Wednesday, 27 March 2013


Mondays are slightly hard work at the moment.

I leave the house at around 8.30AM, and don't get back until 11 at night. I'm not going to complain about too much work but, for some reason, the weather gods have decreed that Mondays shall henceforth be known as Rain Days. Because it seems that it rains all the bloody day. And there are few things more depressing than emerging from a nice warm classroom into the rain, putting a cold and soggy hat on your head, and realising that you are still 8 hours from the nearest pair of dry socks. There was at least some blessed relief the other day when it decided to start snowing instead, which somehow seemed marginally less wet.

Like I said, Mondays are slightly hard work. Still, the job itself continues to be good fun. I've been teaching a lot of CLIL lessons recently. CLIL, or Content and Language Integrated Learning, is a variation on conventional English teaching in that you teach a subject as well as the language. So in the past few weeks I've taught lessons on apartheid, nuclear physics, the economic crisis, and the Italian women's movement - all in English - to classes of Italian schoolkids. It's hard work as it takes a lot of prep, but it's enormously interesting and enjoyable.

Anyway, I was asked to give a lesson on fossil fuels. Now this is something that I actually know a little bit about, as - among the many sins of my past life - I've spent some time working for Big Oil. And many years ago I found myself working with a very interesting chap who'd worked on the investigation into the Piper Alpha disaster.

This seemed like a possible idea on which to hang a lesson. Instead of the usual "renewables good / fossil fuels bad" dichotomy, I thought I'd talk about the human cost of fossil fuel extraction.

I explain a little bit about what went wrong, and describe the consequences..."so the platform is wrenched apart by the force of the explosion...oil is pouring into the sea...what happens when oil and water mix?"

"The oil floats, prof"

"Good, it *floats*, what happens to oil at a high temperature??"

"It burns, prof"

"Excellent!", (and I'm hitting my stride here), " imagine this : you're on a rig in the North Sea...a storm is raging...the platform is falling apart...flames are jetting 300 ft into the sky....the sea is on fire..."

Pause for effect.

"...and the nearest help... is.... 200...kilometres...away."

Silence. Earnest nodding of heads.

After the class I speak with the Professoressa.

"Marco was very quiet today", I say. "And he's usually got lots to say."

"Ah well", she smiles, "maybe it's because his father works on an oil rig..."

Oh well. You live and learn!

Right, we're taking a short break back in Yr hen wlad, where, I gather, the weather is even worse than here. More updates, hopefully, when we get back...

1 comment:

  1. Ouch! Been there, done that. :( I hope Marco has recovered!


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