All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Saturday, 31 December 2005

The Last Post of 2005

Well, we’re about to bid farewell to 2005. The main thing is that if you’re reading this, you’ve made it through to the end of the year and like me, you’ve managed to hang on to dear life, unlike those who have sadly left their mortal coil behind within the last 364 days.

It’s been an interesting year for Yours Truly. On a professional basis, I’ve think I’ve had a truly staggering year. Last December 31st, I was still a student, earning bupkes and hoping that I’d make it through to the end of the course. Twelve months later, I’m still earning virtually bupkes (come to think of it, I was better off as a student) and hoping that I’ll make it through my first year of training. Maybe not that much has changed after all…

Family-wise, over the last twelve months, we’ve seen the emergence of Shira as a force to be reckoned with. Now she talks, charms her (and our) socks off and very much holds her own, despite the presence of three sisters who are very opinionated, possessed of strong minds and sometimes quite over-powering. In other words, she’s the one I’m least concerned about.

Dana has made amazing strides since January of this year, not least with the amount of weight she managed to shed. I should be so fortunate. She looks fantastic and I’d like to think that we are closer now than we were a year ago. I’m probably wrong, but hey, it’s my blog…

This last year has seen me introduce my blog onto this site. I’ve had to dig out my old HTML skills to bring you what you see today and although there are many of you who are presenting a far more polished and sophisticated site, I’m quite happy with my little contribution to the www.

We’ve had some significant additions since last December, not least the presence of not one, but two new cars (when I write ‘new’, I’m referring to the fact that they are new to us, as opposed to spanking 2005 editions) and I’m now driving around listening to an Australian/American/Brit telling me where to go (I recently splashed out on a Satellite Navigations system – my little end of year extravagance) and how to avoid getting lost.

We also possess a new fish, although no-one’s noticed since it looks identical to the last one.

So 2005 hasn’t treated us too badly. Thank G-d our parents are still healthy and with us and our kids are growing up into very special people.

I want to conclude by wishish each and every one of you a very happy and successful 2006 and thank you for still dropping by to say hello.

We bloggers are, without a doubt the vanguard of a new generation. Let’s continue to enlarge the blogging pool in the next twelve months and get more and more people taking up this wonderful habit.

Happy 2006 dear friends and family.
The last year wouldn’t have been the same without you.

Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Our Girls - Mid December 2005

Thank You

About two weeks ago, I posted a blog bemoaning the atrocious comments uttered by the Iranian President, when he called the Holocaust "a myth". You can read that post here.

I asked you to click on the link to the Simon Wiesenthal site and add your name to the petitions demanding that Iran be censured. The petitions were to be given to the President of the U.N's General Assembly.

I have just received an email from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre containing this text:

"Only days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s latest antisemitic tirade where he labeled the Holocaust a “myth” that Europeans have used to create a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world, 35,000 petitions were sent to Jan Eliasson, President of the United Nation’s General Assembly, demanding that action be taken to censure Iran. Your protests and each and every petition were hand delivered to Tobias Lindstrom in the Office of the General Assembly’s President at UN headquarters in New York by Mark Weitzman, the Center’s International Task Force Against Hate Director and NGO Representative to the UN .

May I say a very heartfelt thank you to any of you who signed the petition as a result of reading my post. I strongly believe that this blog should much more than just a collection of my rantings and complaints.

Together, we can do something to effect change.

Thank you so very much.

The Giver

Dana is, without a doubt, one of the most generous people I’ve had the pleasure to know. This is great if you are on the receiving end of her generosity. The only problem is that I’ve always found it hard to reciprocate to the same degree.

Let me give you an example:

During Chanukah, we give presents to one another after we’ve lit the candles. This happens every night and is (typically) a tradition that has been introduced by Dana. She plans for the festival throughout the year, buying presents and storing them away like a squirrel gathering nuts - always manages to give the appropriate presents to each member of the family.

Then there’s me.

I never know what to get her and usually leave it to the last minute to go shopping. Inevitably, she’ll either end up with a DVD, or CD or some item of clothing, that occasionally fits. She smiles sweetly, but I know that she always hopes I’ll be more imaginative. When it comes to getting me presents, she has an uncanny understanding of what I need without me even realising that I want it!

She craftily drops clues as to what she would like, but being the lummox that I am, I rarely pick them up and by the time I do, she’ll have gone out and bought the item herself.

I just wanted to mention all of this because I rarely tell her how much she is appreciated, loved and respected.

She’s a very special and unique person and I’m the luckiest guy in the world.
Thank you Dana, you are a true giver.

Monday, 26 December 2005

The Real Meaning Of Chanukah

The picture I'm using over this Chanukah festival is that of a Menorah, incised on the plaster of a house wall, found in Jerusalem, dating from the time of King Herod. It is very possible that the actual Menorah involved in the story of Chanukah would have resembled this closely.

When many of us celebrate Chanukah, we don't realise the significance of the festival. Whereas other nations have tried to destroy us physically (like the Nazis and the Romans), the Greeks were much more subtle in their approach, attacking our spirituality by trying to prohibit us from keeping the laws of the Torah - the same Divine commandments that have guaranteed our survival for over five thousand years.

These days, (like many of the Jews at the times of the Maccabees)a significant number of our brethren are foresaking their heritage to assimilate with the rest of the world. Hence the reason why Chanukah as a festival is so important. It reminds us that, despite the will of so many out there who try to convince us to give up our religious belief and way of life to "join them", we resolutely refuse to do so.

People mistakenly think that the Star of David is an ancient Jewish symbol. In fact, the real moniker that we carry is the Menorah. It is therefore no coincidence that the City of Jerusalem, our eternal capital, displays a Menorah as it's official emblem.

Long live the Jewish Nation and our stubborn but unbreakable adherence to the Torah. G-d commanded Moses all those years ago to build a Menorah in the desert - and every night, when we light our Menorahs, we should remind ourselves of role this incredible object plays, both in our history and our future.

Happy Chanukah dear friends.

Sunday, 25 December 2005

Season's Greetings

I’d like to wish Season’s Greetings to all those who are celebrating.
Have a great day!

Friday, 23 December 2005

Movie Review: King Kong

Let's start by taking the assumption that this is the first remake of one of the greatest films ever made. I know that there was the other version back in 1976, but I think we'll all do better to try and pretend it doesn't exist - or never did.

So here, in all it's glory is a full blooded remake of the 1933 Classic - but how does it fare?

Kong '05 is in some ways absolutely breathtaking. The special effects are second to none and the relationship between the Beast and his Beauty is just as touching as it was 72 years ago. The scenes with the dinosaurs and the creepy crawlies in particular, send shivers down your spine. The action scenes are, in short, amazing. I was very much reminded of the Indiana Jones movies.

This is a long film (over three hours) but you don't feel it, which is surely a good sign. The acting is Ok, although Kong definitely steals the honours with his bravado performance. It's a shame that he doesn't qualify for the best Male Gorilla Oscar, because I think he'd be a very strong contender and probable winner.

My main gripe with the movie is the under-developed role played by Naomi Watts. In my mind, her character just doesn't make any sense. One minute she's the quivering damsel in distress, caught in Kong's clutches, whilst within an instant, she becomes a clown, trying to please Kong. This tactic might have made sense in the screenplay, but in the film itself, her acting in the "comic" scenes comes over as clumsy and out of place. For example, in one scene, Kong is sitting there looking at an incredible sunset awed by the beauty of what he's witnessing, whilst there she is - trying to make him smile by performing a juggling act. Am I missing something here?

The final scene on top of the Empire State Building lives up to expectations and I for one, felt quite dizzy as those bi-planes made towards our hapless and quite vulnerable hero (I'm talking about the Gorilla, not Naomi the juggler).

The operatic finale works well and this movie definitely marks its place as the definitive remake of King Kong. However, despite the extra character and story layering as well as the cliff-hanging action scenes, the original still retains it's crown of glory. It may be over 70 years old, creaky and made in black and white but something special was created back in them thar days that could never be repeated or topped.

Fay Wray needn't be turning in her grave right now and Willis O'Brian, who created the original monster is still up there on top of the mountain. This is a good movie, worth seeing in the cinema - just don't go expecting it to change movie history, in the same way as it predecessor.

Recommended, but beware of some pretty gross bug scenes!

The Teacher's Rating

4 (out of 5)

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Look Who's Talking

Apparently, President Bush has told Ariel Sharon to watch his diet, following his health scare on Sunday.

Whereas I echo the sentiments and wholeheartedly agree with his concern, I would also like to remind Dubbya that he's really the last one to lecture people on eating. After all, Sharon's not the who who nearly choked to death on a pretzel whilst sitting on a sofa watching a ball game, is he?

Theatre Review: The Producers

I don't often get the chance to go into town, so you can imagine my delight when Dana offered me a day out in the West End...on my own! Needless to say, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands!

