Help please.

Is it just me who finds it unreasonably difficult to get my blog to look the way I want it to?

Where's Thomas' MySpace Editor when you need it?

I know I say it all the time, but...

...where did the last five months go?

The prolific usage of ellipses is enough to confirm that, fundamentally, nothing has changed.

Seriously though, it's nearly FIVE MONTHS since I last posted. I wish there was an exciting reason to give you (I developed a life-threatening allergy to the plastic they use to make keyboards; I was abducted by aliens, etc) but in reality, I think I must have just been busy, or tired, or something.

Actually, ever since October 2007 (when I started my first teaching practice) I've been almost permanently wondering where the time has gone. Is that what happens when you start working? Must find a real grown up to ask.*

The point is that I need to update. Basically because the next blog I want to write is a review of the year, and I feel I need to finish documenting the year first (not that working with autistic kids is affecting me, you understand.)

Naturally a list will be my chosen format so, in no particular order, here's what I've been up to:
  • We moved to Croydon. Lovely flat, shame about the town.
  • I did my first term as an NQT. This could be a whole series of posts in itself, but I'll stick with some bracketed highlights (being vomited on, bonding with a somewhat aggressive pupil, doing very well on the first observation, the warm tingly glow of the Christmas play, laughing a lot, feeling like I'm in the right place.)
  • I went to Wattens to visit Kati. Es war sehr geil.
  • I missed Cardiff.
  • We had a rather lovely fake Christmas at the flat, with the old 42 Minny Crew.
  • Marta and Bjorn Gunnar came to London. We drank, we talked, we photographed.
  • I began the not so arduous task of finding Croydon's best curry. Must make more curry bets.
  • I booked our wedding.
And that's that, really.

* I asked my Mum. She said yes, it is.

The Times They Are A Changing.

I'm very excited about the next month or so. Well, excited and feeling a slight sense of disbelief that everything actually came together. As the previous entry suggests, I do tend to blame all failure on myself and all success on the rare and mysterious presence of 'good luck' or 'fluke'.

I've decided this is bollocks.

If I was advising a friend, I would tell them that if they're going to blame myself for the bad things they should also take pride in the good things. So, yay me, I got an awesome job and we're moving to a new flat and I'm getting a free weekend in Cardiff in return for talking about myself (yes, that would be more EU money).

All this self-congratulation does leave me feeling a bit uncomfortable, but I'm going to have to get used to it. No more wallowing in low self-esteem. It's time to stop. Stop relying on people to give me ego boosts and stop being my biggest critic.

(I'm scared.)

Why is it...

...that when things go wrong it's because I'm rubbish and when things go right it's because I'm lucky?

Hey, teacher!

Like teachers everywhere, I've spent the last few days speculating about this. Obviously it's all speculation, but even if it all turns out to be rubbish, I'm pretty sure that everyone who's worked in a school is aware that a teacher physically turning on a provocative pupil is well within the realms of possibility. And that's my justification for throwing in my two cents.

Contrary to most of the views I found on a TES thread, physically assaulting a pupil cannot be justified. Is it acceptable to glass a bloke in a pub because he's shouting abuse at you? No. Is it acceptable to fight back/retaliate to an abusive pupil (who, despite quite possibly being an irritating little shit, is still a child in your care)? No.

Case closed.

You do, however, have to wonder how an experienced teacher, widely regarded as a 'decent bloke', could be driven to such extreme actions. The fact is that any teacher who, for whatever reason, feels capable of hurting one of their pupils should not be in the classroom. Yet, for numerous reasons, many of these teachers are.

Why?

Perhaps they find themselves under financial pressure to return to work after sickness (stress-related or otherwise). Perhaps the stigma of showing weakness is too great in some schools, leaving teachers feeling unable to ask for help from their colleagues. Perhaps taking time off for 'stress-related illnesses' is looked upon with disdain by senior management. Perhaps there just isn't enough support for teachers who are good at their jobs but, for whatever reason, sometimes feel unable to cope. Perhaps the number of (also) unacceptable pupil assaults on staff is normalising violence in the classroom.

