Tuesday, 3 November 2009

What Am I Doing Now?

Well, here I am at my mother's, having given away my cat and sold or given away the vast majority of my possessions. Again.

What's the title of this blog? The Wandering Teacher - the story of a woman who rarely stays in one place long enough to grow her hair!

So here I am, on the move again. Yes, I really did (do) like White Gables, the biggest house I've ever lived in. It's also the most expensive and even with a house full of lovely lodgers I couldn't pay all the bills because I had no other income.

So, what happened to the teaching?
Hmm. I've been avoiding writing a blog post, first because I didn't have the courage and didn't know how to write it all, and then it became a long and complicated story and of course the story got longer and more complicated as time went on.

My friends over at Facebook are wondering what exactly is happening, so here I am biting the bullet. It can wait no longer. It must be told. And interestingly I also now have the time to write. I'm sorry it's a little long so I suggest you get a cup of your favourite beverage and maybe a snack and make sure you go to the loo before you start.

School - my vision
You could say it started at Easter, but it really started before then. In fact readers of this blog will know that I've been disillusioned about teaching for a while now. Especially the school system in England. The government decrees what children should be taught and when they should be taught it. This does not fit well with me because they don't know the children being taught.

Actually I go further than this sentiment. School, full stop does not fit well with me. Compulsory education does not fit well either. My vision for education includes school buildings being turned into resource centres of learning and teachers being facilitators of learning for anyone who wants to partake in education. Children are naturally curious. If given the oportunity they soak up knowledge and learn skills of their own bat. School and compulsory education, in fact, turns children off learning and exploring their mind and the world around them.

Each child is different and so while one child may be fascinated by numbers and maths at an early age, another may not be bothered with it at all until maybe aged ten or so. Some may just wish to learn the basics enough to get by in life and others may want to go on to obtain a PhD.

Anyway back to my story. I was teaching 2 days a week at different schools wherever the agency wanted me, but for 3 days each week in a lovely small Catholic school. I got on very well with the children. I taught each class whilst their teachers took time to prepare lessons etc. It worked out that I wasn't on a contract for this school but was paid through the agency.

A Home Educator Role at Last
The mother of a child I tutored, told me she had recommended me to a friend of hers who's daughter wasn't in school and needed teaching. 'Hey', I thought, 'wonderful, a chance to do some home education.' When the mother phoned me to make an appointment to discuss her child, it was the last weekend before the Easter holidays. We couldn't actually meet until the following week, so I had a decision to make. I didn't want to leave the school in the lurch with no warning and I wanted to say goodbye to each class during the week so I decided to hand in my resignation on the Monday before the holiday.

The Last Week
So that week, as I taught the various classes, I told them it would be my last lesson with them. I gave the older children my email address because I thought it would be a great opportunity for them to write for a 'real' purpose to tell me how they were doing. (Ever the educator.) I told them to get permission from their parents before they wrote, and if anyone did actually write I was going to ask them to get their parents to email me their permission before I entered into correspondence with the child. Throughout my teaching career I have had several correspondences with former pupils, but those have been using envelopes and stamps. I'm still in occasional touch with one pupil I taught 25 years ago.

The Last Day
On my last day, I was called into the headteacher's office at the start of the lunch break. There was another lady in their too, the new head of the agency i worked for. They were very concerned that I'd given out my email address to the children. They told me it was a very serious matter and that I should have known this because it was in the contract (which, remember, I hadn't seen). I should also know this because reports of child abuse is in the paper every week. (I wonder what paper she reads?)

Anyway I was escorted from the building there and then as if I was a danger to the children. Apparently I had crossed a line. I was supposed to keep a distance from the children. I knew I was different from other teachers. Each group of children I teach is different and if the children in the class responded, then we had a wonderful informal relationship. I preferred to treat children as individuals as far as possible in a situation like school. If someone wants a drink or go to the toilet, why not? Yes, they might be just wanting to take a little walk, but then, isn't that natural behaviour when what is happening in the classroom isn't what really interests them? The year 6 children (10 - 11 year olds) in this school was such a class. I taught them for one day each week. I was honest with them. I told them, for instance that I was sorry that I had to teach them Spanish because I didn't know the language at all. Most of the class liked Wednesdays best because of the relaxed and informal attitude in the classroom that day, even though I had to stick with the timetable.

So I was not allowed to teach my year 4 science class that afternoon, or even say goodbye to them, the children were all told not to email me, and a letter was sent to all the parents. I was sacked from the school and sacked from the agency.