I decided that I was going to make the most of my day, so I went to Leicester Square, visited one of the many half-price ticket booths and got a ticket for the matinee of The Producers - a show that I've been itching to see ever since it opened here three years ago. I also wanted to see it on stage before the movie version hits the cinemas on 26th December.

To my delight, I managed to secure a seat in the stalls, only four rows from the stage - sometimes, you just strike lucky. The auditorium was pretty full, not least because quite a few people were on holiday and of course there was the usual gaggle of tourists visiting London for Xmas.

The show?
What can I say?

In short, I absolutely loved every second of it. It was extremely funny, beautifully staged, very very Mel Brooks' and wonderfully choreographed. The songs were a delight and the cast, whom I didn't know (aside from John Gordon Sinclair of Gregory's Girl fame) were outstanding. Aside from the clever staging, the highlight was without a doubt the raucous Springtime For Hitler number whom only a nice Jewish boy like Mel Brooks could have had the chutzpah to write.

The show was peppered with Jewish jokes, which only a few of us in the audience got (I could tell because on one occasion, I found myself being virtually the only one to laugh at a line about a Rabbi and his shul) but no matter.

Mel Brooks has had his ups and downs moviewise but this show is a bone-fide classic and having now experienced it on stage, I can hardly wait to see the new movie. If you read my profile, you will know that I list the original as being one of my all-time favourites. The 1968 movie won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, so let's hope Mel gets another one in 2006!

The Teacher's Rating

5 out of 5! Fabulous!

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

The Honest Fool

I will be the first to admit that I am far from perfect. I have a vile, volcanic temper which lands me frequently in trouble with my family. I also often engage my mouth before my brain, spouting thoughts that I immediately regret verbalising.

One of the traits however that I am most proud of, is the fact that I am honest and when I say “honest”, I mean to the stupidest degree. At times, I have landed myself in hot water because I will refuse to lie - and to make things worse, I will also never assume that anyone else could be dishonest in their dealings with me.

I don’t know what happened to that damn car, but I am now kicking myself as to why I trusted the garage to dispose of my car. After all, they’d tried to cheat me over the car park and since I had caught them lying before, alarm bells should have rung, back in June. I can only surmise that my stupid attitude led to the events that unfolded yesterday.

I am slowly and painfully learning the unpalatable truth that quite a number of people out there are absolute shits who put their greed for money ahead of any consideration towards other human beings. Someone I spoke to yesterday lied to me, of that I am sure, because there’s no way a thief would have taken my car in the state that it was in. The question is who?

My innate integrity dictates that I am a lousy businessman and probably suited to doing the kind of job that I find myself in. Teaching may be hard and frustrating but the one thing I do know (or would like to believe) is that the people I work with actually care about other human beings.

Tragically, you can’t say that about most jobs (or people) these days.

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

The Case Of The Disappearing Car

Exactly six months ago to the day, I wrote a post entitled The Cheek Of It which I would ask you to refer to before reading on, otherwise the following probably won't make a lot of sense.

At the end of June, I paid the garages' final invoice and I didn't end up being charged for the parking space. I had no need for a pretty incapacitated automobile, so I asked the manager to either try and sell the car off or scrap it. We left things at that.

Over the ensuing months, I heard not a peep from the garage. In all honesty, I was too preoccupied with my job to find the time to get in touch. I was however getting increasingly concerned about the status of the car, not least because according to the Drive and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), I am still the car's legal owner.

I decided to go over to the garage this morning to get an update. The manager told me that about ten days after they had received payment (i.e. around the 9th July), the car "disappeared" from the supermarket parking lot and the manager (a.k.a. the crook) had assumed that I had taken it away. Forget the fact that this might not be the case...why hadn't I been I contacted?

I went to the Police who suggested I find out if the supermarket had arranged for it to be removed and taken to a breakers' yard. After all, it was parked in one of their spaces.

Surprise surprise,The manager of the store didn't know anything about it, but told me that they hired a firm to remove cars they couldn't account for. It would therefore be a good idea to go to the breakers' yard to see if it had ended up there. Surely, they would have a record.

Of course, the said breakers' yard not only had no knowledge of my car but denied having any contacts whatsoever with the Supermarket! Things were starting to look pretty Kafkaesque.

I called up the Local Authority who also had no record of removing my car.
Somebody was lying. Let's be honest here, would thieves really drive off with a half broken 8-seater people mover? I think not. No-one's that desperate.

I made my way back to the police station, waited nearly two hours to see an officer and subsequently filed a stolen car report. The policeman suggested that the garage may have initially sold the car on. Now, why wouldn't that surprise me?

The good news is that I have now covered myself legally, by reporting the car as being stolen, which means the DVLA (hopefully) won't be chasing me to renew my road tax. The bad news is that I spent about six hours of my holiday time, driving around looking for clues as to the whereabouts of a car that might not exist any more....or if it does is probably being used as a getaway car somewhere in the north of the country.

I did NOT need this today.

Monday, 19 December 2005

America Offline

We’ve been with America Online (AOL) since we entered the weird and wonderful world of the Internet back in the spring of 2001.

The company has been very good to me over the years. When times were tough, they waived their monthly rate, without making a fuss and often didn’t bill me when I complained about this and that.

Aside from very minor issues, I have nothing but praise for the corporation and for the service it provides.

Four years on and times they are a-changin’. Dana has finally decided (Praise the Lord) that our dial-up is too slow and now she wants to get onto Broadband (ADSL). Did I complain? Hell no! I immediately contacted BT (British Telecom) and booked an engineer for the first week of January. Without going into detail, he’s going to be installing a new line and as a result, we are changing providers.

Why?

Because as wonderful as AOL is, the package it offers really doesn’t match up to others thrown at the public by the ever-growing competition. I don’t see why I should pay £17.99 a month for AOL’s 512kb service when I can get 2mb download speeds from numerous other companies for at least £2 less.

I’m not saying that I want to go for a cheapie provider, but fishing around and asking people, I’ve been recommend another ISP who seems to be doing as good a job as good ole AO’.

So, pretty soon, I hope to be zooming along the internet highway.
Kindly step aside if I burn my way past you.
We Two-Meg bandidos are taking no prisoners!

On a separate note, I thought it time to change the title of the blog.
I feel that I’m working too damn hard to be scribbling. I’m a teacher dammit. Let some other blogger ‘scribble’.

The (soon to be) Two Meg Teacher is in town and he’s kicking ass.

Sunday, 18 December 2005

Classic

Saturday, 17 December 2005

One Term Down, Two To Go.

Well, I’ve made it through my first full term. I’m still alive and relatively sane. This last week has been hard, not least because the kids have been hyper and the lessons I’ve taught haven’t had that much educational content in them.

To be fair, the kids were in no state to learn and although I tried my best to advance their IT skills, I could probably put money on the fact that anything I have attempted to teach them hasn’t even made it through one ear, let alone the other. The kids’ minds are on Christmas and Santa Claus and holidays etc. I don’t blame them for feeling schooled out.

Anyway, it’s sixteen days away from the school that I crave. I’ve got a ton of homework to get through but I don’t mind. I don’t want to get too relaxed, lest I suffer when I get back in January.

I am but seven months away from hopefully qualifying as a full blown teacher. I still have a number of observations to pass and so it’s not exactly plain sailing. I will certainly breathe a sigh of relief in July when I (G-d willing) pass the crucial milestone of completing my training year. If all goes well, I will then be able to enter the new term in September as a “proper” teacher, ready to advance up the career ladder. July, though seems a very long time away.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Significant Hot Air

Reading through my last post, I can see I am falling into the trap of branding the President of Iran as just another crazy Anti-Semite. The problem is that most other people will be thinking the same thing and as a result, not taking him seriously.

Our history has shown us the dangers of getting into this mindset. After all, wasn't Hitler thought of in the same way at first? Similarly, people ignored Saddam's rhetoric and then he sent 39 Scuds into Israel. The fact that they (miraculously) killed all but one person (who's death was attributed to a heart attack) is neither here nor there.

What Mr Ahmadinejad (there, I've bothered to write his name) is saying is in fact extraodinarily important. It is the first time that a Head of State has publicly pronounced the unbelievable claim that the Holocaust never happened.

Goebbels expounded his famous 'big lie' theory, saying: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

Remember that Goebbels was one of the major architects of the Holocaust.

Iran is about to go Nuclear and it's Chief of Staff has
a)called for the destruction of the State of Israel and
b) desecrated the name and memory of every Jew who was murdered in the Holocaust.

I take back everything I wrote in the last posting. I've realised how my apathy has cushioned the effect of what is going on. My only worry now is whether anyone else in power (aside from Israel) realises how dangerous the man actually is.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is looking for signatories to sign a petition to the President of the UN General Assembly demanding that action be taken against Iran. Please please please add your name to the petition. Show that you too realise how dangerous this man is.

