teaching


L.O. To identify and analyse the components of sonnets

Year 7! Stop this racket! Settle down!
That you’ve arrived late from PE is bad
enough without …you acting like a clown,
Grimaldi. Quiet while I’m speaking, lad.
The objective this lesson is up – DAN!
You need to get your backside on your chair
and planner on your desk, now, please, young man.
The objective, you may have seen, is there…
on the board, Lewis; it’s on the board,
if you were paying attention you’d have seen
it, instead of wasting time we can’t afford
throwing a basketball around with Jean.
Yes, you can pick it up at four pm
from welfare, where I’m sure there’ll be a chat
about why it has ended up with them.
I’m only glad it’s not a cricket bat.
Chewing gum in the bin, Jean, thank – good shot!
Now, can I start this lesson off, or what?

 

Soundtrack for reading (sorry the embed went wrong, will attempt to fix it) :

Blue Drag – The Hot Club Quintet

This week I have been occupied by being back to skool, back to work. It is about equal parts exam countdown (upper years), easy-peel units on poetry (lower school) and mordant commentary with colleagues about where work might be next year. Motivation is sketchy. Sometimes little moments can be a reminder of why teaching is such a lot of fun, but a great deal of it is just the same stupid job territory as every other stupid job.

Depends on how sunny it is, mostly. Maintaining a positive demeanour in the teeth of the things with teeth.

There are multiple projects having nothing to do with earning money with which I would be far happier to engage. However, on a day-to-day basis, they are all just partially-recalled dreams, forgotten in the waking to maintain the project of watching numbers apparently related to my worth appearing and disappearing from my bank account at the same time every month.

Some Gormenghastly ceremony, the meaning of which is long since lost, that participants go through with little enthusiasm.

That’s the teeth. Ach, it’s not all lugubrious pondering and late capitalist mope! Pretty sure I shouldn’t be keeping myself up late writing… Sweeping out the mind before turning in is a highly valuable process, though.

I’ll put the chin-stroking down to a definite post-holiday blue drag. Last week it was all frolicking in familiar precincts. I remembered there was a typewriter somewhere in the house and got that out. The four year old (just picking up on an interest in written letters and numbers) now asking if they can ‘get on with some paperwork’…

lore preschoolsum

I love the faint suggestion of millennial significance, that this is a cipher holding arcane truths about the underpinnings of things.

I also love that it means “today i helped put a tent up in the garden and then did some important paperwork on the typewriter’. Or something different but also fabulous, depending on how the light hits the runes.

Infinite monkeying about! There’s a career goal. Keeping that in mind should see the rest of it fall into place.

Sort of Churchillian sentiment to the post title here. Easter holiday approaching, and preceding that today a bit of closure on this Difficult Process (TM) that has been unfolding at work.

Oh, and Leeds won at Preston. Mercies. Takeaway and a John Crabbie’s ginger beverage to celebrate.

Maybe not quite a finest hour, but it was pretty good after the last few weeks.

 

Getting back into the rhythm of term time can be difficult. There’s all that tension in the air – the ties sitting uncomfortably after a week in tee-shirts, running fingers round collars, restlessly shuffling pens and papers, trying to settle back into the school seats. The students are a nightmare as well.

On top of the sudden reappearance of Work Load, I’ve had disrupted sleep all week, not particularly assisted by feeling categorically unable to tear myself away from Doing Stuff in the evenings, extra bits of work, writing… Projects, til far too late on.

Traditionally the sort of hothouse from which booze plants might have sprung fully formed, possibly by this evening, certainly by the end of the week.

Not in the slightest feeling that this evening – such are the joys of getting dressed up for World Book Day and springing “Drop Everything to Read Something’ surprise moments on delighted classes, I feel relatively perky, if a bit stubbly and stretchy-eyed. So, doing my level best to get my head down before too long after 10pm…

It seems obvious in some ways, but just assuming everything’s going to be fine absent that one thing that’s not working for you is a bit of an invitation to let all one’s other behaviours step up to take the place.

So yeah, that’s it for this evening.

Today was all about readjustment. Back to work means getting back into the daily schedules, triumphs and grievances of secondary schoolers.

10 minutes in to form time (8.40am) and someone is blithely blaming everyone else for them being in trouble. 25 minutes later and Year 8 have begun with multiple excuses for not having done holiday work that they hadn’t even been set. Then it’s Year 7 and their unwinning combination of impertinence and extreme neediness. Lunch can hardly arrive soon enough. Duties and Year 9 to follow, Directed Time (Year 11 reports) and Briefing…

Despite a dropped cash register receipt roll list of stuff to do unfurling in front, though, there is no significantly negative stress about any of it. Young people just do young people stuff, and remembering that, getting organised and sitting down to all the other tasks in hand seems the only realistic way to get on. Storm Freya did all the huffing and puffing for us over night, and so this morning there was only a wind-chilled air of brisk, back to business busyness.

