This week, I returned to work, not as a teacher but as a teacher trainer. Next week, I go back to being a teacher. Sharing knowledge, experiences and ideas makes so much sense, especially when it comes to education. We all have our own stories and yet we've all ended up in the same place, in the same room. At some point, we all made the same decision.
My left eye burned, I couldn't open it, I wondered if I'd left a contact lens in, I hadn't. Was I awake? I wasn't sure. My entire brain felt heavy in my head. The pillow was too soft. Face to mattress. Discomfort. My left eye continued to burn. I was so nervous on Sunday night that I hardly slept. According to my SO, I sleep walked. The past tense of sleep walk is an interesting thought, I slept walked... no, definitely sleep walked. There was something about meeting six new people which worried me more than actually planning the training. I knew I could plan the training, I'm an organisational elf. Acting like a normal human being however, was another thing entirely. How can you plan your personality? You can't. My head space remained a sort of thought soup whilst everything around me was neatly piled and colour coded. I knew I'd be as overly talkative and shall we say 'animated' as usual.
It's not over yet. The first day started a little slower than the second. That's normal, especially when you're thrown into a new environment, surrounded by new people and given a lot of information to digest. By the end of the first day contributions grew, as did assertiveness, there were more suggestions and an overall sense of calm. Today, there was a lot of hard work but also more of a bond between colleagues. I hope that as the week progresses, everyone feels like they've made the right choice and that our school is one they're proud to be a part of.
Update: I was recently contacted by redditgifts as I applied for their 'redditgifts for the Teachers 2015' exchange, my details were pulled yesterday. A kind donor has agreed to send me something based on a detailed description of what might benefit my lessons. It's a complete surprise and more of a kind gesture than a lottery win. I mentioned how Maths and Science equipment is hard to come by without paying a fortune for shipping, how some supplies for Art might useful and that English children's books would be a nice classroom addition. Although it's referred to as an exchange, this particular project does not require that the teacher send anything more than a thank you note. If you missed it this year, you might want to apply next year. It's such a thoughtful scheme.
The last time I reviewed a book, I was in the classroom of an English teacher who despised me; I was fourteen years old. I'm now an English teacher myself (although, certainly not despised) and I'm about to review a book (well, a play). ‘The History Boys’ is a play by Alan Bennett, an English author, actor, playwright and screenwriter.
Fun Fact: Bennett was in an episode of Family Guy (Brian’s Play, 2013) as himself.
What started as an amusing and intriguing play slowly became a mass of uncomfortable, pseudointellectual dribble. Overall it seemed as though most of the themes only exist in order for you to question their existence. Admittedly, I enjoyed the occasional use of French. There are references to history; teaching, education and inappropriate (although not explicit) behaviour throughout, making this feel like a controversial but interesting piece of writing for a teacher to read. Had I read the play as a student, I might’ve been more accepting of it; I may have viewed the characters differently and empathised with their teenage struggles.
Being unable to relate to the staff or students in any way makes it all seem slightly alien and heavily fictional. The bizarre attitudes of the characters and the strange classroom encounters feel far removed from reality. The play contains various anachronisms which can be confusing at times. It’s set in the eighties and as a twenty first century teacher I know that there are considerable differences and major flaws in previous education systems but for a play entitled ‘The History Boys’ it doesn't exactly seem historically accurate.
The premise of this play baffled me, what was the point of it all? Perhaps something along the lines of foolishness leads to destruction? Although I'm referring to the foolish nature of Hector and his inevitable fate, I'm not really sure what I got out of reading this. Mrs Lintott seems a relatively sane and likeable character, until during mock interviews she goes on a rant about women in history. The whole scene feels like an afterthought, an ‘oh, we should probably think about the women’ moment as every other female character is either a silent nobody (the headmaster’s wife and Hector’s wife) or an object of sexual gratification (Fiona).
The film differs greatly from the play in several ways and having read the play first, I suggest doing so too before watching, particularly if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter films. Some differences are irrelevant such as the headmaster’s wife being replaced by a lollipop lady or Irwin’s loss of both legs becoming a broken bone but it’s interesting to play spot the difference. If you watch the film and then read the play, you might find yourself envisaging the cast of the film rather than characters developed using your mind’s eye.
The play can be read in about an hour depending on your own pace.
If you're interested in taking part in the Infinite Variety Book Club: click here.
If you would like to purchase a copy of The History Boys: click here.
