Posts Tagged ‘school’

Tis the Season to Cough and Splutter

November 22, 2014

It’s dark and dismal outside and inside it’s germ infested misery. The only consolation I take from my current bout of coughing and hacking is that I am very far from alone. I am surrounded by sickness. I am struggling on at work, having already had a couple of days off, not enough to shake this beast off, but enough to rest and return to the fray.

Because, dear friends, as most of you know, Teaching is not one of those professions you can’t just leave be for a few days while you lie prone fighting off the latest infection or ailment. No, children still have to be taught, or at the very least, supervised. They won’t wait patiently, silently on your desk for you to get back and so you minimize your days off, knowing you will return to chaos and that you aren’t really well enough.

classroom

Teachers famously do not take off enough time when they are ill. It is the guilt monster – the knowledge that someone else has to do your job in your absence, and that the kiddies just won’t learn as much when you’re there. Regardless of your prowess in the classroom, someone else will not manage the darlings and little of worth will happen and most likely your room and resources will be trashed. Not to mention the likelihood of extra relief lessons when you get back, in that sweet way that cover-supervisors make sure you ‘pay’ for your day(s) off. Thus my workplace is festooned with teachers who can hardly speak for coughing, hardly move for pain, and plough on, not allowing themselves to get better.

No, it’s better all round to struggle in, be sick, prolong your recovery, and spread your germs around. After all, you probably picked your latest bout of flu from the darlings. And your migraine was probably caused by them, and your back or neck or other pain is exacerbated by hours on your feet, and your chronic tiredness is certainly caused by trying to contain and control the teenage beast and force some learning down them, while they cough and sneeze all over you, expecting you to give them a tissue!!

bedrest

Here’s what you should do.

1.Get a flu shot – governments should give them to teachers free – in fact I worked at a very sensible school (in this regard) who provided free flu shots for all staff every year.

2.Dose yourself with Echinacea and Vitamin C as soon as the snuffle or cough starts. Get medicine into you. Get cough lollies and suck hard and often.

3.Keep hydrated – water especially, tea, coffee and lovely hot lemon drinks

3.Rest if and when you can – do not push yourself and prolong the suffering. Sleep as much as you can.

4.Take time off and get properly well before rushing back – no-one thanks you for it and you do make yourself iller for longer. You also don’t function properly when you are ill or in pain. You make mistakes and get things wrong – you can cost your work-place a great deal through stuff-ups when you’re sick.

5.Eat chocolate – as much as you like, it is medically proven that chocolate in all its forms makes people better. I think toast does too.

chox

So, go to bed. Stay there. Settle in to sleep for as long as you need. Get a nice book, have someone make you a hot drink and bring you a treat of your choice and just stay in bed. Ignore the world. It will still be there when you finally emerge – recovered and able to cope with it all again. (Images courtesy Private Collection)

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Dear Parents – you need to do so much more…

September 20, 2014

We’re three weeks into the new school year and once more, dear friends, I wonder what parents actually think being a parent is all about. Let me share with you the letter I’d like to send to many of them…

Dear Parent

I am using that term loosely, perhaps essentially biologically because the rest of the parent-child deal you seem to have entirely ignored. Perhaps accidentally because you don’t really know any better, or perhaps because you don’t really care, and like the rest of the country believe it’s up to teachers to, well, teach your child about everything.

I must inform you that already your child is miles behind. They’re so far behind, they’ll probably never catch up. And you know what, it’s nothing to do with me. By the time they get to me in secondary school so much damage has been done that it is virtually impossible to correct. Yet, we are expected to. We’re expected to do your job as well as ours. We’re expected to devote our lives to your children. I wonder why you aren’t expected to do that?

And, luckily for your child, I will do my best to be their mother, their teacher, their confessor, their therapist, their social worker and anything else Ofsted, or senior management think I need to be to do my job. Fortunately for you, it’s not just me but a plethora of equally devoted, hard working teachers, whom you simply take for granted or complain about.

 

Do you want to help your child? Do you really want them to learn at school and become decent, thoughtful, functioning citizens, instead of the ignorant young lumps they are now?

family

Listen well, then, because here are some practical, straight forward and useful things you can do for your child, regardless of your income or social status.