No triggering of anything, certainly. It’s only Monday, for one. Considering how this sort of not-really-thinking-about-it mode sits in the wider context of a not-boozing log, it’s worth reminding myself that there are many such moments in day-to-day life, even when drinking. Other matters just have to take priority.

In fact, sitting down to write about this seems a bit forced, a bit of an encumbrance. Why, it even becomes easy to see that the old drink is not such a thing after all. That all that talk of having to give it up for any extended period is unnecessary, really.

Ooh, listen to Wolfie. The silver-tongued devil. That sort of chain of thought is quite insidious.

But, recognising it for what it is – wobbly tooth tonguing, pressing on a bruise… allows for readjustment.

Finally a week’s holiday arrives at school, with parents’ evening bringing a long day at the end of a long week closing out an interminable half term.

Yet the busyness was actually a boon, and we seemed to end for the break all feeling a positivity at odds with the stresses of the preceding days. Time can seem to go quicker when it’s packed with tasks. On top of the inspection that took up three days, I had the good fortune to be able to participate in some Continuing Professional Development (CPD): two days of training on mental health and well-being issues facing children and young people, alongside intervention strategies.

The training provided some personal insights as well, with several useful reminders of processes, situations and responses from my past that seemed directly relevant now. It was a week in which I found myself having a fair few mirror conversations about drink, anxiety, motivation. Taking private moments to talk through feelings and frustrations, signs and symptoms.

Had a good word with myself today, the executive washroom summary of which is that I am feeling resolute.

Resolute in the face of a familiar triad of exhaustion, release, and relief, all of which had by the end of the day nudged forward an oasis mirage of a refreshing trio of beers. I was in the washroom taking a few minutes out from talking through exam grades and chances and personalised targets. I was thinking about beers. Beers that would probably have acted as a prelude to a continuance of drinking, lasting probably all weekend and – given the onset of half term – probably into the middle of the next week.

It would not have been hard partying but, if past practice is any guide, a determined slow chug from each mid-afternoon and on. For days. Each new day an accumulation reinforcing an old and tested pattern.

Dear reader, it is the pattern this set of writings is intended to chart! A pattern I have resolved to explore, trace out, colour in…

Reflecting on this resolution, the urge to give in, to allow myself that reward, to get home, kick back, have just a few and then applaud some kind of strength in so doing… was easier to overcome. Yes, I damn well amn’t, I thought, washing hands and inspecting my face. The beer bottles dissolved in the blast from the hand dryer.

Yet… I know the booze is just one of a number of factors here. Overcoming the sneery interior voice critiquing this positive affirmation as a tad self-congratulatory, a bit simplistic, was on this occasion a matter of pistol fingers and a silly face before leaving the washroom. But it was interesting to hear that tone make a slight return.

Pew-pew-pew!

Shit, they might have got away.

Contains moderate hedge and bird peril.

Half term holiday. The last one of the year, in advance of the bigger holiday in the middle. The half term lengths that Summer had been preposterous, making a mockery of mathematics with a seven/three split. Staff and students alike finished the last week of the seven in a state of wide-eyed exhaustion. Next week, he thought, we return to a nothingy three week session, to be packed with last minute exam revision for those students that just realised this isn’t a drill, gimmicky distraction projects for the lower years, and assorted frantic loose end set text conclusion… all this in between preparing for next year, school trips and celebration assemblies.

Yeah, quite enjoyable,really, but a lot to do. I love having conversations about this with a particular pal of mine, as all he hears is “I have another week off now, then in three weeks I have another long holiday”. It supports his comically reductive line that teachers start at 9am and finish at 3.30 five days a week, sit down to enjoy lavish vacations for months on end, and generally live a cosseted Life of Reilly in the Land of the Cushy Numbers, unlike people with proper jobs. \n

Of course, his pose is marred somewhat by a role as a freelance graphic designer, whose social media updates speak of a life permanently plugged in, yet with ample time to draft epic responses, including well-chosen gif accompaniments; where working from home means every day is by default a day off; his whole calendar a matter of choice, dictated only by how much time one feels like spending on resizing pictures of cartoon teachers to fit the page.

Tee hee! Soon, though, I will in fact be luxuriating in the time-riches of a quite extensive holiday, yes, to be fair. And that means time to get at the garden. There are lots of little jobs becoming bigger jobs by the day: clusters of weeds emboldened by neglect, piles of wood accumulating with no firm designs for their future… and The Hedge.

