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

Thursday, 29 September 2005

Oops!

I’ve just found out that one of the Year 7 girls I’ve been teaching for almost a month is actually a boy.

I hasten to add that I didn’t carry a physical check to establish this fact, the clarification came out through a conversation I was having with other teachers. They had also mistaken him for a her (one teacher had even referred to him as a “she” when talking to the other students and he was not in the slightest bit amused)

I think he/she needs to cut his/her very long hair if he/she wants to avoid being seriously emotionally screwed up by all the teasing he/she will endure as the other kids also start wondering what gender he/she is.

I expect him/her to look very different in a short while. Then again, maybe not…

Mr Dry Bones

What an honour! If you read the comment from my last post, you will see that it has been posted by Yaakov Kirschen, creator and illustrator of the superb Dry Bones cartoon strip which I wrote about a short while back.

In deference to Mr Kirschen’s request, I have added his wonderful new blog to my list (in the left hand column). This site truly spoils us (i.e. the fans) by providing new and old cartoons five days a week as well as giving a background to each strip. If you wish to visit his own website, please click here.

Thank you Mr Dry Bones!

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Drive My Car

For the first time in almost a decade, I am now in possession of my very own car. This evening, the deal went through and I can’t begin to describe how easier my life has just become.

I will no longer be enslaved to the bus timetable. My school is but a 10 minute drive from my house, yet the bus incredibly adds 50 minutes to the journey time.  The pressure of getting out of the house earlier than I needed to, to catch the bus that often either came early or didn’t come at all was really start to grind me down. I also had the “pleasure” of having to sit next to the students I would be teaching later on in the day. At 8.00 a.m. I really didn’t feel like coming into contact with some of them! It also meant that I came home from school far later than I should have.

Anyway, I now have a car. It’s no great shakes but it will get me from a to b and that’s all I need it for.

Suddenly, both school and home life have become a touch less stressful.

Now I'm A Maths Teacher!

Over the last two days, I have found myself in the interesting position of covering lessons for other teachers. Yesterday, I had to give a Drama Lesson, which wasn’t too bad as the kids were pretty much able to work out what to do for themselves. Today’s experience though was very different.

Cover work should consist of me entering a classroom carrying some worksheets prepared by the absent teacher. I then give these out to the kids and spend the rest of the time managing behaviour and ensuring that they are getting on with the tasks therein.

However, the teacher I was covering today had different ideas. He decided that anyone who took his lesson would actually teach his subject. So I found myself teaching a maths lesson, despite the fact that if I said I was poor at maths, I’d be seriously exaggerating. I positively stink at maths.

I found myself standing in front of a class having to teach Pythagoras’s Theorum, despite the fact that I haven’t looked at it since the mid 1980’s…and only then under considerable duress. I bet you’re a maths whiz aren’t you and you’re mouthing “Pythogoras’s Theorum?  Why it’s child’s play!”

Well, here’s a little clue, I don’t think it is. In fact, I couldn’t even remember how it worked. Give me a spreadsheet, database, even HTML and I’m smiling. Give me the Theorum and severe nausea sets in. The kids weren’t the brightest, I’ll grant you but they knew more than I did and I can’t remember the last time I‘ve felt so humiliated.

I muddled through the lesson, managed to prove that I knew some more maths than they did (when I showed one student how to multiply two decimals) and felt deep antipathy towards the very genial teacher who caused me to be stuck me in front of a maths class teaching his subject.  I know that I would never do the same to someone else but have the awful feeling that by the time I reach next September, I will probably have given lessons in every subject under the sun – whether or not I have a clue about what I’m teaching the poor kids in those classes.

I guess this means that I’m finally a “real” teacher.

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Tears For My Fellow Professionals

As someone who spends his life in the classroom, I can’t begin to imagine what was going through the minds of these “people” and why they could even contemplate doing what they did.


“September 27, 2005

The London Times

Gunmen dressed as police kill five Shia teachers in classroom From Anthony Loyd in Baghdad

GUNMEN in police uniforms shot dead five Shia teachers at a primary school south of Baghdad yesterday.

The killers waited until pupils and teachers were leaving the school in Meulha, a village near the town of Iskandariyah, at the end of the day and seized them from a minibus.

The five male teachers and minibus driver were then taken to a classroom, lined up against the wall and shot. “These men were terrorists in uniform,” an Iraqi police spokesman said.

Iskandariyah, 30 miles from the Iraqi capital, is a predominantly Sunni town in an area that has become known as the triangle of death because of the sectarian killings there.