As an aside, I know someone in a different school, a teacher's assistant, who was encouraged by the teacher (a member of the senior management team) to post her email on the door when she left to go to the USA, so the children could keep in touch if they so wished.

The Accusation
A week or so later I got a letter from the official place where complaints are sent to regarding children. The head of the agency had accused me of massaging children! What!? How did she come to that conclusion? She came to that conclusion through overhearing a comment I made to the headteacher, and put her own interpretation on it. Well, of course the allegation was found to be unfounded after investigation, but it is being kept on file at this complaints place in case someone else decides to complain about me.

Home Education - the Reality
Anyway, back at the ranch, sorry, White Gables. The meeting with the parents of this 13 year old girl who wasn't going to school, took place and it turned out they only wanted me to teach her for one day a week! I was to set her work so she could do it at home on her own the rest of the week.

Well, that wasn't going to pay the bills and I couldn't go back to teaching. I thought it was amazing how God works. If I hadn't been sacked I probably would still be teaching and feeling bad about being part of a system that I believe is detrimental to the children.

Amazingly before Easter I had been trying unsuccessfully to fill the rooms with paying tenants, but as soon as I quit the job the rooms got filled.

Being at Home
I must say I really enjoyed my days not having to go out to work. Being able to put the washing on the line and being there to bring it in, should a rain shower come by. Being able to spend as much time as I wanted on my devotions in the mornings without having to rush to work. Being able to sit outside in the garden to eat lunch in the warm sunshine. I even started a new fabric picture.

The First Big Project
I went on a course on how to create an EFT business and spent the time researching how to create abundance and creating a day long workshop on the subject - Attracting Abundance. It was very interesting and informative, and I booked a venue, created a web page and paying facility, made a power point and advertised it well on the web, local paper, posters around town and in workplaces and .... no-one came. Not one person booked! I kept thinking someone would and left it too late to cancel the room and refreshments. So I ended up with a massive bill and nothing to pay for it, and still no income. So I rethought, made changes, scheduled another event, advertised again, this time much more cheaply, plastered the town with more posters and leaflets and ... no-one came again. And I was still left with a big bill because I was sure I had made the necessary changes. And still no income. I obviously wasn't attracting much abundance so I needed to change the subject.

So I downgraded venue, changed subject to overcoming stress - Becoming Peaceful. Created another power point then changed the web page, plastered the town with leaflets and posters again, got free advertising in the paper and .... one person booked the day before the venue, but this time I managed to cancel in time to not create any more debt. But still no income.

Giving Up
I must say I was doing a bit of tutoring but it was not enough to pay the bills. Being a tenacious optimist doesn't pay the bills either and there came a time when there was just not enough money to pay the rent. The girl I tutored one day a week went to India in July and then my other pupils went on their holidays so even that income dried up for the summer. So I decided that being self employed wasn't paying so I decided to look for a job and applied for social security, whilst I was looking, and I applied for it to be backdated. I didn't want to 'go on the social' because I'm not a socialist but I was convicted that as I live in a socialist country and have paid into the system all these years, I was just asking for some of it back.

Well, apparently I wasn't eligible for two reasons. 1) the tenants, 2) I had not paid enough national insurance contributions during the period I was living in Kuwait and, when I came back and worked as a nanny - housekeeper it seems my employer didn't may any for me either.

So, as I couldn't pay the rent my landlord wisely decided to evict me. I gave the tenants notice and started selling the furniture and other possessions using the Gumtree site (we don't have a Craigslist in my town).

North Carolina Again
I decided that the best thing to do would be to find employment that included a roof over my head. I enjoyed being a nanny-housekeeper before, and I've also looked after a lovely lady with Alzheimer's for one or two nights a week when I was living in Bozeman, USA. (I know that some readers will know the lady, who has recently passed on.) I also looked after an old couple, George and Marjorie in North Carolina, when I lived there. I cleaned their house some weekends and popped in once or twice a week to do their laundry after school. I phoned them to ask for a reference.

They said they needed looking after and would I go there to look after them? Marjorie said she had saved money for her birthday party but didn't use it all so could she send me the airfare? I told them I would only be able to stay for 3 months on a visitor's visa, but they consider me like a daughter and talk about me frequently to their offspring still. So I have the ticket and am flying on the 9th November and returning (with a good reference hopefully) at the beginning of February.

Two friends in Reading, where White Gables is, are storing a few boxes of books, a few kitchen things, sewing machine, material, yarn, iron, ironing board, a chair that's just right for my little legs and my bike.