germs, politics, buffoons and general disillusion

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I’ve been absent, not only from my blog, but from my life for several weeks now. This winter my immune system has taken quite a hit, and I have suffered from a series of upper respiratory infections that have brought me low, physically and mentally. This last weekend I closed the door, dosed myself with everything in the medicine cabinet and slept as much as I could. Today, Monday, I feel a little closer to “me”.

A colleague commented that I have been walking around looking close to death for weeks (true) and that she wondered if she needed to put a heart defibrillator on me, to jump start things again! She also said that she knows when I am back to normal because “you get louder!” I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt on that last comment. I know I can be loud; I am loud when I am happy. I am a loud person. Vocally. Flamingo Loud Dancer. Just don’t say it to my face and expect to survive the experience.

I have one of those year 7 classes (28 students) that are dreadfully immature, and answer every question with “I would kill them,” or “I would punch him in the face,” or “Superman would stop them!” They also think they have the right to chatter all the way through class, even when I am speaking. So, I have been sending streams of students to the Responsible Thinking Classroom to reflect on their behaviour and to write plans for their re-entry to our classroom.

It’s a fine line, because many in the class have ADS and so find being quiet difficult, but at the same time, they can’t interfere with my teaching or the learning of others. It’s not just the ADS students going to RTC, it is a plethora of mainstream students too. I have to be firm to maintain control, but in the meantime I am perceived as a meanie. I don’t think they have got the message yet, and so the stream of exits will continue until they do.

One lesson I kept them outside the classroom for 20 minutes as we went through checking that everyone had their laptop, pencils and paper, and then for everyone to calm down and wait quietly to enter the classroom. We had to wait so long that one student uttered, “But Miss, we want to learn our RE (religion).” No one wants to learn RE. which is most of the problem! So, finally I allowed them through the door, but a couple of boys misbehaved on their walk to a desk, so I pulled the entire class out and started the process again. I explained it to Mr FD as akin to breaking in a horse – you have to whisper to them to bend the spirit a little to maintain control. I don’t yell, scream, nag. I just stand patiently, explaining what behaviour is required until they listen. It’s going to be a very long term with this class.

Peppercorn and her parents are flying to Spain for a month, shortly. I wish they weren’t, due to all the turmoil in Europe right now. I know, we can’t live our lives in fear, but when I think of Peppercorn, who will only be eight months, well, it just makes me terrified. I know also that most of the terrorist attacks have been in France and Germany, as well as Turkey, but that doesn’t mean it will remain so. I want them to have a great time, even though Peppercorn will remember none of the adventure, but at the same time, I want them to remain safe. I just hope the time they are away passes very, very quickly. I shall have to keep busy in their absence. I shall just pretend that they are home in Perth and not across the other side of the world. We are not a very nice world at the moment.

Speaking of which – Donald Trump? Really, America, Donald Trump? He is the best you have right now? He’s a dangerous buffoon at the very least. I wouldn’t put it beyond him to get bored half way through a Presidency, if God forbid he should win, and just walk away from it all; or try to hire consultants to run things in his absence.

We have a dangerous buffoon in Australia. Her name is Pauline Hanson. She preaches hate, racism, bigotry, and all that is evil and she has just been elected to our Senate. For the next 6 years she has a platform to spread hatred. My reasoning is that the Liberal National Coalition (equal to the Republican Party in USA) have tried to control people by spreading fear. They have been so successful in creating fear in the electorate that now we fear anyone and anything that is different. Also, that there has been so much technological change that many people are finding it difficult to cope and this compounded with their general feelings of fear, have caused them to turn to these false “I will fix everything! prophets” Yes, we can all list things that are wrong, but how often do they come up with a sensible, workable solution? Rarely, if ever.

Pauline Hanson makes me ashamed to be Australian. Our previous Prime Minister, Tony Abbott did also. Not that his replacement is much better. This is not the Australia I want my grandchildren to grow up in. I don’t want them growing up in a world where there is a President Trump either, so I will light a candle and hope for Hillary. Social justice is what the world needs now, for the common good. Solidarity people, please.

