Archive for September, 2012

Not enough time… A short poem

September 30, 2012

There are not enough hours in my day

Too much work, never enough play

Weekends roll around too fast

Snooze and nod and they’ve run on past

I need some space

Some free play from the constancy of the rat race

To write erudite chapters, up-date fan fiction, write my blog

Without it all feeling like a never-ending slog

A life less frantic

Spent somewhere coastal, perhaps the Atlantic

Would suffice this person longing to be an ex-teacher

So I could write and be, adrift amongst dreams, lazing on beaches

If Time is an illusion

That would explain my confusion, my constant delusion

That I can do it all, if I just worked a bit harder, smarter

Before I succumb to endless darkness: sacrificed: Art & Work’s martyr.

(Images courtesy Google Images)

Teacher Bashing: A National Sport?

September 23, 2012

Is there something in the air? Is a post-Olympic slump that’s brought out the Teacher Bashing Season? Or were we merely beyond the radar for the summer holiday – which is simply too long, as all right thinking people know.

My favourite Michael – Sir ‘I am Clint Eastwood Wilshaw’ has once again shown his distaste for the profession he is meant to represent. We should all work longer days to get pay rises and furthermore Ofsted must enforce this.

The truth is, for as long as I’ve been teaching, some staff have always left on the bell but a great many others left later, or what most did was choose the time and place of their non-contact teaching time. To pretend teachers don’t work out of school hours is a nonsense: you can’t do the job effectively if you don’t.

For years I lived and worked in the tropics. School finished at 2:30 and yes, on several days we were out the gate by 2:45, down to the beach to go fishing or walk the dog. The sun was gone by seven, the evenings cooler and I did my preparation and marking then. Actually I spent hundreds of Fridays sitting on a beach at Drimmie Heads marking year 11 essays while my beloved fished. Ah, the difference between being and English teacher and a Maths teacher!

These days I am at school around 7:30 and leave around 6 most evenings. This weekend I immured in numbers as I ‘crunch data’ and sort out my departments KS4 Schemes of Work for another meeting. I am working this weekend, Michael, because my week is too crowded with sudden demands up the food-chain; the manic ‘I want this yesterday’ from someone who seems to be ticking boxes.

Is that what teaching is about – ticking boxes? Is that what Wilshaw has – a list of provocative statements he wishes to hurl into the public domain to undermine the teaching profession?

 

Here are some truths, based on nearly 30 years of doing this sodding job, in no particular order.

1. Teaching is demanding work; children drain your energy and you need time and space to recover, to be able to think and revitalize. In Shanghai – where students do exceptionally well – teachers teach less hours because the powers that be want them to have time to think and plan imaginatively, effectively.

2. Some teachers are inefficient and need to work all hours to do what others can do in half the time.

 

3. Some teachers work better at home, prefer to work at home; some prefer to have everything done at school and separate their life from work

4. You need all sorts of people in a school – we have all sorts of kiddies, they need a variety of adults to interact with – we’re not ‘Stepford Wives’ and we shouldn’t be!

 

5. Most people I know care enormously about their students, they invariably go the extra mile.

6. There are more good teachers than bad, and I do agree with the former Ofsted head, the odd limited teacher is not the end of the world for a student

7. Learning goes on outside of school, longer hours at school does not mean better educated

8. University is not the holy grail of education – decent, thinking human beings who can look after themselves and contribute to society should be the aim.

9. You don’t have to examine and test everything

10. Character is as important as results

11. Most adults would not choose to spend their day in a room with 30 teenagers: most adults can’t bear to be near more than 6 teenagers at a time – well 3 really, and only their own, on a good day

12. The two counties in the world with the biggest social mobility issues are the UK and the USA and they examine and test the students to death and blame teachers for it all

13. Teachers need to be valued

14. One size does not fit all

15. There are too many egos in British education and schools

16. All new principals/head-teachers think they know the way, the truth and the light

17. Good teachers are offended by the likes of Wilshaw because of his blanket generalizations; poor teachers don’t care what he says

18. We all deserve a decent life-work balance; the kiddies want people who are real, who know about life and can guide them as well as teach them.

19. Most of us remember an inspirational or caring teacher that made a difference to us

20. Relationships are what matter most in a school

 

A final note: in the paper last week there was a small column about the amount of respect the public had for various professions in the community. Doctors and nurses were at the top, followed by teachers on around 70%. At the bottom, the very bottom, were politicians on 1%.