1.Buy a map of the world and stick it on your walls. If you manage to have dinner together then look at it and discuss it. Your children need to know where places are, what oceans are, how far away New Zealand is.

2.Buy a dictionary and a thesaurus – don’t just rely on computers for everything. Reading a dictionary helps your word power, your ability to spell. A thesaurus will also help word power.

3.Read to your children when they are young. They will love it and it will do wonders for your relationship with them. Read fairy stories, myths, legends, classic children’s stories. Don’t let them know the world only through movies and screens. Reading helps them in everything – spelling, grammar, expression, empathy, understanding the world and people in it. Oh, and reading helps you learn to concentrate and concentration spans still matter. And those who run the world are readers.

4.Get an atlas too – look through it, read it together, talk about the world – it’s an interesting place.

 

 

5.Take your children out – not just to Thorpe Park. Living in the UK, especially around London means history and Art and Culture are but a train/bus ride away. It’s scandalous that children living in London do not know there is a river running through it, or haven’t been to the Globe theatre or a gallery. Lots of things are cheap or free. Take your children out and let them learn about their city, their world.

greenwich

 

 

6.Eat together. Have meals at the table, eat with knives and forks from plates. Eat healthy food – meat, fish and vegetables. Talk to each other. Leave all electronic equipment turned off.

7.Teach your child manners and respect for others. This means tolerance too.

 

8.Teach your child to take responsibility for themselves – give them chores and expect them to do more than sit on their increasingly fat arses doing nothing, being waited on by all and sundry. Expecting others to give them a bloody pen!

9.Check that they’re doing homework. Challenge them, help them, expect more from them. This lets you know what they know, if they’re coping or not, when you should get more involved.

10.Talk to your child, and, very importantly, listen to them.

11.Finally, be prepared to say NO to them. Give them limits, give them rules. Don’t let them be brats. No-body likes a brat, or a bitch.

Is that too hard? Is it too much to expect that you take some responsibility for your child becoming a decent adult, someone people like, admire, want to employ and spend time with?

But you need to start at the start. When they’re young and pliable, and love you no matter what. If you leave proper parenting until they meet me it’s too late for you too. They’ll be rude, argumentative, horrible, sulky, aggressive chunks of uncoordinated hormone driven, pimple infested teen monsters.

out tog

Perhaps you need to think harder about what being a parent really means? Perhaps you need to take your job as seriously as I take mine?

Yours

Ms Pink (Images from Private Collection)

The Fear (it’s that nasty old back to school feeling)

August 30, 2014

Have you woken this morning feeling uneasy, a bit distracted, not particularly refreshed, something niggling at you somewhere? Have you woken feeling like this on and off for the last week? Then I bet you’re a teacher two days away from returning to work, the summer holiday just not long enough. The fear of what awaits eating into you, ruining your last few days.

It’s not fair, is it? You spend the first week of the holiday getting over the year, the traumas and excesses of your life in a classroom, an edge of fear about your results hovering as you leave, wondering if you have done enough, if your students will do well. And then you can spend another week at the end as the dread, the fear about the new year builds again.

holiday

What I find amazing is that this fear never goes away. I’ve been doing this job for thirty years and STILL I have the dreams of dread, the uneasy awakening, the confusion about where I am, and what day it is. Then the dream crawls its way back to the front of my brain and I realise it was only a dream but that my days in the sun are numbered.

Last night I dreamt I couldn’t find my own classroom, or even a desk to work from, there were no IT facilities for me, I was meant to be preparing for an observation, I’d been away for too long and didn’t know my students and then the lesson I was preparing had been done by someone else in an amazing whizz-bang way and I knew I was doomed. Oh, yes, it was a fun dream.

Signs You’ve Got the Fear

*Dreams about – the students, no classroom control, being unprepared, being ignored, not belonging, being outside looking in, being in a school that isn’t really your school but you know it is, being rejected, results that swim before your eyes

*Unable to settle to a good night’s sleep again – unable to get to sleep, waking too often, not wanting to get out of bed in the am, feeling shit when you do wake up

*Looking for other jobs – there has to be an easier way to earn a living!

