Au revoir to Mandy Childs
Mandy Childs SGS 2000-2020
Mandy has been one over the last twenty years one of the loveliest colleagues anyone could ever ask for. She is supportive, pro-active, intelligent and professional in everything that she does and she has been able to communicate her love of languages and other cultures to so many of our boys throughout her time at this school.
Mandy’s first teaching room no longer exists. It was a portacabin in the space between what is now the Languages block and the Sixth Form centre and looked rather like an East German look out post in Cold War Berlin. In the days before lanyards, automatic gates and premises staff checking their CCTV screen at 8.30 to catch Sixth Formers jumping over the fence, Mandy was the school’s first line of defence against intruders (together with Mr Gunning, but that’s another story). Someone must have known that she was fit, in every sense of the word, since she goes to Combat classes three times a week. It is a brave boy who challenges her to an arm wrestle on any of the trips the has accompanied.
On the topic of trips, Mandy has been on a trip with boys from this school every year since she started. She has been to Normandy with the year 7s, Spain with the year 8s and for a number of years she organized and led the vert successful Y12 French Work Experience in the North of France. As Head of Department, it has always been reassuring to know that the trips she has led are in a very safe pair of hands and that the children could not be better looked after. She is also great company on trips and I have always loved sharing a baguette, slice of camembert and a glass of wine, or two, with her. Beware of playing cards with her; she is very competitive.
Within the department, Mandy is an expert on many things. She is, in the words of one her inimitable colleagues, “la reine du point de poivoir”: the Queen of powerpoint, going back to the days when many of still had to use chalk on rolling blackboards. Those of you who venture up to the distant lands of the Languages corridor will notice the gleaming notice boards, resplendent in colour and shining borders and largely Mandy’s work, which we all try to emulate. Her lessons with the younger years are lively and energetic, with boys singing songs, wearing wigs and hitting each other with hammers, inflatable hammers, before being taken off to the doctor’s where they can say in perfect French where it hurts. She has also been instrumental in guiding the A level French candidates. She has become an expert in getting students to appreciate the subtleties of the very unsubtle film La Haine, studied at A level, and she been able to get her students to jump through the hoops of the oral test at this level, which is far easier said than done. This really does show the extent to which she understands how the examiners think and how to guide all the candidates in the right direction.
Teachers do not just teach; this is something outsiders to the profession sometimes do not understand. In addition to her teaching, Mandy has been heavily involved in teacher training over the years and has mentored many trainees who have gone on to become first class teachers: Chris Robson is one of them. She was very well respected at SWELTEC, when the school used to with them, and the teachers at St Mary’s, Brunel or Kingston knew that any of the students who came here would be exceptionally well supported and would receive an unrivalled start to their language teaching careers. Mandy has the gift of being able to listen, motivate, guide and give confidence in equal measure, always at the right time. It is often said that good teachers are good learners and Mandy is no exception. Many of you will already be aware that Mandy is a very competent practitioner of British Sign Language and she often signs at her church. She has tried to teach some of her department some of the basics, with limited success in my own case, but her enthusiasm is a joy to behold.