Trip Of A Lifetime

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Work Update

Just to keep you updated on the whole Noshie work thing, I did get that job that I interviewed for and the lady I work with is so relieved to have another qualified drama specialist that I could do nothing and she'd welcome me. For those who are interested in these sorts of things or who like to check OFSTED reports, I now work 4 days a week at Shene School in Sheen. (Spelling is intentionally different.)

I've almost met all my classes. Some are quite good but wary because they haven't had a consistent teacher in awhile, and others are working at trying to either send me balmy or have me lose my voice. One of my supervisors told me with a smile yesterday that now that the Year 7s have been streamed unfortunately I've ended up with all the lowest classes. I could have told her that!

Let me tell you about streaming. Instead of mixed ability groups, kids are placed in groups academically. Also, classes vary in size. I have several of the "low ability" classes that have more than 30 students in them. Yay. I have another with only 15. Go figure.

I see myself as being faced with a challenge and I look forward to getting to know these kids and showing them that my classes are worth it. If they disagree, well there can be consequences!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Irish Family Reunion

While visiting family in Ireland we managed to:
  • Eat far too much good food
  • Laugh at stories we'd heard before and those that were new
  • Learn some new dirty jokes
  • Catch up with people we haven't seen in a long, long time
  • Drink far too much alcohol (yes, even me!)
  • Come into contact with Absinthe... that evil green liquid
  • Find out about family history
  • Watch a cousin's dvd of his bungee jumps and parachuting in New Zealand
  • Generally have good craic

We think we will end up back in Ireland at some point. Depending on when that is, we may even go up North to see the Giant's Causeway. Who knows.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

We've just returned from Ireland where we managed to do a whirlwind tour over the week of midterm break. Midterm break... what a fabulous thing!

Anyway, we started last Sunday. Chip and Dale had arrived the night before and picked us up in the hire car. We drove through some absolutely amazing scenery as we wound our way to Cashel, home of the Rock of Cashel which is more like a castle than a rock.

We decided to stay in B&Bs while travelling because they are cheaper and you get to spend some time with the people of the area. In Cashel we stayed at this old Abbey that had been sold off at some point but was a beautiful old building. The lady that ran it was lovely and helpful and made a delicious traditional Irish breakfast for us in the morning.

Monday saw us going to the Rock of Cashel itself. This castle is constantly under refurbishment in some way or another, but it still has small portions of the original frescoes painted on the walls and ceiling. It also has some amazing carvings around the doorways and on the sarcophagi. Faces, dragons, human figures. There is also a cemetery around the main building and people who can claim ancestry can still be buried there.

From Cashel we headed towards Kilarny, one of the most visited places in Ireland. Of course we saw an awful lot on the way there, but I just can't write that much here... you'll have to wait for your invite to our photo marathon. Coming to a loungeroom near you in 2007! Hehehe.

We again found a B&B in Kilarney and again the people who ran it were incredibly talkative. This worked out really well because it meant that we found out all about the best places to eat and to visit.

Tuesday started again with an Irish breakfast. Chip was funny because he saw a big bowl of fruit and so helped himself to a rather large portion. Unfortunately for him, what he thought was pear turned out to be grapefruit. Oops. Maybe I should have warned him.

We started our daily travels with a quick photo opportunity at Ross Castle down the road before heading for the Ring of Kerry. We had also been given the directions to the Skellig Ring which is another scenic route that doesn't allow buses. We found out why. Windy, steep and only enough room for one car! Totally worth it though. We saw some of the most spectacular coastlines we're ever likely to see. We also had the chance to eat in a tiny little pub in the middle of some fishing village with nets and fishing type stuff strewn about the place. I do believe that I had some of the most incredible tasting smoked salmon ever!

After doing Kerry, we headed for Limerick. (I think!?! -will double check) This city was disappointing for two reasons. The first was the traffic! It took us over an hour to get from one side of the city to the other and out. The second was that it's changing too much. Now, I'm all for progress. There's nothing I like better than to have all I need at my fingertips, but every town we travelld in felt like Ireland except Limerick. Limerick had beautiful old buildings and charm with a modern monster plonked next to it. Oh well, it's not my place to complain about another country's progress.

