Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Booooooooo (yes, that's all I can come up with right now)

Some of the guards marching in - all wearing Canadian bear skin hats

What a terrible day!!! So to start off with something more positive I will rewind to the weekend.

On Thursday night I had my first 'couch surfer' arrive.  She is from Illinois and is spending a term in Ireland doing her student teaching. There are some sketchy people on the couch surfing website, but I thought "A teacher? Can't go wrong!" And boy was I right!! I had to work on Friday so I gave her some info about walking tours before heading to bed for the night. I got home from work on Friday feeling like I was going to be battling a cold - booo. She came home later in the evening and had done 2 walking tours that day! Talk about dedication to getting the full effect of London in one weekend!

On Saturday we had breaky and headed into the city to see the changing of the guards.  It was a decent day but very cold! The guards all marched in to the gates at Buckingham Palace, and we watched from a good vantage point across the street. It was cool watching them all come in and hearing the band play, but it started to get less exciting as they milled about in from of the palace and our feet started to slowly freeze off. So we ducked out a bit early in search of a good woolly scarf and lunch.

Westminster Abbey
After a refuelling lunch at The Spaghetti House (highly recommend), we went to Westminster Abbey to attend a service. We did not know that you can make reservations to do this? so we ended up sitting in folding chairs where we unfortunately couldn't see the priest or the choir, but only the reader.  This was all right though as the Abbey is spectacular with the high ceilings, statues, stained glass... So beautiful. And to hear the entire place filled with the sounds of the choir almost put you in a meditative state, so completely removed from the noise and bustle of the city. After the service we walked back up past Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park where there is a Winter Festival going on. Best way to describe this is as a winter PNE. It was full of little booths and food and rides, including an outdoor skating rink. It was also jam packed with people!! All in all great day, and a great new friend to spend it with. (We are already planning New Year's eve 2012 in New York!)

Santa!!  :)
Rides and beer houses (ok, a little better than the PNE)

Stalls everywhere - many selling toques, but they look at you funny if you say 'toque'

Now on to today.... My lovely Tuesday at with the Brethrens was violently snatched from me because they declared a snow day (at that point this morning we had about half a centimeter of snow, I actually thought my agency was kidding when I got the message). Instead I got called out to St Patrick's Primary. I was thinking "I go to St Patrick's church back home, this must be a sign of a good day to come!" WRONG!!!
I get to the other side of the city (my post code starts SW19, this school is SE18 - actual OPPOSITE side of the planet for me) and there is quite a bit more snow here. I slip and slide my way to the school and arrive at the same time as the teacher whose class I am covering. She gets them settled with some writing and leaves - no notes, no extra work for those who finish, just gone. After break she puts up a slide, points to it and walks out of the room. Thanks for the help! The TA is helpful, but soon leaves for her early lunch and the kids go nuts.
I survive and find my way to the staffroom for lunch only to be greeted with a glass of champagne to celebrate the head teacher's 60th birthday. Right on, this day must be about to turn around.
Nope! I get changed classes and end up in a 3/4 class. When I get there the TA is leaving for her lunch break, I ask what I am supposed to have the kids do and she says "Don't know Miss" and walks out. Awesome.
I find some vague note about similes and a poem on her desk with a note to be copied x31, but only one copy is there. Oh and did I mention they are doing construction on the school so this class is filled with noise from a jackhammer (so it would seem) being used on the roof. Only when I make up a simile about this, the kids have no idea what a jack hammer is.... grrr.
I kind of get the kids to listen for about 3 second bursts, then give up because they are seriously the most terrible kids I've ever met. A couple of fist fights break out. I am pacing the room muttering to myself "Two more hours, 55 pounds, this will pay my council tax bill". Finally god (or someone) comes in and tells me they are being dismissed early due to the weather conditions.

I make a run for it.

