guest post #13 – Tania Fehrenbach – @taniaf77

Learning accidentally on purpose!

Thanks for the invite to #sharingiscaring, here’s my summer share!

Have you decided what to do with your precious last days of the holiday? I love that back to school catch up where you hear the wonderful ways people have spent their holiday…and learn lots, by accident.

tan 1

When I was younger, I used to visit a Great Aunt and Uncle for some holidays in Henley-On-Thames. My days were spent happily travelling the M4 as a passenger whilst my Aunt couriered packages around the capital and this is how I got to know my way around London – by accident. Last year, I mainly had a working holiday with my family week at Butlin’s Skegness interrupted by sneaky peeks at work email and a laptop under my bed for late night ticking of jobs off the list. I actually now know I wasn’t that sneaky – they knew. I learnt I needed to be more self disciplined. This summer has been different. I’ve just got back from a trip to Australia to see relatives and friends and switch off. Properly.

So when I was on the first plane leg, from London to Kuala Lumpur, learning accident 1 happened. I’d just watched ‘Life of a King’ (highly recommend this) and went for a walk. Greeting a fellow leg stretcher with a smile I met Peter, a Vice-Principle from a school in Melbourne, Australia. We discussed curricula, education changes, expectations of pupils and how accountability is handled. But mostly how we love working with amazing teachers. Peter and his wife have four children, two of which study and work in Europe and they had just visited both. He mentioned it’s common for people to study at University abroad and this made me wonder if this is now part of the mindset of A level students here?

Forty five minutes later we knew much more about the similarities and differences in our systems and also how important holidays are for recharging. Peter had just been on a couple of months long-service leave – I think there’s something in this! A perfect R & R opportunity that could be interwoven to the end of the summer term and maybe reduce the sadly high numbers of people leaving teaching after a few years. Peter was a wise, experienced teacher and I enjoyed meeting him. I get the feeling he probably would have spoken to me/a.n.other in a pub in London, but there’s something special about travelling that gets people talking! We need more of this when we’re at home!

tan 2

Landing in Australia and arriving at 10pm meant I was ready to rock for the 730 am netball match my cousin played in. They like doing things early in Oz! This is when accident number 2 happened. A few conversations later.. I was Walking to school at 7.00am ready for 7.30 lesson 1 of the day with a Science teacher who happily agreed to my visit. I spent four lessons supporting, observing and reflecting. I need to write a whole post on this but accident 2 summary: getting into classrooms is always brilliant, comparing systems in another country – fantastic. The curriculum for us both has changed; but Australia has more demanding concepts taught at a younger age. I left as grade 10 were set an assignment on pH using a natural indicator to our A level standard, requiring Harvard referencing (another blog post here!). Lots to think about. It’s brilliant spending time with pupils and teachers anywhere; thanks to Mr B and his pupils who made me welcome. “Thanks for visiting Sydney and bringing the pommy weather” was the message my friend typed as we sat in the first rain for MONTHS!

Through coincidence the rain brought about accident 3 when I was invited to attend INSET at a school on mindfulness and wellbeing (thanks @ryanagill – a blog needed for this too!). Highly relevant to my reading of Flourish by Martin Seligman following my interest in this area. Covey’s 7 habits has been significant in their school development and we revisited these aspects. Are your staff in synergy? If not, you can be in half an hour! This was borne out in an African music workshop where we were singing, dancing and performing, in synergy, within half an hour. It wasn’t polished, but it was fun! It also raised whether we’ve got mindfulness and wellbeing for staff and children as good as it can be and where we go next? I have had a brilliant summer with lots of accidental learning. My Great Aunt used to say I was accident prone, now I’m quite glad I am! OK, I did purposefully pursue some opportunities that arose, but I’m very glad I did. I also did get time to go to the beach, read some books AND switch off this summer.

tan 3

I hope you did too.



(Picture from


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