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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Interesting Times

Pinky is deserting us. 
She's running away from the sybaritic delights of Nuova Lazio to the grim reaches of Upper Hutt.
Even worse, she's joining Elma in that educational wasteland we call Private Schools.

Lucky Bloody Pinky.

No more duties prowling the tennis courts for smokers.
No more grabbing a quick snack from the microwave.
In your new environment, the security staff do all the duties

You sit down to a silver service lunch each day (wine optional)

Coffee and tea are of course provided on request, although the Principal asks that no more than 5 tea breaks are taken before lunch.
Classrooms are well laid out and furnished, and of course as the new Head of Faculty you will have to choose the colour scheme for your rooms, although for the sake of economy in these hard times, you will not, I'm afraid, be allowed to change the carpets yet.  That will have to wait until next year.

We all have to tighten our belts.  The pupils all have their own laptops, networking with the school system, so you can bring up their work onto your SmartBoard in every class.

Have fun Pinky.

Remember us poor sods stuck in the Gulag.

When you're paddling your gold trimmed platinum kayak down the Hutt, give us a wave, or even better let us know when you're coming down.  We'll send some of the kids from 9NL to give you a traditional Nuova Lazio greeting.  We've still got plenty of half-bricks left from the last time.

Keep blogging, we all want to know how the other half live.

Monday, 30 August 2010


Last week was hard.  Lots of staff off sick, away on courses, having meetings etc. and it became quite a struggle to get all classes covered.  As usual, the magnificent collegiality of our staffroom saved the day, with some teachers volunteering their only free time of the day to cover someone else's class.
When I finally staggered home at about 5, I remembered I had promised to my beloved that we would go swimming.
I quite enjoy having a dip in the summer, and the swim I had over the Great Barrier Reef was absolutely delightful, but going for a swim in a busy public pool in winter is not really my idea of fun.

My beloved insists we go, to keep us doing things together, and to make me take some exercise.
"It'll help you relax" she said.
I went uncomplainingly, swam my 30 lengths, had my obligatory soak in the jacuzzi, showered hard to remove the scum of human fat which always seems to accumulate in these public jacuzzis, and went home.
Was I relaxed?
No. I was worried.  What about Tinea pedis, athlete's foot?  Could I have contracted it?  My skin itched, it always does after a swim in the highly chlorinated pool.

At one time, I was a salesman for an industrial gas company, and our gases included Carbon Dioxide (CO2).  We sold a lot of gas to swimming pools, as part of a more gentle approach to water treatment, using the CO2 as an acidifying agent for the water.  It was during this time that I learned more about public pools and their care and maintenance.
I always used to think that it was the Chlorine in the pool that caused my eyes to get sore and my skin to get itchy, but I learned that this is not the case.  It's chemicals called chloramines that cause the irritation and itch.  Chloramines are formed when the Chlorine reacts with urine in the pool water, so the more urine, the higher the concentration of the chloramines, the greater the irritation and itching.

Shower very, very well after leaving a pool.
So was I relaxed? no, not yet.
A large whisky was poured and gently sipped.
Was I relaxed? Ahhhh yes.

Thank goodness for the discovery of yeast fermentation and the art of distillation.  Best bits of Scotland, Barley, Peat and Water.
Alcohol in moderation is a boon to civilization, it probably stops us going completely insane.  It provides a gentle blanket of warm comfort, insulating us from the sharp edges of experience.
I often wonder why the Wine Guy doesn't mention alcohol as part of his description of his favoured wines.
Without alcohol it's just grape juice.  Alcohol preserves the juice, adds flavours and subtleities, gives that warming glow at the end, make sit worth while to drink.
If there was no alcohol in wines, would anybody bother what type of grape juice they were drinking?
Everyone would be drinking Schloer, or fizzy Chardon.

Back to relaxation.  A little nightcap before bed.  Warmth throughout, muscles relaxing, sleep.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Gold Star for Second Fiddle

Well done second fiddle.
This one's for you.

Bedroom Fantasy

Oh yes, Baby please.


End of exams, end of trying to fit everyone into a suitable slot for exam cover or class cover.
Start of sickie month.  We've now got 11 teachers off today, some on courses, some ill, and it's going to get worse.

I was in school until 6:00 last night, trying to cajole some more relievers to come in today, but eventually I had to contact the agency (sounds a bit CIA) to get two for us.
Must be a strange life being a full time relieving teacher, waiting for a phone call each morning, going to different schools every day or week.  School children are really bad with many relievers.  They don't know them, and they have not built up any sort of relationship.  I don't think I'd like that type of job, but some teachers do it for years.  One of those coming in today is a young Canadian, in NZ on a working student visa, and he's going to be teaching a photographic class.  I can understand that, working your way around the world, making enough money relief teaching to keep you solvent and save enough to move onto the next country. (Relievers get $250 per day).