Remember that the next time Gove and Wilshaw (who is just a politician these days – ‘look at me, look at me’) make a pronouncement about education. (Images courtesy Google Images)

Don’t Blame the Teachers; Think of the Kids

September 18, 2012

Isn’t it sweet how Gove and Clegg look so chummy in their recent publicity shots for their grand announcement about the revamping of the exam system? Isn’t it wonderful how they’ve worked together to over-come the malaise in the education system to rescue standards and improve kiddies’ chances?

Did you read the twaddle in yesterday’s papers? They know about education, about the scandal of re-sits and re-takes and all about English course-work, which actually, boys, no longer exists. It was flushed away in the recent over-haul of English courses, leaving us with the travesty that’s just occurred.

Yet again politicians are interfering with education. Gove has already imposed his will on Primary school curriculum and now he is doing the same for the exam sets for secondary students. Has he talked to a teacher? Does he know what it’s actually like in schools in the UK? No, is the answer. He thinks we are the problem and we have failed the children. We have dumbed everything down in a search for the bottom, in our desperate quest for improved grades and places on the league tables.

Here’s the thing: teachers don’t have a say in what happens in schools. Some collection of people miles above them in the food-chain make the decisions, usually without consultation, or with that faux consultation where your choices are all bad. We just get to carry out orders. It’s more like a warzone, where the generals and commanders sit miles back from the action but tell us what to do, especially what we’re doing wrong. We’re the ones who go out to be shot. Remember Gallipoli?

I’ll tell you what we’re doing wrong- we’re failing generations of kids by this constant measuring and examining. What other country is as obsessed with testing and examining as the UK is? All Gove’s research should have told him that social mobility is not improved by exams. We’re now going to fail oodles more by this retrograde step – the EBacc – which will push the poorest students further away from uni or decent choices about their futures. We will have a 2 tiered system, where some subjects are valued, and therefore some skills, and some subjects are not.

Wither Music and Art, DT and ICT? Where are the creative, making subjects in this brave new education world? Gove and Clegg have thrown us backwards, not taken us forwards. Young people need to think for themselves, be equipped for a changing, evolving world, not just know facts or recite poems (although all of that is nice). They need to be creative, resilient, tough. They should be able to enjoy a range of subjects at school to know what they’re good at, to make choices about their futures based on interest and skills. They should be able to learn without everything being about an exam at the end of it.

Have Gove and Clegg thought of the current batch of students who have just suffered through the latest exam debacle, only to be told their qualifications aren’t actually worth anything? That, really, as everything’s been dumbed down, they are just dumb, dumber than those who were educated in the good old days, when rigor and standards meant something? Seriously, why do we listen to these men?

These fools are busy telling me I’m responsible for the failures of their system. They tell me my students are dumb and unworthy. They’re telling me my daughter’s GCSE’s aren’t worth having, not to mention her choice of A level subjects.

These fools haven’t the first idea and as soon as people realize Education is simply a political football, a way for politicians to grandstand and stay in power and we ignore them, we’ll actually be able to look after the students, teach them things worth knowing and be much better off.

Parents, teachers, students: we’re all in it together, not the politicians. It’s time to tell them where the fuck to go.

Mid Week Poem – Homage to Phoenix

September 11, 2012

You come from a land Down Under

Born at the red-dead heart

Of an ancient burnt continent

Sprung, my Phoenix

From ashes timeless and new

Love and Passion

Created you

You are the warrior child

The Amazon Princess

Names for a queen, heart of a king

Tall, brave, utterly unique

Special beyond imagining

Ear-blind, air napping

You pesterised your way into our hearts

And remain there forever

You are the future

Brimming with joy and generosity

Tenacity and wisdomosity

A young woman of eminence

Ferocity and grace

Dream bold, dream large

Be unafraid of the world

Or of what you can do to it,

My lovely girl. (Images courtesy Google Images)

How Many Faces Do You Have?

September 8, 2012

No, I’m not talking about madness or hypocrisy, although we could come close in this discussion, but consider the faces you wear to get through your day. Are you yourself, your true self all day long, how many masks do you wear?

 

The truth is most of us wear different faces for different occasions – Eleanor Rigby ‘wearing the face she keeps in a jar by the door’ to which Lennon and McCartney then ask – ‘who is it for?’ For years I was bamboozled by that lyric, loved the intrigue of it but now it makes perfect sense: most of us have faces we keep in jars all over the place. Perhaps the jar by the door is where her face for the rest of the world resides?

 

 

I work in a profession where you present a certain version of yourself to an audience every day. Yes, teaching is too akin to performing to avoid the actor/audience analogy. By the version of myself that my students receive can’t be too far from the real thing or my lack of authenticity will shine on through and I’ll fail miserably with them. But I can’t be who I really am; it’s not appropriate for them and a bit too exposing for me. Some of me does not belong to the rampant teenage beast.

