Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's been snowing for four days here. Today, my second day at the new job, we had to close the school at midday because of the snow, then shuffle the students down the hill to catch the buses home. I had to wait over an hour and a half at the train station with a few students for the train encouraging them to make peaceful snowmen rather than fast flying snow balls. It was beautiful and I wished I bought my camera. Google images will haved to fill in the gaps for you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A word or two...

It has been a busy weekend in London catching up with friends whilst trying to fight off a cold. Last night the cold went in for the battle and has turned the last twenty four hours into something of a shitter. I've got a busy week, on Wednesday I meet my new classes and by Sunday I need to have found some place to live. But enough moaning, this post is just to say it may be a few days until the next one.

To all my peeps out there- stay true, and keep the comments coming in. I am no Ringo Starr:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Flush Tracker

Flush Tracker: "@Queenofsouth just tracked their flush online to raise awareness for World Toilet Day, Nov 19th. Track yours"

Ok, I tracked my flush from a sitting this weekend in London. Apparently this link will let you see the map. It is now at a processing plant near the Thames River. I read somewhere that the Thames is now the cleanest river in Europe after massive cleanup operations. A seven year project to redo the sewage system along the Thames is about to start.

There is a slight irony in that the company that set up this website and sponser world sanitation make, I beleive, harsh chemical cleaning products to be flushed down the nation's drains and into its waterways.

For those of you wanting to engage in the experience yourself feel free to use my London postcode W4 5LR or my Brighton one BN1 1YB at this website

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In today's Metro...

Exherts from the free morning rag:

For just on £35 you can buy a (tacky) replica of Kate's engagement ring.

There's flooding in Cornwell, and pictures to prove it.

It's not all about rhinestones and sequins: shimmer and sheen are this season's understated glamour.

In a pet shop in China every ferret sold comes with its own passport.

A housing official has aoplogised for saying a jobless man didn't have any brains.

There is now a Flushtracker application that allows you to follow what happpens when a flush leaves your loo. Just type in your address and the last time you flushed, and the application will reveal the position, speed and distance travelled by the 'water'.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kandinsky, fifty 11 year olds, and Me.

For most of today I was an art teacher at the 'tooting' school. I taught two Year 7 classes and each had to do a drawing of their own design, but in a similar style to this one by Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. I even had a go at it myself. I was teaching them because their teacher was busy with the Year 11 art assessments and we were relocated to a Maths room. Which was actually idea because of the availability of compasses, protractors and rulers.

Over the two classes I came to love and admire this piece of art. At first it seems simple, but, take a closer look and the intricacies become apparent. It is detailed, but not cluttered. It seems random, but everything is placed and proportioned to give the overall feel. It could be highly mathematical, or void of numbers.

It was really interesting to see how the students interpreted the art, what details and patterns they chose to reproduce on their own. They accepted it as a piece of art, and yet were not in any was intimidated about trying it for themselves.

What amazed me was learning when I got home that this was actually made in 1923. I'm still astonished at how early 'modern art' started. I think I might have to go back to the Tate when I'm next in London.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

A guide to youth (and teacher) slang in East Sussex: Part Two

Today I taught in a school where several students I encountered were on daily report. Each student had three individualised targets for their report. I was bemused to find on several: Target 1: No tooting. Upon asking first encountered naughty child I was able to work out the following...

Tooting (verb) to talk back to one's teacher in a disrespectful way; to publically state that you are not going to follow teacher's instructions; to call out when teacher is trying to address whole class.

Picture partially relevant.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

With a bit of hindsight...

I realise I have been spending a bit of this week moaning. In a moment of contemplation a few hours ago I realised that things are not all that tough for me. For instance, I finished work at 3:15 every afternoon and I have the rest of the day free, unlike most teachers. So I apologise dear readers.

On Tuesday I have an interview for a short term position. It's in a remote area, and will involve teaching a class of Maths, but I would quite like the job I think. Tomorrow I have to make up a thirty minute lesson that I will be observed teaching as part of my interview. A three level reading guide should do the trick I think.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nothing says fun like 100 minutes of writing in a desk-less drama room.

I had to be the supply teacher today who informed students that, although they were expecting to be doing drama activities, they actually had to lean over bits of stage and plan and write scripts. On a Friday. For 100 minutes (some schools here have days consisting of three lessons of 100 minutes). A good drama teacher (like Fflur) surely knows that DVDs and designing posters or production sets would be the way to go for classes like these. No wonder kids don't like school sometimes, the things they are made to do just don't make sense.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A guide to youth slang in West Sussex

Hench (adj) describing something as being strong, dominating, possibly derived from the longer and older word henchmen.

