Monday, 25 May 2015

"You Couldn't Make This One Up......!"

It was hard to post about things while the school/work situation just got worse and worse - 
so I took a little break until everything reached some kind of resolution.
I made the most of the extra time by
- practising my harp
- designing a thank you gift in needle point for a colleague
- walking miles and miles
- making the most of the long, light evening with a book in the conservatory
(with a glass of Shiraz in hand!)
- and generally chilling rather than 'stewing over' each ridiculous twist in the tale...
The 'Reader's Digest' version of the two weeks goes something like this....
- Once it became clear that C. had let them down the school tried various forms of 'bullying' to keep me for another term/year.
- I said "No", but followed this up with a detailed document of all the things that DID need to be resolved so that Music survives at the school.
- The SMT ignored this for four days... then panicked when they did get round to reading it.
- The staffing Deputy Head invited the NQT who FAILED to get the second in department job in March to take on my role in September.  (And "All hell broke lose..................!")
- This girl is still coming to work in the department for a fixed term contract BUT there will be NO paid Head of Music role from September.
- The two young Music teachers will split all my work between them (including an immense amount of administrative responsibility for the Level 2 Btec) but neither of them will get paid anything for this...
I have been told that a Head of Music post will be advertised in April 2016.
The girls will only be considered for the role if they have 'proved themselves' in the unpaid roles..
I am completely disgusted by the way that the girls have been exploited here...
(And very, very worried about my pupils.)
This isn't how I imagined my final weeks before retirement.
Other teachers have talked about the fun of winding down and enjoying those last lessons.
The only concession the school have made is that they are paying O.R. to remain at the school when C. returns from Mat Leave on the 22nd June.  This means that O.R. can shadow me until the end of term..and somehow miraculously assimilate 26 years of experience in 4 weeks!!
Our 'catch phrase' in the department at the moment is
"You couldn't make this one up!"
I hope that everyone has had a good Bank Holiday weekend.
I will be visiting and catching up with all your news.

Monday, 11 May 2015

A No-Show!

Dear Shelia, Jo, Kezzie, Frugal in Essex, Susan, Sam,
Judy, Judith and Julia
Thank you all for your comments over the last 24 hours.
Support through the 'blogosphere' from across the world is really, really special...
I don't normally post on Mondays, but I thought that you might like to read what happened next..
C. didn't show up at work today!!!
She had "Childcare problems"...??!
(I guess that it saved me a whole day of biting my tongue or saying something that I might regret..)
On the other hand, O.R. has decided to put off her bunions operation indefinitely.
(This is good news as she may well end up running the department in September!)
The rest of the day was really pleasant and full of 'nice stuff'...
The two Year 7 classes were enthusiastic and sweet.
Year 10 worked epically hard and with real focus....
And Year 9 reacted well to their latest performance challenge.
There WAS an awkward moment towards the end of the day when one of the Year 9 girls asked me if C. was still going to teach them next year.  I was caught unawares and gave a non-committal, 'teachery' reply like "That's what the curriculum model says..."
Since I posted yesterday I feel less angry and tearful/frustrated about the situation -
nevertheless, I think I'm still going to feel 'niggled' on behalf of the kids for quite some time.
As you'd expect, the Senior Management Team are VERY cross...
(But they get paid a lot of money to manage these emotions!!!)
So Ladies - thanks again!
Julia - can you let me have a link to your blog?
All the best,

Sunday, 10 May 2015

I am angry....

