Monthly Archives: June 2013

What We Don’t See

A few years ago I had a boy in my class who was not very able. He really struggled with reading and consequently his self-confidence was low. He and his brother lived with mum, who had mental health issues and was unable to work. Money was pretty much non-existent and yet, for all that, he was one of the nicest boys I have ever taught. He got heavily involved in an enterprise project I was running and got to the point where he stood up in front of an invited audience and gave a presentation. It was a real struggle for him but the patience of the audience and their gentle encouragement helped him through and at the end his face beamed with the sense of achievement he gained from the experience.

Over those months I got to know him quite well but as his class tutor I had to take him to task over his punctuality and attendance. He was also prone to nodding off in class. We built up a trusting relationship and eventually he told me why he was having problems.

It turned out that he and his brother were taking it in turns to stay up all night and keep a watchful eye on their mother. They were terrified that she was going to attempt suicide and so had made a pact to never leave her unaccompanied, day and night. 

I have been in the position many times of nagging those who don’t work in class or display poor behaviour. I’ve dished out sanctions by the bucketload. I have referred young people to other staff and, on occasions, outside agencies. I have also seen and heard other staff shouting and ranting at some pupils for a variety of reasons.

How many of those teachers would have treated those pupils differently had they known the reasons why? Sometimes it is what we don’t see that has the biggest impact on our young.

Play

Testing, testing, testing….. our children’s lives are blighted by testing. We live in a society where every child must be allocated a number based on their ability to perform a task under pressure at a set time regardless of how they feel, how much sleep they had last night or whether they had breakfast this morning. 

What are the potential results of that? Are we producing a generation of people who will only consider themselves ‘successful’ if they have a higher number than their peers? 

Here’s my suggestion. Let’s allow children to play. Yes, that also means that girls can play what would be considered ‘boys’ games’ and boys can play with dolls and teasets if they want to. Let’s allow their imaginations to run riot. Let’s encourage them to interact with each other, socialise, grow tolerance and acceptance, negotiate and empathise. Let’s teach them to respect others and use good manners. Let’s make sure they know how to keep safe and healthy. Let’s get them out in the fresh air and sunshine, grow things in the earth and appreciate nature. Let’s get rid of this obsession with being grown-ups too early, wearing pretend bras and T-shirts with sexy slogans. They are children, for God’s sake. Let’s encourage them to keep their innocence as long as is humanly possible. 

Let’s forget making them jump through hoops until they have had a good chance to just be children.

Dentist

Today I have to go to the dentist. I really don’t like going to the dentist. I hate being made to lie back while somebody puts all their fingers in my mouth. I hate the feeling of not being able to breathe or swallow. I don’t like the noises and equipment. However, despite all of this, I do treasure my teeth and look after them well. I couldn’t bear to have false teeth in a glass by the bed, grinning at me each morning when I wake up.

I go every six months to have my teeth checked. I have a super duper electric toothbrush that grimaces at me from its bluetooth monitor if I don’t do the whole two minutes. I have a poky stick thingy to clean the gaps between my teeth. I watch makeover programmes and dream about having amazing, perfect, pure white teeth like the ones they give people on there.

For the first time in my life, I am worried that I may have the start of an abscess so am going to have it checked to make sure I catch it early before it becomes really painful. It is a new dentist just round the corner so I am hoping that she is going to be amazing and that I feel no pain (except in my purse, of course). I will not be tempted by the offer of tooth whitening and beautiful veneers.

Honestly.

I think.

Senseless

This morning I am angry. Near to my home is a breeding colony for Little Terns. It is clearly marked and fenced off. It is there every year so local people are aware and keep their dogs under control away from the area to allow the birds to breed.

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These birds are in rapid decline and last year 110 pairs of these rare seabirds nested there and no chicks were bred due to natural predation. This year only 65 pairs came all the way from west Africa to breed there. Their eggs were two-thirds of the way through their incubation.

This morning it was discovered that all 50 eggs had been taken from the nests. This is a potential disaster and could lead to the end of the colony there.

I can’t think of words bad enough to describe the low-life who did this – and for what purpose? Egg collection was something that children did when I was little. I don’t agree with it but some children at school had one egg of each type. I can only think that this ‘collector’ plundered those nests with a view to selling the eggs to other so-called ‘collectors’. I just hope and pray that someone knows who it is and shops them so that they can feel the full power of the law.

But for those potential Little Terns it is too late. They will never hatch to take their chance with their natural predators and the seabirds move one step closer to extinction.

H&S

I found this hard to believe on tonight’s local news.