*Playing lotto – perhaps it is your turn this weekend…

*Face-booking your sadness, knowing your teacher friends will sympathise and join you in your suffering

*Feeling hopelessly inadequate about all parts of your life, not just your job

*Shopping for new clothes anyway, because shopping always makes you feel better

*Endless last drinks with mates to prolong the holiday vibe

 

Sadly I know of no cure for this. The fear seems to be one of the nastier side effects of being a teacher, the downside of the long holidays. I’m sure other professions have something similar, something you just have to endure, like childbirth to have a child.

Never mind, Sunday nights often make you feel as bad, don’t they? And Monday morning makes you want to pull the covers over your head and stay there forever.

bed

Never mind, we’ll plough on, just the same, be sparkling and bright for Monday’s endlessly mind numbing round of meetings, telling us what we already know, a mixture of aren’t you all shit and aren’t we going to be wonderful, and without any time to prepare or do anything really useful.

Never mind, we will still be the best we can, won’t we?

I guess it’s a bit like stage fright for actors, the fear is part and parcel of the job. If you don’t feel the fear you can’t do your job, you don’t care enough about it, you won’t be good enough.

So, feel the fear and do it anyway. (Images courtesy of Private Collection)

 

 

This Teaching Life

March 25, 2012

Having just vowed not to blog but to get down to some real writing – ie the bloody book – I stumbled upon this old thought about teaching and even though it’s not the end of the Summer holidays (but Easter break beckons) there are some things worth remembering here about this really quite noble profession.

This Teaching Life

It always happens about half way into the long summer holidays, the pains and joys of the last year having subsided, the terrors and fears of the New Year begin to threaten the horizon. Yes, I am a high school teacher. And right on cue, it seems I dive for the classifieds looking for alternative career paths. This is the time I look at B&Bs and Pubs across the country and wonder if we could make it work. I consider exotic foreign (well paid) postings and day-dream about retiring – alas, still too many years away.

But what I’ve done this year, as well as my regular desperate search for ways out of the profession, is compile a list of the things that make it all worthwhile. In most matters in life, especially such things as work and such impossible things as Education, it’s best to see the glass as filling up, not draining away. It helps focus my mind on the good things about teaching and kids: of which there are many.

  1. Two of the best texts I’ve come across in recent years have been through student recommendation. Jess R reviewed Donnie Darko in such an intriguing way that I was compelled to watch it. Heidi C insisted I read The Lovely Bones. I delayed and delayed, until after she had finished school in fact, but when I finally read it I was blown away, as she knew I would be.

I am reminded that students teach me things too.

  1. The best poetry I have read in years was by an anonymous Year 12 student whose writing gave me goose bumps with her exquisite handling of language and subject matter. She was better than I could ever hope to be.
  2. I couldn’t stand Tim in year 9 and I had written the worst report of my life for him. But he became the intellectual giant of my year 10 class and has signed up for my Senior English class this year. I can’t wait.
  3. Seeing the light of understanding come on – Tony Q when he saw Media Watch and A Current Affair and saw exactly how the media manipulated the truth
  4. Having the plumber turn up to fix the hot water system and finding he loved Macbeth five years ago with you, so you’re guaranteed a good job
  5. Having kids smile and wave at you, shout out Hey Swiftie, whether off the back of a bus, in the mall or the gym
  6. Having kids change lines to be in your class
  7. Having kids list your class as one of their favourites in their valedictory book
  8. Knowing that while you don’t connect with some kids, with many of them you do make a difference
  9. Knowing that there’s a lot of rubbish in Education but that in the classroom it’s still about relevant information, being entertaining; plus a consistent set of expectations and consequences
  10. Remembering that 95% of kids just want to be liked and get on with their lives. School is a necessary evil for most of us.

I know that teaching is an undervalued occupation in society these days and yes, I’d like more money but being with young people on a daily basis gives me great hope for the future. There are some wonderful, intelligent, generous, kind, funny, caring teenagers in this country (Australia and the UK) and it is a cliché, but teaching can be a rewarding job where you do make a difference.