Many teachers go to foreign places during the summer holidays. I know several colleagues, past and present, who regularly visit France or even have homes there.

My recent French excursion was slightly different; visiting a colleague’s home town of Nantes. I was amazed by the architecture and history associated with the fifth largest city in France (something I have to admit I was ashamed to be unaware of prior to my visit!).

This colleague has been a close friend of mine for the six years I have been a SENCo. I took advantage of her offer for me to visit her home town for a couple of days, between cricket matches and a continuing home-improvement schedule .

As I spent time observing and listening; I couldn’t help to draw parallels between different elements of our work.

My French (despite several ski trips and exchanges over the years) is very limited. My colleague’s friends were welcoming, generous and kind, but their quick-fire French and friendly yet colloquial dialogue left me with limited understanding.

I could observe facial expressions and gestures, hear speech and feel a sense of warmness and welcoming; but I couldn’t understand much and had to rely on senses that are not usually my dominant ones.  

For once I was out of my comfort zone, left to feel and fumble my way through my surroundings; I found it difficult.

I thought of a child (generic in this case); seeing and taking things in but not understanding the context or truly appreciating the social scenarios unfolding in front of them. Only getting half of the whole story and not really able to comprehend the full picture.

How humble I felt. Every life experience is a learning one, and I learnt an awful lot in France. As I have said before, summer is a valuable time for reflection.  This trip was no different.