Richard (of RBB) and I know of a teacher here in Upper Hutt, who occasionally works at Nuova Lazio, and who has been doing relieving for many years.  She often complains that we don't use her enough.  Now that I'm temporarily in charge of this relieving business, I've got a list of all the relievers we use, with contact details and comments beside each name.  Beside hers is the comment, O.M.D.B.
See if you can guess.
A prize to the first correct answer.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Little Buggers

Two of our staff at Nuova Lazio High are thinking of leaving.
Not Nuova Lazio itself, but the teaching profession. 
One has just had enough of being verbally abused day after day, the other has had enough of being assaulted.
Both are good teachers who have been working with kids for over 15 years.
Both are respected by most of their pupils and by their colleagues.
Both have had enough.

A typical LB
The Ministry of Education is pressuring schools and principals to reduce the number of stand-downs and suspensions handed out to the naughty kids.  We try different methods, like restorative meetings, where both parties involved discuss with a mediator the circumstances and feelings involved during an incident which caused a breakdown of the normal relationship between teacher and student.
It can work, but only if the student wants to re-build the relationship.

A scary LB
Many people outside the profession don't realise that schools have changed hugely since they sat at a desk in a classroom.  Respect  can no longer be demanded of the students for the teacher, it has to be earned, and students demand that they be respected as individuals by the teacher.
It's not just schools that have changed, society has changed, especially in how most citizens view authority.
So we are now in a situation where the truly nasty kids are almost impossible to discipline.  They and their parents know we are virtually powerless.

LBs in their national dress, hoodies
Let me take you through a typical situation so you can get a feel for the problem.
A pupil in Year 10 in your class refuses to stop talking to his mates.  The constant noise is causing loss of concentration by the other pupils, and very little learning is taking place because you are spending all the time in trying to get this little bugger (LB) to just stop talking.
Eventually you've had enough and send him out of class.
He refuses to go and keeps on talking.
You then send a pupil up to the administration block to get a Deputy Principal.  If you're lucky the DP is there and takes the boy out.
The class has lost about 15 minutes, 25% of today's teaching time.
You have to then record the incident in the computerised student management system, using professional language, because the comments you are writing about the LB is now in a public document and are liable to be shown to the parents if they request them.
The little sod returns to your class the next day, and the cycle repeats.

LB Returns
Sometimes he doesn't come to class but roams the school instead, banging on doors, breaking and tagging.
If a pupil plays the game according to the rules he now knows backwards, he can stretch the whole process out for not just months, but years.
All he has to do is show a little bit of remorse or empathy now and again and the powers that be allow him back into class.
It is not until LB is 16 that we can actually throw him out, but even that process is fraught with dangers, and really needs support form the parent(s), which is not always forthcoming.

New School Uniform
And now the government is talking about extending the minimum age at which a student can leave school to 18.
And they're talking about increasing our hours.
And they want us to spend time in school on compulsory extra-curricular activities.
And they want to pay us less , and to do extra work during the holidays.
And they blame all the problems of the younger generation on the teachers, and are constantly repeating the mantra of "Teachers are Shit" to the media and the public.
And they want us to, in the first year of teaching (when you really learn the skills required to survive and to teach well by the only real method, direct experience) to undertake a Masters in Education, at our expense, in our free time.  What free time? You're so absolutely knackered that first year from constantly controlling/communicating with all of your kids, that all you really want to do is sleep.
And they constantly push new ideas, new concepts and approaches to teaching, most of it is crap, but we have to listen and try to obey.

Another Mad Idea
The government had better be careful.  I've rarely seen so many teachers so militant.  We're sick to the back teeth of being the government's whipping boy.
Just wait until the first strike, when packs of LBs go roaming around malls and shops because they aren't allowed into school.
Just wait until the LBs are stuck at home and Mummy or Daddy have to take a day of work to look after LB.  Won't that have a great effect on the country's productivity?
Just wait until the crime rate goes through the roof, because LBs are now breaking and entering outside of school instead of inside.

No wonder we occasionally snap.
I'm just sorry that our two friends have had enough.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Sad Wednesday

Bit down this morning, as we had quite a rough day yesterday with some teachers off sick, and not letting me know, some teachers not preparing work for their classes being taught by other teachers and to cap it all, we all had to traipse along to the paid union meeting.  In Naenae.
We didn't learn anything new, just that the government was still intending to shaft us.  More work, less money, more working hours, more kids in each class, after hours work.
We'll probably end up with a strike of some sort, and it depresses me that we have to take such action.
The only light on the horizon (apart from forthcoming holidays) is knowing that the whole country will soon see that the Minister of Education (Anne Tolley) is completely out of her depth and by all I've heard, may actually be partly brain-dead.  When this blows up, and it probably will, watch how John Keys distances himself from her.

I also dreamt about my Mum last night.  She died over 8 years ago, and I often think of her.  She really did her best for us, was an advanced thinker for her generation, and I really wish I had gotten to know her better.  But she was my Mum, and so often that's how we categorize people and we don't even think about the person behind the label.
I cracked up at her funeral, the emotions were just too strong, and the "stiff upper lip" quivered and broke.