I've mentioned Death to The Stock Photo in a previous post but I can't help but mention them again, they really are fantastic. There weren't just photographs in the latest email, there were recipes too and as we all know, I'm a big fan of recipes. The latest set of photos follows an Australian home chef called Damien Matter. I couldn't let such lovely content go to waste so here's a recipe by Damien Matter (plus some British spelling edits by me, sorry):
Mussel pot with beer:
"Steamed mussels are such an easy yet extremely tasty dish. You can make the broth with just water and a good tomato base but by adding a splash of wine or in this case some beer it goes to the next level of flavour town. For the broth I used 5 330 ml cans of Piston Head lager, Swedish beer with a really nice, crispy taste. Eaten straight out of the pot or in a bowl with a crispy baguette, this mussels dish so good you will make it probably the next day for friends that missed out on it the night before."
• Fresh Australian mussels (about 2 kilos)
• Tomato paste
• 1 chopped onion
• 4 cloves of crushed garlic
• Salt and pepper
• Olive oil
• About 1 and half litres of your favourite beer
Good Morning! It's now moved from PM to AM here in Poland and yet, I'm still awake. I plan on staying awake for at least three more hours. I haven't been able to sleep much this week. I'm nervous, really, really nervous. As some of you might know, I work as a teacher. I've worked as a teacher for a few years and it's great, it suits me. I love teaching. However, I've never trained teachers before so this is going to be a new experience for me. It's hard to imagine what it'll be like, there's one part of me that feels excited and another that is genuinely panicking. I have three presentations planned with three documents to go with each presentation, plus various examples. I think new responsibilities are a wonderful thing but I don't want to bore them. I keep thinking of jokes to throw in here and there, little anecdotes about classroom management and cool videos I can show but what I'm not doing, is concentrating. I'm procrastinating because although I know I can do this, I'm an anxious person and it's hard to focus.
I read online somewhere (no link, sorry) that a healthy lifestyle can help with stress, so this morning I made myself a bowl of tropical muesli with milk and coconut oil. To drink, I made myself a green tea with a whole lemon. It took so long to eat/drink that I was essentially meditating. For lunch, I had a pizza. For dinner, I ate a big bag of popcorn in front of my computer. I typed and crunched, typed and crunched. Popcorn helped. My SO bought me chocolate. Do you know what helps stress better than muesli? Pizza, popcorn and chocolate. I don't want to be the bearer of bad news but I typed up 2,000 words during that popcorn session yet wrote nothing whilst munching on muesli. Although, perhaps without the meditative muesli, I never would've had my moment of clarity.
This morning I decided to repot two of my houseplants. I bought a new bag of soil and two big, white, plastic planters from Carrefour about a week ago. I could've done with more soil but they both seem a lot more comfortable in the new pots than they did in the old ones. They were getting a bit too big, the roots must've been a little bit cramped. Is it strange to name your houseplants? I haven't named them yet but I might. If you have any name ideas let me know! I took some picture to show you how I planted them. I always start by putting a little in the bottom and pressing some up against the sides, making a little soil like bowl inside the planter. Then, once the plant is the right height, I add more soil. The soil is often quite soft so the plant might move around. Adding water at this point and gently pressing the soil to tighten it around the roots should anchor it better.
There are some really good websites out there with houseplant care tips and tricks. Pinterest is useful too. I found an article called 9 Ways Not to Kill Your Houseplants. I had used most of the ways listed, except the gadgets and apps. My favourite is using carbonated water every now and then, it really does work.
My Instagram feed isn't the prettiest; nor is it the coolest or the most consistent. It just exists. My SO and I spoke about it tonight; we sat down and looked at my recent photos. The ones which work stayed and two which didn't, were removed. I deleted a badly lit photograph of cucumber water and an absolutely horrendous one of the kitchen sink. It seemed to us that the images worked best when they were left untouched by horrible, grainy app filters. So much of the original photo quality is lost when I add a filter.
I decided to break a rule I set for myself. The rule was that I wouldn't delete, over edit, unfollow or unfriend unnecessarily. I was once a notorious serial deleter, unfollower and unfriender but I decided to change. I also promised myself that I wouldn't remove or replace any images I post. I broke that promise today. I wanted to stick to not deleting in order to develop and progress. I wanted to look back on terrible photos and think “well, at least I'm improving”… I downloaded Facetune and VSCO Cam, two apps which are great when they’re used by other people (as mentioned by popular lifestyle bloggers and vloggers) but I tried and failed. For now, I might just stick to simple, composed and unfiltered images taken with an actual camera, my phone and iPad photos just don’t cut it.
In my quest for beautiful images I did however find a site called Death to The Stock Photo. I’d recommend it as it seems like a useful blogging resource. They give you a free download and you can sign up to receive photographs via email. I also found the site of a blogger called Emma Davies who is offering an email photography course, so I joined.