Isn't it time we stopped dealing with 'perhaps' and figured out why? If it turns out that the teacher concerned did, in fact, assault his pupil, I suspect that the inevitable government inquiry will conclude that what's needed is more screening, checking and monitoring of teaching staff (teaching MOT, anyone?). My fingers are crossed (in vain, I suspect) for a more sensible solution, one that looks at protecting the mental health of excellent teachers who are struggling to cope; let's face it, even though cases like this one are, thankfully, unusual, there are many teachers who could do with the extra support.

Extreme Makeover: Life Edition

This whole being back thing is completely surreal. I feel like I haven't really realised any of it's happened yet. That said, my life post-degree has pretty much felt like that so I'm hoping it won't hit me all at once.

Organising my thoughts into a coherent blog is, therefore, a bit difficult so I'm gonna go for a list of musings. I love lists.

On Monday I was unemployed with no real job prospects. Now (on Friday) I have two interviews lined up and I own a suit.

Two days ago I lived in Norway. Now I live in Rainham. The people are angrier and more racist.

On Wednesday I said goodbye to a girl I've lived and worked with for the last six months. She was the Austrian little sister I never had. This hasn't hit me yet.

I would love it if I could do my Norwegian job in London.

I really, really want to get one of the jobs next week. In terms of saving time and travel stress, I'd like to get the first one.

I feel quite proud of myself. This is a good thing.

If this entry confuses you, imagine being inside my head...

Alles neu...

Every week that I've been living in Norway, I've written down two new things I've done. From the mundane to the life changing, the list makes for a pretty comprehensive account of the six months, so here goes:
  • Move to a foreign country.


  • Try bacon in a tube.


  • Go to Dampsaga Bad.


  • Take responsibility for looking after a cat.


  • Attend a nachspille.


  • Drink Norwegian moonshine.


  • Visit Oslo.


  • Judge a talent contest.


  • Visit Namsos.


  • Eat sodd.


  • Jump into snow from a first floor balcony.


  • Be understood when ordering a beer in Norwegian.


  • Learn how to find cheap long-distance train tickets.


  • Eat Norwegian drunken takeaways (at £5 - £9 a burger, this is an expensive habit).


  • Learn how to make waffles.


  • Speak to people at work about problems.


  • Join a theatre group.


  • Visit Levanger.


  • Eat food from the Congo.


  • See the Lion King in Norwegian.


  • Understand Norwegian subtitles.


  • Celebrate a birthday in Norway.


  • Judge a film festival.


  • Attend a regional UKM.


  • Take (an incrediby beautiful) long-distance Norwegian train.


  • Go inside an organ.


  • Get engaged.


  • Take a boat trip around Cardiff Bay.


  • Go down the slide at Dampsaga Bad.


  • Organise an Internasjonal Kveld.


  • Go to Paradis Bukta.


  • Get a sofa for Huze.


  • Go ski-ing.


  • Experience the Rus time.


  • Be on Norwegian radio.


  • Perform at the Norske Teatet in Oslo.


  • Experience 17. mai.


  • Perform on the stage at Huze.


  • Enjoy eating kaviar in a tube.


  • See 'Ash Lad'.


  • Deliver PowerPoint presentations in Norwegian.


  • Visit Trondheim.


  • Visit Bergen.


  • Go to a black metal gig.


  • Visit Lierne.


  • Visit Stiklestad (aber schnell).


  • Drive all night.


  • Get incredibly drunk in Steinkjer.


  • See Steinkjer Festival.

Piggy in the Middle

What do you do when mutual friends argue? When you're a gang of three it's a bit shitty when the other two aren't getting on. There haven't been any massive fireworks yet. A 'heated debate' in the shopping centre earlier resulted in a 'fuck you', a 'piss off' and a 'shut up', but they both have potty mouth so this isn't as dramatic as it may sound.