I beg you, for all our sakes, please don't fall into the trap.

Time is running out.

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Insignificant Hot Air

The President of Iran, whose name I’m not even going to bother to write, is doing what he can to get himself onto the world’s stage.

In October, he called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Last week, he suggested the country be dismantled and reconstructed in Europe whilst today, his latest ‘intelligent’ remark was to claim the Jews had “created a myth today that they call the massacre of Jews (i.e. The Holocaust) and they consider it a principle above God, religions and the prophets”.

My grandmother virtually lost her whole family as a result of this ‘myth’.  I won’t however give him the pleasure of thinking that he’s upsetting me by coming out with his silly little rantings. I’m just sitting back and biding my time, waiting for some country, to blow the crap out of his nuclear reactors.

In 1991, Saddam Hussein announced that he would "burn half of Israel with Scud missiles, laden with deadly chemical gas.”

Need I say more?

Blogging Teachers Unite!

Like other bloggers, I get a real buzz knowing that people are reading my postings. As this is a site written by a teacher about teaching, it thrills me even more when fellow teachers drop by and leave comments.

Without offending you non-teachers out there, I feel that only fellow professionals can really understand where I’m coming from when I describe my school experiences. You can therefore appreciate how great it felt receiving a comment (from another teacher) to my last posting. I looked at her blog (also about our blessed profession) and found a link to this site!

It’s nice to know that we teachers are reaching out to one another across the universe (who knows, maybe they are also Beatles fans!) and meeting up in cyberspace. Reassuringly, there are other bloggers out there who also spend their days in the classroom trying to pass over their skills and knowledge to the next generations.

We teachers need to stick together!

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Give Me Sunshine (and no school)

The cloud of smoke that has been hanging over London since Sunday morning’s explosions has all but obliterated any chance of seeing the sun. I suppose I would notice it more, were this June, but still, the continually overcast sky hasn’t exactly helped to (literally) brighten up my days.

We are speeding towards the end of term and the kids are of course playing up. Just another two-and-a-half days to go and then seventeen– yes seventeen (I counted) days away from the school. People say that teachers get too many holidays, but now that I’m a part of that profession, I can honestly tell you that we need ‘em. We are all exhausted, each and every one of us.

Who knows, we may even see the sun during the holiday.

Monday, 12 December 2005

We've Given In.

Without going into the why’s and wherefore’s, Dana and I have decided to make the plunge from Dial Up to Broadband Internet. We could have done this before, but due to the set-up in our house (we have cable), we have resisted the temptation.

Until now.

I called up the telephone company this afternoon and arranged for a guy to come around and install a new line. He’s due to come out on 4th January. Then, if all goes to plan, we will have a 512k connection two weeks later. I could go for a faster speed, but to be honest, I don’t need it that much. I don’t download movies nor have the time to play online games, so why shell out more than I need to?

The way I see it, with this obsession on upping the speed, within a year or two, the minimum offered will be a megabyte. I mean, weren’t we happy with 256k a year or so ago? The biggest joke though is that ISP’s are offering ridiculous connections, even though there is no way the telephone lines can take them. I mean, what’s the point?!

Enough moaning. I look forward to enjoying a richer surfing experience in a month’s time. Who knows, maybe by then, I will be upgraded to 1mb (if they can get man on the moon….anything’s possible!).

Sunday, 11 December 2005

1st December Babies

The 1st December babies (we’re a special lot) are starting to kick the bucket.

First of all, we lost Christopher Reeve and now it’s Richard Pryor’s turn to shake off his mortal (drug soaked) coil.

Should Woody Allen, Bette Midler and Charlene Tilton also start panicking?

Saturday, 10 December 2005

Movie Review: Flight Plan

In short, this is a cracking thriller that had me guessing nearly till the end. The least I say about it, the better. Jodie Foster gives yet another sterling performance and at times, this is really edge of the seat stuff.

If you are looking for a superb thriller to get your teeth into, this is the film for you.

First Rate.

The Teacher's Rating

4 1/2 (out of 5)

Thursday, 8 December 2005

John.

Why?

What Was I Thinking?

I knew that I shouldn’t have posted the last entry. What the hell was I thinking? Today, I endured my worst lesson to date and I’m still smarting about it seven hours later.

I was teaching another Year 9 class. They came in and I had their attention for once. I started another lesson on databases (we are a week ahead of the other class) but there was one girl who was continually turning her screen on, despite my requests that all attention be focussed on the board – and VDU’s be switched off.

I told her to turn it off. Once. Twice. Three times. I even turned it off, but she kept on switching it on, thereby distracting others who were looking at her and the screen, as opposed to me. In the end, I’d had enough of being ignored, so I got her to stand outside the door, whilst I sent a student to get another teacher to remove her from the lesson.

The girl decided that she was going to do her best to screw up the lesson for everyone else and stood in the doorway, ceaselessly switching the classroom light on and off. She refused to move, to the extent that she wouldn’t even remove her hand from the panel and allowing me access to the switches. I had no choice but to leave the class and get help – which is not something I wanted to do.

I returned with another member of staff and she was removed, but by that time, the class was disrupted so severely that I spent the next hour trying to regain order. It was a bloody nightmare. The difficult students took advantage of the situation and acted even more obnoxiously than usual, resulting in my throwing some out. In short, that bitch – and I use the term deliberately – selfishly f****** up the lesson for every other student, so that she could get herself sent out.

I have rarely experienced such selfishness in my life and I’m furious because I know that next week, I’ll have to take her back. My mistake was that I sent her out in the first place. What I should have done was to get a teacher to remove her before she got anywhere near the door. I guess that’s what teaching experience is all about.

I’ve come home in a foul mood. To be honest, if I didn’t see another child for the next ten years, I wouldn’t mind. My poor girls have been shuffled off to bed having endured my shouting and short-temperedness. I feel bad but this evening, I am definitely anti anyone who is younger than 25.

Tomorrow, I’ll be the same old teacher – I’ll get over it. But tonight, it’s definitely a different matter.

Grrrr.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

The 'Fun' Lesson

Wednesdays Period 3 sees me teaching one of my Year 9 classes. They’re a pretty good bunch, even though there are always the “characters” there to spoil the party. Today, a few of those were off on a trip and I managed to get the best performance to date from the rest.

Wait! It gets better….

At the end of the class, one of the kids passed me and said “this was a fun lesson, for once!”

Fun? Fun?!!! Gee, I never thought I’d hear one of my students referring to any of my lessons as being “fun”. The ironic part was that I was teaching them Databases, which was far harder than the Excel lessons I taught them for half a term (which they positively despised).

I gleamed with pride. That one comment helped to restore some confidence in my beliefs about my own teaching abilities. Most of the time, I feel that I’m not doing as good a job as I should and I wonder whether or not I’m a satisfactory teacher.

I don’t know how much of the lesson they’ll remember by next week, but right now, I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, today I gave Year 9 a “fun” lesson.

Now, I am definitely ready for the Winter break.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

The Difference Between Us And Them








The above cartoon encapsulates the key difference between the soldiers in the Israel Defence Forces and the Palestinian terrorists. Whereas our boys risk their lives to protect the young and vulnerable, their side sacrifice their youth to score P.R. "points".

In all our struggles, throughout the Millenia, have we ever sent children on missions to intentionally kill and maim innocent women and children?

What do you think?

Monday, 5 December 2005

I'm A Graduate And I'm Proud


There can't be too many graduates who are blessed enough to have their wonderful wife and gorgeous child by their side.

I'm proud, but much more than just about being a graduate.

Sunday, 4 December 2005

Movie Review: Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

I am going to start this review with a warning: This is not a kid's movie, rather, it is not the kind of movie you would take young children to. My girls loved the first three films, but they are going to have to wait quite a while until I let them see this one, as it contains the stuff of nightmares. In short, this is a very dark film indeed, with very little light relief.

On the plus side, you have a meaty story, excellent characterisation, genuine thrills and pretty gloomy photography (no doubt keeping in with the spirit of the film).

Daniel Radcliffe positively shines as Harry although I wonder if he's ever going to get past the stereotyping. The others are in fine form too, particularly the guy with the huge eye (see the movie and you'll understand) even if he does come over as a little too over-stated at times. The special effects are amazing as ever and the story never lets up - quite a feat for a movie that runs for over two-and-a-half hours.

I can't say how true it is to the book as I haven't read it (gasp!), but in terms of cinematic storytelling, it is captivating.

Definitely recommended, although you probably need to have seen the previous movies to fully understand the plot.

The Teacher's Rating

4/5

Friday, 2 December 2005

Birthday Boy (3rd Time Lucky)

I was born on Friday night, December 1st 1967, which corresponded with the 29th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan.

