Monthly Archives: July 2014

Oval Office Oral

Apocalypse Now

I’ve been passing my holiday time by amongst other things binge-watching The West Wing; I do love the non-dumbing down that the series is so keen upon. I’m on series four at the mo, and have watched so many episodes that this morning I had a very explicit sex dream involving myself and Martin Sheen.

Lets just say that we both enjoyed ourselves – this was no Lewinsky-esque one-way deal haha.
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Site Fail

Oh God. A WordPress plugin went bad and took out the entirety of nopoke as the system keeled over under the processes that would not die. Flailed around for a few hours backing up, deleting and restoring before admitting defeat and emailing support. All sorted within fifteen minutes. I love United Hosting!
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Pre-Tripping

Arches

Around a week until I head Stateside; it doesn’t seem entirely believable at the mo, or at least there are other things that are taking priority, for example shelling out to get the car fixed – it failed its MOT :( – and getting my hair cut AND HAVING RAINBOW SLICES PUT IN. Yes.

My usual hairdresser left where I used to go, so i’m going somewhere only five minutes down the road – lazy bonus – which is a tiny independent salon – supporting local business bonus. Also, big discount for my first visit to the place :D

We’ll see how things go; what i’m more concerned about is getting the cut right; much as I am EXCITE about my first professional dye job – i’m hoping for raspberry pink, green and blue – i’m slightly concerned that it could end up a case of too cheap to be good. Hairdresser was great during my pre-dye consultation and seemed to have a good grasp of what I want so i’m hopeful things will go well!

Hmm other than that i’ve not done much trip prep yet. I’ve made a lot of progress on strewing stuff about the flat (just for a change, like) but until other things are sorted I feel like I can’t really start to get excited.

I’m spending just shy of three weeks in the US, with a week of road tripping followed by two weeks staying with Favourite Aunt and my cousins in Boulder, where i’ll hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, visit Denver and My Beloved Texan and generally potter about. The road trip is almost completely planned out, but I have one more day to work out where the hell I want to go and where I will stay.

So far I am suuuuuper excited to be staying at a spa resort with vast hot springs, Air BnB-ing at a family home in a gold rush town, visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site, staying in a TIPI on the edge of the Utah desert (!), visiting multiple National Parks – including one i’ve always wanted to visit – or at least since I saw it in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade :D – and staying in what is pretty much a shed in the middle of the desert before moving through the ski resorts to a fancy hostel where they serve cider and have a hot tub on the deck. Fabulousness.

Living in a smaller than i’d like flat, no partner or kids, not bothering to save for a house or a better car, never going away anywhere other than during the Summer break = Having money to spend on one big holiday. Woo!

Even when not out doing much, sitting on my Aunt’s sun deck out back is lovely enough… there’s a creek that runs through the back garden and deer and hummingbirds aplenty. Hummingbirds… man how I fucking love them! It boggles my mind to know that some of them migrate to-and-from Mexico – such tiny, energy hungry creatures. Nature is awesome.

The neighbourhood where my Aunt’s house is is pretty nice too – a lovely supermarket (that sells excellent ice cream), hiking trails and open space all within five minutes walk. Something i’m really looking forward to? American salads. Yes, I know, in the land of chronic obesity. I can’t really explain it… They just do them really well, with a broader variety of leaves and protein than you get in the UK, and way more affordable.

Yes, of course, something that i’ll be thinking about as I travail about: Petrichor. I miss him. Looking back on the week we spent glued together i’d say it was the best, happiest week i’ve ever spent with a person of interest. He’s the best i’ve found in nearly fifteen years of looking. Sigh.

Aside from this, DESERTS!
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The Giraffe Defence

Embarking on my first few days of freedom from the whiteboardface I’m reassessing the year at work. I had an end-of-term meltdown that had been brewing all year, but with a bit of distance from things i’m not sure my fuck ups are quite as clear cut as I thought.

Talking to my colleagues I am not the only member of the department who struggles with marking. Everyone finds it difficult, everyone finds the paperwork from the flavour-of-the-month initiatives we have to keep updated unmanageable, and everyone thinks that our boss lacks a full understanding of how time consuming things are. I am without doubt the worst offender of our team, in that I struggle and choose to focus on other things, but I felt a bit better to find that I am not alone with my difficulties.

I need to make some changes to what I teach and alter timespans, but the distress I felt and assessment of how my classes performed is not anything like as bad as either I or my boss framed it a week back. Do most kids enjoy their lessons with me? Definitely. I’ve asked them. Do they think they learn and refine? Again, i’ve asked them – yes.

They also tell me that they enjoy having more autonomy in what they do for various tasks, and that this is different from other colleagues. I don’t let them do anything they want, but, combined with the high quality verbal feedback they get, they seem not bad off.

I’ve done better this year at stopping myself from running around after the kids quite as much, which has been really helpful sanity-wise, but my anger at where education is going and the relentless focus on grades an data is something I can’t fully remove myself from.

A great microcosm of the difficulties I have with my boss can be illustrated in our differing approaches to one particular artwork…

In my classroom there’s a couple-of-metres-high sculpture of a giraffe that one of my kids made many years back that I have put out to pasture. The giraffe has a suuuper long neck and very stumpy legs and it is plain white, undecorated and left so the plaster bandage shows through; it was produced by a pupil in response to the topic of contrast – hence the disparity between the neck and leg lengths. It’s not just a shitty sculpture!