For example:

Freddy: "That's because the All Blacks are hench and our team is all two foot and weeny"
Jordan: "Do they have Pepsi Max in New Zealand miss?"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Going for 4 early morning runs in the last four days and attending five gigs in the last seven days had caught up with me by this morning... but the school turned out to be a shining example of how to organise the cover of classes (take note TSB). Apart from the receptionist's mixed welcome. She offered me tea while implying my incompetence in not having landed a permanent job yet.

Anyway- I was collected at reception by the cover organiser, taken on a tour, then in her office she gave me a 4 page summary of everything I needed to know (and time to read it), a password to get on the system and enter the rolls, a larger guide to the school should I wish to read it, a key to the relevant classrooms and all the paper rolls just in case. Then I met the Head's of the two subjects I was teaching- English and ICT- who had both double checked the cover work was all set. In each classroom the tasks for the students were laid out and they were tasks that work best with a reliever/supply teacher- like watching DVDs and discussing them/completing worksheets, or designing things, or making databases of information on favourite songs. It made me feel like a real teacher again.

If Bob Marley and Richard ever had a love child (who was also blind).

The staffroom was just another staffroom, although I think Richard would have liked it. I overheard four people discussing such things as their upcoming gigs, which music they liked to play and what musical direction they want to head in. Ironically one guy was talking about the different amounts of pay he gets depending on who comes to play at their gigs.

Speaking of gigs, I'd best be off.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Not much to say...

But, I'm trying to post everyday.

Today I got the call shortly after 7:30am, a 45 minute train to Chichester to teach at a girls school there. Really tough day. While hearing a pin drop in the class of 26 Year 8 girls who were all silently reading their books, I had to remind one girl to put her bag on the floor.

I talked to my sister Rachael in Auckland on skype. It looked brighter there. It's almost dark at 4:30pm now in the UK.

I learnt that back at Wainui a young man who was in my form class for two years became the new head boy, and a young woman who I coached for debating and taught last year won dux. Both deserved as they're quite awesome young people.

Tomorrow I am already booked, off to a local school. Must be there by 8:15am.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Crawling ahead in pounds, sense and electrons.

Today I started a contract, signaling my first regular and certain employment in 11 months. Up until two months ago this didn't bother me. Up until then I had never had trouble finding a job when I needed it. Of the seven weeks of last term, I was only called in to work for 12 days. It was tough at times, especailly as my sole reason for coming to the UK was to earn money. When people asked me how long I planned to stay, I was tempted to reply, "Until I get enough money to get out of here".

But today it ended. I have a contract that guarantees me supply (relief) work until about the end of May next year. And there's an element of adventure to the start of the day, which makes me feel like a special agent. By 7:30am I must be ready and waiting at Brighton Train Station. I buy a sandwich, a coffee, pick up a free rag and sit waiting, phone in one hand, pencil and paper in the other. As the minutes tick by, I watch the commuters come and go.

At 8:07am my phone rings. I get the name of the school, a contact person and a train station (Lancing). I am advised to get a cab from Lancing
Station as it's a long way and the weather is torrential.

Now it's GO GO GO.

Go to ticket machine (no line- whew) buy ticket, look up, see a train's leaving in 3 minutes, race through the ticket barrier and down to platform one to catch train (whew). Find a seat. At Lancing there's one taxi (whew). Listen to taxi driver talk non-stop for the 5 minute journey. Report to school reception. Am given a supply pack (full of paper and stationery- great idea) and a twenty page guide for supply teachers. Without time to read it I am whisked down to the Science block (made it- whew!).

Lancing Train Station.

I teach three classes, each 100 minutes long. I teach, well it's Science, so really I learn, about the uses of metals and the three types of radiation (alpha, beta and gamma- the first two can change elements, the other one can change into bombs). I spend break talking to a Science teacher about his trip to NZ. I confiscate four phones, learn the names of the naughty kids first. One kid thinks I'm Scottish, others guess Australia. No one makes any Flight of the Concords jokes today (although there is one kid called Albie). One girl, Kirsty, has her whole make-up kit in her blouser pocket. Mykylika gets annoyed when I mispronounce her name for the second time. In one class there are three Ben's. I keep all of them in for the start of lunch. In the bustling staffroom no one says hi, I drink my coffee and leave, the kids are more fun to be around anyway. Every class has two Chloe's, in the last lesson the students are lovely, they work hard.