Ladies.. I am absolutely dreading going to work tomorrow.
To explain, I need to tell you a little story.
This is largely about 'Lovely work colleague who is currently on Maternity Leave" - C.
C. joined my department 7 years ago as an NQT.  For 4 years we worked side by side to build up the subject and give all the pupils at the school a vibrant musical education.  I worked hard on all the paper-work, admin, assessment and all the other 'building blocks' of development while C. organised trips, theatre visit and tours (the "Icing on the cake" of a successful department).  We squabbled from time to time in the early years, but eventually developed a very strong and comfortable working relationship.
3 Years ago C. went off on her first 12 month Maternity Leave.
She left me with 66 exam candidates in Year 11.
However, she was covered by a great Supply Teacher (E.) who had recently given up her role as Head of Music at another local school.  E. taught exam groups in the lower years and we muddled through.  When C. retuned after her Mat Leave she exercised her right to come back part-time.  She told the school that she wanted to work 3 days per week... then changed her mind and asked for 4 days...
By the middle of the next term she was pregnant again, and this pregnancy didn't run so smoothly.
She really struggled with morning sickness and there was a period in the pregnancy when she sometimes had to take time off unexpectedly.
I re-organised classes where necessary and coped.
At the end of June last year C. went off on her second Maternity Leave.
This time I pulled all the exam candidates in ever year onto my timetable (which was a VERY good thing) because...
Lovely lady with immense health issues (SD) lasted until the end of September.
Lovely non-trained and non-special cover ladies sat with the classes for two weeks.
Lovely Supply Drama Lady did her best for three weeks.
NOT lovely - in fact epically LAZY - Greek supply teacher then arrived for three months.
Lovely Supply Music Lady (who'd run her own department until Christmas) did five weeks.
Now a sweet little Irish Girl (O.R.) - who should be a permanent member of staff in September - is doing some cover until the end of C.'s Mat Leave
During the time that the Greek was working with me, I "looked into my work crystal ball" and didn't like what I saw there.....
I know C. well enough as a friend to know that she wants a job closer to her home.
I guessed that, even if she came back off Mat leave, she would be leaving me again in September.
My school is starting a 6th Form in September and I knew that my work load would grow beyond my control AND I was likely to have to train a new NQT.
I decided that my family, my music and my health were more important than having lots of money (but being too exhausted to enjoy it).
So I gave my school 25 weeks notice that I was leaving - on 17th July.
The school - in an effort to cut costs and save money - didn't advertise my job.
They just offered it to C.
After some discussions with her husband and family she accepted it, on the understanding that she would extend her Mat Leave from March until the end of June.
I think she accepted it because she was flattered and the increase in salary was very appealing.
Unfortunately... as the days have ticked by and the situation has got more real.. she has got cold feet.  In fact it was apparent that she felt that she'd made a terrible mistake and was trapped by a job offer that she should never have accepted.
On Friday she rang me to tell me that she's found a part-time job much closer to her home.
She hasn't signed anything to commit to my job role and we are still within the resignation window for this term so she is free to go.  She doesn't plan to return to my school at all - so will be obliged to pay back the money she was paid through the Mat Leave - but she is ecstatic.
She is coming in tomorrow for a "Keeping in Touch Day" and will tell the SMT tomorrow morning.
I am dreading it because I don't really know what to say to her...
I understand that she'd rather be a stay at home Mum and that she loves her boys and her family life.
But I am deeply offended that I have done so much extra work to hold the department together and now she is "waltzing off" and leaving a complete mess for September (the resignation deadline is so close that we are unlikely to get an experienced teacher for the beginning of term).
I am really angry for my kids.
On Friday evening I seriously considered offering to stay until Christmas - but this is just another example of me being a 'softie' and covering for this woman (and the school's inability to manage situations properly).
Anyway - Mark and I have a special holiday booked for September.
In a further twist - which you couldn't have made up - O.R. (the sweet Irish Girl who has been given a permanent main scale contract for September) has now told the school that she has bunions.  She went to the hospital to see a specialist on Thursday and they wish to operate.
So she'll be off for two lots of two months over the next couple of years....
Offers - anyone?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Frugal meets another world.....

While Mark is completely supportive of the fact that I'm leaving teaching in the summer, he has also made it clear that our reduced income must still cover our motor-sport activities and events (which is his main hobby and enthusiasm).  I completely understand and support his point of view... after all, he would like to give up work as much as I do.  So, on Saturday, we headed off in the silver Marcos for a weekend at the Donington Historic Festival...

You'll remember from previous posts that I'm preparing and saving for the summer by living on an extremely frugal income.  This doesn't sit very comfortably with an environment where people have spent more on a car than I would live on for a decade........

Our Marcos may look gorgeous - but cost virtually nothing (in classic car terms) because Mark built her from re-cycled parts in our garage.  Nevertheless, she attracts a lot of attention because she is rare and unusual..
Here's how I kept the costs down...
.1. We took 6 bottles of water from Aldi.
.2. We took a flask of coffee and a picnic for the first day.
.3. We rented a 'Serviced Apartment' in Castle Donington, rather than going to a Bed and Breakfast.
(which ended being this rather cute little cottage)
.4. I took a frozen meal for Saturday evening that I had made earlier in the week.  It acted as an ice pack for the picnic during the day.
.5. We took our own drinks for the evening.
.6. There was a 'goody bag' of food waiting for us in the cottage.  I used all the bread to make sandwiches for Sunday. 
(We also bought home the 'Bonne Maman' jams and a couple of small cereal boxes.)
.7. We re-filled all the water bottles in the cottage too.. and made more coffee.
.8. We bought the tickets for the event a long time in advance and at a substantial discount
(less than 1/2 price)
It was a completely amazing weekend...
The cottage was a lucky find on Booking,com.
The bedroom and wet room were enormous..
...and I couldn't resist taking a photo of this tap.
I've never seen a 'Waterfall' design like this before.
Isn't it cool??
The cottage cost £99 per night.
The two day ticket for the event (for both of us) cost £16
OK.. it's not super-frugal, but I think we kept our costs down
(and enjoyed things more because we didn't feel that we were being 'ripped off' with £3 cups of coffee and £6 jacket potatoes)
This weekend will be quieter... I'm spending most of Saturday at a Quaker event in the Meeting House in Worcester.