Sunday, March 30, 2008

Soldiers in school

Had a laugh at this comment on the TES staffroom thread, following others which were also not exactly happy with the NUT's stance on refusing to allow the army in schools.

A new News report:

The Military have voted to ban teachers from schools given the fact that the TTA and other recruitment is propaganda and misleading.

The Military have commented that the current advertising to recruit teachers is completely misleading, showing teachers in supportive, positive environments, but not representing the truth surround the career. Military expects have said: "The advertising might be luring and false, and chooses not to show images of the physical and verbal violence that teachers are victim to in the battle field of the classroom each and ever day. There is an understanding that if you join the army you will be trained to go to places where you may get harmed, but the television adverts about teaching do not show a realistic view of the career - they are propagana, and nothing less."

Research is soon to be commissioned to look at the recruitment of children, young people and even adults into a career that is misrepresented, often by the unions.

I have to say that I do like the adverts, but this is a very true point!

Art and Accidents

Where to start? With a resume of our outing yesterday, with my critique of a documentary watched last night, or with a brief description of this morning's accident? Well, probably best to recall in chronological order ...

We had a lovely Saturday out. Having spent last Easter weekend in bed, I hadn't been able to follow up my plan of exploring the National Gallery's works, so we decided to do that this weekend. After popping in to Angel and having a filling Wagamama lunch, we then tried to make our way from Angel to Charing Cross. Easier said than done. Went back down the tube at Angel, got a tube to Euston, tried to find a platform from where we could get a tube south to Charing Cross, couldn't find one, got on a tube that took us back in the direction from whence we had come, got off at King's Cross, took the Piccadilly Line south to Leicester Square, changed for the Northern Line, waited a while for a tube, squeezed onto one ("I am going to say this very slowly for the benefit of anyone who does not understand. Stand away from the doors. The doors will not close if you are standing between them. For the IQ challenged, stand away from the doors."), heard the announcement for the next station - Tottenham Court Road - realised we had gone in the wrong direction, had to get off, wander around the station to find the trains going in the right direction, and eventually managed to find a train that took us to Charing Cross.

The National Gallery is great! We only went to see the really old paintings (1250-1500 or so), but they really are something. So much bling! All that gold leaf ... and such detail, for example on the halos of the saints or on the dresses. And the colours are so vibrant, which is amazing after hundreds of years. Especially the blues of Mary's dresses, the golds, the reds. I am considering taking a group of students. Not sure how they'd be though! But it would certainly be a different experience for them, I'm sure!

We spent a couple of hours there, until we were thrown out (it's okay, so was everyone else, the Gallery closes at 6pm on a Saturday). Then we headed home, where I made a delicious and healthy dinner, of lamb and bean stew with cabbage, peas, potato, sweet potato and coleslaw.

While we ate we watched Oona King present a documentary on Martin Luther King. Which was quite interesting, until she started the most bizarre line of study ... are we in danger of forgetting King's religious side? Now, maybe it's because I'm an RE teacher, and as far as I'm aware probably just about every RE teacher in the country will cover MLK at some point, looking at how he was influenced to fight for racial justice, having been inspired by the teachings of Jesus (and the example of Gandhi). Which presumably means practically every young person in the country will be aware of the fact that MLK was a Baptist minister, inspired by his Christianity. He is covered in History as well, so I'm sure they will almost all have seen some examples of his preaching, which is full of Biblical allusions and references to God. Now, I understand that many students might not pay that much attention in classes, but at least with my students the moment MLK is mentioned, at least one person in the class will say, as a reflex action, without even thinking, "I have a dream!" Fair enough, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are thinking about King's religious convictions, but is it really true that people are not aware of his religious convictions?! At one point she even expressed surprise that his Christianity was nearer to socialism than to right wing conservative attitudes - sorry, no quote - but that really shocked me. Like Jesus, King was perhaps quite radical in his non-violent, turn the other cheek, love thy neighbour (and pray for your enemies) type attitude ... do people really consider him as a "secular icon of human rights"?! The documentary seemed to show Oona in a very naive, or even perhaps ignorant (in the most positive sense!) light, which I am sure was not the intention. Perhaps I do just make huge assumptions about the knowledge and understanding of the general British public about MLK, so forgive me if I sound too judgmental ... what do you think? Do you think King's Christian beliefs are important? Were you aware of them?