Just outside the city we eventually found a B&B in Bunratty, right near tha castle and Durty Nelly's. Of course we had to go to Durty Nelly's for dinner, even though we weren't particularly hungry. It's apparently the oldest pub in Ireland and was exteablished in the 17th century!?! Adie had been tehre before on another visit and he enjoyed remembering something about camping in a field of cows. Maybe you should ask him about it.

This B&B was the most Catholic, even though our first was in an old Abbey. The lady who ran it was totally devout and told us stories of the friars ermoving the evil spirit of her grandson's grandfather (not her late husband) because he was giving the poor child nightmares. Her belief made me a little nervous.

After another delicious Irish breakfast, we headed to the Cliffs of Moher. In the middle of nowhere there is this path that leads you to the most stunning sight that is the Cliffs of Moher. Unfortunately it wasn't quite as remote as all that. They are in the middle of digging a big chunk out of the rock to build a tourist centre. Again, progress hits a natural wonder. The cliffs themselves actually reminded me of the area around the twelve aspostles, except that it was really green, wet, windy and there was a medieval fort built there.

All along the edge were safety barriers to keep people from falling over the edge to their death. Even so, some stupid people climbed over this barrier and inched towards the edge to take photos. Never mind that it was slippery and wet grass that htey were standing on and forget that there were impressionable kids everywhere. It really annoyed me and made me nervous. Selfish I know, but I really didn't want to have to be there if one of them fell off the edge. Who needs that memory!

From the cliffs (focus on the beauty not the dunderheads), we headed to Longford to visit family... and that's the next post.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Photo Catch Up

Prepare yourself. There are a lot of photos ahead.

This photo was taken at the Kennedy Space Center with some guy who was an astronaut out in space; I can't remember his name though. He was very American but also very nice.


We were lucky enough to find some NYC police to pose with us for a photo. (Actually, they all seem to want their photo taken, but I digress.) See the look on my face? Yes, that's me shitting myself as Mr Policeman draws attention to his ridiculously large gun!

Hehehe... I got to feed the squirrels. They were so cute! Never get them through customs though. Ahh, Lady Liberty. Symbol of this, that and the other. This is merely one of approximately thirty photos taken of the statue. I like it because Adie is in it.

Here we all are having a lovely buffet lunch over-looking Niagara Falls. Check out the view! No Nina! No! Don't jump over the edge! I'm funny, yes? Okay, maybe not but our photos are starting to get really predictable. Oh, doesn't Adie look good in his ear phones and sunglasses! This was on the helicopter that showed us some amazing views of the falls and the landscape in general.
Adie is very good at taking photos of me making starnge faces. This is just one of many that I thought I'd treat you to. It's a special shot of me in my beloved beanie. I can't remember why I made the face, but I do know that my beanie is no longer a part of my life. I left it in Argos while looking for a cheap alarm clock. I will treasure the memories...
Here we have Adie posing with a barrel that some total fool decided to get inside of and then go over the falls in. Why? I hope Adie hasn't got any stupid ideas!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Settling Down A Bit

Well, we've been working now for a couple of weeks. The schools are many and varied. All boys, all girls, co-ed. I haven't had to go through another school like the dreaded year 11 boys last week. The more you teach here, the better prepared you are for it which makes it easier.

This morning I had an interview at a school near Richmond that is looking for a part-time drama teacher. Last night at about 5pm I was told that they'd like me in today and could I please teach a 20 minute workshop about some aspect of Romeo and Juliet. That's as well as the interview. A smart way of finding out a lot about a teacher before hiring them but shit... I was nervous all night and all morning! They did offered me the position but I need to see if they will pay enough because it's part-time over four days. In terms of time off it's lovely because I would get late starts and early finishes at least twice a week, but if I don't get paid for at least two and half days a week then I can't earn enough to live. We'll see. I'm a lot more comfortable here now so the supply work isn't as difficult... it's just incredibly boring!

