Thursday, 29 September 2011

When I retire...

Inspired by Mama Kat and her writing prompts, this post is in response to:

"10 things you would do if you didn’t have to work."
And, let's face it, we all know I love a list-post although this one is harder than I thought it would be.

1) Even if I didn't HAVE to work, I still would. I love my job and although I wouldn't work full time, I would definitely still teach two or three days a week. Probably with children with special needs, because that is still my absolute passion.

2) I would become a foster parent. I can't imagine anything more rewarding than sharing my home with children who desperately need love and attention. I know how challenging it can be and, like teaching, there are so many rules and boundaries that it is even more of a challenge but I would absolutely love to be able to offer that kind of security and family for a child who is suffering turmoil.

3) I would train for and run a marathon. I'll never have the time whilst I'm working (nor the patience) so if I didn't have to work, I'd hit the river.

4) I would make amazing, home-cooked dinners every night. Not that I don't love a ready-meal, but let's face it, there's nothing like a home-made macaroni cheese.

5) I would go back to being a Rainbow & Brownie leader. I miss those crazy girlies :(

6) I would move to the south of France. When I worked there on my gap year I didn't get to see half as much as I would have liked but I saw enough to know that it is the perfect place for me. Calm, peaceful yet at the same time, urban, modern and vibrant. So if I were in a place financially where I didn't need to work, I'd be on the next channel crossing.

7) I'd become a lady who lunches. I don't know who I'd go to lunch with if my friends were still working (I don't know how far this hypothetical situation stretches) but I'd find someone and have lunch with them lots because I've always fancied being one of those women

8) Let's be honest now, I'd go shopping. A lot. Probably just like my Grandma who always seems to need something (despite her having 3 wardrobes and a whole kitchen worth of food) and spends goodness knows how much money on things she doesn't really need. Maybe I wouldn't be that wasteful, but I like shopping so I'm sure that would fill much of my time.

9) I'd take up walking. I've always liked the idea of being a rambler, like one of those old-lady ramblers with a walking stick, big walking boots and a big ruck-sack. Don't ask me why, I swear I'm an old lady at heart.

10) I'd have a dog. For as long as I work full time I could never have one, so I'd have a little dog to take on my old-lady walks and to go on runs with. 

Bring on retirement! (Yes, I know I've only been in full-time work for 4 weeks...)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Unexpected homesickness.

When I moved to London in July, I had been counting the days, hours and minutes for months (if not years) because getting away from there was my ultimate dream. I finally did it: I moved here, set up home, managed on my own despite threatening neighbours, living in a dodgy area, having all my furniture go missing and being skint. It has been absolutely everything I thought it would and more and I am so glad I did it. I love my pokey, slightly rough-round-the-edges flat and I love the independence I finally have.

Yet, I am still feeling homesick. I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't want to go home on a permanent basis by any stretch of the imagination but I am having serious Devon cravings and I miss my family and friends so much it actually hurts to think about. I need a pasty, a walk to the beach and a chat with my Grandma; I need a flipping good night out with my girls and a catch up in the pub; I miss my guinea pigs and more than anything, I miss the people. It really has been a don't-realise-what-you've-got-til-it's-gone moment with them: I spent so much time focussing on what a shithole Plymouth is (and it is, I'm not denying that) that I forgot that actually, especially in the last couple of years, I had been very happy there and it was entirely down to the people. My friends picked me up when I was down, my family stood by me even when things got very tough between us all and now I really miss their companionship.

I guess I am, actually, getting a bit lonely here. I haven't seen anyone other than work people or my boyfriend for weeks because I've been so skint and it is, unfortunately, the one downside to living alone. I must rectify that this week, I must get out of the house.

I've booked my train tickets back home for half term at least, but it still seems like an age away despite how quickly the last three weeks have flown by.

Just down the road, the exact spot I intend to stuff my face with pasty.

It'll come round soon, though. And bring on the pasty 

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Easy like a Sunday morning.

The most depressing feeling is waking up on a Sunday morning, thinking "ahh, bliss, another day off", before realising that actually, your job has taken over so much of what you do that you will spend the entire day doing work.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job but man do I need to reclaim my weekends. I already work 12-hour days plus marking at home during the week and, seriously, I cannot do this six days a week without burning out pretty soon. I'm already starting to feel the pressure and the stress and whilst that comes with the job, I need to be able to leave that at the door on Friday evenings to chill out, recover and regroup over the weekend ready to be the best teacher I can be for the kids on Monday morning. And right now, with things as they are, I can't imagine being the most amazing teacher tomorrow because the stress makes me feel like the teaching is the inconvenient bit between the paperwork and marking and that is not a good attitude to have.