Right. So that brings us to the accident ... I was driving to church this morning (the first time I have ever done that, I was running a bit late, thought it might rain, wasn't feeling too great, and decided to go straight from church to the shops), when, having just come off the slip road, a blue van decided to come into my lane. While I was still there. I realised he was moving over, thought he mustn't have seen me, and began to accelerate away, but he still bumped my back bumper. I was pushed over a bit and swerved and got back on track, pulled over and we swapped details. Not too much damage fortunately, just a bit scratched, but still annoying! I was a bit shaken, but okay. Our priest was on the doorstep when I arrived - possibly looking out for me anyway, since I was due to do the reading and the intervention meant it was just a few minutes before the service started - and was really helpful when I told him what had happened. He got me some paper and got me to write down what happened before I forgot, and asked me a few questions to help make sure it was all accurate and detailed. So he waited to start Mass for a few minutes until I had written it! Anyway, I managed to get all my lines this week, and was quite quickly calm.

I've now got a spatchcock poussin in the oven, so that should be nice. More later!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Back at school

After a couple of days of illness, I'm back at school, and how nice to have some reasonable classes. Quite nice, in fact. Other than the fact that to begin with the Year 8s rebelled and would not sit where I wanted them to sit, once they got to work, they were quite good. At least for the first time.

It's a shame that the rooms are being targetted and broken into by students. Hopefully we are chasing them down though.

Looking around for jobs ... a couple of interesting ones. But no sign of interviews yet!

Still sniffing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Having fun with Anagram Genius. I had already heard that "Houses of Parliament" is an anagram for "Amoral house of spin", but interesting to discover that "members of Parliament" are "Fine memorable tramps". The Guardian is "Huge, radiant", and presumably The Sunday Times would not be too happy to discover that they are "Seedy: Shut it, man!" George Clooney might be happier with "Energy, cool ego", but his aunt might not be so happy with "So ace merry loony".

Tony Blair = Tory in Lab.
Gordon Brown = Wrong or Bond.
Margaret Thatcher = The great charmer
The great fire of London = Forget old inferno heat!
Tiger Woods = Word: it's ego!
Buying a house = Hi! Young abuse.
Teacher training = An integrate rich.
William Shakespeare = I am a weakish speller.
Charlotte Bronte = Tolerant botcher.
George W. Bush = He grew bogus.
Haggis, neeps and tatties = Stagnate pig deathiness.
Fish and chips = Fin dish, chaps!

Anyway, it goes on and on, and has made me laugh!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Weird how when your nose is blocked you can't taste anything.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Unfortunately I have been struck down by quite a bad cold, so have only been up to enjoy Easter day for a couple of hours. Fortunately H did point out that it was snowing this morning, so I was able to look out the window to see some large white flakes slowly circling down like feathers, and able to briefly see the white ground outside. Unfortunately my horrible condition - attached to tissues, sore throat, grating cough and musty head - meant that I was not able to make it to church this morning to celebrate the good news of Christ's resurrection. Fortunately I was able to make it to the Easter Vigil last night, which is surely one of the most moving and beautiful services in the liturgical year. I described the service in some detail last year, so will not give the complete outline of the ritual, but would still like to point out some of my observations.

It was darker and colder this year than last, and there was a fear the wind would make the Paschal fire unruly and make it hard to light the Paschal candle. This meant that the candle lighting ceremony took place this year at the back of the church - but what a picturesque scene!

First of all, the altar servers processed in silence to the back of the church. The priest then switched off all the lights, and other than the deep blue dusky glow coming in through the stained glass windows, the church was plunged into darkness.

We all stood, holding our white, waxy, virgin candles, facing the back of the church. I was in the front pew, therefore right at the back, so was able to see the full church, all worshippers facing the back wall, watching and waiting for the light of Christ. I was able to move into the aisle for some of this part, and it was nice to see children gradually making their way into the aisle as well, to see and take part in this special ritual.

