Sunday, 29 March 2009

Why I love teaching

It's been hard keeping that in my head recently with all that's been going on at school. I'm just about ready to blog some of what has been happening to drag me down recently:

Some pupils accused me of 'not helping' them, which really, really hurt as I feel I run myself ragged every day trying to help them. After I gave my official written response to the complaints (apparently this is the 'procedure' when pupils make complaints) and they were investigated I was completely exonerated. Basically, the pupils in question want to be spoonfed and don't like that fact that I try to make them think. They want a 'teller' not a 'teacher'. So they are complaining about having a good teacher!

After a week of hell and wondering how I ended up in the middle of this nightmare after 16 years of teaching, it is now all over and I have the complete support of my Head of Department and Senior Management. But why did it all have to happen in the first place?

Of course, I don't bear grudges with teenagers (they are the children and I am the adult, after all) so I am trying to eliminate any ill-feeling they may still have by being sweetness personified in the classroom and telling them that I really want them to do well in their exams and am here for them.

We'll see if it works.

Anyway, on Friday I was reminded why I love teaching, and it wasn't even one of my own lessons! I was on a cover lesson in English (not my subject). A class of 15 year olds studying Keats. Here's a few quotes from the lesson:

Pupil: "Which poem is Keats' then?"
Me: "All of them, the book is Collected Poems of Keats"

Pupil: "Was Keats French then?"
(They were studying La Belle Dame Sans Merci)
Me: "No, only the title is French, Keats was English"

Pupil: "What is this first verse about?"
Me: "Basically, he's not a happy bunny"
(I told you it wasn't my subject!)

Pupil: "What order are the verses in?"
Me: "They are numbered"
Pupil: "Yeah, but I don't do Roman numbers"

Pupil: "I don't understand it"
Me: "Look, he's miserable, isn't he?
It's lots of ways of describing him being miserable, then explaining why he's miserable."
(I told you I wasn't an English teacher)

* * * * * * *

Book of Keats' poetry - £4.99
Watching teenagers trying to understand it - priceless!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Well I could crush a grape!

I've just been sitting here with my glass of wine, relaxing and catching up on a few of my favourite blogs (I've been neglecting my blog reading due to stuff going on my real life) when I came across this:

and I'm at number 33!!

How did that happen?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Working Mum back on form!

Another letter from school. Daughter has to make and take into school an Easter Bonnet for the Easter Bonnet Parade.

Ah ha!

Not a problem!

Remember last year's Easter Bonnet Parade?

Frantically making a bonnet at 7.30am for weeping, wailing child?

Well, guess who spirited the bonnet away and hid it in a wardrobe in the spare bedroom in case one was called for this year?

Yes, for once, I'm ahead of the game!

How organised am I?

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How smug do I feel?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Working mum over the edge

Okay, I'm heading for a deep depression now. It's not a matter of life and death, but I am a little upset. For the last six months I have been working on a photo book called "Tales of Izzy" for my mum's 60th birthday (and a copy for me!). Lots of stolen moments, when Izzy was in bed, arranging page layouts and matching photos to anecdotes. A mammoth feat for a working mum.

I was so worried about losing it that I tried to make a back up, but it just wasn't possible. I had to risk it.

It was so nearly finished. Just a few photos of Izzy on Parsley (her rocking horse that my dad made for her) to finish it off and then I could get it published.

On Sunday the laptop had a wobbler. It lost my profile, not husband's, just mine. And on Mother's Day, too! All my documents, photos, website favourites and ......... the book!

The laptop went to hospital to see if they could retrieve anything.

They couldn't.

All the documents and photos I had saved elsewhere so no problem there.

Can easily find my favourite websites again thanks to the great god Google.

But the book ........ gone.

All that work and time lost.

Have to start again.

At least I saved the anecdotes on my Tales of Izzy blog.

Thank goodness for Blogger!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Is there something in the air?

Last week was the pits. For various reasons. Problems at work, problems at home, lots of silly little things that added up like the review feedback, the ladybird costume, Busybees website won't let me log in to use my e-vouchers to pay for daughter's after school care, the laptop has had a wobbler and refuses to load my profile so I've lost a Blurb book about Izzy I've been working on for six months for my mum's 60th birthday (and no, you can't do a back-up, I tried).

It all nearly tipped me over the edge:

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This is me on the edge!