I finally make it home despite trains being delayed for weather, person under train, and signal disruption... and it is only Tuesday..... oh joy

Friday, 26 November 2010

Another day another dollar

Another week has passed.  Again, most "exciting" stories were had while teaching.
On Wednesday I was booked to teach only in the morning to the year 1 class that I went to a couple weeks ago. Once again the trip there was interesting... I decided to take another route which involved tram then bus, but cut down the walk from about 25 mins to less than 5. Would have been a great idea if the bus had shown up on time. But one didn't come and since they are every 20 minutes or so I froze my ass off waiting for the next one.  I finally get to the school, mildly hypothermic, and walked in to discover that once again this teacher has left me NOTHING to work with. This time she didn't even leave me the learning intentions for each subject so I am really on my own. The lady she shares with was there (thank heavens!) and this lack of organisation must be becoming more common because she was chapped!! "That's not fair! She can't just leave you with no plans. She can't just go and leave nothing prepared! This is ridiculous!" ...... my thoughts exactly!

We start rummaging through books and I find some relevant math worksheets and she comes up with some literacy work and we manage to scrape up a plan for the morning. The kids are much better now that I already have some key names under my belt! They talk about how it is cold outside, I tell them how where I come from it is snowing! Can you guess where I come from? Here are some of the answers: France? Jamaica? Africa??  Ummmm.... maybe we should try to fit some geography in today.
Just before lunch I am asked to stay on for the afternoon in a different class - the year 4 class that I was in the day after Halloween.  Things also went better second time around in this class, again knowing names is crucial!! They were still rather haywire, but we all survived and only myself and about half the class left with a headache at the end of the day.
The following day I was booked for the afternoon in a reception class - 4 year olds... I went in the morning to buy a nice warm jacket because I had been warned it was about a 20 minute walk from the station. It went well, I was a highly paid babysitter! They came in from lunch, "read" quietly (looked at pictures), then the TA did phonics with them, then I supervised them playing outside. Decent.
After work I met up with 2 fellow teachers/Canadians and we went to the Wimbledon Winter Festival. Parade, fireworks, crepes, gingerbread lattes... wonderful night!!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

It's okay... I can handle the truth

Ok, so maybe I am boring. I came on to write another post and saw that my official "followers" list has gone from 2 to 3 and I got excited! (or maybe that makes me pathetic?) haha either way...
I just finished reading 'Tis by Frank McCourt. I read it years ago, but someone in the house had bought it and put it in our novel collection so I thought I would refresh my memory.  It is about Frank's life as a poor Irish man in America.  The last third or so of the book tells of his life as a new teacher in America and he is still poor.  So I can relate to this on a few different levels is what I'm saying. And I also find it reassuring that I am not the only poor teacher out there.  Mom asked me the other day "But don't you have a reserve stash somewhere?" - which is kind of my style - to which I had to reply, "Why yes, actually, I do. It is sitting in your driveway with a For Sale sign on it!"    Damn!
But all joking aside, my agency messed up my pay and I am stretching my stash of soup packets and instant porridge until the end of the week. At the end of the week I will get paid for 2 weeks of work though and will be living the high life! haha.. or something like that.
Therapeutic horses grazing outside my Brethren school
This week I got an extra day of work at my fav school because we were having inspections.  The class that I normally teach on Tuesdays is taught by the head teacher at the school.  She was running around getting everything up to snuff for the inspectors so I got to go in on Monday too :)  Today I was at a school out in Brixton, which I was somewhat apprehensive about. When Impact called me about this day they said "It can be a bit rough, especially at first, but you'll do great."  This would seem like a reassuring statement to most, but Impact has a way of normally down playing things.  They send you to schools saying, "oh yeah, great school. You'll have a great day." and when you get there you realize it is in the ghetto and the children seemed to have recently been let out of cages. Or they will say, "Yes, it's a bit of a walk." Which translates to 20 minutes of walking from the station (which took 40 minutes to get to) and not just street walking but more comparable to mountain climbing.  So, needless to say, I went in today having no idea what to expect.  And thankfully was pleasantly surprised.  Of course the kids weren't angels - were you when you had a substitute teacher?? - but compared to some others I have seen they were at least human, and for the most part normal humans as well. There were even hints of manners and *gasp* conscience among them.  Definitely a school that I would not dread if they decided to call me back.
All in all, week is shaping up quite nicely.

my alter ego???