The fire was lit, and the three men dressed in white gathered round the fire, the orange glow lighting up the wall and their white gowns. Their shadows flickered as they gazed at the fire, the priest intoning the words of blessing as he marked the paschal candle. Once again, the symbolism and the imagery reminded me of Renaissance art. I felt as if I had been transported back in time, to a time when the earliest Christians would have met to mark Easter. Then the priest held the candle high, sang out, and we sang our response. Slowly, the altar servers, priest and paschal candle processed down the aisle, as our candles were lit from the holy Easter light. Eventually the priest reached the sanctuary steps, turned and faced the congregation, and, almost at the same time, the church was suddenly filled with the light from all the candles. Beautiful.

As with last year, the first three or four readings were read by candle light. Then the bells were rung with fierce devotion, the lights were switched on, and we joined in the first Gloria since Lent, singing loudly and joyfully.

It was lovely to share once again in the celebrations of six people joining the Church, perhaps even more so since I now understand the symbolism more having studied the Sacraments more since last year. And after the service, we joined in the celebrations by eating with them in the church hall, before I headed home for duck and roast potatoes.

So I didn't feel too bad about missing out on church this morning, since last night had been so special, and the church so beautiful.

Right. This has taken me some time to write! And The Passion will be on in 15 minutes ... Happy Easter everyone!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday

It's the little details that you notice. The flowery mug on the ground by the priest's chair. The way so many people venerating the cross kiss the nail; the tenderness with which the altar servers wipe the spot kissed. The parents with babes in arms that proffer their young one towards the cross to learn the action. The garment that is put round the priest when he goes to fetch the Host from its resting place in the side chapel. The care with which he carries the ciborium, hidden under the embroidered garment. The plainness of the sanctuary, the cream sandstone merging into the creamy altar, the shrouded statues and icons hidden in the whiteness of the walls. The sombre pale silk inside the open tabernacle, the golden doors wide open to reveal its emptiness and hide the gaudiness of the screen. So still, so quiet, as we all exit to the darkening sky, remembering that God is dead. And we have killed him ...

Home, to watch The Passion, and rethink it all again. And to look forward to the Easter Vigil ...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A lovely day!

We had a lovely Easter liturgy in school today. In fact, a very lovely day all day; I got my first ever Easter card from a pupil, my year 10s worked harder than I've seen them in ages, I watched someone else teach a lovely lesson, and my Year 9s were okay. Then I rearranged my classroom - back to rows, shame, I liked the islands of desks - and then we had a lovely liturgy in the afternoon. Very moving. And they place Morricone, which was very moving, and the choir was great. So, a lovely, lovely way to enter the Easter Triduum!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Out of School

Spent a lovely day in another school, explaining about Web 2.0 to a group of educators. Very exciting to have that opportunity, and they seemed to be very interested. I hope they go on to consider how they can use these ideas in lessons - exciting to pass that flame on!

Listened to an interesting conversation on the train on the way home. Two boys got on, and there was a pungent smell of grass (weed grass, not grass grass ...). Anyway, the word heroin pricked up my ears, as in "it's better than heroin", and in between dozing I caught snatches of conversation about blow, QV (?), weed and other terms that I can't remember now.

"You carry the blow, I'll keep all the cash."
"I could keep the cash."
"No, I don't trust you, you always lost it. I'll keep it all in my zip pocket, here."
"Not mine as well."
"All of it."
"No, I'll keep my spending money."
"Yeah, you can keep that, but I'll keep the rest ... We'll need to find someone who sells it cheaper, that's too much."
"Do you know how much a 2 carat gold chain is worth?"
"Dunno. How much?"
"This man, he told me, a grand!"
"Which man?"
"A grand, you know? He said ..."
"Which man? The Persian? With the white van?"
"He had this ... three elephants ... do you know how much an elephant weighs?"
"Tel me, what man? The one with the van? I just want to know which man."
"Yes, the one with the van. Anyway, you know an average elephant? It weighs a tonne. So that man, the Persian, he says, I just got this ... I pushed it over the edge and into my van. Got two grand for it!"

Anyway, it was just too surreal a conversation for me to follow, then I was distracted by a woman who got on later and was singing songs in French to her little boy in his buggy, who decided to start crying not long before London. But interesting way to journey home, anyway. I've never overheard real people talking about real drugs before in public ...

