of Rettberg’s book discussed three different types of blogs: personal blogs like dooce.com, filter blogs like Kottke.org and Topic-driven Blogs like Dailykos.com. I have read about and looked at each distinct type of blog.

I am predominantly a personal blogger…I should set myself the challenge of trying the other two styles of blogging……

Rettberg further develops the idea of the blog as a means of self-exploration in Chapter 5 where she discusses Blogs as narratives:

“Viviane Serfaty characterizes weblogs as simultaneously mirrors and veil (Serfaty 2004). Just as we study ourselves in a mirror, shaping  our features so our reflections please us, so we creat a reflection of ourselves in a weblog. A the same time, we use our blogs to veil ourselves, not telling all but presenting only certain carefully selected aspects of ourselves to our readers.”

Don’t worry folks I won’t add yet another symbol of a mirror….(I think I have done the symbols enough!) However, I will try to add a link to Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror”:


I think that is a link to a youtube reading of the poem – it used to be on the Edexcel GCSE specification for Literature and the girls used to love it! Guess what? The section of the poetry anthology was called: IDENTITY!!!! Thank goodness it wasn’t subdivided into frontstage or backstage – Giddens mentions the mirror as a self-reflexive project….I reflect that I need bed! My reflection in the mirror concurs….night all!

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