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Am I Boring??

So, as my mother is kindly pointing out to people, I am poor right now - so don`t expect anything exciting.  Well, I may have spent my money in Paris and Dublin, and I may be counting down the hours until payday (48.5 hrs?) but I`m sure I can still come up with something interesting to say.
First I could start off with an apology.  It would seem people are feeling pressured to leave comments after my many pleadings, and people have even tried to comment and cannot. I guess you need a google account to comment - sorry, I will stop hassling you! But if there is something you REALLY want to say to me, or call me out on, you can send me an email :)
 In my penny-pinching state I did not get up to too much ``extra curricular`` this week per say, but I did work and that is always an adventure!
On Monday I was called back to the same school as last Monday (the one with the sugar-high kids and pretty murals). This time I was called to do year 1 - this is equivalent to kindergarten at home.  How it work is that when kids are 3 they go to Nursery. The following year the have Reception. And at five they start year 1. This is why the year is always one up from the grade back home. All kids age 5-16 must attend school, but state school is free from 3-18. So, as I`m sure you can guess, they all get sent to Nursery and Reception for us lucky teachers to take care of.
Back to my Monday. I get called in to year 1. I ususally do year 4+ but I`m not about to say no to work! My adventure getting to work was, unfortunately, a sign of things to come. I step out my door into rain and gusting wind - fun times. I am walking to the tube station as my agency is texting me directions.  The final text comes in and says `be sure to bring £5 for a taxi``. You`re kidding me right??!?! NOPE! So I have to turn around and run back to a corner store to take out some cash then hurry to the tube.  I get to the train and still have not received full directions so I don`t know what train to get on. I call the agency and as I`m about to ask when I need to call this taxi they hang up on me - not impressed! The taxi driver doesn`t know how to get to the school. Just a generally wet, windy and disastrous trek to school.
The day can only get better right??!!?!?! NOPE! I walk in the class and there is nothing prepared for me. That`s fine, often another teacher or the TA comes in about 20-25 mins before kids get there and give me something. Well no one seems to be coming. The only thing I have to work with a vague learning outcomes with nothing to support then. So for the morning literacy I have instruction to `get the children to identify sentence patterns from a story`- a story which is nowhere in sight. Ummm sure... I`ll get right on that??!
Then in walks a teacher who teaches 2 days in this room, just not Mondays, surely she can help me right??!!!?! NOPE (see the pattern?) She says she doesn`t know what it means either so how about I read the story and have the kids retell the story in their writing books. Simple enough right? Yeah, except that the kids are FIVE YEARS OLD and have never written directly in their own books before. Not to worry, she will come back at break and explain the maths. Well, she doesn`t come back and I`m on supervision anyway. I somehow survive maths (barely), I am making it up as I go and the kids are very noisy, but no one is killing or injuring anyone else, so I consider it a success.
At lunch the regular teacher finds me. Yup, she`s in the school and has still decided to feed me to the wolves.  She comes up with some activity for art that she has clearly pulled out of her - let`s say I could have come up with this one and I`ve never done year 1.. which also means that it is impossible for five year olds to do and is supposed to last 2 hours but I can only - very painfully- drag it out for 45 minutes. The kids are supposed to look at an ancient horn, draw it and write about what they think it is and why. I give an example with a drawing of a fish. ``I think it is a fish. It has a fin. It does not have legs``. So about 10 kids write I think it is a horn, many write random letters and numbers and the rest write I think it is a fish because that was what I wrote on the board...  The TA is on my side and we decide to let them bear their wrath upon the library, buying us some time.
I survive - barely - the rest of the day. Teacher 1 comes back at the end of the day and admits, basically, that I was screwed over with no plans or anything sensible to work with.. but I`m going to stay and correct their work right?!? It is part of my job. Needless to say I am super cheery as I do this, especially since this is work I had to make up on the fly, does not meet the learning outcomes, most kids could not even do! And since they are FIVE YEARS OLD, about 80% of it I can`t even read. I decide to hold my tongue as she points out how messy their entries are and with parent-teacher day coming up this concerns her... Well it concerns ME that you gave me work to do that they were not only incapable of doing but had never attempted before!
I finally make it back home exhausted, frustrated and freezing cold. And yet again I spend my Monday night dreaming of my wonderful polite, quiet Brethren children, where things are organized and I always know what I will be teaching :)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Time to Relax

