Matt Podbury is head of Geography at the International School of Toulouse, France. He is the author of www.geographypods.com, a free repository of teaching and learning resources for secondary school Geography. Matt is also the co-creator of www.jamesraodream.com. Together with Jim Noble (@teachmaths), he administers the ‘Live Your Dream Foundation’ at the school in James’s name.
So, it’s the beginning of July and I find myself on train zooming through the French countryside back to Toulouse after an important sporting occasion up in Lille. After quite a late night, my phone buzzed this morning at 6am and through heavy eyes, I saw that Penny, mother of one of my Year 12 students, had just let me know that her lad Jonathan and his best friend, Patrick, had just left Toulouse airport and were on their way to Madrid. Sounds like nothing overly special, as Madrid is reasonably close by. However the exciting bit is that they were then catching a connection flight to Miami before taking a short hop to Kingston, Jamaica, where they will stay for the next three weeks. At the same time, another of our Year 12 students, Grace, tweeted that she was sad to say goodbye to Rio de Janeiro after spending the last four weeks there. Shortly, one of our Spanish students, Bernardo, is heading off to the Galapagos too.
Let me begin by firstly explaining that this is a somewhat bizarre article to write, in the sense that it is not an ‘against all the odds’ battle to succeed in the style of Nativity (you’ve seen that film, right?) or Leicester City’s Premier League success of 2016. It’s more the story of a young student with very rare natural capabilities to shine and achieve, with or without the input of her Geography teacher.
The job at the International School was advertised in the January of 2009, and after two interviews, I was appointed two months later. I would taking over from Richard Allaway of geographyalltheway fame at a laptop school, and teaching International Baccalaureate (IB) having never previously taught KS5! This seemed like a big deal, never mind the move to France, taking a significant hit on the sale of our house in the UK and the packing up and leaving my home country perhaps for ever. On the plus side, I spoke some of the lingo having been together with Gaelle, my French wife since late last century.
I was lucky enough to be brought up in the geographical haven that is North Wales, and spent most of my youth walking in the Carneddau, canoeing around the coastline of the Llŷn Peninsula and mountain biking in the Gwydyr Forest. After my subsequent travels around the world, I maintain that North Wales is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to, and while many children perhaps don’t fully appreciate where they live, I certainly did. Even when other social distractions surfaced around A-Level time (Llandudno’s Broadway Boulevard), I still spent as much time as possible out and about.