However, here's the funny thing.............. it's not just me. Talking to friends and family this weekend, they all had tales of woe: stresses at work, loss of a grandparent, problems at home, irritating things going wrong, breakages, vandalism, internet problems, etc, etc.

Was there something in the air?

Surely this week will be better?

It has to be.

At least the ladybird costume's arrived!!

(Many, many thanks to my neighbour who took it in after I left a note for the postman!)

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Was it Mothers' Day?

Did I get a day of pampering? A day off all the chores and the childcare?

Or even just a lazy afternoon watching TV?

No, I did not.


Because Manchester City moved their match from Saturday to Sunday ruining many a Mother's Mothers' Day in Manchester.

Thanks MCFC!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

Which is worse?

A Having to explain to four year old daughter that we can't go to the cinema as planned this morning because we have to wait for Royal Fail (not a typing error) to deliver Ladybird Costume, and then have to entertain her all day while keeping one eye out for Royal Fail van (because obviously postmen just look at the house and then quickly push 'tried to deliver' card through letterbox before I can get to the door to answer it)?


B Having to explain to four year old daughter that we can't go to the cinema as planned this morning because I have to drag her wailing and complaining around shops to find items to make a Ladybird Costume and then spend afternoon trying to make Ladybird Costume?

I chose option A, have had sulky four year old to deal with and still have no Ladybird Costume to show for it!! Now have added stress of hoping Royal Fail will attempt to deliver on Monday (when I'm at work), trying to find someone to pick up the card at our house in the afternoon and go and collect it from Delivery Office and hoping that the jobsworths at the Delivery Office will let them have it!

Sorry to go on about Ladybird Costume thing, but I can't believe that one little letter from school can ruin our precious Saturday in such a spectacular way! Do primary teachers know that this is what happens when they glibly send out their letters? Do they have an image of fifties style mums with all housework completed during week spending Saturday blissfully making costumes with daughter from stock of items stored in sewing room? Ha ha ha!

However, we did create our own cinema: we drew the curtains, got two cartons of juice, tipped three packets of sweets into a paper bag (as pick 'n' mix) and watched "Ratatouille" on DVD. Not a bad compromise and cheaper than the Odeon.

I imagine I have a lot more Saturdays like this to come ............

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Ugly Bug Ball

Week has got gradually worse, but don't want to talk about it. Still, I do have Izzy to cheer me up every day when I pick her up. Normally it's tales of swimming, PE, minibeast hunts, music and computers. However, today she brought home one of those dreaded letters:

"Class RP are doing school assembly next week. It is the Ugly Bug Ball and Izzy has chosen to be a ladybird. Please bring her costume into school in a labelled bag by Tuesday."


Give me half a term's notice and I might manage to create a ladybird costume, but four days?!

Could be worse, she could've chosen a grasshopper! So, onto the great god google to find out how to make a ladybird costume - tights, t-shirt, velcro, pipe cleaners, patent shoes, headband, etc, etc.

Oh sod it, I'll buy one from e-bay!

This one'll do, won't it?

Well, what else is a working mum to do?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Working Mum definitely on the verge!

At the moment my department is being internally reviewed. This means that the powers that be are checking that we are all doing what we are supposed to be doing, or, that the powers that be have to be seen to be checking that we are all doing what we are supposed to be doing. I'm not sure which. Either way it has been very stressful for the last 10 days and we are only half way through!

Yesterday it was my turn to be grilled by two managers. Oh, my lessons were great, my ICT skills were the best in the department (must be all that blogging!), I'm the most qualified teacher in my department (BSc, PGCE, PGCert, PGDip, MSc - more letters after my name than I know what to do with!) and my room is beautifully decorated with children's work and an inspiring place to learn. So far so good.

Then came the "professional development", otherwise known as "what are you doing with your life, woman?!". Where are you aiming? What promotion are you going for? Where do you want to be in five years time?

I murmered something about having bronchitis for four months and just wanting to be well again. Something about having a four year old daughter that needed me. Something about only just having enough time in the evenings to mark pupils' work and then sleep (didn't mention the hours spent blogging!). But they continued. As soon as one stopped to draw breath, the other started........ "You need to be seen to be on some committees" "You need to take on a project and manage it yourself from beginning to end" "You need to develop something within the department", "You don't want to reach a plateau", blah, blah, blah............

They meant well. They said they don't want me to find in five or ten years' time that I am no longer happy in the job, but haven't the necessary experience to move on. They don't want me to become one of those teachers trapped in a job I hate and just waiting for retirement. I know that they are right, but I wasn't in the right frame of mind to think about it. Especially as I am going back to hospital again today for lung function tests to see if they can sort out my breathing difficulties.