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/whitley-bay-bloom-award-winners-4327218

The reason that these fantastic people have to remove their award-winning and beautiful flowers and plants? Health and Safety. Now I saw this street on TV and there certainly seemed to be no ‘obstructions’ which would prevent someone in a wheelchair or a parent pushing a pram from enjoying the street.  Indeed, a local playgroup bring the toddlers to the street to enjoy the plants.

 

I have a feeling that there’s something going on here under the surface. Most odd. Or is it nanny state yet again?

Me too

Why do some people think that the world revolves around them? I used to know someone at work who, no matter what you’d done, where you’d been, what ailment you had, she had been there and done that first. She became renowned for it. People added to their conversations ‘I bet ‘N’ has had that’ or ”N’ will have been there.’ She must have had arthritis, conjunctivitis, piles, varicose veins and vertigo in the past. She had obviously visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Amazon Rainforest and the North Pole (maybe even the Moon!).

Far from making herself be the empathetic individual she aimed to be, she became a laughingstock and a subject of derision.

Oh, N, I wonder where you are now and who you are annoying with your ‘Me too’ replies?

Barking

As most of you know, we moved into out new house a few months ago. We moved from a teeny tiny house in the middle of nowhere to a very large house on a big estate. You do this knowing that there might be problems of course. Where there are neighbours, there is the potential for aggravation. I feel we have been very lucky so far. Our neighbours are friendly and don’t make a lot of noise. There is only one irksome thing and that is a barking dog.

We have a dog. She does bark. When she does, we call her in so that she doesn’t annoy anyone. Unfortunately, a nearby neighbour seems immune to her barking dog. She puts it out and leaves it there and it barks and barks and barks. It barks if anyone walks down the path at the end of the garden. It barks if it can hear anyone in their own garden. And it barks when it can’t hear or see anything to bark at. I can cope with most noise but this one really makes me feel tense.

So, the issue is, what do you do about it? There are various options and so far I have taken the ‘say nowt’ approach because we are new neighbours and I hate to fall out with people. I keep telling myself that it will get better and they will start bringing the dog in or disciplining it. 

Only time will tell.

Roaming

I was so pleased to hear on the news this morning that roaming charges are to undergo changes for those travelling around Europe. It has always seemed ridiculous to me that making a call or sending a text costs so much more if you are on holiday abroad, when the exact same process takes place as if you were at home.

I have illustrated this here:

Image

 

This shows me, in my pretty pink dress, sending a message to Mr Whinge in another country. The signal goes up to a satellite, then down to earth again. Whether I am standing two centimetres away from him or two thousand kilometres away, the process is the same. So why should I pay extortionate charges when abroad?

I hope that you all realise how lucky you are today….you have never had a genuine Ava Whinge  illustration before. 

More teacher-bashing

As I said yesterday, each day brings a new criticism of the teaching profession. So, it came as no surprise that today brought another. As well as failing to challenge students, teachers may also be to blame for young people drifting into the English Defence League. 

Finding this hard to believe? Take a look at this article: http://m.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/jun/14/failure-schools-edl-michael-wilshaw?CMP=twt_gu

I am coming to the conclusion that teachers really must be responsible for everything wrong in the world. It rained today – teachers. The cost of red wine has gone up – teachers. My cat has fleas – teachers. 

I just wonder when this onslaught will end and when these ‘voices’ will be seen for what they really are. Also, when ‘parents’ might be accountable for behaviour, morals and beliefs of our young generation. After all, pupils are in school for just over 6 hours a day which means that they are with parents for over 17 hours a day. I made sure that my children knew what was right and wrong, knew how to be kind and respectful, knew about rights and responsibilities. When they erred, I punished them. When they succeeded I praised them. In either case they were loved and told so constantly (and still are). 

Parents are still the most important and most accountable adults in a child’s life.

Teacher-bashing

I wake up to the news this morning that teachers are failing to challenge students enough (according to Mr Wilshaw). Every day brings a new criticism of the teaching profession. Is it any wonder that teachers are leaving in droves, Mickey Mouse ideas are set up to tempt people into teaching and we are heading for a crisis in teacher numbers?  Teacher morale is at an all-time low – and understandably so.

I have worked in a situation where every day brought fear and criticism, no matter how hard you worked and how good your results were. It is a deeply uncomfortable place to be and I would hate to go back there again. Teachers do work incredibly hard and the vast majority of them challenge young people constantly, often under very difficult circumstances. They do so despite the constant bombardment of criticism each day at the moment.  

But rest assured, if this continues, something will break and it won’t be pretty when it does.