[FX: Dramatic chords]

The so-called week off so far has been spent locked in combat with an extensive thicket round the perimeter. As regular readers may recall, we rent, but devote care and attention to our fortunate-to-have-it outside space. This hedge, though. 30-odd metres of privet. I am told it was originally maintained at about chest height, but since those fabled times it has transmuted into cyclopean ramparts the like of which might send a rational mind into a fever dream of unutterable intensity. F’tagen. It is my bête vert.

It is also about nine feet high, at least two feet higher than it should be. So shockingly high that I have switched measurement systems in my bewilderment. Most of April and May has been a write-off for good gardening weather, and many of the plants we put in at the start of the year are kind of wheezing their way out of the ground. Two feet of shadow on the hedge side is no help.

Effecting this trim is easier said than done, though. Some of the inner branches are the thickness of the base of my thumbs. Even the electric clippers’ battery has had enough, sending me pithy commentary on the process when it should be charging.

Still, it was progressing… but then, aaagh, I inadvertently exposed a nest with two baby sparrows in it. Rapidly-downed tools, hasty re-covering action, and a rethink. An important gardening lesson learned there: know your local birds’ mating seasons and nesting habits, and check foliage carefully before commencing any pruning.

I’ve started again from the top end, away from the entrance. And, happy ending: the parent birds returned within 20 minutes of the privet toupee being pushed into place.

Time off also means a bit more opportunity to attend to things like writing. The Pomera caught my eye last week, via the Offscreen Dispatch newsletter.

An E-ink Typewriter, a distraction-free composition tool, the spec on Kickstarter says it does calendar and spreadsheets, etc, has lengthy battery life, and comes with spiffy folding keyboard for portability.

It has a pleasingly retro appearance: bit clunky looking and partially techy; portable and does the jobbish? A Psion organiser sort of scenario. They have been available in Japan for 10 years, also a retrograde quality (for people in the west, at least, with notions along the lines of “Ah, Japan! Land of the Near Future!” etc). The kit is priced at an ‘early days of video’ level – something that seems stratospherically high for what it can actually do. The price point for the English version is about £300, which has something of the super keen, well-off early adopters-only about it.

This kind of put me off a little entire amount.

In the skint teacherish absence of shiny fresh toys, then, I’m writing this on a decrepit Asus Aspire One. Eight years old. Intel Atom inside (TM, etc). Weeeell… It’s good for typing on? I can even do spreadsheets, but if I start asking it to do other stuff one might take for granted from even a half-decent smartphone in 2018, it starts freaking out and seizing up, like a middle aged man in the throes of a back spasm. By “other stuff”, I mean run a web browser, for example. An attempted update of Firefox made it wander off into another room to forget what it was doing there for about forty minutes. Chrome fared even worse (still out looking for its car in a neighbouring street, I think). It’s probably for the best. So, here I am using WriteMonkey, which the Acer at least seems able to handle without waving a hand frantically and gesturing vaguely over its shoulder.

This week’s sunny weather and border landscaping saw outside basking prioritised over content consumption anyway. I note with interest that Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger is up for the Golden Booker prize. The Booker of All Bookers (whatever) is to be announced on 8th July, which gives me time to read the version I have hidden in a box somewhere beforehand, and maybe Midnight’s Children as well, which also sits awaiting interest.

Shelves. I’ve fallen into a nice rhythm with bits of the KonMari Method. “You’ve got to have a system!” (H.Hill) Originally, I had confidently expected the process to be done in a couple of weeks, scoffing at the slow six months suggested in the supporting literature (gleaned from a cursory skim through the website, I mean).

Yet, faced with boxes opened, looked through, deemed essential, re-lidded, then re-opened and re-appraised in fits of ‘No, come on, seriously…’ I have come to appreciate the *extended project-ness* of it all.

A lifetime habit of accumulating tat will require more than a simple act of abandonment, much as I enjoy those. I keep finding books from old flames and forgotten friends, and all those need to be attended to properly. Marie Kondo’s concept of resacralising is an interesting aspect, but, as Edgar Poe suggested, whenever people talk about the supernal oneness, there’s never a word said about the infernal twoness. I’ve found there’s an element of exorcism to undergo as well. Thankfully short on pea soup projectile vomiting, though, at least so far. This is probably because I’ve started with the “papers” bit of “books and papers”, in a somewhat craven act of alphabetical chicanery.

Finally for this week, I’m publishing *just about* in time to share my annual appreciation of the high and windy genius that is The Paragons, “Riding High on a Windy Day”.


Rock never came any steadier. I wear a smile upon my face, anyway.

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