 

teaching : damned if you do and dammed if you don’t

Fickle FInger of FateSitting before the mirror at the hair salon yesterday, the face looking back at me was tired. Exhausted. Its been a busy six months; Petite Fille and her parents living with us and I am trying to create and innovate at work more. It all means that I fall asleep most nights before I really want to, but I am too exhausted to continue.

This week I am trying to get a Makerspace off the ground. Not a token space with colouring in and cardboard, but a makerspace with technology. It feels like I am pushing a boulder up a mountain, as I fear our admin doesn’t have a mindset for technological innovation, and on the odd occasions they do, they centre it towards the males. As a woman, I have a double trail to blaze.

The guys aren’t really interested in taking up STEM, and I am, but I am older and a female, and so that almost makes me invisible to administration. Being knowledgeable and passionate is not always enough. They also like to build silos of responsibility and I am an outlier who cuts across supposed boundaries. However, at the same time, they are quick to criticise if you do nothing. Damned if you do and dammed if you don’t . Or just damned!

For the sake of what I believe in, and for the sake of my students I am willing to be damned, but it is all so exhausting.

education shouldn’t be about the next election, or how to peck teachers to death

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Today is a public holiday in our ever warm state of Queensland. It is May Day, or Labour Day. Last year it was moved to November, because of the political machinations of the previous anti-worker state government. New government and it has been moved back to its rightful place, but the Queen’s Birthday holiday which was in June (despite her birthday being in April) has been moved to November. I gather it was Business who wanted the change as we have all our public holidays in the first half of the year and none in the second half.

Australia is facing a federal election in the next few weeks, so education and teachers are being  used as a political football, as usual. If only the politicians would leave education alone. I am becoming so angry that I feel like becoming an activist, but I have no intention of ruining my own life! Everyone has an opinion about education, but as Professor John Hattie argues, everything works to a degree, even what politicians suggest, but it doesn’t all work with the students or the teachers for the long term good.

Politicians don’t listen to educators, they are just running with the media, and the parents they have panicked, or miseducated in the first place. Teachers want the best for their students, leave education to the experts not the politicians. I know, they won’t listen – never have, never will.

The issue is, no one will want to be in education if everyone keeps picking on the teachers. Stop bullying teachers! Performance pay when you can’t select the students you teach? As though students should have a dollar value over the heads! Teachers forced to teach a curriculum they know is too crowded and too shallow for real learning, that doesn’t equip students for the world they will be living in, and yet we are to be punished if everything fails. No wonder the average career in education is five years (this is my 7th!).

I guess, I am asking that when we hear about testing and standards and performance pay, that we stop and think, and wonder what type of world we want for our children. I don’t think it is this one, and we all need to let our politicians know this. If the “little people” don’t speak up, then they will continue – it is up to us to state our needs and wants, and not let the politicians tell us what we want.

Of course, you could always let me tell you want you need or want!

Bad hair life

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I must be feeling a little snarky. Actually, I know that I am feeling snarky. Too much social media lately, mainly because I am brain exhausted and seeking to veg out and social media is a mindless filler. Well, most of the time, sometimes there is incredible information on Facebook or whatever and that is what keeps me checking in.

The snarky bit relates to those stupid memes where some dead celebrity os credited with saying someone deep and meaningful which is just not true. Also, the memes where it is declared that pain makes us a better person or appreciate the good times. Bollocks. Pain is neither character building or life enhancing. It just hurts and hopefully we survive it and get on with the rest of our life. Pain is not destiny.

Thursday afternoon, while the hairdresser was cutting my hair, she disappeared for a few minutes. She had cut her finger trimming the previous client’s hair and the band aid was inadequate for the stream os blood. The fresh band aid was soon stained with blood, but she kept on snipping. Lovely. I felt sorry for her, but, well you know, it was my hair!