This year is only the third time in my life when both my Hebrew and English birthdays have coincided. Not only that,they are but a day before the actual day of the week on which I was born. The last occasion was back in 1986, when both birthdays fell on a Monday. I therefore view this birthday as being something special...and on Shabbat, we will of course be reading my Bar Mitzvah parsha, Toledot.

I've had both a wonderful and not so great day. First the wonderful part - my family and friends.

Dana has been amazing. She bought me an incredible present - a DVD player for our bedroom TV, so that we can now snuggle up and watch movies in bed, a luxury if ever there was one. She also crowned the day by turning up with a delicious pizza, my favourite meal.....and she bought me one of my all time favourite movies on DVD (Harold and Maude). Yes, I was spoiled and Dana, you're a star.

From my parents, I'm going to be getting an iPod, as well as some birthday money.

Dassi bought me (with her own money I may add) a gorgeous Snoopy model, replete with chef's hat, which is now sitting next to my computer in school (I hope it doesn't get stolen).

Tali gave me Michael Palin's book on his Sahara trip - containing wonderful photographs and Michal/Shira gave me some pretty delicious chocolate. Can birthday presents get any better than that?

My friends brightened up my day no end. I received texts and emailed cards containing cute pictures and lovely messages. It really made me feel special and very loved.

That was the great part....

The not so hot part was my having to go to school, deal with overly hyperactive kids (who were worse than usual) and stay in the building until 7.30 p.m for a Year 13 parents evening. Talk about bad timing.

One bright moment though, was the first visit by my parents to my school which took place between the end of the school day and the parents evening. They sat in my classroom as I showed them some new animated slide shows that I'm using with my classes. My parents loved the shows, it's just the kids who they don't seem to be interested.

So there you have it, a double birthday and getting spoiled by everyone. Maybe, getting older, at least on one day of the year, isn't so bad after all!

If you participated in my birthday, either as a relative or friend, please know that you literally made my day. Thank you so much - you don't know how great you've made me feel.

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

A Pre-Birthday Moan.

“Down the decades every year
Summer leaves and my birthday’s here
And all my friends stand up and cheer
And say man you’re old
Getting old
Old
Getting old”
  
© Paul Simon, 2000

In just over two hours, I will be celebrating my thirty eighth birthday and boy do I feel old. I spent the day meetings kids and their parents, carrying out student reviews. There I was, sitting with the parents and telling the kids that they had to get to school on time, go to bed earlier, do their homework etc etc etc. I sounded like my mother and more worryingly, their mothers/fathers were nodding their heads in agreement with me!

Jeez. I feel old.

I stand in front of class after class and suddenly, all these kids are my responsibility. Why am I not a kid in that class? Where is my teacher?

G-d I feel old.

I come home and my four daughters greet me with a happy pre-birthday welcome. Where did these children come from? Why is my mom not in the kitchen making me  supper?

Damn I feel old.

Twenty years ago, I became eligible to vote. TWENTY YEARS AGO!!! Surely, all those years ago, I should have still been in primary school.

Man, I feel old.

I am now entering my thirty ninth year. I can’t even conceive of being so old. I am but twenty four months (and two hours, 15 minutes) away from hitting forty.

Best not to think about how old I feel.


Oh yeah.

By the way…

Happy birthday Teach.

Monday, 28 November 2005

Apparently I'm Deep

I have given up counting the amount of the times some students have looked at me over the last few weeks and uttered the utterly incomprehensible phrase: “That’s deep, Sir, that is”, after I’ve said something or other to them.

Today, I decided that I had to find out exactly what it was that I was saying to merit this response, so I plucked up the courage (giving into the notion that I would appear like a total dweeb) and asked a Year 10 student for a definition of the term.

I wish I hadn’t bothered.

Apparently, “deep” is slang for “evil” so that you can now draw your own conclusions about me.

Moral of the story: Sometimes, it is best to be kept in the dark.

Sunday, 27 November 2005

I Got Me A Gun!

I’ve always been a fan of the army, probably because I’ve never been in one. I just like the rough and tumble associated with stalking out the enemy and getting him before he gets you. It’s romantic claptrap and I know it, but, hey, we all have our fantasies.

I’ve enjoyed FPS (first player shooting) games for quite a while, particularly those that allow you to command a troupe of men and take them into a theatre of battle. Today, however, I got to live out my dreams, albeit on a very minor scale.

In other words, I went paint-balling.

Along with two other adults, we took 14 kids paint-balling and we had a blast (although not literally). Here, I had the opportunity to throw myself onto the ground and do a leopard crawl, dodging paint bullets that whizzed above my head. I got to fire at other guys from behind walls and barriers and even scored a bull’s-eye on another fighter’s head and knocked him out of the game. That was the high point of the day!

Yes, I was hit twice, once in the leg and then, more seriously, in the throat – and I know I wouldn’t be writing this if those slugs were real – but it was so much fun using the familiar manoeuvres – crouching, throwing myself flat on my belly and then crawling along the undergrowth!

The guns were pretty pitiful and my aim was atrocious but who cares? Our red team won the four games although I can’t say that I had much to do with the victory. All in all, it was a great day and the kids (not my own I hasten to add) will remember it (at least until their next attempt) but for me, it’s another experience I’ve been itching to try out for many a year.

Tomorrow, I’m back in school and thoughts of shooting people will be far from my mind….I hope!!!

Brain Teaser Answer

I know I said I would post the answer on Friday, but I’d hoped at least one person would try to work it out and add a comment!

Anyway, the answer is:

The man asks him “which is the way to your village?”

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Brain Teaser

Here’s a riddle that I heard today:

A man is walking along until he comes to a fork in the road which leads off in two directions. At the end of one path, there is a town of Cannibals who lie about everything. At the end of the other is a town of gentle folk who always tell the truth.

The man does not know which path to take but sees an inhabitant of one of the towns standing at the junction. He is only allowed to ask him one question.

What does he ask?  


What do you think? All comments welcome and I will post the answer tomorrow.

Thanksgiving

I’d like to wish all the Americans out there a very Happy Thanksgiving.

If you’re a turkey who’s reading this….my commiserations.
You have my deepest sympathy.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

£unch Duty!

I decided to try out something “new” today.

The school is always on the lookout for teachers to help out during lunch. If you volunteer for “lunch duty”, you might find yourself at the front of the dinner queue; patrolling the corridors or walking around the playground, making sure that all is in order and that the kids are not finishing each other off.

I’ll be honest here; my reasons for volunteering my free time were not that altruistic. By giving up my lunch break, I am paid extra for each time that I’m on and I am also entitled to a free lunch. The latter is not a factor, since I bring in my own kosher lunch, but the promise of extra dosh is a huge incentive.

Since returning from the half-term break, my Wednesday’s have been full teaching days, so the request to spend three quarters of an hour in the fresh (read as cold!) air, walking around the playground really appealed. I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did, but I came back to the class, refreshed, relaxed and much more able to cope with, what is usually the most challenging teaching period of the day.

My only complaint is that I didn’t have the intelligence to volunteer, back in September. For one thing, I’d be fitter and more relaxed and just as importantly, I’d be a little richer.

I am therefore embarking on an intensive campaign of colleague disinformation. If I can convince all the other would-be volunteers that this is a dreadful way to spend an afternoon, I might be able to secure myself quite a few more (lucrative) slots!

Monday, 21 November 2005

What Your Kids Are Learning About Israel, America and Islam

As a teacher, who sees how students believe everything they read in text books as being "the Gospel", I am extremely worried by the findings of an investigation carried out by the Jewish Telegraph Agency site about the brainwashing that is taking place inside American classrooms.

________________________________________

NEW YORK, Oct. 23 (JTA) - With the school year back in full swing, do you know what your children are learning?

In thousands of public school districts across the United States, without ever knowing it, taxpayers pay to disseminate pro-Islamic materials that are anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.

Often bypassing school boards and nudging aside approved curricula, teaching programs funded by Saudi Arabia make their way into elementary and secondary school classrooms.

These teachings enter school systems with the help of a federal program, Title VI of the Higher Education Act, that is now up for renewal. Expert analyses of these materials have found them to be full of inaccuracies, bias and proselytizing. They also have found that many of the major history and social studies textbooks used in schools across the country are highly critical of democratic institutions and forgiving of repressive ones.

These materials praise and sometimes promote Islam, but criticize Judaism and Christianity and are filled with false assertions. Most taxpayers don't know they're paying - at the federal, state and local levels - for the public schools to advance these materials.

Much has been written about the anti-Israel, anti-American bias found at many university Middle East studies departments, some of which receive Saudi funding. Critics have also probed the export of Saudi teachings to American mosques and Islamic schools.

A special year long investigation by JTA reveals for the first time how Saudi influence is penetrating the American classrooms of young children.

The investigation uncovers the complex path by which biased textbooks and supplementary teaching materials creep into U.S. public schools. It reveals who creates these materials and how some of America's most prestigious universities - with the use of federal funds - become involved in disseminating them.