So, as much as it sucks, I'll work all day today and get everything done for the week. Then, this week, I can get ready for next week and hopefully, reclaim my weekend.

Actually, I'm going to go and make plans for the entire of next weekend to make sure that I am too busy to do much work. If that doesn't give me a kick up the backside to get on with my work this weekend then I don't know what will.

Note to self (because I seem to have forgotten)
Weekends should involve...

  • Lazy lie-ins on BOTH days;
  • Yummy, indulgent breakfasts (I'm feeling the love for american-style pancakes);
  • Seeing the boyfriend AND seeing my friends (not one or the other);
  • A lazy nandos lunch;
  • A cheeky bit of post-pay day shopping;
  • Sitting, at some point, and just doing nothing;
  • A long, indulgent bath with bubbles;
  • Catching up with the family via phone/skype etc.

I can't fricking wait...

What would your ideal weekend involve?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Dance like no-one is watching...

...and sing like no-one is listening.

What am I on about? Well, today, I come to you with some advice.

I walked home in the dark today, by myself, for the first time since I moved to London. Now this is a slightly scary proposition: I won't lie and say I live in the best area plus I'm hardly a large girl who looks like she could defend herself (I could, by the way, the last guy who tried to grab my friend found himself very quickly taken to the floor, black belt kick boxer thank-you-very-much) so for me, this was a big thing.

But, actually, following the advice of my Grandma, I don't feel so scared any more. You see, she looks after an old lady in her village who is, sadly, losing her mind and this little old lady sings to herself most of the time. My Grandma observed how this changes the way she is treated in the street, with people not offering to help her as many would an elderly lady, but rather crossing the road to avoid her. So she said to me, and I quote, "if you sang to yourself all the way home, people would think you were mad and find someone else to rape".

Yes, my Grandma is a legend.

So, following this advice, I did. I walked home today, in the dark, singing to myself. And, whilst it is too early to say that this is due to the crazy-lady singing, I am pleased to report I did not get raped. Plus, I felt pretty cheerful and pretending to be crazy, even for ten minutes, was strangely liberating.

So even if it is just to feel free for a while, try it next time you're walking along a road. Just sing a few lines along with your Ipod and I guarantee it will make you smile and that perhaps, maybe, you may be less likely to be raped.

Gotta love Grandmas.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

I wish I could record more of this.

This last few weeks have been absolutely amazing. There have been ups, downs, more ups and more spectacular lows. I just wish I could record more of what happens but I neither have the time nor am I actually allowed which is a shame because I've had some spectacular things to deal with so far and, after only two weeks of teaching, I can definitely say without a shadow of a doubt that teaching is the career I always thought it would be. Fricking awesome. Don't get me wrong, I'm stressed and beginning to wonder if I will ever have free time again, but every minute of what I do is absolutely amazing.

My particular set up is, of course, not without it's frustrations. The main one being my year group colleague who I of course cannot bitch about offline for want of being professional, but he really is doing my head in. He's struggling, big time, and it's getting on my nerves because he's dragging me down with him. It takes him over 2 hours to prepare for one lesson, he re-does the planning we do together over and over and over again for absolutely no reason and then spends the rest of his time crying to various members of staff about how he is struggling and how we have been put in an impossible position because we are both newly qualified in our year group. No, we have been put in an amazing position to show what we know and to become amazing teachers, and you whinging and bitching about it is making me look bad too. He's actually having his planning done for him for the rest of the term, so I have to do my half and then he does... not a lot. And I'm fuming. Although at least I will get the planning in advance, rather than the day of the lesson which makes differentiating further for my own class impossible.

To be honest, it is a sink-or-swim situation, and I wish he'd hurry up and do one or the other. Otherwise, we're going to have issues.

Anyway, rant over.

So I thought I'd leave you with a couple of gems from my class:

Me: "What is a thesaurus?"
Child: "It's a dinosaur"

Me: "So what colour are you going to need for your camel?"
Child: "Camels are brown because they don't drink much water. Like when plants have no water."

Museum guide: "They used to sell all of this jewellery to earn lots of..."
29 children: "MONEY!"
Child: "FISH!"