The problem is that they both have personalities that occasionally require a bit of tongue-biting and a lot of patience. And it's worth it; we have a lot of fun together and I love talking to both of them. They just seem to have tired of tolerating each other. That's the way the cookie crumbles I guess. As long as I don't have to start passing messages between them.

One more problem: I'm going on holiday with both of them tomorrow.

Get you love drunk off my hump?

I was watching MTV the other day (not something I'm in the habit of doing) when I saw the video for 'My Humps'. Having never listened properly to the lyrics before this was an somewhat bizarre experience. However, if I can analyse Milton I can analyse, well, this:

I'ma get, get, get, get, you drunk, Get you love drunk off my hump.
I'm going to assume that Fergie is not literally inviting her man to drink from her ass. That would be a step too far. No. I think here she is trying to say that her ass is so intoxicating that it makes men literally unable to stand, speak properly and drive safely. Lucky her.

They say they love my ass ‘n,Seven Jeans, True Religion's, I say no, but they keep givin' So I keep on takin'
Ah, Fergie, it's all very well getting the nice new clothes, but men nearly always expect something in return...

And no I ain't taken We can keep on datin' I keep on demonstrating.
...which you are clearly quite happy to give. Come on, money isn't everything. What about a man who makes you laugh? Who loves you for more than just your 'lovely lady lumps'?

What you gon' do with all that ass? All that ass inside them jeans? I'm a make, make, make, make you scream Make you scream, make you scream.
Oh god, she's going to sit on him.

I mix your milk wit my cocoa puff,Milky, milky cocoa,Mix your milk with my cocoa puff, milky, milky riiiiiiight.
I can only assume this is a reference to inter-racial sexy time. Hopefully the results won't be as soggy as the aforementioned cocoa puffs.

You can look but you can't touch it, If you touch it I'ma start some drama
Go Fergie, this is practically feminist. It's just a shame that only two verses ago you admitted to giving out sexual favours in return for expensive jeans. Still, it's a start.

My lovely lady lumps (lumps) In the back and in the front (lumps)
WHAT?! I hope to God she's referring to her breasts.

What you gon' do wit all that breast? All that breast inside that shirt? I'ma make, make, make, make you work
As a mammogram operator?

On a more positive note, at least it promotes a healthy body image. Sort of.




Go on, you know you want me...

is not a sentence that I would write in a job application. Although, quite frankly, I'm tempted. I've spent that last three days trying to apply for a teaching job. Easy, right? Wrong. First came the application form. It started off easy enough: name, date of birth, address... Address. Ah. If I put the Norwegian one they'll get confused and won't bother to write to me. So I have to put my fiance's Mum's address. Which I don't know. A quick e-mail sorted that one out. Ok. Teacher number. I don't have my documents here. Another quick e-mail. Two more quick e-mails because my fiance was looking in the wrong folder. National Insurance number. You know the story. And this was just the first page.

Having completed the form and successfully (I hope) negotiated the pitfalls of the 'hobbies and interests' section, I moved onto my 'Statement of Application'. Don't ask; I've spent three days writing it and I'm still not sure exactly what it is.

I thought it was all ok, until my fiance (also a teacher) read it and told me six more points I had to mention, and asked the dreaded question, "Where's your covering letter?"
"But they don't ask for a covering letter."
"You have to do a covering letter."
"But what do I put in it?"
"Say why you're good and why you want to work at the school."
"But I've already done that in the statement thingy."
"Say it in a different way..."
Actually, there were more expletives on my part but I think you can sense my frustration. It never ends...

The silver lining is that writing all this crap has finally made me realise how much I want this job and how capable I am of doing it well. Hopefully I've communicated that in writing.

Of course, that they'll probably decide to hold the interviews in June, before I'm back in the UK. Still it's all a 'valuable learning experience'...

Proud to be English?

I used to think patriotism was a little bit pointless. I mean, why should I be proud because I was born on one bit of soil and not another? I didn't chose to be English, I didn't work hard to achieve it, so why be proud of it?

