Monday, 26 January 2015

All manner of things shall be well...

I captured this tree silhouette about 10 days ago....
I encountered these lyrics for the first time yesterday...
"Loud are the bells of Norwich and the people come and go
Here by the Tower of Julian I tell them what I know.
Ring out bells of Norwich, and let the winter come and go...
All shall be well again, I know
Ring for the yellow daffodil, the flower in the snow
Ring for the yellow daffodil and tell them what I know
Ring out bells of Norwich, and let the winter come and go...
All shall be well again, I know"
This week has already hit me with a new wave of Senior Management Team madness, but I'm holding on to the serenity of Julian of Norwich in the echo of the final line.
Sending love and best wishes to a number of my readers who are currently unwell.  Jx

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Calm is Wonderful!

There's not much 'work-life' balance at the moment...
On Monday I arrived at school at 7.30 in the morning and left at 8.30 at night (Options Evening).  On Tuesday I started marking at 7.30 am and finished marking at 7.00 pm.  Yesterday we left at a more sensible time but there was an accident on the M42.  It took an hour and a quarter to get home through the country lanes and back roads round Redditch.  It's been a tough week.
On Tuesday I was summoned (invited) to the new Deputy Head's Office to discuss my progress data.  It looks good - largely because quite a few of the pupils that take Music are very talented in my area but less academic. Inevitably my change of career cropped up in this discussion.  The new DH wanted to know how they were going to maintain these levels of progress if I wasn't there 'doing my stuff' (aka 'flogging myself into the ground!')  The words "Not my problem Mate" rose to my lips but were swallowed!
Yesterday the same DH visited my classroom to see how I structured work with 20+ mixed ability Year 10s.  (In these situations you have to decide whether you are going to treat these visits as a full 'Ofsted' style observation or a genuinely informal fact-finding mission.)  I went for the informal approach and just ensured that all the kids were primed with intelligent things to say about their learning processes. 
In the end he just wandered around the room, said a few non-consequential things about composition styles and left us with the verdict that my room was "Calmer than most Music classrooms he was used to".  Maybe I was over-tired, but I went ballistic over this after he'd shut the door.... What kind of a learning judgement is "Calm.."  After an hour or so of stewing, I sent him an e-mail that thanked him for his visit and signed off with the query "Is Calm OK"
Five minutes or so later I got an e-mail back... "Calm is wonderful".
Sadly, I don't feel particularly re-assured about this analysis.  We've been so indoctrinated by the Ofsted Outstanding criteria that anything opaque or 'outside the box' feels really uncomfortable.  This is another reason why I'm glad to be moving on.  Nowadays even compliments sound like criticisms!!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

A Miracle...

This is the full story of what happened to one of our Year 8 pupils just before Christmas.  I copied it from a Solihull News Facebook page..

Thieves steal Christmas presents as Solihull teenager fights for life.
Callous thieves stole a teenager’s Christmas presents as he fought for his life in hospital.  They struck as Reece Hooton received emergency treatment for two cardiac arrests....  His grandma Jean’s car was raided – laden down with his favourite Lego kits – after she raced to his bedside.

“I’d been speaking to Reece while he was on a ventilator and saying he needed to get better so he could have his Lego,” said the devastated pensioner.  "To find it all gone was devastating.
“The presents were in the boot covered up but they were the last thing on my mind when Reece was taken ill.  “I am so angry that someone could do it.”

Reece, aged 13 and from Dickens Heath will spend Christmas Day on a ventilator at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.  He collapsed at Alderbrook School last Tuesday and owes his life to emergency first aid given by a staff member.  His family believe Reece, an asthmatic, could have had an allergic reaction to nuts which caused his heart to stop.  He had complained of feeling unwell and had been sent to the school nurse when he collapsed.

Jean and Reece’s mum Donna arrived at the school to find four emergency response vehicles, an ambulance and helicopter waiting.  Jean said: “When I got there Donna hadn’t been allowed to see him  "He was inside and they were working on him.  When he came out he was covered in blood because they’d had to open his sides to put drains in him.  It was awful.”