Finally a weekend that didn't involve any major plans!
Thursday I was called in to teach French and Spanish at a secondary school.  My morning was great is a Spanish 7 class followed by French11. I was even cocky enough to text my friend and tell her what a wonderful day it was teaching all girls classes. Then after break the savages arrived!! It was French 8 (grade 7s) and they were beasts.  Shouting and loudness cannot even begin to describe them.  I finally got them quiet and explained that they had a worksheet they could do, they could talk and work with friends but had to remain in their seats.  Well next thing I know 2 girls are wrestling, I mean actually wrestling and fighting each other.  I go over and get them back in their seats and quieted down - somewhat. As I turn to walk back to the front of the class I hear a commotion and turn just in tome to see one girl fly over a table after being shoved by another girl! Savages I tell you!!! I survive this class, have another group of 8s come in - equally as loud, minus the violence (thank god!), then I have a Spanish 9 to finish off the day. Interesting to say the least!
Standing outside the gates, saving ourselves 7 quid :)
Friday I am back to my wonderful Brethren land of calm and tranquility!
Friday is also Guy Fawkes night here in London, so a few of us meet up at the pub for dinner before heading to check out the bonfire and fireworks at Wimbledon Park.  When we arrive the queue is soooo long to get in and it costs 7 pounds... right away that's too strikes for me - hate standing in line and hate spending money HA. So we wait around and finally the line starts to die down. We can see across the park a huge bonfire, and I am wondering how it is even legal to have that thing.. but we get into line, which we discover snakes through the park, so we really aren't close the the front at all. Just as we are getting close to the gates the fireworks start, right on time a half hour late (punctuality is definitely not what the Brits are known for!) We decide -much to my liking- that the view we have from just outside the gates is just as good as the view from within but is 7 pounds cheaper. And since we don't plan on doing any of the 'carnival' things set up inside this works for everyone!
Pretty decent fireworks display, despite the strong wind that probably messed with the planning of the display. When it was over we made our way home, all tired after a long week!
Saturday there were more fireworks going on, I enjoyed some from the backyard as I made my dinner! But Ang and I stayed home and invited Christine and Josephine over for a movie night :)
Now the sun is out and I am trying to motivate myself to go for a run, but am really enjoying lying in bed reading at the moment...
Seeing 3 other countries in October - Scotland, France and Ireland- was amazing, but perhaps a little greedy. November and December will be penny pinchers to save for Switzerland for Christmas and New Years :)

Monday, 1 November 2010


What a day... Went out to a school I haven't been to before to teach year 4 (gr.3). The school is totally cute and I have high hopes for the day.  All over the school there are colorful murals from children's books with a quote from the book with each one.  They are all over the inside and outside of the school and are gorgeous. Roald Dahl, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter... and each class is named after an author too (not sure if they do activities around these or not?). I was in Rowling class and each table group was a family from the Harry Potter books.
But the kids....... bahhhhh would NOT stop talking ALL DAY! And not just normal chit chatty, they were practically yelling, and there were lots of them! Class sizes are HUGE over here! There was a TA in the class - which basically is a given here - and there was also another assistant who is assigned to one kid, but I swear sometimes they make things worse. I am trying to get the kids silent so I can explain something and I am waiting to everyone to stop talking but they keep talking answering questions from kids that I am waiting to explain to everyone at once so that we can avoid answering the same questions 30 times! So frustrating!!  I know that it is the first day back after a week break AND the day after Halloween but that did not stop me from having to take some deep breaths at the front of the class in order to calm myself enough not to grab a couple kids by collar and belt and do the old heave-ho out into the hallway...

But I survived, and now can enjoy some sweets, wine and KD (yummmm) before returning to my little angel class of 14 polite Brethren children tomorrow :D  We will be starting our study of the Ancient Greeks and moving toys in art. Life will be good again!