The dream led me to even more maudlin thoughts as I lay in bed, with my beloved beside me.
What if she died.  We argue, we discuss, we get huffy, we make up.  She is my life and I'm hers.  Life without her is almost impossible to contemplate.  I know that others will say it's all part of God's plan, and that we all have to accept death as part of life, but I say bollocks.
I just get angry.
I've seen Mums and Dads and Sons and Daughters, Old and young, babies and wrinklies all die some really rotten deaths.  I worked in a hospital as a biochemistry technician when I was a lot younger.  It was a renowned center for paediatric and maternal care, and we also did a lot of research work for other general hospitals close by. I saw a lot die.  The babies were bad, but the worst was the toddlers.  Some tumours (like neuroblastoma) mostly occur in young kids.  They're old enough to know that something's wrong, but not old enough to understand.
I am not sure exactly how I would feel if my beloved was taken from me.  Obviously a great sadness, but what else?
I suspect that I'd get really angry.
I've come across this poem, written by Dick Underwood which expresses how I think I would feel.

I’m so angry that you left me,
For you said you never would,
And I thought that that meant, “never”,
And I thought that that was good.

If you didn’t mean your promise,
it should never have been made.
I’m bereft and broken hearted,
So angry and afraid.

I now know you couldn’t help it,
And your life just drained away.
But I’m angry you were taken,
And God wouldn’t let you stay.

I’ve a right to feel so angry,
I’ve a right to feel afraid.
‘Cos you said you’d never leave me,
Or your presence never fade.

I’m afraid that if the anger,
Or the fear should ever go.
I would feel so sad and empty,
So I want you all to know …

I’m so bloody, fucking angry.
It’s not fair and it’s no good.
For you said you’d never leave me,
And I thought you never would.

Bye Mum.

Monday, 23 August 2010

A Shortage of Humour

During another gruelling day at Nuova Lazio High, when I was running around like a sheep with a banger up its arse, organizing exam supervision and emergency cover for "normal" classes, chasing up work for the teachers who were actually relieving the classes, I was approached tentatively by one of the F├╝hrerM├Ądchen (the good one) over a sensitive topic.
Ever since I had taken over arranging relief, I had occupied an office in "Officer Country", and to explain my presence in such an exalted environment, I was in the habit of putting identifying notices on my door, of (I thought) a humorous mien.

I was told that someone had complained that these signs were not exhibiting the professionalism expected in Nuova Lazio, and could I please amend them to suit this person's sensibilities.

I complied.

I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.

I wonder however how you feel about these signs.

I've put some examples of them below.  Please feel free to comment.  Share your opinion.
Sign 1
Sign 2
Sign 3
Sign 4
Sign 5

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Fflur's Choice

It must be hard being a lovely girl, adrift in this rapidly changing world without a mate.  Reading Fflur's blog, I have decided to try and help as I promised.  Here's a selection for Fflur.  Please feel free to make any comments to help Fflur choose.

First the handsome one, but slightly narcissistic:

Blind Date 1
Now handsome with a touch of the intellectual:
Blind Date 2
Now moving into the high brain power area:
Blind Date 3
Still brainy, but less hair:
Blind Date 4
Awesome brain, not sure about the rest:
Blind Date 5
More the introspective type:
Blind Date 6
A real hunk of a man:
Blind Date 7
More of the spiritual type:
Blind Date 8
The mature but tough:
Blind Date 9
The cute but rather dim:
Blind Date 10
The artistic and intense:
Blind Date 11
The high flyer:
Blind Date 12
The cuddly idiot:
Blind Date 13
The relative (of mine), who I really want out of the house:
Blind Date 14
The last resort:
Blind Date 15
And of course, Dick Dastardly (of RBB)
Blind Date 16
Now Fflur, make your choice.  The ones you chose will be allowed to add comments, as will the usual crowd of assorted nutters, alter-egos, god-botherers and sundry detritus of society.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

It's Legal

Due to a decision made by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), it is now perfectly allowable to tell people that there is (probably) no God.

"In the beginning, man created god, there's probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life".

Friday, 20 August 2010

Sorry for the break in service

I had to change a lot of things yesterday, some at work, some on this blog.

I was shocked to read 2 comments which had been posted in the older post on teacher's favourite books.
They were offensive, racist, virulently homophobic and not even remotely funny.
I changed my blog settings to refuse all attempts at viewing until I had sorted out what to do, because it was also a fairly busy day at work.
My apologies to any who were offended by these comments if you saw them, and apologies to any who were annoyed by the blocking message.
The person(s) who made the offensive comments was using a pseudoID, and posted under the name Curmudgeon.

I have never met The Curmudgeon in person, but after having "chatted" to him over the posts and comments I was pretty sure that the comment did not come form him.  He may be a grumpy, scurrilous, bad-tempered old bugger, but I believe he has integrity, and he has a sense of humour, that the user of his name did not.
I have therefore changed the settings again.  This time anyone can view the blog, as long as they themselves have a blog.  Casual drop-ins with a google ID can no longer see or comment on this blog.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

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