I really love it as it was designed and made completely independently, is well-made and is ambitious – a great example of what kids can achieve when they give things a go. Additionally I like having something on display that is fun and visually intriguing.

Anyway, my boss hates it, thinking it stupid and poorly-made (she does not like the contrast idea, despite my explanation) and every year come the end of term she threatens to throw it onto the skip we get to put old work in. I always vigorously defend my giraffe, seeing my bosses’ disgust as a prime example of how she crushes creativity and independence in the pursuit of grades.

When I finally manage to escape my current place of work my boss can throw it on a bonfire for all I care, but whilst i’m there, I WILL DEFEND ITS EXISTENCE.
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End reached!

I’m dee-fuckin’-lighted to be sprawled out at home after finally escaping from the workplace for the Summer; currently indulging in my traditional end of term carbs-fest: a meal deal sandwich/crisps/drink accompanied by a small tray of sushi. I know how to live it up :D

Looking forward to falling into a food coma for a few hours gahhhh.

SO fucking glad to be free!
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Hallelujah

Today one of the most special girls in my form paid a visit to my classroom at lunch to say hello. She’s probably my favourite, best summed up, as my Mum would say, as a “simple soul” – social skills of a child half her age, lots of intellectual struggles but full of laughter, and free with hugs. :)

I can be having the most shitty day and she’ll cheer me up no end with a funny comment or a hug before she begins her lessons.

Today was only the second time in the whole year that she wore her hair pulled back from her face (usually she has a bit of a hair helmet going on) and she grinned broadly as she giggled her way around the doorframe with a shouted “Hiiii Miss Monky!”

She held out the rather battered sheet of paper she was clutching and, swaying her hips just a little bit every now-and-then, and in a completely uncoordinated fashion, proceeded to sing It’s Raining Men at me in a falsetto, without music, and sort of mumbling and slurring all the words together. It was GLORIOUS!

The other much older kids in my room doing some painting joined me in giving her a round of applause at the end of the (many!) verses, and I put on the original track on the classroom speakers so we could all have a disco dance between the tables. The other kids twirled around and did jazz hands as they washed their palettes at the sink and I slid around the floor in my Birkenstocks and taught my tutee how to use her arms when dancing.

Wonderful!

Being atonally serenaded by a twelve year-old with learning difficulties before disco dancing to a gay anthem – teaching really can (on occasion!) be the greatest job in the world.
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Motivation/Procrastination or Wanting A Life?

Today I had a meeting at work with my boss, who gently pointed out to me the problems I have been having – and ignoring – all year in terms of marking younger kids books. I was totally aware of not doing what I was supposed to have been doing. None of what she said came as a surprise.

To summarise: I get excited about new things as I feel bored, try to do too much, then fall off the wagon, let things go for too long, then give up because I feel overwhelmed with the scale of the problem I have created. I’ve had this problem for years – mentally putting my fingers in my ears and going la la la and then living with the fear and anxiety of being found out instead of doing anything about it. Healthy!

With the GCSE and A Level kids I am fine, but the multiple classes of 11-14 year-olds I fuck up the marking, every time. Every year.

I am supposed to set homework once every two weeks, mark it once every two weeks by grading it and writing a sentence of praise and improvement. Takes around 2.5-3 hours a class. I have three hours non-contact time on the timetable each week, and seven classes (190 kids). To teach and mark I will need to work 45hrs/week.

Not included: the emails, data entry, form filling, report writing, pastoral follow-up, meetings, positive conversations with students, research for inspiration, gallery visits – many more hours on top of all this (e.g. ten hours to write a set of reports).

I don’t want to live a life like that :(

I’ve tried various things to try and solve my poor motivation, make things easier for me, but nothing has worked, so I think I need to be radical and do less with my classes, and do less inspiring projects, as pure enjoyment of creating is taking too high a priority… :( My boss said that she thinks it’s very unfair that the younger kids don’t get to experience the excellence the older kids get through my teaching. I agree with that, but am not sure how i’ll manage to finally solve the issue.

I apologised to my boss, and tearfully explained that this problem mirrors the problems with motivation I have been having in other aspects of my life, from washing up, to looking after my health to getting my car fixed. I should do art to make me feel better but I choose not to. The usual. She said she was very surprised to hear I have this problem, just like my pottery tutor was when I had a similar chat with her. I come across as efficient, on the ball, inspiring, hard-working, dedicated.

Deep character flaw
or
disliking my job, education system
or
lacking hope/purpose
or
mental health issue
or
wanting to have a life
or…?

Wikipedia – Working time
BMJ – The impact of overtime and long work hours on occupational injuries and illnesses
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Another.

Today I attended a church service in celebration of McCy’s Mum’s life – yup, another one of my friends has lost their mother distressingly early.

Just over a year since Leia Ewok Village lost her Mum to cancer, McCy’s Mum journeyed from diagnosis at Christmas 2013 to death in July. Similarly to Leia’s Mum, things seemed to be progressing positively, until suddenly they really weren’t.

Her Dad and siblings spoke movingly about their wife/Mum, and it was a good funeral service, in that I gained a really strong sense of what sort of person she was, how she lived her life and treated others. Thought about my Mum, family members, being alone but not “alone”, kids, and mortality.

It was a sad occasion, but, and I know it’s a super giant cliché, it was heartening to see many of the fine qualities McCy displays matching those shown in her Mum – a good chip off a good block.

She, just like Leia’s Mum, lives on in her fine offspring. Hurrah.
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