What I should have said was, "Actually, I'm quite happy here on my plateau admiring the view, for now. I'll think about it."

Instead I fought back the tears and made some excuse about having to go to pick up daughter.

I came home and cracked open the Chenin Blanc.

"You never used to drink during the week" said husband.

My reply?

"I'm a working mum on the verge"!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Conversations with a four year old - the one about being late

Daughter had yet another party this weekend. She was taking ages to get ready. As I was trying to get her dressed and get a present wrapped and a card written, she was more interested in doing a jigsaw, reading a book, playing with her toy cars, singing into her disco diva microphone.

"What am I doing?" I thought, "I spend all week trying to pursuade children to do things they don't want to do, I'm not going to do it at the weekends as well. I don't care if she gets to this party on time."

So I told her "The party starts in 30 minutes. If you want to get there on time, you need to get ready. If not, you'll be late"

"I don't mind being late" she said, "It's ages till the food anyway"

Friday, 13 March 2009

Photostory Friday - Red Nose Day

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Today is Red Nose Day. Daughter has gone to school in funny socks and I have agreed to have my photo (with a red nose photoshopped onto my face) displayed on a large screen at school if enough pupils pay to see it! (I know, I know, I must be mad. Hang on. What if they don't pay enough to see it? Oh no, didn't think about the implications there, did I?)

Anyway, last night daughter and I also made some red nose biscuits using the recipe from BBC Good Food Magazine (to see the recipe click here)

And this is how they turned out:

Guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

And a couple of inches on the waist!

(Have you seen how much butter goes into these little critters?!)

And husband has just gone to work in his dinner suit; he claims he's going as James Bond!

(Only in his head does a dinner suit turn him into Daniel Craig!)

So, what are you doing that's "funny for money"?

In support of Comic Relief, registered charity 326568 (England/Wales); SC039730 (Scotland)

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Are there no pleasures left in life?


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Conversations with a four year old - the one about the Kinder egg

This afternoon, on the way home from school, we called in the corner shop for some cherry tomatoes. Conveniently placed by the till were the sweets and chocolate. Just the right height to entice a four year old.

"Can I have a chocolate egg, mummy?" daughter asked, "I haven't had one for aaaaaages"

"No lovey, you've still got lots of sweets and chocolate left at home"


Then there was much weeping and wailing as I steered her to the car and started to drive home.

When she'd regained her composure she asked,

"Mummy, when we get home will you write some tricky words out for me to copy"

"Yes, of course. What kind of tricky words would you like?"

"Egg ,Chocolate, Want, Please, Toy, With"

So transparent!

Monday, 9 March 2009

I want what they're on

Mum and Dad's Anniversary Do was lovely. We had a very nice family meal in a restaurant. There was good food, good conversation and a lot of laughter. Perfect!

However, I want to know what my mum and dad are on because they seem to have boundless energy. They both still work (dad full time, mum part time) and are nearing retirement, but they are the busiest people I know!

For instance, just compare our weekends:

Saturday daytime: I did errands and a children's party, they went to Dad's club and got the room ready for a 70's night social decorating the room, setting the tables, etc.

Saturday evening: I performed in a concert, they went to the 70's night where my Dad did a turn as one of the Village People doing a dance routine to "YMCA" (don't ask!)

Sunday daytime: We all went for the meal for their Anniversary.

Sunday evening: I went to bed at 8.30pm intending to watch an episode of "Pushing Daisies" that I had recorded, but I fell asleep before 9.00pm

My mum and dad?

They went a local club where they go dancing and danced the night away whilst having an Anniversary Party with their friends!!!!

What is their secret?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

A Choral Epiphany

Well, I survived Saturday. Thank you for all the suggestions - very useful. I renewed library books on-line, I collected cake and balloons and I made a dash to the garden centre and bought the very last Camelia "Ruby Wedding"!! (I'm never normally that lucky - someone was looking after me!)

Children's party was a nightmare - fifty kids in a church hall with one clown. Aaaargh! Did manage to multitask and mark a set of tests in amongst the chaos.

Home for lunch and to decorate cake and make cards, then I went early to the concert rehearsal and had ten minutes peace in the church - bliss. A quick puff of the inhaler and I was then ready to sing.

Whilst I was at the concert husband did washing and ironing. Bless him.