Reece was taken to hospital while Jean and Donna followed behind in an emergency response car.
They arrived to find he had suffered a second cardiac arrest in the ambulance.  “When we got to A&E the whole of the response team were waiting for us,” Jean said.  They fitted him to a ventilator and warned us he was seriously ill. Life threatening were their words.  But he is doing marvellously now.
The doctors said he was very lucky because someone his age doesn’t normally survive a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital.  They also said he wouldn’t be here if the matron at the school had not performed CPR on him.  They saved his life.”

Jean discovered the presents were missing on Friday morning.

Shortly after this story hit Facebook the family were inundated with replacement presents from people all over the local community.  Against all expectations Reece even made it home for a little of the Christmas period.

This brave young man was back in school last week.  He was supposed to be following a reduced timetable but decided that he wanted to get on with doing full days.  I was seriously emotional when he arrived in my classroom for the final lesson of the week on Friday.  And the lovely thing is..... he's just the same 'cheeky charmer' that he's always been!


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Frugal Fiend!

At the moment I am saving as much as possible from my salary to create a financial buffer for my change in career.   In December I blogged about my plans to live on a set amount, paying myself a cash sum each week that was based on my average monthly spending to date.

I guess there's plenty of you out there that know this already - but what an interesting process it's been for me!  By sticking religiously to the 'cash only' rule AND writing down every penny I spend, money has stopped dribbling through my fingers.  An unexpected side effect of this is that I'm actually more appreciative of the things that I have decided to invest in - lunch for myself and Mark at the local garden centre; one bought coffee and hot chocolate during a winter walk rather than regular tea shop stops...  The rest of the time I just pack sandwiches, so we've enjoyed some fabulous winter picnics too.

I'm particularly proud of last weekend's frugal credentials... 
On Saturday I walked to Worcester - free; I visited the WW1 Memorial Exhibition at the City Museum and Art Gallery - free; I walked down to the Library and sussed out some materials in their local history section - free; I bought myself a treat of some yoghurt coated peanuts - £1 from Poundland (but I'm still nibbling on them four days later).
On Sunday we parked the car on Hartlebury Common and did a six mile walk - free; we enjoyed a winter picnic - cheaper than a tea-shop stop; we also enjoyed some quality time with my parents - which made me feel even better!

On Monday Mark and I celebrated 30 Years since our first date.  I made him a card with the words "30 Years... Doesn't time fly when you're having fun!"  It's true - most of the time we have lots of fun together.  It's only the external stresses of work (and occasional health issues) that 'rock the boat' from time to time.

I hope that you are all having a good week.  Jx

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Getting my brain round stuff....

After the trials and tribulations of last week, the weekend was a great time to get my thoughts in order again.  On Saturday afternoon I left Mark in his garage (happy husband!) and walked the three miles or so into the centre of Worcester.  During my walk I pondered the situation and dissected some of my stresses...

In the end I came up with these key thoughts -
.1. My work with my pupils is the most important aspect of my job until the end of the summer term.  To that end, all paperwork stress that is related to their progress and examination results is necessary, has to be handled and should be dealt with efficiently.  It's what I get paid for and I mustn't let it get compromised by 'the other stuff'.
.2. Silly comments by Senior Teachers must be ignored.... I've got to remember that there are a few people out there who are 'niggled' or even slightly jealous of the path I'm following.  If I hadn't decided to move on, these comments wouldn't have been uttered....!
.3. Lovely Colleague may appear to be prevaricating, but there's no way that she's going to turn down a good promotion.  It's a win-win situation for her because she's going to have a longer Mat Leave AND get paid more when she returns.  In the meanwhile, when I invite her to take medium term management decisions for the Autumn Term via e-mail, I mustn't get irritated if they appear silly or immature.  It's her first chance to lead up a subject area..... while I've been doing it for 26 years.  She's got to have the space to learn and I must stop being such a control freak!!
.4. I hadn't realised that the process of moving on (which I am looking forward to so immensely) was going to generate so much additional stress.  I'm going to have to create a mental box labelled something like "Yeah...Whatever!!"