My doctor is still fine tuning my blood pressure medication. Actually, I think he has lost the plot, but time will prove that to him. I have to monitor my blood pressure twice a day, at home. The sheet of paper I was using filled, so one night I grabbed the first thing I found on my bedside table – a tissue box. Do you think I need to transcribe it before my next visit? I just used the last tissue, so they could file the empty box.

Oh, the other thing that I am testy about, is the number of people pushing iPad apps for children, small children. Literacy and numeracy do not grow from an app. Children need good old fashioned play and adults reading to them, and that gives them the best start in the world. Conversation with their parents, experiences in the real world; not an app pushing a duck around a screen. Technology is why our kids have lost literacy skills. Don’t fall for it, people. Rise up and reclaim your child’s creativity!

Flying to Perth on Saturday for a play date with Peppercorn. My sister asked last Sunday if I had packed my suitcase! I beg your pardon? It is a six day visit to my daughter, who owns a washing machine, in a city. How much packing do I need? It is not an African safari with Dr. Livingstone. No, I am not a trial packer.

Son has completed his second master’s degree and this week is trialling with an IT company in the city. It appears that in I.T you don’t interview for jobs, so much as work with them for a couple of days. I don’t know which is more pressure – a interview or a  trial. SIL though had to have a series of interviews and a psych test, which had to be repeated because the software malfunctioned for his recent new position. That is cruel. Anyway, send the white light people that Son gets a full time position (and it doesn’t get outsourced to India!). Mr FD and I would really like to be empty nesters; though I think Son can work form home a couple of days a week with this position!. The other days are smack bang in the central business district, so maybe he will need country down time!

The last thing on my snark list for today is that I need to get my drivers permit renewed. Last time I could do a tick and flick online, reuse the existing photo. Okay, it showed dark hair and I am now grey but it is me, damn it. This time, because I have one sighted eye, I have to go to an optometrist and a doctor for eye tests. I have had one eye since 1976 and I have never had to do this much before. Why now? Money grab I guess, and as the optometrist will bill my medical insurance and the doctor the government, one can see how health costs are blowing out. Of course I could “pretend” no eye issues, but then if I had an accident I hate to think of the legal mess I would be in. So, two days of my precious holidays taken up with jumping through hoops for the nanny state.

Well, unloading on you has been most therapeutic; thank you. Just one question, are you feeling snark now? Snarkiness loves company, even introverted snarks.

 

hot as hades, and damn those couches.

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Monday, 39C and 88% humidity. It is the humidity that is the real kicker in Queensland. It was a miserable school day for anyone who could not find a space with air conditioning and much of our school is not air conditioned. Most the the classrooms have been designed without any acknowledgement of our climate. Too many generations have clung to British tradition and the architecture of colder climates. Some of our newer classrooms have walls of folding doors that allow the classroom to open to the exterior. There used to be a ruling that if the temperature reached 41C then school could be cancelled, but with so many working Mums it is no longer feasible to send students home.

Monday is a non teaching day for me, so I had the gift of my air conditioned office to retreat. Minerva has a work room she can retreat to, but as it is peak textbook borrowing time she spent long periods at the circulation desk surrounded by smelly teenage bodies in the heat. Dedication.

Tomorrow is expected to be hotter.

I know snow is not the romantic stuff it appears in the pictures, but we wouldn’t mind changing places for an hour or two. As long as we could stay inside with a fire and a book of course!

Petite Fille looked at our silent fireplace yesterday, a day equally hot and pleaded her case for the fire to be lit. I said we only used it in cold weather. Her reply? She pretended to shiver, “I am very freezy Grandma.” Ah no.

Trying to refigure the furniture placement of the library to combat some of the behaviour issues we experienced in the library last year. The furniture was purchased before I arrived and while it all seemed wonderful as it arrived, time has proved that is was not what we needed. It was furniture more at home in a bookshop/coffeeshop – couches. They encourage too much socialising and that leads to behaviour issues , especially as the majority of our visitors are boys just wanting to “chill out”.