Then I moved away. Having spent four years in Wales (Cardiff, admittedly) and four months in Norway, I'm starting to feel a bit jealous of countries who have national days that people celebrate, rousing national anthems, etc etc. This year I didn't realise it was St George's Day until I was about to go to bed. Would a Welsh person forget St David's day? Would a Norwegian fail to notice it was 17th May? No.

So why aren't English people so proud of their nationality? Well, the hijacking of the St George's cross by facists and football hooligans for one. And obviously the fact that there are a lot of things just not worth being proud of: colonialism, the Iraq war, Jim Davidson...

So what can I be proud of? Here's a quick list: great comedy, inspiring authors (past and present), the ability to take the piss out of anything, great cities, cream teas (that's tea with milk), music, history (and that includes learning from the less favourable parts), supporting the underdog, not whooping with enthusiasm at the drop of a hat, salt and vinegar crisps, being able to walk out of my house and buy food from every continent (bar Antartica) within a 600m radius, multiculturalism, free education, the NHS (when it works), British English, accents...

Having realised that it's not so bad after all, and that maybe, just maybe, I could start considering myself a patriot, I was interested to see that one of my friends had joined the facebook group 'Proud to be English'. The list of things to be proud of was fairly solid, and as my cursor was hovering over the 'join group' tab, I decided to check out the wall comments. I include some examples below:

"WE SHUD BE PROUD OF THE MONARCHY! ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE AINT TRUELY PROUD TO BE ENGLISH!"

"I HATE ITALIANS COME ON ENGLAND"

"What makes me proud is being WHITE!!!"

"The pc brigade really piss me off, i'd line them up along a wall and shoot the shit out of them as they stand hand in hand with the scroungers that come over here in the back of trucks"

Needless to say, I couldn't bring myself to 'join group'. I might be a little more patriotic than I used to be, but I can still see where there's room for improvement.

Taken

I went to see Taken last night (I’m living in a small town in Norway, in case you’re wondering why it took me so long). Plot holes aside (French people speaking English to each other, two teenage girls being desperate to follow U2 around Europe) it was, well, still very average. However, it did dawn on me that it’s not only pretty American teenagers that need rescuing from sexual slavery. I’m confident that a documentary about desperate twenty-something women from Eastern Europe being forced to work as prostitutes in UK brothels wouldn’t do quite so well at the box office.

If it feels like I’m giving a lecture here it’s because I am. To myself. A year ago I went to a talk about modern slavery at the Bath Literary Festival, so I guess that makes me at least as informed as the next person about the plight of these women. And what had I, a proud feminist, done about it in the meantime? Fuck all.

As I often do in these, and by 'these' I mean 'all', situations I turned to google. Finding something I could actually do, especially because I'm not living in the UK at the moment, was a suprisingly slow process. antislavery.org's current human trafficking campaign (http://www.antislavery.org/homepage/campaign/uk.htm) centres around the right of the trafficked victim to compensation in order to aid their physical, social and emotional recovery. That's a start I guess. E-mail to Jacqui Smith? Check. Still, there must be something more.

Research. Knowledge is power, blah blah. Won't hurt to actually know what I'm talking about, will it? Moment of realisation: I don't really know that much about the issues that I claim are important to me. Enough to have a quick debate on the walk from the cinema to my flat, sure, but not enough to start taking action. That's my homework sorted then...

'Yes, but the thing is...'

Like you (I expect), I have a lot of opinions and spend a lot of time thinking, debating/arguing with my friends, reading and solidifying my opinions (or at the very least realising that I have no strong feelings one way or the other). I know (vaguely, at least) what I SHOULD be doing about the things that matter to me. But I never seem to quite get around to actually doing it.

It's time to kick my apathy habit and I hope that writing this will give me the motivation I need to get on with it.

And, yes, I’m fully aware of the irony associated with ‘wasting time’ writing this blog. So don’t point it out to me. Please.