Saudi influence enters the classrooms in three different ways. The first is through teacher-training seminars that provide teachers with graduate or continuing-education credits.

The second is through the dissemination of supplementary teaching materials designed and distributed with Saudi support. Such materials flood the educational system and are available online.

The third is through school textbooks paid for by taxpayers, some of them vetted by activists with Saudi ties, who advise and influence major textbook companies about the books' Islamic, Arab, Palestinian, Israeli and Middle Eastern content.

Ironically, what gives credibility to the dissemination of these distorted materials is Title VI of the Higher Education Act, a federal program enacted in 1958 in part to train international experts to meet the nation's security needs.

Under Title VI, select universities get federal funding and prestigious designation as national resource centers for the study of places and languages the government deems vital for meeting global challenges.

Eighteen of these centers are for the study of the Middle East; each receives an average of about $500,000 per year. The taxpayer-supported grants are worth at least 10 times that amount in their ability to garner university support and attract outside funding, proponents of Title VI say.

As part of its federal mandate, each center assigns an outreach coordinator to extend its expertise to the community and to school-age children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Outreach usually includes workshops, guest speakers, books, pamphlets and whole syllabuses and curricula broken down into teaching modules, with instruction booklets for teachers, and sometimes visual aids such as films.

While some school district officials are completely unaware of the material reaching their teachers and classrooms, others welcome it: Believing they're importing the wisdom of places like Harvard or Georgetown, they actually are inviting into their schools whole curricula and syllabuses developed with the support of Riyadh.

The "Arab World Studies Notebook" is one such example. Billed by its creators as an important tool to correct misperceptions about Islam and the Arab world, the manual for secondary schools has been blasted by critics for distorting history and propagating bias.

First published in 1990 as the "Arab World Notebook," the manual was updated to its current form in 1998. The newer publication was created as the joint project of two organizations - both of which receive Saudi funding.

Some of the references are subtle, critics say, making them all the more harmful. For example, the manual:

1) Denigrates the Jews' historical connection to Jerusalem. One passage, describing the Old City, says: "the Jerusalem that most people envisage when they think of the ancient city, is Arab. Surrounding it are ubiquitous high-rises built for Israeli settlers to strengthen Israeli control over the holy city."

To Suggests that Jews have undue influence on U.S. foreign policy. Referring to Harry Truman's support of the 1947 United Nations resolution to partition Palestine, separating it into Jewish and Arab states, it says: "Truman's decision to push the U.N. decision to partition Palestine ended in the creation of Israel. The questions of Jewish lobbying and its impact on Truman's decision with regard to American recognition - and indeed, the whole question of defining American interests and concerns - is well worth exploring."

2) Suggests that the Koran "synthesizes and perfects earlier revelations," meaning those ascribed to by Christians and Jews.

3) Leaves out any facts and figures about the State of Israel in its country-by-country section, but refers instead only to Palestine. One of the groups involved in the publication is the Berkeley, Calif.-based Arab World and Islamic Resources, or AWAIR, (www.awaironline.org) founded in 1990 with funding from organizations that include Saudi Aramco, a Saudi government-owned oil company.

The editor of the notebook is Audrey Shabbas, AWAIR's founder. Saudi Aramco World, the publication of Saudi Aramco, features pieces praising Shabbas and her teacher-training materials.

The second organization involved in the manual is the Middle East Policy Council of Washington, which helps print and disseminate the 500-page manual of essays, lesson plans and primary sources.

The council lists the manual as the primary resource material for its teacher-training program. It employs Shabbas to conduct its training and seminars. According to the group's Web site (www.mpec.org) more than 16,000 educators have attended its workshops in 175 cities in 43 states. The manual itself claims to have reached 25 million students.

The council, which is headed by Charles Freeman Jr., a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, gets direct funding from Saudi Arabia.

In an interview, the council's acting director, Jon Roth, declined to specify how much money his group gets from Riyadh, but made clear that he is seeking much more.

In September, Roth visited Saudi Arabia to meet with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a member of the royal family who owns Kingdom Holding Company, one of the world's wealthiest companies. "We have been trying to cultivate the relationship with the prince for a long time, because he has lots of money," Roth said after his trip.

"Our hope and expectation is millions" from the Saudi prince, who initiated the meeting after hearing about the teaching program, Roth said. He said his group operates on an annual budget of $750,000.

The council's board of directors includes executives from companies with huge financial stakes in Saudi Arabia, including Boeing, ExxonMobil Saudi Arabia, the Carlyle Group and the Saudi Binladin Group. Roth said that funding to the organization "has no strings attached."

Sandra Stotsky, a former senior associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, is one of a growing number of critics of the "Arab World Studies Notebook." It is one of the examples she cites in a study, "The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America's History Teachers," in which she examines supplemental teaching materials. The problem with many of the supplemental materials, which are most often distributed through teacher training workshops, "is the ideological mission of the organizations that create them," she said in her study, published last year by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based think tank on education.

"They embed their political agendas in the instructional materials they create so subtly that apolitical teachers are unlikely to spot them."

In an interview with JTA, Stotsky called the notebook "a piece of propaganda" rather than scholarly work. The American Jewish Committee issued a scathing report on the manual earlier this year, called "Propaganda, Proselytizing, and Public Education: A Critique of the Arab World Studies Notebook. "

The report said that the publication, while "attempting to redress a perceived deficit in sympathetic views of the Arabs and Muslim religion in the American classroom, veers in the opposite direction - toward historical distortion as well as uncritical praise, whitewashing and practically proselytizing."

The result, the AJCommittee report said, "is a text that appears largely designed to advance the anti-Israel and propagandistic views of the Notebook's sponsors, the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) and Arab World and Islamic Resources (AWAIR), to an audience of teachers who may not have the resources and knowledge to assess this text critically."

David Harris, the AJCommittee's executive director, said upon issuing the report in February: "Educating American children about the Middle East and about different religions is vitally important, but the notebook is precisely the wrong way to go about it." Shabbas, in the introduction to the manual, says that AWAIR's mission is to counter the "rampant negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims held by most Americans."

"Recognizing that no work is of greater importance than the preparation of our young people for their roles as thoughtful and informed citizens of the twenty-first century, and recognizing too that U.S. involvement with the Arab World and with the wider world of Islam is certain to remain close for many years, AWAIR's goal is to increase awareness and understanding of this world region and this world faith through educational outreach at the pre-collegiate level," she writes. In an interview with JTA, Shabbas said the goal of the notebook is "to establish a basis for understanding the Middle East" by examining the largest of the groups that live there - the Arabs.

Responding to criticism specifically about the effect of Jewish lobbying, she said everything in the manual comes from the Arab and Muslim point of view: "The notebook is what it is. If you go out anywhere in the Arab world, you're likely to hear that view" of the U.N. partition and Jewish influence.

"Most textbooks merely tell people the U.N. voted for partition and the Arabs rejected it," she said, adding that American students need to "delve into why people do what they do; what are their values." She also noted that the publication directs students to solicit other perspectives from various groups, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee.

Roth of the Middle East Policy Council dismissed the critics of the notebook as "cranks." His council touts the manual as an important resource for educators. The manual is "of such high standards that the Middle East Policy Council believes it should be in the hands of every educator," the group's Web site says.

In an interview, Roth said Israel is "a big topic" for the council, but added, "The council does not take a position on Israel's existence. The council does not take positions at all."

Criticism also has come lately from parents offended by what their children are learning. Parental pressure led to the manual being banned in school districts in Tulsa, Okla., and Anchorage.

The AJCommittee took the unusual step of issuing a public warning "urging school districts across the nation" not to use the manual. Still, Shabbas and her publication are welcomed by outreach coordinators to some of the nation's key national resource centers, including those at Georgetown, Harvard and Yale, from where she said in the interview that she had just returned from conducting a teacher-training session.

Many of the principal players involved in disseminating pro-Islamic, anti-American and anti-Israel materials to the public school system have links, direct or indirect, to a little-known place called Dar al Islam. Located in Abiquiu, N.M., Dar al Islam (www.daralislam.org), which means "abode of Islam" in Arabic, is an Islamic enclave registered with the state as a non-profit in 1979.

Situated in the remote mountainous desert of northern New Mexico, near the Ghost Ranch where Georgia O'Keefe lived, the massive complex is accessible only by an unpaved, dirt road.

It was created with direct financing from the late Saudi monarch, King Khaled ibn Aziz, and from five princesses in the Royal House of Saud, according to Saudi Aramco World. A 1988 article in Saudi Aramco World detailed the saga of the royal family's purchase of 8,500 acres of land and construction of a mosque and other buildings to form Dar al Islam. According to the enclave's Web site, the original intent was to establish a "Muslim village as a showcase for Islam in America." When that became too difficult, the vision changed to an educational conference and retreat center.