Violence between the three principal Iraqi communities is intensifying in the run-up to the referendum on the draft constitution on October 15….”

Forget the politics. These were teachers. TEACHERS for G-d’s sake - individuals whose lives are dedicated to giving young people the basic skills the need to read, write, socialise and get somewhere – anywhere in life.

I sometimes wake up and wonder why some “people” were created in the first place. What is the point of their very existence, if is to carry out such a indescribable act of slaughter and leave so many others bereft of their presence and talents?

It is very depressing indeed.

Monday, 26 September 2005

Medical Update

Well, most of the family seems to be on the mend. Tali, though at home today, will be back in school tomorrow and I’m definitely over it. Unfortunately, Dana isn’t quite there yet. Hopefully, I’ll have some better news tomorrow night.

Sunday, 25 September 2005

A Family That's Sick Together...

There’s a vicious little stomach bug making its way through the lengths and breadths of our household. Shira was the first to bring this unwelcome (and uninvited) visitor into the family. I came down with it yesterday and now poor Dana and Tali are stricken. All we need are Dassi and Michal to get it and then we can finally return to being a fully functional (and healthy) nuclear entity.

Saturday, 24 September 2005

In This Week's Jewish Chronicle Newspaper




To my surprise, the Jewish Chronicle decided to print my letter. I guess I should have a little a little more faith in my letter writing abilities.

For the record, I performed a little computer jiggery pokery for this site, to shorten my name to my initials. This was done to protect the innocent (me!)

The title (which I don't like at all) was the newspaper's. I feel that it totally de-means what I was trying to get across.

Thursday, 22 September 2005

This Is War!

If you’d walked into any of my lessons in the last two days, you might be excused for wondering if you’d wondered in the middle of a war zone. The final straw for me was my last lesson on Tuesday with the Year 8’s who were obnoxious from the moment they darkened the hall in front of my room. This lesson was the stuff of teaching nightmares, to the extent that I had almost half the class staying after school for half an hour.

I subsequently decided to re-enter Zero Tolerance mode and I’ve been an absolute shit to all my classes since then. To my delight, I seem to have got them actually learning something (whilst simultaneously getting rid of the students who were pissing me off with their atrocious behaviour).

Today, one of my Year 9 classes refused to settle down, to the extent that I told them what a stubborn sonofabitch I was (I hasten to add that I didn’t use those exact terms) and whether they liked it or not, I wasn’t going to let them go to lunch until I had taught my lesson. They didn’t like it, but I honestly couldn’t care less. I got them to answer my questions and prove to me that some had a clue about the spreadsheet formulae I had been ramming down their throats for the previous ninety minutes.

The result of this aggressive behaviour on my part has been that I’m absolutely exhausted. I am hoping that my toughness will have had some effect, so that next week, I can threaten them that I’ll do exactly the same thing to them again if they continue to mess with me.

The biggest compliment (well, I think it’s compliment) came from another teacher who, when teaching one of the Year 7 classes I take, asked them to list their five most frightening experiences – and they listed attending my lessons as being one of them. I’m not sure whether fear and learning work that well together, but if they are shit-scared to move a muscle, they have no option but to get on with the work I teach them.

From keeping my ears peeled to the ground, I think I’ve established a bit of a reputation in the school for being strict and this is something I’m pretty happy with. Better a teacher who’s a bastard but gets work out of them, than a walkover whom the kids make fun of.

I know that I’ll have to soften up soon, if only to stop myself imploding.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Justice Not Vengeance.

Simon Wiesenthal, who passed away at the age of 96, may not have been the easiest person to like, but without a doubt, he must be the easiest person to respect.

How could one not be in total awe of someone whose life after coming out of Mauthausan Concentration Camp weighing a paltry 100 lbs, was singly dedicated to one aim and one aim only – capturing Nazis?

This incredible individual felt the need to avenge the deaths of six million of our brothers, not by lowering himself to the unimaginable standards of the perpetrators, but by bringing them to justice – and thereby providing a testimony for time immemorial of what really happened to the Jews and others in the years between 1933 and 1945.

I think the term Nazi Hunter belittles what Simon Wiesenthal’s real role was. He was rather the ultimate “Pursuer of Justice” and the one person who can claim to have done more than anyone else to avenge the deaths of one third of our brethren.

He was responsible for the capture over a thousand Nazi’s and lived to the age of 96, only to die peacefully in his sleep.

May the souls of the people he fought for, embrace his very special soul and accompany it into the Garden of Eden.

They owe him that.

