Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Don't Go with Strangers!

I remember when I was four years old, I went to a Sunday school Christmas party with my five year old brother. I don't remember the party at all, and I'm actually just assuming it was a Christmas one, because I was wearing a maroon coloured wool coat. What sticks in my mind is going home.

It was raining and two worthy gentlemen from the church must have offered to take us home. My mother had my one year old sister at home and a husband working away so she was probably very grateful. She might have known these men but we certainly didn't!

Being a good mother she had told us we must never go anywhere with strangers and certainly not in their car. So we tried to refuse. We cried and we bawled but we ended up being taken home in their car anyway, still crying.

I don't remember being scared, just very upset at being made to do something that my mummy had told me not to do. I probably didn't understand the reason for not going with strangers. We were much more innocent than the kids are today.

I was wondering what would happen if that scenario played itself out today. I can't imagine any man bundling two screaming children into a car nowadays. The Sunday school teacher would not have encouraged it either. They would probably have phoned my mum and got her to speak to us to tell us it was OK. We had a phone at home so they either did not know her number or didn't consider it.

So even though children were more innocent then, they were not treated with the same respect to feelings as they are now.

Monday, 29 October 2007

A Reversing Car

I had a little accident today. I was cycling to work. Well I wasn't going to be paid. There was a training day at my contracted School. I was invited to attend but it was made clear that I would not be paid because it was not my usual day for working there, and they had used up the budget on paying all the Teaching Assistants to go. The headteacher said "I understand if you get a teaching job, but you are very welcome to come if you are not busy."

I was nearly there, and at the part of the journey where I cycle on the road on the cycle lane. However it was blocked by a delivery lorry so instead of continuing and veering into the traffic around the lorry, I decided to go via the service road. This was lined with parked cars, hence the lorry on the cycle path. A car came out of a space and I waited behind it for the driver to change gears and move forward. But it didn't. I reversed. And kept going even with me shouting. If he had looked in his mirror he would have seen me plain as day behind his car. But he didn't look. And he didn't stop. I scrambled out of the way and he missed me by a hair's breath. He still didn't stop until he was way behind me and noticed me shouting and waving at him. He wound down his window to hear me bawling at him. "You need to look in your b***** mirror when you reverse!" He looked at me, lifting his hands in a gesture that conveyed either 'It wasn't my fault' or 'What is all the fuss about?' I reacted angrily to this and shouted, "You could get someone killed doing that!"

This really shook me so I turned round and cycled back home. When I got there, 30 minutes later, I was still upset so I sat down and used the violet flame to help me forgive the guy for doing it and forgive me for dumping my energy onto him in the form of shouting.
The violet flame resonates at a very high frequency and when invoked acts as a cosmic eraser, changing the energies of resentment and unforgiveness into love and joy.
So after a while of saying:

I AM forgiveness acting here
Casting out all doubt and fear
Setting men forever free
With wings of cosmic victory

I calmed down and got on with all the many chores that I have on my list.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Day Nursery

As it is half term this week there are no schools in session. The only work available is the day nurseries. I was called to my regular one this morning and found myself in the 3-4 year old class. The are called 'Snowdrops' and they are really lovely. The whole nursery is great. The children are mainly from middle class families which makes such a change from the school I usually teach in. These children are intelligent and most have a good vocabulary and because they don't carry around the emotional baggage that the deprived kids do their behaviour on the whole is wonderful. So refreshing. The last two visits have seen me in the toddler class which is lovely but today I was back to the class I started with and had most time with. The leader of the room is a mature nursery nurse of very high quality and a joy to work with. She likes that I just get stuck in and start singing with the children if she has a visitor or some other distraction. I love to read stories and sing songs. I have a repetoir that the normal staff don't have, and the children remember and ask for my specialities.

There were a few children this time who I have not met before as they have recently moved up from the 'Primroses'. I asked one pretty bright red haired girl what her name was and she replied. "Princess." I said "Oh?" in an enquiring sort of way, and she repeated "Princess." Then added "I'm going to be a Princess when I grow up but my name now is Katie Walton-Hardcastle" (or something like that).

Being half term some parents did not bring their children in due to having to be off work for their older ones. Therefore I was asked if I didn't mind leaving at 2pm as they didn't need me. I was delighted! I know it means less money and I didn't get any break but I did get to eat with the kids so it wasn't all bad. The food there is very tasty. We had lamb stew and new potatoes in their skin.

As I was leaving I noticed a dead mouse on the ground near the entrance so pointed it out to management and left her to get the poor creature before the parents started coming again.