Had a kebab for dinner. Great to be home earlier! Will have an early night.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Great weekend

Just a quick update! We've had a lovely weekend. On Friday night we went out for Chinese, then on Saturday we got up and went to a couple of galleries in Shoreditch. We had lunch at Viet Hoa - H had a huge tilapia fish and I had chargrilled pork. Both were delicious! It was nice to be out. The rest of the weekend has been taken up with writing CV stuff, planning lessons and celebrating Palm Sunday at church. Busy day. Still not quite finished! Also, we watched The Passion, and both decided it was really good. Highly recommended!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Tough afternoon. Had a couple of parents in today. Not great lesson - although not as bad as can be! But not great experience, really. Then had extra revision class after school. So late home, very tired, feeling stick on an almost empty stomach, sore head, feeling a bit miserable. Great to be home though - and H has made some delicious chips!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I was late leaving school today, having made about seven phone calls to parents to inform them that their son has missed a lesson. Good to talk to the parents. Some were shocked, some resigned. Two are coming in tomorrow ...

However, I may have shot myself in the foot there ... without those pupils, the class was (almost!) as good as gold and we managed to complete twice as much work as normal!

Right. Stew for dinner!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What a day.

Still sore head - off to bed soon - after a day that had some good points (year 9s were not aggressive, and were fairly good natured, although still LOUD!) and many low points ... Year 7s in particular. Throwing paper balls at me. Then being very aggressive when I kept them for detention. So not too happy. But still going. Glad Year 9s were good ...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Putting on the pounds

Today a pupil worked out that I was about the same age (well, a few months younger, but who's counting?) than her Mum. That was a sobering thought.

And another pupil said "Miss, you're putting on the pounds." When he saw that I wasn't exactly overjoyed at that comment, he added, "I'm just letting you know so you can do something about it."


Saw myself on a video ... far too much lipstick, all over the place. Embarrassing! Oh dear.

What was that Robert Burns said?

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea'es us,
An ev'n devotion!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

What did I do today?

Well, I'm feeling a bit guilty because I haven't done much, and I surely have lots to do. But then I thought ... I have just finished a week of teaching, maybe sometimes it's okay to not do much ...

I woke up, listened to some radio, did the laundry, did the weekly shop, came home, hung up the washing, put away the shopping, did the dishes (H made a delicious chicken in a tomato sauce last night), made some lunch (spatchcock poussin with roast potatoes and veg), read the Review, Family and Sport sections of the Guardian, read last week's Observer Sports Magazine, watched some Teachers' TV videos, played Scramble (like Boggle) on Facebook, browsed the internet a bit, watched Scotland beat England (yeah!!), listened to Barnsley beat Chelsea (yeah!), and here I am, thinking that I haven't done much all day.

But then again, last week I had a meeting after school on Monday, was prepared to do a revision class on Tuesday (no one turned up), had a meeting on Wednesday then met up with a friend, spent the whole of Thursday in a meeting that went on for an hour after school, then helped our new cover teacher plan lessons after school on Friday. I lost out on two PPA periods with meetings and added lessons, and have spent my other frees supporting the cover teachers, so I suppose it's okay to have not done much today! But I still feel as if I should have done more ... Maybe prepared some lessons, planned some homeworks, written some essays ... (what do you mean I haven't got any to do?!) ... tidied up the house more ... made dinner ... finished the dishes ... read some real books ... gone to the shops ... been outside more ... ???

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I taught Year 9s today!

Yesterday was a really bad day. Taught all day and couldn't get much done. Year 9s were very bad - no work really achieved. Sat at the end of the day discussing teaching ideas with a colleague. This inspired me.

During one class, I said to one pupil, perhaps I should give up. He said, "Miss, think of Jesus. What would he do? Would he give up?" He then he assured me that he was listening, so I continued, a bit encouraged that at least one person was learning something!

Today I taught the year 9s! They had a sentence, four words long. This sentence had to be expanded, with a prize for the group who could make the longest, grammatically correct, sentence. I had a few good examples - they became quite competitive. Had one with 83 words, and another with over 100 words, but perhaps too many ands!

Felt more positive.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Covent Garden

It was great to see my sister today in London! We had a tasty (hee hee!) three course lunch: I had grilled goats' cheese with salad, duck confit with potatoes and lemon tart with creme fraiche. All delicious.

Interesting to meet her HoD ...

But nicer to wander round the shops talking to her!