Those buildings sit on 1,600 of the original acres; the rest was sold and invested to help finance its operation, Dar al Islam officials say.

In addition to the mosque, the enclave has a madrassa, or religious school, summer camp and teacher-training institute. It runs speakers bureaus and programs and maintains a Web site.

Dar al Islam spokesman Abdur Ra'uf Walter Declerck acknowledges some minor participation in the creation of Dar al Islam by a Saudi princess, but he disputes most of the funding history of Dar al Islam as recounted in the Saudi Aramco World article. "It was not purchased by the royal family," he said. Funding then and now "comes from Muslims all over," he said, but would not elaborate.

Many of the individuals and groups involved in promoting education about Islam and the Arab world in American schools have ties to Dar al Islam. Some are educators such as Shabbas, whose work is promoted by outreach coordinators at the national resource centers, and some are outreach coordinators themselves. Shabbas, the lecturer and editor of "The Arab World Studies Notebook," was director of Dar al Islam's summer teacher-training program in 1994 and 1995, according to Declerck and Shabbas.

Others with connections to Dar al Islam include:

Zeina Azzam Seikaly, outreach coordinator at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, a Title VI National Resource Center on the Middle East. For several years she was assistant director of Dar al Islam's teacher-training institute, according to Dar al Islam's Declerck.

Seikaly promotes many associates of Dar al Islam, printing their writings and inviting them to lecture. Shabbas has been involved in teacher training at Georgetown. Asked about Dar al Islam, Seikaly at first refused to discuss it, then admitted working there, but only for two weeks

The Council on Islamic Education.
The group until recently was listed as an associate of Dar al Islam, under the heading of secondary schools. Independent textbook review organizations describe the council as one of the most powerful groups in the country influencing the content of textbooks. Critics say that in its effort to promote a positive view of Islam, it distorts history. The group's director, Shabbir Mansuri, says his organization is a "non-advocacy research organization."

Criticism that his group exerts undue influence on textbook publishers "comes from people who have no idea what we do," he said. "The Constitution allows us all a place at the table, without leaving our heritage at the door," he told JTA. "I can lobby, I can demand and I can contribute."

In initial interviews, Dar al Islam officials said the council has multiple roles there, including helping to create and evaluate content for its teachers. After those interviews, the Dar al Islam site was changed to eliminate any mention of the council. Asked to explain, Declerck said it was taken down to "avoid confusion. We know each other but we are independent organizations, we are not connected."

o Susan Douglass. An associate of Dar al Islam's Teachers Institute, she also is the curriculum specialist for the Council on Islamic Education. She is a former teacher at the Islamic Saudi Academy of Virginia, a Saudi government-supported school, and she consults on textbooks and curriculum by major publishers. She has written a series of books on Islam for K-6 students at Islamic and public schools.

One of Dar al Islam's Web sites, islamamerica.org, posts articles defending Palestinians and their supporters, while excoriating democracies, including America and Israel.

Some Saudi watchers say Saudi Arabia's goal is to export the most rigid brand of Islam: Wahhabi Islam, which in contrast to other forms of Islam, is intolerant of other religions, according to experts.

It's an agenda "more dangerous than communism" ever was, according to Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, a Washington-based pro-democracy think tank, because it targets all non-believers, including Christians, Jews and most Muslims.

Such apostates have only three choices, he said: "Convert, be subjugated or die. "The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to several requests for comment.Declerck of Dar al Islam said the kind of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, is "not what we transmit. Dar al Islam communicates much more of a mainstream Islam," he said.

But Al-Ahmed was adamant. In American public schools, he said, the Saudis are carrying out "a deliberate program to spread their version of Islam everywhere." "Their job is to give money to certain groups of Islamic organizations, to fund certain people, and those people they fund are people who they believe will further their goal of spreading Wahhabi Islam," he said.

(JTA Editor Lisa Hostein and correspondent Sue Fishkoff in California were among the contributors to this report.)

Sunday, 20 November 2005

The Negativity Clause.

Over the last few days, a number of my friends have commented that they find my blog quite negative in tone. I suppose that when you are caught up posting entries on a daily basis or so, you don’t really think about how the overall effect will appear to someone who passes by every now and again to “catch up”.

I have to say that, upon reflection, I probably agree with my pals.

True, I’m working in a tough school with some very difficult kids and this no doubt impacts on my writing. However, I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I’m not enjoying what I do.

Yes, there are bad days, or rather, bad moments in the midst of the good days and inevitably, these do get reported but overall, I can’t think of another job that I’ve felt so much a part of. I honestly, honestly love teaching. The kids can be, and often are, horrendous but, give me a brattish child any day over some power-hungry bitch or so called friend who can’t wait to stick a knife in my back. I couldn’t hack working in an office and dealing with the daily nine to five grind. Give me a classroom and at least one kid to whom I’ve made a difference – and you’ll understand why I’m doing the job I’m in (saying that, most people can’t see why anyone would want to spend their working hours dealing with teenagers).

So, I do apologise if I ever give over a negative impression. Please look beyond the surface and see the whole picture. I love teaching and being surrounded by the most wonderful, unpredictable and fantastic set of colleagues – whether they be my fellow  suffering teachers or even those pesky, frustrating and, yes, sometimes loveable kids.

The one thing I realised when I first stepped foot inside a classroom as a teacher was that you have to love those kids, come hell or high water. Otherwise, you might as well go back to the office and work with their parents.

It is that simple.

Thursday, 17 November 2005

How Does One Start A Rumour?

I absent-mindedly left my electronic register (or Bromcom as it’s known in the profession) on the desk in my room at the end of school on Tuesday afternoon. When I arrived back this morning, post graduation, it had “walked”. I was quite distressed as I use it quite a lot to refer to student attendance and data. Saying that, I have been aware of my over-reliance on the damn machine and so have been slowly transferring the records by hand, to my A4 planner.

I digress.

The register was gone. I looked everywhere, but it soon became horrendously apparent that some kid or kids had walked off with it. In truth, it’s not much use to them as they don’t even know the log in code (which I had intelligently left hidden in the plastic pocket, but let’s not dwell too long on that.)

A technician surmised that some dim child had taken it, in the belief that he was probably stealing a laptop. If only!

In short, it was gone.

I was inconsolable (as I’m writing this down, I’m beginning to think that I’m taking this all too seriously) until I happened upon yet another teacher to whom I could relate my story of woe. She told me that she’d seen a Bromcom lying around in one of the Science Labs, which is situated on the floor above mine. It had been put away by the Head of Year 10 – whom I saw at that minute walking towards the staff room.

I approached her, in the hope that she might give me some good news. She immediately went upstairs and handed me my register. I was so overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude (yup, this is definitely pathetic) that I thanked her with a big kiss on her cheek! Unfortunately, some kids saw this total innocent act of appreciation and are probably right now spreading stories about our “alliance”. The poor lady’s reputation is definitely shot and what’s more….

that’s how you get rumours circulating around a school!

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Graduation Day

Without sounding arrogant, this is my third Graduation and to be honest, the ceremonies I’ve attended over the years have all been virtually identical.
The whole thing started at 2.00 and my three minutes of fame manifested themselves at around 3.25 when I walked across the stage and shook the Chancellor’s hand. For the rest of the time, I twiddled my thumbs.

The best part, as on previous occasions was dressing up in the robes and having the official photographs taken with the family. This time, the participating members were not my parents, but Dana and Shira who both came along to sit for portraits and meet my fellow graduates.

In the end, sixteen out of twenty of us made it through to the day and we all sat together, praying that the proceedings wouldn’t bore us to death, whilst looking forward to getting on with our lives.

At 4.00 it was all over and we headed back to our daily routines. The course of study is now officially ended and I relish the challenges that I face.

That’s it people, I’ve graduated College for good (well, at least for the foreseeable future….!) and there’s no looking back as I head into my new career as a qualified, (if currently inexperienced) teacher.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Some Good News For Once

It occurred to me that, when writing about teaching, I always end up reporting the negative events. So here’s some good news. From this week, my timetable has been altered so that my dreaded Tuesday afternoon class has now been moved to Friday mornings.

This is great as I believe that they will be more receptive to me earlier in the day (in theory at least).

Monday, 14 November 2005

Lunch With The Hooligans

My Year 7 class just didn’t want to calm down or keep quiet. In the end, I kept them twenty minutes into lunch. Meanwhile, the kids outside the room wanted to use the computers for their daily IT Club. I told them to go away and wait until I had dismissed the class, but they refused. In short, there were 25 kids inside the room and about 20 outside. Oh – and me.

I closed the door.

The kids outside kept on opening the door or peering in through the window and making a general nuisance of themselves. After a while, I’d had enough and when finally dismissing the class, told them that, due to their behaviour, I had decided to cancel the club for the day.