Whilst cycling home I noticed an eagle circling above. It just kept going round and round in the same place. What a wonderful sight - so rare in this country. I passed two ladies carrying supermarket bags and pointed it out to them but they were not interested. What a shame.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

A Week of Culture and Special Needs

This week has been interesting, as most weeks are being a supply teacher.

On Monday I worked with a year 1 class. This was my second visit in that class and they were much better behaved as a result. They have a system where there is a tick put by their name on a star chart each day for good work or behaviour. They then get a sticker at the end of the day for each tick they have on the chart. Last time I was there I gave out about 4 stickers to each child because of all the stars they had. This time some children got only one or even none. It was a little weird that the overall behaviour was better this time! They often physically put a tick by their own names at the request of the Teaching assistant or the Teacher. Anyway, One boy had 5 ticks and I asked him what they were for. He said playing nicely on the carpet. I then asked who had given him the star and he said no-one. He had just thought that he deserved it and gave it to himself. It turned out that no adult had given him a star at all (poor lamb) and he had awarded them all to himself.

On Tuesday I worked as a Teaching Assistant in a residential school for Autistic children. This was miles from anywhere and too far to cycle, but amazingly the nearest bus went passed the bottom of my road! The bus went every 2 hours so I got the 7:13 am one, arrived at 7:45, walked down a country lane, arriving at about 8 am and waited an hour for someone to escort me to the classroom along with the children.

There were 4 higher functioning boys in the class and I made the 3rd adult in the team. They were aged about 10 but working at a year 1 level. I had been to the school before and enjoyed it greatly. Last time I worked in several parts of the school, with the higher functioning children and also those functioning at a low level, with little or no speech. Last time I was paid as a teacher but this time I was being paid as an assistant at half the pay. However it seems I did a very similar job. The room leader was a man from Ghana who had his two little girls and wife still over there. I was struck by the love and respect both Katie and Erastus had for the children, indeed, one of the reasons why I like the school so much is that all the staff have a wonderful manner. I also liked the kids.

The first thing a person new to the room does is read the information displayed on each child to learn the triggers for behaviour and strategies of dealing with them. This day did not look too promising because one boy, I'll call him Tony, was afraid of the sound of rain and the weather forecasted heavy rain. The strategy was to put on music to attempt to distract him. He started out the day in a difficult mood but fortunately the rain did not fall and his mood improved.

There is a drawback to agency staff. Even though we all have current CRB checks we are not allowed to be left alone with any child. This is usual in this situation and in nurseries too. The reason is that the children do not know the adult and the adult has limited knowledge of the children. After lunch one boy, Jonathon sustained a bump on the head and started feeling sick so Katie took him to the nurse. When it came time for Troy to have his Occupational Therapy session we all had to troop to take him to the room as I could neither take him on my own, or be left with the others.

The last 3 days of the week I am in my contracted school (which is in a very deprived area)- 1 day taking a class so the teacher can have preparation time and 2 days with my normal year 3 class that I share with the school SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) who needs time out of the classroom for all the work that entails. We have boys on the autistic spectrum in year 3. Why is it that there are more children with autism now, than there were 10 years ago?

It was Cultural Arts Week and so I dressed in a sari in the afternoon teaching the story of Rama and Sita in our India room. We have three year 3 classes and for three afternoons the children rotated through to 'India', 'Kenya' and 'China' to do various arts activities . Our new TA, Deep, is a lady who was born in Kenya from Indian decent. She provided wonderful resources for both India and Kenya.

Thursday saw me learning an Indian Dance and

Friday watching a brass band from England. The 5 members were all peripatetic music teachers who demonstrated their instruments and played a variety of interesting and enjoyable music. with the children in year groups, joining in with the complicated percussion rhythms on the Latin piece.

I taught a different year 3 class on Friday. Two of the year team were having PPA time, so whilst the children were watching The Lion King (for the Kenyan landscape scenes) with the other PPA teacher the rest of us got some displays on the wall from the week's activities.
I also did an international music quiz with them. They had listened to music from India, China and Kenya whilst doing the various activities about those countries. I put together several clips of music from those countries and played them one at a time for them to discuss with a partner and decide where it came from.

The resource I used for this was the catalogue on CD of ARC Music. This has clips of a few minutes of all their music form all over the world. A wonderful resource for any school, or anyone interested in music from around the world.