Me: "Why did the Romans want to invade London?"
Child A: "Because they wanted to go on the London eye"
Child B: "No, the London eye wasn't invented then. They wanted to see Big Ben"
Child A: "Oh yeah, I bet they liked the Royal wedding"
Child C: "Will they invade for the Olympics?"

Not sure if I should laugh at that last one or worry about my teaching...

Monday, 12 September 2011

What women really want.

I'm a member of a few different online discussion forums, and one thing that keeps coming up is to do with dating and the associated hopes and expectations. I guess this is a fairly common conversation? I suppose it's not something I've ever really noticed before, I've never been single for longer than 5 months and even now I'm off the market, I still thought this combined list would be worth sharing with you all.

So what have I observed from these discussions? And guys, you may want to listen up. (I'd like to point out that these aren't in order, nor are they necessarily my opinions.)

  1. We don't like guys who smoke, unless we smoke ourselves. So open up your possibilities and quit. It's nearly the first complaint on everyone's "don't" list, so it's a biggie.
  2. We like guys who are self-motivated and driven. Apathy and lethargy are very unattractive traits. It doesn't need to be career, you don't need to be a high-flyer and raking in the cash, we just want to know that you want more from life and that you have a passion for something!
  3. We don't want to compete with a guys affection - if you love yourself more than us we are out the door. That doesn't mean a well kept man isn't desirable, of course it is, but if you take longer to get ready for a night out than I do then you'll quickly find yourself uninvited.
  4. Oh, and to elaborate - "well-kept" means no BO, no bad breath, no messy hair, tidy facial hair if you keep any, and an ironed shirt. Also, clean, appropriate and neat shoes. So many girls judge a guy by their shoes!
  5. Never ever ever use a chat-up line. Or that stupid book in the UK that apparently tells men how to chat up women. We don't want to talk about your stupid made up jobs or whatever else it tells you to do. You know you are not a 'dolphin shaver', so do I, and we think it's offensive that you consider us unworthy of any real conversation.
  6. And in a similar point, don't play games. Don't do the three-day-waiting rule, we're worth a text at least!
  7. If you've made it past the first few hurdles and you are in with the family too, great. But do not, under any circumstances, slag off your partner's family (this isn't just for guys either). I may hate my mother, she may be a bitch and she may be pretty stupid sometimes, but only I can say that because they are MY family and I love them regardless. And God forbid you diss my little brother... (ok, that bit is me speaking). Oh, and the same goes for friends.
  8. Everyone has the right to be picky: us girls do (this blog being a prime example!) and you should too. So, if I feel for a minute that I meet your standards simply because I'm the right gender, then you're gone. I don't want to be who you 'settle' for because no-one else came along. Have some more self-respect and confidence in yourself than that, and more respect for us too.
  9. Tardiness. Don't be late. For anything. Ever. (Ok, it may just be me who is that bothered by this, but a lot of people I spoke to hate to be left waiting, and persistent lateness really is a no-no for everyone.)
  10. Manners - this means different things to different people, but we all want to be treated with respect and we want to see that you treat everyone with that respect too. So saying please and thank you, tipping in restaurants, holding doors open (not in a chivalrous way, I can open my own door thanks, but if you walk through it first don't let it slam in my face)... everyone pointed out something along this line which was a pet-peeve for them.  So remember what your Nan told you, it still stands true today.
  11. When you text/email/IM/BBM us, remember that you have to talk to us in the same way via any medium. So be nice, polite and think: "would I say this to her face at all/in that way/in that tone?" If the answer is "no", don't say it.
I started writing this on 12/4/11 and have had it saved as a draft for a while, adding more as I ask more people and try to establish some sort of consensus. I've tried to keep this from being a bitch-fest about certain men, and at the end of the day, there's not much about ourselves that we can change - if someone doesn't love you for you then let them walk away. If, on the other hand, you're guilty of any of the above, sort it out or at least tone it down and you, by my reckoning, stand a much better chance.

Hope I helped/hope you agree!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Autumn is upon us.

I hate autumn. Mainly because it means that summer is over and winter is fast approaching and I hate winter even more than I hate autumn.

I think winter is the marmite of the seasons, 'love it or hate it'. Some people love cold nights cuddled up on the sofa in a duvet, I just see it as being stuck indoors. Some people love being tucked up in bed listening to rain beat against the window, but it just keeps me awake. Some people love snow, I consider it pretty debilitating. And, let's be honest, not having a car this year is only going to make winter more miserable - after all, I can't escape the rain by nipping somewhere in the car, I have to walk in the rain, wait for buses in the rain and do my shopping in the rain.