At 3:10pm I let the kids go, write up a report for the teacher, return things to the office, walk to the train station. I see Kirsty on the opposite platform, she smiles. I board the train home. Mission accomplished.

Tomorrow, another assignment.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Last night at a quiet pub in Brighton

Last night I was at a gig grooving away to the tunes with the six other audience members when suddenly the woman on keyboard called for the band to stop. Here is a description of what happened next:

Band members cease playing.
Woman answers her mobile phone.
Audience members look at each other in suprise.
Man sitting next to me: "In all my 44 years I have never seen this happen at a gig"
Keyboard player woman into phone: "What is it now? You missed the train? What? Why?"
Djembe drum player (who until now appeared very peaceful) leans over and shouts:
"Tell her she better not have missed that fucking train. Tell her she'd better be in her fucking bed when we get home or there's going to be fucking trouble!"
Keyboard player woman mumbles something into the phone, hangs up and then turns to the audience, "That was my daughter"
Man sitting next to me: "Is she a teenager?"
Keyboard player woman (nodding): "Yeah"
Audience again look at each other and laugh nervously.
A young woman comes back from the toilet and her boyfriend tries to explain what just happened without cracking up.
Band continue with songs. Lyrics are something about being 17 again and wanting to grab the car keys and go for a long drive.
Song finishes and band annouce they are taking a 15 minute break to sort things.
I decide to leave.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Interesting points of note from the UK this week.

Image from here

1. Every street bin in Brighton and Hove has a sticker on it warning people not to go to sleep in the bin, as it could endanger their lives.

2. The Sport 'newspaper' keeps a tally on page two of how many images of topless women it has published that week. By Thursday, when I was perusing through a copy at the laundrette, it was up to 23. The Sun had only managed one and The Guardian appeared shameful at zero.

3. Eastenders is actually a very clever TV show, and I am fast becoming a fan. The BBC has a website called iPlayer where you can watch over the internet (and in some cases download) any show that was on the telly on BBC in the last week.

4. Some towns in Britain were known for their beautiful cobbled streets. But now, many of these streets are being ripped up because coucils are having to pay out thousands in compensation to people who have tripped up and injured themselves.

5. I am generally against most things the UK government is doing, and generally against any cuts in education. But I am actually liking the proposed idea of capping the pay of head teachers (Principals to you antipideans) so that it is never more than that of the prime minister's. Although I should investigate this further- how much money are we talking about?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Two Peas in a Pod

John Key- NZ PM. Image from here

David Cameron England PM. Image from here

It is almost scary how similar these two are, how damaging I think their politics are. Both like the colour blue, both have fancy holiday homes, both have introduced huge cuts and told everyone to be all patriotic about it, it's for the good of the country after all. Last week the Tory coalition government delivered a budget that cut almost everything, including the jobs of thousands of civil servants. This week the PM created a new job. Personal photographer. Paid for by the taxpayer.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I wasn't teaching yesterday so I decided to take a bus out to the village of Steyning, have a look around and go for a walk onthe South Downs.

Two men in the pub complained firstly about the weather and then how they could no longer have a cigarette with their pints. The old lady in the charity shop said Steyning had been plastic bag free for a year and she was sick of having arguments with customers about it. While I was waiting a customer asked for a plastic bag and was angry when she couldn't get one. "What if it rains" she moaned.

On the bus a man moaned that now the clocks were turned back he couldn't stay on his allotment later than 4pm.

Someone told me that in England you are never more than seven feet away from a rat.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brighton Day One...

I now live in Brighton, it's a town on the southern coast of England. It's about the size of Christchurch. Nick Cave lives here. So does Steve Coogan. And now me.

I start teaching here on Friday, maybe earlier.

Brighton is known for many things. It used to be a small fishing town, but once the railway tracks were laid it quickly became the seaside daytrip of choice for Londoners. That was about 100 years ago. Now it is known as the country's gay capital, with a high proportion of students, new-agers, musicians and homeless folks. This year it became the first place in England to elect (under first past the post) a Green MP and there are a lot of organic food stores around. It's one hour on the train to London, and ten minutes on the train to East Sussex and West Sussex. Hove used to be the town next to Brighton, now it is all joined as one.

Alright enough for now.