We are endeavouring to have them understand that the Library is not an extension of the playground; not a club hang out. We don’t expect them to be as quiet as a mouse, but we want inside voices, not playground voices. Luckily, the Principal is 110% with me, and so we are working through it all.

I am enough of a realistic to know that if I don’t make inroads, then a mighty kick will no doubt follow, so I am documenting everything, good and bad, as is Minerva. Positive energy, innovative ideas and creativity is what I asked Santa for…we will see how much he delivered as time goes on.

 

I ate no small fry and went full frontal

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First student day and I forgot to wrestle my niceness into some form of control and found myself promising a mother I would personally deliver her obviously quaking daughter to a particular teacher. She was a year seven student on her first day. Mum was obviously very reluctant to leave her when asked to depart with other parents, and before I knew it I had offered comfort to mother and child. Turns out the child is in fact a learning support student (damn double good browns points for me!) and I not only promised to connect her with a learning support teacher, but to also deliver a message that Mum would collect said daughter from the learning support area at day’s end.

Mission shortly accomplished, I found myself wondering just who did I think I was, Mother Teresa for instance.

Today only years 7 and 12 started school, and so we had the seniors wander the school showing the newbies to their various rooms, and helping them work out their timetables. I asked the Seniors to share the important information, such as which are the best toilets to use, or how to get served at tuckshop fast, but to share nothing that would scare them or have them refusing to return to school next day.

As a home class teacher, most of my day was taken up shepherding new students, but I did actually get in some library work which has left me feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

We did have to have our staff ID photos taken though, and I must admit that I forgot the pearls. I asked them if they could just photograph the back of my head, but they said no one would know who it was, if they did that. I replied, “Oh yes they would!” Minerva agreed. It is a noble head, well recognised by teachers and students. However, full frontal it was.

Tomorrow is another day.

what happens on conference, stays on conference

Or Going To The Scary Heights

From every conference the general idea is that there should be at least one thing – an idea, concept, inspiration or skill – that an attendee can take away with them. The general consensus from the conference we were forced to attend on Thursday and Friday was, how could a conference organised by educators be so bad? Totally useless. Most of the presenters, while articulate and often witty, appeared to have no point to their presentations. What was the message?

On the positive, we had some fun. Minerva and I got to hang out for two days and laugh. In fact, she had me laughing so much at one stage I developed a coughing attack. We had to sit in stadium seating and by the time we entered our designated centre had to sit third row from the back. The presenters were just specks on the stage. We felt like we were in the naughty kids rows and so it brought the worst out in us.

A couple of colleagues in the row in front of us, played hangman, and other games with the pen and notepad that was in our gift bag. The other gift was a stress ball from a health fund – a large tooth!

After the conference we were walking across the overhead footbridge between the convention centre and the hotel ,where we had stayed overnight, when the foot bridge started to sway. It is a wide cement bridge that crosses over double lanes of highway traffic, so its not some flimsy construction. Our guess is that with the huge numbers of people on the bridge our movement created some kind of resonance and the motion caused the bridge to sway.

It swayed so much that it became impossible to walk without clinging with both hands onto the railings. Even then it was nearly impossible to proceed, but we were so worried about the safety of the footbridge that we hurried along the best we could.

I had flashes of memory of that footbridge that collapsed in Israel a few years ago and a number of Jewish pilgrims, many from Australia were killed. Minerva told me this morning that she had a nightmare about it last night.

I have emailed the hotel and the convention centre to inform them of the incident. I asked if safety checks had been undertaken recently, and suggested that a sign should be erected warning people to limit numbers on the bridge. A traumatic end to the conference – it certainly wasn’t a conference worth dying for!

A step at a time, a day at a time: new habits

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A post of the Red Shoe Project 2016

 

Next Wednesday, the teachers’ school year starts for our school. In the spirit of living a simple life and minimalism, I have been thinking about how I am going to approach a new school year.