The little morons couldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
No, I wasn’t running the club today and no, they couldn’t come in.
“Go away and run around in the playground as THERE IS NO CLUB TODAY!”

I let in a few students who needed to finish off some homework but the rabble refused to disperse and so I was left with no option but to lock myself in with the kids, ensuring that my keys were left hanging on the lock, so that the students in the room didn’t feel that I was imprisoning them.

I could/should have called for help but I didn’t want to kick out the half a dozen students who were in the room for genuine reasons.

In the end, I had about ten minutes lunch break before the next hoard came in for lessons.

Isn’t teaching fun?

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Wanted: iPod Mavens

To my delight, my extraordinarily generous parents are offering me an iPod for my birthday (1st December - please note it down).

The only problem is that I don't know which one to ask for. I am less concerned with the amount of storage, than actually choosing a model which doesn't run out of juice after five minutes (or so to speak). I hear that the Nano scratches easily, whilst the bigger model drinks batteries in the same way that an SUV guzzles petrol.

Do I go for a 20GB iPod or sacrifice memory for a Mini? Should I forget both and opt for a Nano? My bottom line is that I'd be happy with a model that holds 1000+ songs, is easy to use and gives a good run on batteries. I do not want a Shuffle though.

Any iPod gurus out there?
Which model would you choose?

What To Do?

Over the last week or so, Michal, aged five, has started exhibiting a very worrying tendency - she crosses roads without bothering to look whether or not a car is approaching.

Today, once again, I had to grab her out of the path of a car. Last Friday night, a friend did the same – in the nick of a time, because she was seconds away from certain death and I am at my wits end, thinking about how to get her to realise what she’s doing. Road safety does not seem to play a part in her life whatsoever.

I tried a different tact today. Having administered the usual disciplinary measures, I took her home from Synagogue and whilst standing in the kitchen, took a cherry tomato out of the refrigerator. I placed it on the counter and told her that “she was the tomato.” I then took a piece of wood and told her that “this was the car.”

I slammed the wood onto the tomato. She burst out crying (probably due to the shock of it all) and looked visibly shaken. We both looked at the grisly remains of the splattered tomato and I told her that this is what she would look like if a car ran into her. I then got her to pick up the remains and bin them (just to ensure that she got the full impact of the experiment). I don’t know if this action has psychologically damaged her for the next twenty years, but to be honest, I’d rather that, than G-d forbid lose her to a motorist.

When we went out later, she held my hand as we crossed the road and even looked right and left. We shall see whether my tomato experiment yields results or whether I shall have to devise another plan.

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Utter Madness

Yesterday, three significant events took place around the world.

Firstly, a suicide bomber killed nearly sixty people in Jordan. Secondly, Australian Police disclosed details of a plot to carry out numerous terrorist attacks around the country and thirdly – and this is the one that totally baffles me – the British Government ruled against Tony Blair’s Bill (backed by the Police and Security Services) to detain terror suspects for up to ninety days without charge.

Keeping in mind the fact that London was bombed four months ago and terrorist atrocities are taking place all around the world, could someone please explain the logic of curtailing the Police’s powers to prevent more attacks?

I’m sorry but I don’t buy the “what if they arrest the wrong man?” crap. We are at war, people. War! These are not normal times (and by the way, does anyone remember living in “normal times”?) and so the rules of engagement are totally different.

There is a concerted campaign by some fruitcakes around the world, to pulverise as many innocent people as they can - in any one attack. If the Police say they need ninety days, give them the time. Hell, if they need twice as long, give it to them.

I am sick to death of the na├»ve, left-wing, bleeding-heart arseholes who dictate the UK’s agenda. Of course, every wannabee terrorist in the British Isles will be no doubt be laughing his head off, musing at how utterly pathetic the British politicos are (particularly those who make up a sizeable majority of the Labour party).

Yesterday was no less than an invitation to the terrorists to bomb the UK yet again.

Never mind though. If you can manage to fool the security forces for twenty eight days and one hour, you’re out - and free to launch another devastating attack.

Tomorrow's Weather Forecast for France

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

Recovering Teacher

It's been a rough ride. I spent yesterday mostly visiting different worlds - unconscious (well, sort of) but the bug seems to have disappeared as mysteriously as it struck. I have spoken with a few people who have also been affected, so I guess it wasn't food poisoning. I wasn't at school today, so tomorrow will probably be unbearable.

Anyway, the most important thing is that I feel better.

The teach is back.

Monday, 7 November 2005

Sick Teacher

I feel like death warmed up. I've spent most of the day asleep, when I'm not in the toilet either vomiting or expelling things through every orifice in my body - and that's as about as descriptive as I'm going to get.

I'm particularly peeved as I need to be in school this week to carry out the student assessments. I guess I'll have to do them when I feel well enough.

I don't know if I've got a stomach bug or food poisoning but the sooner I can shake off my high temperature and keep some food down - the happier I'll be.

Sunday, 6 November 2005

As If

As if Thursday's incident wasn't bad enough, I had a run-in with another kid yesterday.

He spent virtually the whole lesson working on something else that had nothing to do with my lesson. I repeatedly told him to get back to work on my subject and he ignored me, intimating aggressively that I was "picking on him" whilst the others weren't working either (go figure a 15 year old's logic).

I gave him a worksheet which he ignored and when challenged, said that I hadn't told him that he had to "fill it in". I told him to do so but when I returned, he was still focussed on something else.

I'd had enough, so I took his work, scrunched it up and threw it in the bin. He started swearing at me, using the "F" word numerous times. I sent him out of the class.

Ok. I could have handled this differently. Admittedly, I shouldn't have thrown his work in the bin and I accept that it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. In hindsight, maybe I should have asked for him to be removed, thereby avoiding the kind of confrontation that took place.

Teaching can be absolutely dreadful at times. I'm constantly evaluating and re-evaluating what I'm doing and whether I could use some different methodologies. Yesterday's experience was not particularly pleasant but I guess that it's par for the course.

I've made my bed. Sometimes, I wish I could find a way of sleeping in it.

Saturday, 5 November 2005

Bonfire Night

This blog probably won't make any sense if you haven't spent time in the UK, so I've provided a link to explain why I took my kids to a firework display this evening.

Dassi and Tali had a great time and the fireworks were truly out of this world.

As this was
a) Saturday night and
b) the 400th anniversary of the plot (see, I knew you'd wonder what I was talking about....go click on the link!)

there were parties going on everywhere and you could see fireworks for miles around. 5th November was never this good when I was a kid.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

Waste Of Space

It’s been a very long week and I’m just about awake. Today, I said something to a student that I’ve regretting since. I told him, in front of the rest of the class that he was a “waste of classroom space” and I fully admit that I was wrong in calling him this.

Yes, this student has not done any work since he walked into the first lesson in September.

Yes, this student is on the way to being kicked out of school, because every other teacher is fed up with his immature behaviour.

Yes, I’ve had to throw him out virtually every week because he keeps on disrupting. Later on, I had him removed because he was holding a conversation across the room with another pain in the neck and he was giving advice on how to steal cars.

But all these reasons, do not give me the right to say these things to him. I promised myself that I would never denigrate a student in such a manner. I feel that I have really let myself down here.

I have discussed this with a number of other teachers and bar one, they’ve told me not to worry about it since the kid is already in so much trouble. Should I be fretting? Should I apologise to him?

The truth is that he’s not a bad kid. In fact, he’s quite bright. Unfortunately, he has got into the wrong company with another student who’s a prime troublemaker. I’ve already separated them, but it hasn’t made any difference?

Any advice folks?

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

The Paris Riots

I see that the French are rioting in Paris.

Oh dear.

What a shame.

I bet the Police are adhering to their long-held national policy on how to deal with “the enemy”.

  1. Run

  2. Hide

  3. Surrender.

The (Blessed) Rain

According to my mentor, there is a correlation between rainy weather and difficult kids. I can certainly testify to this, if today is anything to go by.

I taught three classes and most of the kids were all more challenging than usual (which is a diplomatic way of saying that they were pretty obnoxious) and yes, it rained all day. I knew I was in trouble when I asked for the patrol to come and remove a difficult child and when she eventually turned up; I was told that the respite room was “full”.

I know that we Jews just celebrated Sukkot, at the end of which we made a prayer for rain. The idea is that we ask G-d to provide rain to the Land of Israel, to ensure that crops grow and that there is enough water. The good Lord, in his infinite wisdom has decided to move the clouds a little to the left and as a result, my pupils have been hyperactive.

If You are reading this G-d, can you please send the rain eastwards?
Teaching is tough enough without having to factor in the weather conditions.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Meanwhile, Back in London...

Dana just told me that she was on the Underground last week with Shira.

Apparently, Shira looked at a man who was sitting in the carriage and shouted out “ That’s Daddy!”.

Dana shook her head at the man, reassuring him that he was not the father and she tells me that he breathed a visible sigh of relief, whereupon everyone in the train started smiling.