Snowed in at my Nan's house last winter. And yes, that is a baking tray we used as a sledge. 

Plus, there is nothing more miserable than playground duty in the cold. It truly is one of the most depressing jobs, standing there with happy children running about, laughing and smiling whilst you stand there, huddled over a mug of tea (if you have a nice teaching assistant) and shivering into the collar of your biggest coat.

Although, actually, I do love my coat. And hats, scarves and boots. So I suppose that is one thing I love about autumn and winter.

But otherwise, it's bloody awful. Long nights which mean you go to work in the dark and get home in the dark, only going out in daylight during the weekend are, without a doubt, the symbol of depression. It makes getting up harder, it makes motivating yourself harder, it makes life in general more stressful because everyone is in a slightly worse mood. Christmas, too, is more of a stress than an enjoyable experience (money, family, having even more to do) and generally, it's a grotty time of year.

In case you can't tell, I'm not looking forward to the coming months. Least of all, Christmas...

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The value of freedom.

At my school, we teach a values-based curriculum, and this month our 'value of the month' is freedom. It's an interesting one to start on because surely freedom means different things to different people? Freedom to the children in my class would mean very different things to children in a less economically developed country but this is really hard for my children to understand - freedom to them involves being able to play whenever they want to and not having to do things at school that they hate.

But actually, it's a fine line.

Am I any less free because I have to go to work? Are the children in my class any less free because if they step one toe out of line (yes, I'm being a demon teacher at the moment) they get told off? Does that compromise our freedom or do we simply have to balance freedom with responsibility in order to appreciate it? Or do we have to keep our responsibilities because it contributes to living in a free country where we are free to make our own life choices?

And who controls our freedom? Even as an adult I don't feel 'free' because I have senior management going on about planning, I spend all of my 'free time' doing paperwork and can't do what I want at the weekend because I have no money. So, to get even deeper, if I didn't go to work and earned money, how much freedom would I actually have? Not much, I reckon, because despite being a 'free country', it's actually an expensive world. My choices are limited and to be truly free from everything, I think, would be impossible.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

My first day has been and gone...

Twelve hours, three panic attacks later and having sat and cried for at least two hours at various points throughout the day and evening, my first day as an actual teacher is over.

It was awful. I forgot the one thing I really, desperately needed to remember.

Plus, my class are... challenging. To say the least.

And I'm overwhelmed and don't think I can actually do it. There's so much to remember, so much to do and the teaching bit of things seems to take up such a small part of the day and is almost 'that annoying thing you do between paperwork'. Teaching really is the easy bit, and I never thought I'd say that.

Anyway, back to the marking. And target setting (despite not knowing the kids or even their names yet). And lesson resourcing. And lesson planning for next week. And tracking. And sorting out my NQT file. Maybe I'll just curl up in the foetal position instead.


Is there anyone else with any "awful first day" stories to share? I could do with the "you're not alone" sense of camaraderie which I get from my lovely readers...

Monday, 5 September 2011

Tasty Tuesday

I've been waiting for a chance to whip up a big batch of this to photograph and share with you all. It's a recipe which has been in my family since my Nan first heard about "exotic Mexican food" (oh how times have changed!) and is, guaranteed, the nicest chilli recipe you will find. Plus, it's cheap and yummy, what more could you want?!

Again, please excuse my photography. No excuse this time, I'm just dreadful. 

Chilli con Carne
Serves 4-6

1 large onion (or 2 medium), diced
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
500g minced beef (or quorn alternative)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
3 teaspoons of hot chilli powder (or less to your taste)
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
2 tablespoons tomato puree
150ml of red wine
1 can of drained kidney beans.

1) Saute the onions and garlic in a large saucepan until softened (I use a stock pot for this).
2) Add the mince and cook until brown, stirring to break up the lumps.
3) Add the tomatoes with their juice and a quarter of a can worth of boiling water. Bring all to the boil and then let simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4) Mix the chilli powder, cumin and tomato puree with a couple of spoonfuls of the hot tomato/meat mix. Stir until smooth and add to the meat. Then add the red wine and season lightly. Stir, cover and let simmer for a further 45 minutes.
5) Serve and enjoy! 

Lovely with tortilla chips or a sliced tortilla wrap, rice or a jacket potato and a big dollop of creme fraiche.

This also freezes well, so cook up a batch and freeze what you don't eat. Then simply defrost on the day you wish to eat it and chuck it back in a saucepan and heat through.