We're off to the Ruby Do soon, but I thought I'd leave you with a tale from last night:

During the concert I sang one of the pieces all the way through for the first time. We learn music very quickly and often sing things through completely for the first time at concerts. In fact, in one concert that we did at the Bridgewater Hall (which was filmed for the South Bank Show) we were handed a new piece as we walked on stage! Being in the Manchester Chorale is not for the faint hearted!

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Well, this piece last night was a particularly challenging and difficult modern piece. The words were very strange with a lot of stuff about "exchanging foam" - I didn't really get it and not sure I wanted to.

Anyway, last night I had an epiphany.

As we left the stage I said to a fellow soprano and friend, Julie:

"Aaaaah, I know what that piece is about now. They're dead, aren't they?"

"Yep", she replied, "Another piece about dead people"

Is the musical director trying to tell us something?

Friday, 6 March 2009

What to do about the "Ruby do"?

Tomorrow is one of those days where I need a few extra hours in a day. I have a concert tomorrow night and it's my parents' Ruby Anniversary do on Sunday. Here's what else I have to fit in:
  • library books due back
  • pick up balloons I've ordered for parents' Anniversary do
  • buy present for Anniversary (what to buy? what to buy?)
  • buy cake for Anniversary
  • decorate cake (well, let daughter decorate cake in her own inimitable fashion)
  • pursuade daughter to make a card for Anniversary
  • take daughter to party 10.30am - 1.30pm (right in the middle of the day!)
  • do washing and ironing
  • get my concert dress and music ready
  • go to concert rehearsal 4pm
  • perform in concert at 7.30pm
Bear in mind that husband is at work on Saturday and can't help out.

What is a working mum to do?

If only my Parents weren't having a Ruby Do!

How inconsiderate of them! ;)

Hang on, what's this in the corner of the kitchen?
(Obviously I haven't cleaned the kitchen for a while)

Ah ha!

Problem solved!!

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Thursday, 5 March 2009

Anything you can do.......

Last night I got into bed and coughed a bit.

Then a bit more.

And a bit more.

Then a long coughing fit.

I got up to get a drink of warm water.

Got back in bed.


Got up for a tissue.

Got back in bed.


"Right, that's it!" yelled husband suddenly, "I've had enough. It's been four months and you are still coughing. I can't stand it any longer. Rant, rant, rant. Blah, blah, blah" (You get the gist)

I lay there quietly giggling away while he continued with his outburst.

I waited until he'd finished ranting then I quietly said:

"I've put up with your snoring for 16 years"


He he he!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Working Mums are from Mars?

I had one of those moments today. I was talking to one of the other mums in the playground this afternoonl. She was coming to the end of a year on maternity leave and was not looking forward to going back to work.

"I didn't enjoy maternity leave", I said, "I couldn't wait to go back to work"

She looked at me like I was from outer space:

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"Uh oh", I thought, "Said the wrong thing again"

Surely, I can't be that odd?

You see, the thing is, I've always been a worker. At one point I had three jobs at the same time in order to save some money to return to University to do my PGCE (teaching qualification). I guess I'm also lucky that I have a job I enjoy and, however frustrating or stressful it gets, I derive a sense of achievement and satisfaction from it.

Add to that the fact that I have never been a 'baby' person. I've done the 'duty visit' thing when friends had babies. I took the gift, said the right things, but had no desire to actually hold the baby that was often thrust in front of me.

"It'll be different when it's your own", they said.

It wasn't.

(Oh, how much is conveyed in those two words, but that's a whole other post)

Returning to work was a huge relief. I felt that 'this is what I do', 'this is what I'm best at'. After feeling like a 'non-person' with no place in society, I felt useful again. (This is in no way a criticism of people who don't return to work - it's just how it was for me). As soon as I stepped back into my familiar classroom the real 'me' returned. Handing daughter over to 'fabulous childminder' to care for and entertain while I was at work was right for me. The time I then spent with daughter was enough. I still saw the milestones (crawling, walking, talking) and I had fun with her at the weekends.

Is that so strange?

Why did that mum think I was peculiar to want to return to work?

Do we still live in a society where working mums are only understood if they do so for finiancial reasons?

Are mums who choose to work still considered selfish?

I was lucky enough to have a choice and I made mine. I was happy with it. Gradually daughter changed from baby to toddler to gorgeous girl and, if I could take my maternity leave now ......................................

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......... well, that would be a different story!