Thank you for all your lovely comments on my last post.  I really appreciated all your support through the 'blogosphere'.  Stay safe through the snow and ice of the next 24 hours.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

This week has been...

..... somewhat trying. 

My lovely colleague is now getting cold feet about the prospects of taking over my job and running the department.  I haven't a clue whether she intends to come back from Mat Leave in March or June.  I hate this kind of uncertainty.

In the meanwhile, the "Greek music teacher from a Supply Agency" (who replaced the "Lady who fell ill and never came back" who was the original Maternity Cover back in July) continues to arrive 3 minutes before the bell and leave 1 minute after the bell.  He only works Monday to Thursday so I actually had to run down the path after him today at the end of school in order to wish him a 'Good Weekend'. 

AND I've managed to mark two full sets of coursework for Year 10 AND two full sets of Year 9 Composition work AND levelled all my Year 7 practical work AND evidenced some Year 11 coursework in just two admin hours and a couple of 'after school sessions'. 

THEN a Senior Teacher had the cheek to say that my extended curriculum and general departmental provision wasn't as 'vibrant' as normal.

(And... between you and me... I've been having a "nice peri-menopausal" time of it too!!)  

I feel quite proud that I haven't screamed or cried.  However I DID swear a lot when I dropped an egg on the kitchen floor in the middle of making a frittata yesterday evening (and I discovered at this point that my cat likes raw egg).  Mark has been a complete saint through all of this - he even hurtled off to the local shop to buy some more eggs and cleaned the floor while I finished making the meal.  He is, officially, my hero!

It has to be said that the weekend can't come soon enough!   Jx

Monday, 5 January 2015


Back to school this morning.  The 5.45 alarm wasn't pleasant (there should only be one 5 o'clock in the day and it certainly isn't that one!) but the rest of the day was filled with plenty of good news.

The Year 8 boy who was taken so ill with asthma just before Christmas, has made a great recovery and is now at home.  We hope to see him back in school as the term progresses and he fully regains his health.

My lovely colleague has decided to accept the school's informal offer of my job from September.  I am delighted because we have worked closely for years and I am confident that the pupils will be in excellent hands.

We have also found a way to make an early appointment to my colleague's role, starting from Easter.  We will be over-staffed for a few weeks when she returns from Maternity Leave - but this will allow us time to do a quality 'hand over' towards the end of the year.

23 Teaching Weeks and 4 Days to go...........

Saturday, 3 January 2015

My Holiday In Pictures...

Blogging seemed to take a back seat this Christmas... but here are copies of the three collages that have gone into this year's Scrapbook Diary for December 2014.  We had loads of lovely days out (The Cotswolds, Croome Park and Packwood House); we enjoyed the Christmas Tree display in the cloisters of Worcester Cathedral; my little white and tabby 'fluffy' cat was spoilt rotten, and we had loads of great times with my family and friends.
The Coffee Set in the top right-hand corner of the first collage was my 'Charity Shop Find' of 2014.  This design is rare and very desirable.  (I could have paid somewhere between £150 and £200 for it on-line, however I found it in a Sue Ryder Shop in Welshpool for £30 while we were on our August holiday).  In the second collage you can see my sister opening it on Christmas Day.  She already has a much loved Tea Set in the same design which she inherited from our Grandma in the 1980s.  She had no idea that I've been keeping a huge secret for the last five months!
The nail art in the second collage is my husbands handiwork..... After a misspent childhood painting model cars he has a remarkably steady hand and keen eye.  My younger niece patiently allowed him to paint chequered flags and monochrome Union Jacks all over her nails - as long as he then replaced his work with something rather more 'Goth'!
One more day of 'freedom' before I return to the chalk-face. .. I have very mixed feelings about work at the moment.  It's easy to think that it could be bearable for another couple of years when you've had two weeks off.  By Monday evening I'm sure that my thoughts will be more rational again!