Shira decided to finish off her mischief by going round to everyone saying “bye bye” and they all reciprocated.

For The Forgotten One

He’s smart, funny and gregarious. He lives in a beautiful house, with a lovely, charming and pretty wife and three adorable kids. They have a cuddly dog and chirpy budgie.

When we visited him in Great Neck, NY, we were treated like royalty. Thursday evening was certainly most memorable and Hadassah had a wonderful time.

I’ve wanted to meet him ever since we started chatting using Instant Messaging. It was worth the wait.

He’s also extremely pissed off that I forgot to mention all of this in my previous blogs and I sincerely apologise for this.

Are you happy now Paul?

Ps. He’s also my cousin.

Monday, 31 October 2005

Halloween UK Style.

When I was in New York, virtually every house I passed displayed a rather plump pumpkin (or five) outside the door. The shops were selling everything Halloweeny and the people (especially kids) couldn’t wait to get dressed up and enjoy the festivities associated with the “Eve of All Saints”. Gee, were I living in the US, I’d probably be there, trick ‘n’ treating with them.

In the UK, unfortunately, though Halloween has gradually become more americanised (i.e. people do something about it), it has taken on a far more sinister cloak (if you’ll excuse the pun).

Kids, usually from white trash families get a thrill from scaring the shit out of anyone who’s stupid enough to open the door - and if you decide not to answer the doorbell, you never know what might happen to your house. A friend of mine told me that some little brats put an opened egg into his letterbox, whilst his neighbour had a brick thrown through his front (glass) door.

I have gone to the lengths of removing the batteries from the doorbell and switched the porch light off. Despite this, I still heard some little brats telling each other that they “heard someone was there” when they approached my front door. I felt my heart miss a beat, at the fear of what they might decide to do.

I know that Halloween is meant to be about ghosts and goblins, but somehow, I never imagined that it would lead to an evening of genuine discomfort for the individuals who choose not to participate in this “celebration”.

Happy Halloween to our American Cousins. With all the spooking and witching, I still wish I was in your country this evening, instead of mine.

They're Back!

We arrived in Heathrow last night at around 8.30 local time.

After surviving (and I do not use the word lightly) a day at school, I am starting to seriously wonder whether I went away at all. My mind is definitely about 24 hours out of sync with the rest of me.

G-d bless Mondays.

Hurricane Wilma

Friday, 28 October 2005

Friday in Manhatten

This was the day I'd been really looking forward to - sharing Wondrous Manhatten with my eldest daughter.

We started off by going down to Battery Park (West Ferry) to see the Statue of Liberty. We ended up seeing quite a few of them! The real one however stood as gallant as ever, welcoming the world to this incredible country.

As Emma Lazarus famously writes (and this is inscribed on Lady Liberty herself):

"...Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Back on the Subway at the Staten Island Ferry station to 59th Street (#1 line). We got out at Columbus Circle and made our way to 59th Street and 5th via a lovely walk in Central Park to F.A.O. Schwartz (where else) - Dassi was truly enraptured...but not as much as when I took her around Tiffany's. The expression on her face - the wonder she exhibited whilst looking at the unearthly gems is already etched into the depths of my memory. To be there with her as she looked in increasing disbelief at each gemstone was to be at the dawn of creation. I have never been more in awe at being a parent.

The rest of the day pales in comparison. Lunch at Jerusalem 2 Pizza Parlour on 6th and Broadway, capped with the necessary spending at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square (and this was after I put back three DVD's too!) and a quick dash to Penn Station for the 3:03 back to Woodmere (via Jamaica).

I appreciate that the above description will make no sense at all to anyone who's never visited Manhatten. If however you have, I hope you've shared our journey and added some of your own memories of the island.

I've showed Dassi my little corner of New York.

Now, it's time to go home.

Thursday, 27 October 2005

My First USA Posting!

Greetings from Woodmere, Long Island ("or Lon Guyland" as pronounced by the Natives), NY.

We've had a fantastic time so far. We arrived on Sunday at JFK and were met by a cousin and then my parents. We went to the Woodbridge Beth Israel Cemetary to visit my Grandmother's newly erected tombstone, as well as pay respects to other members of the family.


The strangest thing happened when I was standing next to my beloved grandfather's grave. I was talking to him, when suddenly the sun appeared from nowhere and lit up the stone. I knew that there and then, he had answered me and we were one. It was an incredible moment which I shall never forget.

Dassi lightened the mood somewhat by going around, taking photographs of the families' stones and crowning the moment with a classic line: "I never knew that so much of our family tree was underground!"

We made our way to the Catskills mountains, staying in a resort called the Kutshers Country Club situated near Monticello. I have never seen the like of such a place - it was the size of a small country! We were fed incessantly, to the extent that I spent as much time as I could avoiding the mile long walk to the restaurant (Ok, I am exaggerating, but just a little).

Dassi made some new friends and had a grand time. I also met some really lovely people and we sat talking and shmoozing for most of the time. My only gripe was that the weather was a little cold but I suppose I shouldn't complain since we were in the mountains.

The drive down to NY was delightful, with the trees brimming in their full Fall spleandour, showing off colours I couldn't possibly try to describe. We passed places with names that are etched into my subconscious - West Point, Bethel (where Woodstock 1969 took place), Moncey and Yonkers.

And now, here we are in Woodmere and I type this whilst staying in the house of an old friend of my mother's, looking through the window at one such tree. Dassi is wide eyed and open mouthed, totally overwhelmed by what she's seen over the last four or so days. I can't believe that we've only been here since Sunday because it feels as though I've spent my entire life living in the States!

This is truly an incredible country and my love for everything American has only grown into genuine adoration. If my wife and kids were here right now, this would truly be paradise.

G-d bless America, land that I love. I wish I didn't have to leave!

Saturday, 22 October 2005

The Things We Do For Family

Without going into the reasons behind this “interesting” activity, yesterday evening, I had no option but to walk from my parents house to my home. I walked five miles and it took 90 minutes.

This evening, I drove along the same route.

I was home in 16 minutes.

Tomorrow morning, I will be flying to New York and the journey should take seven hours. Maybe next time, I’ll time myself to see how long it takes to swim it.

Thursday, 20 October 2005

In Case You Were Wondering...

Before you start holding victory celebrations, let me reassure you that I have not abandoned the blog – far from it. As many of you will be aware, our Nation has been blessed (is that the correct term?) with a glut of festivals that have been falling on weekdays over the last three weeks. Hence, I am finding very little time to both plan for school and indulge in my blog writing.

Added to this, I am on the verge of visiting the USA for a week. For those of you who are New Yorkers, please look up at the sky at around 10 am on Sunday morning as you might spot my American Airlines flight on it's way to JFK. If you do see my plane, please wave and I’ll make every effort to reciprocate.

On a more mundane note, I went back to school today and the kids were pretty horrendous (in a hyperactive sort of way), granted that they break up for the half-term holiday tomorrow but I don’t care because in three days…. hee hee hee hee!

Sunday, 16 October 2005

Teaching IT - Without IT

This is going to be an interesting teaching week. The network is down and the kids won’t be able to print, save work or use the internet.

I’m so glad I teach IT at times like these. Does anyone want me to give any maths lessons? (at least then, I’ll actually be teaching).

The Reluctant Handyman

Yesterday morning, I was sitting in the living room when I heard a ghastly sound emanating from the kitchen. I rushed in to see water pouring through the roof, gushing over the light in the utility room.

I rushed upstairs shouting like a madman and found the bathroom sink overflowing, blocked with tissue paper. The water was seeping into the floor above the kitchen. I emptied the sink, dried up the water and hoped from the best.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the light was making a fizzing sound. We switched if off and waited until after the end of Shabbat to sort things out. We didn’t have to wait that long. By the afternoon, one of the fuses had shorted and the situation did not look too good….

The guilty party?  Who do you think it could be?

I’ll give you a clue. She’s very short, charming and deadly. She’s also two years old.

Shira is the Queen of Mischief. She is adorable, edible and extraordinarily dangerous.

Something had to be done.

I decided that I had to put bolts on the two toilets and bathroom (let’s say that this is not the first time Mademoiselle has used these places to concoct her evil machinations) so this morning I went to the local warehouse and invested in some brass devices.

You may be surprised to read that when I was considered a career, I was never
faced with the option of either becoming a teacher or a handyman. I’d like to think that I’m a good teacher but a crap handyman and the evidence for this lies in the fact that I used my drill for the first time this year.

To cut a long story short, the bolts are up and working and I fully expect them to last about two weeks after which, I will knock on the door of my next door neighbour who is a builder and ask him to do the job properly.

As for Shira, I fear for the next bit of “fun” she decides to concoct. One thing I do know is that my drill will not see the light of day until the end of 2006.

…not if I’ve got anything to do with it.