Ten Things I Don't Like
Ten Things I Like
My blog is a little bit brighter at the moment; I think it’s heading in the right direction. I've decided that it’s not a good idea for me to compare my blog to the blogs of others. It’s best just to keep going and not to dwell. I still have some illustration work to finish tonight so I’ll work on that and then perhaps write another post. In my previous post I mentioned some work I was doing for a good cause, well the gofundme page is now open for donations if anyone is interested in raising money and awareness for mental health.
Yesterday, I managed to completely fill two of my white folders with maths and science resources. I organised them by topic rather than subject. It took me about eight hours to sort them all out and I still have two piles of paperwork to file before I start work again. I’ll probably go to Carrefour or Tesco tomorrow and buy some more folders. My boss and I were meant to meet today but we've rescheduled now so we’ll meet on Friday. I've got so many wonderful ideas for lessons and I think it’ll be easier this year as I'm more familiar with everything. There’s something rewarding about knowing you don’t have to worry about planning the special lessons because you've got most of them planned. I created three folders for Kids Clubs too, Halloween and Christmas in one, Easter and summer in another and the last one is for YLE clubs. The last one could do with being split into three so that I have individual activity folders for Starters, Movers and Flyers (Cambridge Exams).
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of stickers. My family even brought some over for me on my birthday. My laptop is covered in stickers and although I sometimes prefer to keep them in their packets, working in education and seeing how much students (even the older ones) love stickers makes me so happy as I remember how much I used to love stickers too. I collected them for a while; it was a popular hobby when I was at school. I'd always have at least one "furry" sticker and one "shiny" sticker. The luckiest had brand new Lisa Frank collections. Admittedly, I used to pretend the stickers from bananas and apples were rare in the hope that I could swap them for a multicoloured puppy or dolphin. Unfortunately, it wasn't as popular in the UK as it was in the Middle East.
I noticed however that when you’re using stickers from various packets, you often end up with a few odd ones here and there so I decided to peel the left over ones from each packet, take a large empty sticker sheet and add the left overs to that one. I'm think the mix and match sticker sheet works quite well. One of the things I liked most about supermarkets in Taiwan was the absolutely brilliant supply of stickers and stationary (a lot of the stickers are from Korea). I think I’ll do a Taiwanese card and/or sticker giveaway at some point, an international one so that no one gets left out. I always feel a bit sad when giveaways are only based in the UK. I could use my parents address but then they’d have to send things on to Poland for me and I wouldn't feel right doing that.
The weather has been unbearably hot recently, we have all of the windows open including the balcony “doors” in an attempt to create a constant flow of air but there's hardly any wind so it's not dissimilar to being sat outside in the shade. I decided to move my work space so that rather than facing into the room, I'm now facing out with my back to the room. It’s much nicer to be able to open the doors wide and look out over the balcony at the trees and the sky, especially when you’re using a laptop all day. I took the comfort level one step further earlier and used a basin filled with a little warm water and mouthwash (it works) to soak my feet! I then scrubbed them with some Farmona Tutti Frutti Melon and Watermelon body scrub. My feet feel (and smell) amazing now.
I finally managed to finish a couple of illustrations for an exciting new venture today. I have one more to complete and a few borders to work on and then I'll be happy with what we've got. I'll let everyone know more about the details as soon as they're finalised as it's for such a great cause.
It’s been a while since I was really able to focus on studying. I've done a bit here and there over the summer (about 10,000 of my own words and a lot of reading) but it just seems to have flown by. I have a meeting at school on Wednesday and before I know it I’ll be back at work, studying for my PhD and hopefully keeping this blog going. There are so many wonderful Tumblr posts about studying and blogs dedicated specifically to learning that I've been spoilt for choice. I did notice that the posts I like the most contain beautiful images of stationary and equipment. I took some #LBloggers advice from Twitter and tried a different background today (my photographs are a little boring) to showcase my favourite (non-electronic) piece of studying equipment. It’s a Deckchair Bookchair which can be bought at Thinking Gifts. I've owned mine for about three years! I also enjoy using index labels and cute page markers when using real books, I bought some when I was living in Taiwan, they’re adorable and can make serious subjects a little more fun to research… even though I love serious subjects, it might help those who don’t! Sometimes I use the Deckchair Bookchair to hold my iPad when I'm reading an electronic book, especially if it’s on the desk; it’s like having another computer screen, although I'm always multi-screening anyway.
If you love books you might be interested in joining the Infinite Variety blogger's book club! This month's book is The History Boys. I can't wait to review it.