Cycling home in the light has become a novel experience these days. It was great to be able to get home before dark on Friday. Whilst cycling on Thursday I had a beautiful red sky in front of me that kept changing until, as I cycled into the car park at my apartment there was just a deep red low in the sky.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Train to London

I got a train from Reading to London Paddington this morning along with lots of other people. The train had come from Oxford and was only 3 short carriages long. We filled the seats and so some people had to stand and even more people got on at Slough. I was amazed to see that the seat in front of me was occupied by a coat and a bag. Sitting next to these articles was a young lady of east Asian origin. She was totally oblivious that the seat was needed by several people. A man walked onto the carriage at Slough, put his heavy bag on the floor and pointedly looked at the seat and then at the woman. I don't think the woman noticed. He must have been English because he did a typically English thing and said nothing to her at all. After another pointed look, he turned away and spent the rest of the journey standing next to the 'empty' seat.
I found out later that she did not speak or understand English so I wonder, was it a culture thing on her part that she didn't think to move the articles or was she just very self centered, or simply in culture shock?

There must have been an International football game because there was a high police presence at the station and many boys and men were dressed in their replica England football shirts. The tube was like riding in a sardine can.

The return journey in the evening found me on a train to Taunton. I walked right to the front of the train - about 4 times longer than the morning one. It was crowded with families, singles, couples and football fans. There were lots of tickets on seats denoting those that had been booked. I was really pleased to find a pair of seats that had been reserved from Reading to Taunton, so I settled comfortably in and waited. Unfortunately this bliss did not last long because their was a message to say that all people in the carriage I was occupying had to vacate it and find another seat! The door to this carriage would not shut and they didn't want to lose anyone during the journey. How thoughtful!

The train was delayed for 20 minutes altogether for another safety technical reason and as we were setting off we had a message apologising for this delay and announcing that the buffet car had run out of beer. Ha ha. At least the lovely seats would be kept clean.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The story of my car

My car died at the beginning of the summer so I bought a bike and convinced myself I was not poor, but keen on becoming fit. This is what I have been telling people. However the truth is a little more complicated that that......

To give you the correct picture I need to back up a little to the Spring. I needed to buy a car, being car-less at the time and wanting to get back into Supply teaching, but had no money to do it with so a friend lent me the money. I bought the car on Ebay. My reasoning for doing it this way was because the people selling anything there strive to get and keep a good reputation for honesty and efficiency which is all recorded by means of customers' feedback.

I bid for a car for £400 and was very excited when I won it for £410. As it was a Friday evening and the seller did not work weekends (he had made it his job to sell cars on ebay), I arranged to pick it up on the Monday. That Monday was the first day of my supply teaching and I was given an afternoon job so I checked emails in the morning. Good job I did! The seller emailed me to say that he no longer had the car for me! He had got it out of the secure parking place on Sunday ready for my collection and it had been vandalised whilst sitting on the road near his house. He did not want to sell me a vandalised car, even though I had bought it. When I told him I really wanted to get a car that day, as planned, he told me to look at the other cars he was auctioning and he would stop the auction for me to get it at the same price as the other one. Most of them were too expensive but there was one nearly in the same league. It would probably go for at least £600 but had just got to nearly £400. He was true to his word and let me have it for £410 - a dark green Volvo. It ran well and served me well.

However, one Thursday morning I found it sitting in the drive with all 4 tyres slashed, deep scratches over every section of body and the wipers wrenched off the car. Needless to say I was late for work that day, having to get the bus. Saturday morning was spent watching a mechanic trying to get the wheels off without the required locking nut implement that had not come with the car! He was telling me it would take a few hundred pounds to get them off. However I prayed and low and behold he immediately managed to do it without resorting to expensive methods.

I got the car running which cost me a few hundred pounds but the insurance company told me the scratches meant it was a write-off as far as they were concerned, because the car was not worth the cost of a total respray. I accepted what they were offering but it took a while for the car to be picked up, so as it still ran fine I used it. However the week before they picked it up it died and the rescue guy told me it needed a new alternator and would need a new clutch soon so the timing was just right. It died but I got the money anyway.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Meanwhile.....Back in England nearly one year later...

I will catch up with what I have been doing in a later post, but for now suffice it to say I am living in a town called Reading, which is 40 miles west of London.
I am sharing a year 3 class in a deprived area of the town and do Thursdays and Fridays whilst their other teacher works as a SENCO (special needs coordinator). I also teach in the same school on Wednesdays - different classes. The other 2 days I do normal supply work.
I live in a 2nd floor flat overlooking a beautiful large green park. As this is England, 2nd floor means - up 2 flights of stairs.