Four years have passed at this school, and things were not always great towards the end of last year. I brought a few things to a head and asked for more than a few changes, which I hope Admin with honour after all their promises. I have my part to play as well.

So, I have dusted off the holiday grey matter and tried to craft a little set of new habits to support my intentions.

Stay focused. I can go off agenda fairly easily when I choose. Make my to do list, my tomorrow list. This year, I am going to break tasks up into small chunks, but follow through with more care and attention. Not just the stuff I want to do, but the staff I have to do.

Be creative. Or rather, find a way to include a creative aspect to every day. I want to upscale my displays and add more wonder and awe to our library, so I am aiming to put aside 30 minutes each day to plan and follow through on a creative endeavor.

Read books. I’ve been spending too much time on Pinterest for a start. Okay, a lot of it is curating resources and information for teachers and students, but I need to read more of the books on our library shelves. So, maybe a target of twenty pages a day? I think that is attainable.

Express gratitude. This can be damn hard some days. Our Principal is in the habit of saying that the students are ”gift to us”. Not sure that I can be that grateful, but at least I can try to listen more to others and  to walk a little in their shoes before adding them to my stick list (the people I am going to hit with a stick on my last day in the job). Maybe collecting the positives and not the negatives in each day? Perhaps, if I try to have one amusing, or interesting anecdote to share with my family at the end of each day, it might help me to express more gratitude.

Meditate. Not something to do at school, certainly, but if I try to spend five or ten minutes either end of the day meditating, or just being silent and still, it may help me through the noise and bustle of my school day. Focus and refocus.

Innovation. One can only try.

words can not say

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Not a good day. A number of our more challenging students came into the library, causing a variety of issues. Then we were graced in both breaks by the presence of the girls who have made the false allegations. Minerva instantly called for backup from a nearby male teacher and we presented as a pair, so no more lies could be told.

I didn’t want to think it, and really tried to deny the thought, but Minerva voiced my fear. “Do you think you are being targeted?”  I had to admit that I agreed. They haven’t recounted, they haven’t experienced any consequences and now they feel untouchable. Twelve and thirteen year old girls in full formation for open hunting season.

By the end of second break, I was close to just walking out the gate for my own survival, for it is so difficult second guessing everything I say and do.  Instead, I had to go and teach a class. Thankfully, they were seniors and into examination revision, so I was able to gather my frayed nerves and take a slow breath.

I have reported the incident, but without any expectation of a speedy solution. I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t go against me in some way! The male colleague said he will be back with me tomorrow in case they return, bless him. These girls have rarely been to the library this year and now they appear all too often.

There have been terrible bullying issues between students in that year level, but to see them acting this way against a teacher is unbelievable. It is not like I play a major role in their lives!

I am not a weak person, I don’t cave easily, but the helplessness I feel is just escalating the longer this issue is unresolved. I have to follow someone else’s agenda. I feel like I want to explode.

Back in the school yard

lonely

Being accused of something you didn’t do is a lonely place to be. People can offer sympathy but it isn’t them. It’s a lonely journey.

No progress. The children haven’t rescinded their lies, and the union can’t supply a lawyer until next Wednesday afternoon, so everything is in holding pattern.

I won’t say too much, but it has been communicated that Administration supports me. I am the sacrificial lamb, however.

Every time someone asks me me how I am feeling I answer truthfully, “not well” and “lonely”.

Why would anyone stay a teacher after having this rubbish thrown at them? These are the experiences that change your perspective on things. Why do children have think they can use laws that are required to protect real victims, to their own evil ends?

I know their names now, there are three girls. One is in a class I supervise for free reading one period a fortnight. Ever since I met her I have felt an evilness about her, as though my sixth sense was on alert. Now I know. Just think what she might accuse a male teacher of doing! A male teacher could end up in jail!

I asked Mr FD if he was going to care for me when I was starling raving mad, and he said that he already is…

You know the saying, fall down eight times, get up nine? Well, I think this might be my tenth fall.

Heartbroken.