On Wednesday I worked at an all-girls school. It was quite nice actually because most of my day was English and the work left was something that I could get involved with and use some of my teaching skills with. The problem here was that they have two campuses within a ten minute walk from each other and I was never on the same campus for more than one lesson. On the bright side, my butt may just shrink yet!

Our apartment is nice and cosy, if a little chilly when we get home from work. We bought a blanket and have stocked the fridge so it's starting to feel a little more like a home.

One of the agencies has organised a bit of a soiree tonight at their offices. I don't want to go. I couldn't be stuffed. I've had to travel halfway across London and back today for my interview and, I'm sorry but that was just a bit stressful, so I'm tired and want to go home. *whinge whinge pout pout* It's bad enough that we're a small group of four teachers who seem to like to complain. I don't want to be in a room with a whole lot more teachers, who I don't even know, complaining about god knows what. I will go though... and I'll probably enjoy it. Maybe I can take tomorrow off as a result?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

My Most Horrible Class

I must preface this with a note that all of my classes have been reasonably fine, if a little boring. Do not assume that I have to put up with this everytime I step into a classroom.

Okay, here we go. At the end of the day I was told that this particular Year 11 class is the worst in the entire school. Why they put supply teachers in there knowing this, I can't imagine.

The not so bad stuff:
  • Half of the class ignored me.
  • They threw rubbish on the floor.
  • Two boys refused to come into the room and instead stood in the hallway.
  • One boy became quite amorous with his table, but stopped after about 2 minutes.

The bad stuff:

  • The entire class waged war on each other using slingshots and paper.
  • One student climbed out the back window... he returned (via the window) about 5 minutes later.
  • On about 3 occaisions, students simply left the class.
  • Two boys made fun by throwing books about the classroom.

The really bad stuff:

  • The two boys who wouldn't come in were afraid to do so because they were being physically bullied by two boys in the room.
  • One boy set fire to an elasic band, making the room stink, and then complained because the melted rubber burned him. He later set fire to his exercise book.
  • When I asked what it would take for me to get these boys to participate in the lesson, I was verbally sexually harrassed.

It was a tough class and all of these things escalated over the period of about 25 minutes before I was able to get some support from another teacher and the head teacher was called over. I will not be going into their class again. It felt as though they had conspired before I had even walked into the classroom to create havoc.

Again, I really want to stress that this is just one experience. Others have been better. I hope that there are not that will be worse.

Words To Avoid When Teaching Teenage Boys

Local vernacular is an interesting thing, and I thought that I had it sussed. I've been listening to my students to try and understand their slang and I've been avoiding using the words that make their faces screw up into a question mark.

Unfortunately I did saw one word, that with hindsight I really should have known, that left me with a class of 15 year old boys rolling on the floor laughing because their teacher had been so incredibly rude. (Unknowingly I swear!)

We were talking about woman who had been left at the alter and the effects that this had had on her. (It related to a poem.) So I start going on about this hot spunk that she was going to marry and how he broke her heart. How was I to know that "spunk" does not mean attractive person, but instead it is a really crass way of saying sperm!?!

Thnakfully now I know. The boys told me... again and again. I hate it when I blush in class.


Well, teaching here is certainly interesting. I think that the most disappointing thing is the lack of actual teaching involved. In the work that I've done so far, I've felt more like a baby-sitter or zoo keeper than a teacher. It's pretty boring.

The kids here are okay. We are having a lot more problems because we are the supply teachers and these kids have been programmed to behave more like wild animals when their actual teacher is away. The four of us talked about it and we think that maybe it come down to trust. As a general rule I think that you can say that our Aussie students will trust you to be their teacher and keep them engaged. If you let them down their trust wanes and they start to act up. Ultimately they lose respect for you. Here, they expect you to earn their trust, and as a supply teacher there just isn't the time.

On Thursday I have an interview for a part time position teaching drama in Richmond. There is also another part time position teaching drama in an all-girls school somewhere. Hopefully I can get one of those jobs. That would mean a steady position for about 3-4 days a week and the option to take the other days off to travel, sight-see or do an extra day of supply. Thankfully, because the part time positions are through our agencies, I still get paid at the daily rate of £120 a day. Yay! I'll keep you updated.