As I interact with my colleagues it also holds. A level of professionalism must be brought to interactions. I can’t joke, gossip and swear my way through the day. I can, at times, with colleagues who are trusted friends but for the greater hierarchy I must put on a face that approximates who I am, that suits them and doesn’t compromise me. This is hard but necessary. The world of work is a precarious thing, despite what some might like to believe, it is personality driven. I need to work so I present a version of myself that suits the circumstances. When I can no longer live with that version of myself in that workplace, to wit when I have become too personally compromised, I must move on.

It’s one of the eternal struggles: who am I, how should I behave? My lovely baby-girl is caught in this struggle at the moment: a wish to be more assertive, to be less soft. She wants to grow a harder shell, but for the world, not her friends or family. Is that what Eleanor Rigby’s jar holds, a harder shell, a mask as she moves from the security of her home?

 

 

We are different people in different situations. It is as it should be. Our true self is something precious and wonderful and it does not belong to everyone. We are cautious with some people, mistrusting and therefore present a resistant face, a position that allows us to wait, judge, consider before we reveal more or even all of ourselves. Remember falling in love, or making new friends – you try out different bits of yourself with them, testing, checking before committing your true self to the relationship.

Animals tell it as it is. Cats mistrust the world, they only go to laps they want to sit in. You may pick it up, but if it doesn’t like you it won’t stay. Thus my beloved came to be the one, as Siska, my fluffy white Persian bucket of mistrust, preferred his attentions over other suitors and to mine! Dogs are the same. My big woof is the gentlest, most divine thing around the house and out walking. But get a post-man or a God-person knocking on the door and his inner beast arises. He’s not that fond of little yappy dogs either and ignores them with disdain.

 

 

Knowing ourselves is hard: sharing our true self with others is a fraught business. Think now, how many people can you trust to be absolutely you, in all your glorious contradictions and foolishnesses? They are your true friends. And you know what, they are being true with you too. It’s the only way true friendship and love can endure.

 

 

 

Keep your face in your jar, have a collection of jars, a range of masks; it makes sense. But don’t lose yourself. Remember what Judy Garland said: ‘Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.’ Make sure your faces are authentic versions of you, keep your true friends close and you will remain intact, a person of integrity: someone who can live with themselves and that, my friends, is really quite something. (Images courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)

Blog-free Zones – A month without blogging and (almost) no Internet

September 3, 2012

It’s back to life, back to reality, as the Soul 11 Soul song from 1989 went and I have returned to the land of Blog, from whence I have been missing – a self imposed ban, tis true, but worth it, methinks.

Let me recount the wonders of an (almost) internet free 40 days.

1 No time wasted pootling around all sorts of distracting rubbish on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter; or my wondrous in-box (which I normally love)

2 Lots of time to read – 4 academic texts with extensive notes + the wonderful Night Circus – more of that to come

3 Even more time to write – to not write blogs means you can write other stuff and so 50 000 words of first draft of new novel completed + 2 draft chapters for PhD exegesis

4 A lovely feeling of freedom, of being disconnected from the world, so no Olympics, no naked Prince Harry, no R-Patz – Kristen Stewart shenanigans, no GCSE melt-down, etc, etc. The world does keep turning without knowing all these things as they happen!!

5 No obligation to respond to FB, or email

 

So, it’s been like a return to another time, another galaxy where none of the electronic wonders of our modern world existed. Instead I read and studied and wrote all day long. Beloved plastered, painted, ripped out walls and re-made the house, girl-child helped too.

 

The Young Pad Wan played her saxophone every day, exercised and entertained herself with lots of self improvement stuff important to mid-teen girls. We played scrabble, trinominos and had fires outside and drank wine, talked under the stars and had picnics at the lake.

It’s nice to be away, it’s nice to live life differently for a while, to shut off the real world. You can live without all sorts of things. God knows I love my iMac and I love my blog – do I devour my stats and agonise over pix for my posts? Indeed I do, dear reader. Am I keen on growing my following? Absolutely. I love the magic of blogging, of having real readers. We all do.

But it’s nice to know that we can live without it – even if, really, ultimately we don’t want to. And still the spam and readers came while I hibernated. Spam count: 66. Visits: 783 – not too shabby for nothing new for Jactherat for all of August.

But it’s nice to be back, so, onward and upward: new recipes to come, some new pondering about life, love and relationships, a book review or two and some more wonderful general wisdomosity, dear and faithful readers. (Pictures courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)