Saturday, 23 April 2016

T is for Travels to Tonga

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.

When it was going to be the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, my school decided that each teacher should choose a Commonwealth country and plan some lessons about it for their class. Some teachers immediately snapped up Australia, Canada, India and South Africa - plenty of resources easily available but I decided to ask my class of 5-6 year olds which country they would like to find out more about and so armed with a long list we had a discussion and then a vote.  The winner was Tonga!

Well I knew very little about Tonga and I wasn't sure what I would be able to bring to the classroom to help the children find out about life there but the internet is a wonderful thing and it wasn't long before I had found loads of brilliant little videos suitable for classroom viewing of Tongan life.

I went into the staff-room brimming with enthusiasm.

"My class are going to Tonga," I announced to the other teachers sitting there.

"Oh my God, how are you going to take them on an aeroplane without their parents?" gasped the deputy head.  "How long are you going for?"  The other teachers also appeared to be in a high state of panic and it was at that moment I realised just how mad my colleagues thought I really was!

"Hmm - I'm not taking them physically there," I said.  "We will be traveling in our minds," I explained.  "It's just that my class have chosen Tonga as our country."

There was a communal sigh emitted followed by, "You let your class choose and they came up with Tonga?"

I nodded and left.

Over the next few weeks, my class learnt how to do a haka (boy were they ferocious!) for their dance studies, learnt to sing part of the Tongan national anthem during music lessons (they were so quick to pick up the language!), wrote letters to the new king of Tonga as well as write about their thoughts on Tongan life during literacy lessons (the boys seemed to do some of their best writing ever for this), cooked pork wrapped in leaves in a fire pit (well the school cooker actually as I wasn't allowed to make a fire pit!) which turned out amazingly well and the children loved doing this as a cooking lesson as well as eating it as well as learning about the wildlife on these amazing islands as part of their science lessons. All of my support staff (as this was one of those years where I had a lot of children with special educational needs) said they had learnt so much as well as be totally amazed by what the children could do by the end of it.  We invited parents to cone in to see their displays of work as well as see and hear them sing and dance.

One day, I will travel to Tonga and it certainly wouldn't surprise me (if the opportunity arose) for any of that class to travel there too as this tiny island will always hold a special place in our collective, commonwealth hearts :)

I'd love to hear of any special places you studied at school and if you have ever got to actually visit them or which are on your travel list of the future?  Leave a comment below and have a super weekend :)


  1. That's so great--I'm sure the kids will never forget it. I've seen haka performances and they are so exciting and impressive. Good for you.

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  2. Blog hopping from North Carolina during the #Challenge. I started WAY down the participant list figuring they wouldn't get as much traffic. Love learning new things during the challenge from fellow bloggers. T for Tonga is a winner. I have been writing about hotels and inns, come and have TEA on the letter T day if you have time or interest.

  3. I've never even heard of Tonga! Thank you for enlightening me! I'd love to go to Italy one day and see the Sistene Chapel :)

  4. I had to look up haka. When I watched the video I realized I had seen it before. I always wanted to visit England.

  5. Hello. I hope you do get to take your class to Tonga. Might be a long flight though, but I like that idea of teaching your class a new place just by using your imagination.

  6. You sound like an exceptional teacher! But yes, no fire pits. :)

  7. I think that kids are always more enthusiastic about projects when it's something they pick themselves.

  8. What a wonderful experience for your class, wish we'd have had teachers like you in my primary school!

    Mars xx
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  9. Wow, you are a teacher! I have been reading through your posts today, and man am I inspired. Personally, I believe teaching has to be the best profession ever!
    Tonga seems like such a super country to choose - what's the point of choosing places everyone's been to?

  10. I love seeing teachers come up with exciting ways of adapting the curriculum for students with alternate learning needs :) I remember studying Italy in year 4 - it was a dream come true when I finally got to visit Italy at age 25

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