Monday, 19 September 2005

Inspirational

The photographs below demonstrate why the Jewish people are still around after five thousand years.

A volunteer went into a flooded Synagogue in New Orleans and rescued the Torah Scrolls from the rising waters.

Despite everything that happens to us, we always do what we can to save our most important possession – The Torah. We believe that this is our most treasured gift from G-d and nothing - neither fire nor water will ever separate us.








The ancient rabbis said that rather it being a case of the Jews maintaining the (laws of) the Torah, it is in fact the Torah that maintains (and ensures the survival of) the Jews.

Sunday, 18 September 2005

Prime Minister Sharon's Speech To The UN General Assembly - September 15 2005

My friends and colleagues, heads and representatives of the UN member states, I arrived here from Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, and the undivided and eternal capital of the State of Israel.

At the outset, I would like to express the profound feelings of empathy of the people of Israel for the American nation, and our sincere condolences to the families who lost their loved ones. I wish to encourage my friend, President George Bush, and the American people, in their determined efforts to assist the victims of the hurricane and rebuild the ruins after the destruction. The State of Israel, which the United States stood beside at times of trial, is ready to extend any assistance at its disposal in this immense humanitarian mission.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I stand before you at the gate of nations as a Jew and as a citizen of the democratic, free and sovereign State of Israel, a proud representative of an ancient people, whose numbers are few, but whose contribution to civilization and to the values of ethics, justice and faith, surrounds the world and encompasses history. The Jewish people have a long memory, the memory which united the exiles of Israel for thousands of years: a memory which has its origin in G-d’s commandment to our forefather Abraham: “Go forth!” and continued with the receiving of the Torah at the foot of Mount Sinai and the wanderings of the children of Israel in the desert, led by Moses on their journey to the promised land, the land of Israel.

I was born in the Land of Israel, the son of pioneers - people who tilled the land and sought no fights - who did not come to Israel to dispossess its residents. If the circumstances had not demanded it, I would not have become a soldier, but rather a farmer and agriculturist. My first love was, and remains, manual labor; sowing and harvesting, the pastures, the flock and the cattle.

I, as someone whose path of life led him to be a fighter and commander in all Israel’s wars, reaches out today to our Palestinian neighbors in a call for reconciliation and compromise to end the bloody conflict, and embark on the path which leads to peace and understanding between our peoples. I view this as my calling and my primary mission for the coming years.

The land of Israel is precious to me, precious to us, the Jewish people, more than anything. Relinquishing any part of our forefathers’ legacy is heartbreaking, as difficult as the parting of the Red Sea. Every inch of land, every hill and valley, every stream and rock, is saturated with Jewish history, replete with memories. The continuity of Jewish presence in the Land of Israel never ceased. Even those of us who were exiled from our land, against their will, to the ends of the earth - their souls, for all generations, remained connected to their homeland, by thousands of hidden threads of yearning and love, expressed three times a day in prayer and songs of longing.

The Land of Israel is the open Bible, the written testimony, the identity and right of the Jewish people. Under its skies, the prophets of Israel expressed their claims for social justice, and their eternal vision for alliances between peoples, in a world which would know no more war. Its cities, villages, vistas, ridges, deserts and plains preserve as loyal witnesses its ancient Hebrew names. Page after page, our unique land is unfurled, and at its heart is united Jerusalem, the city of the Temple upon Mount Moriah, the axis of the life of the Jewish people throughout all generations, and the seat of its yearnings and prayers for 3,000 years. The city to which we pledged an eternal vow of faithfulness, which forever beats in every Jewish heart: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning!”

I say these things to you because they are the essence of my Jewish consciousness, and of my belief in the eternal and unimpeachable right of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel. However, I say this here also to emphasize the immensity of the pain I feel deep in my heart at the recognition that we have to make concessions for the sake of peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors.

The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.

This week, the last Israeli soldier left the Gaza Strip, and military law there was ended. The State of Israel proved that it is ready to make painful concessions in order to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. The decision to disengage was very difficult for me, and involves a heavy personal price. However, it is the absolute recognition that it is the right path for the future of Israel that guided me. Israeli society is undergoing a difficult crisis as a result of the Disengagement, and now needs to heal the rifts.

Now it is the Palestinians’ turn to prove their desire for peace. The end of Israeli control over and responsibility for the Gaza Strip allows the Palestinians, if they so wish, to develop their economy and build a peace-seeking society, which is developed, free, law-abiding, transparent, and which adheres to democratic principles. The most important test the Palestinian leadership will face is in fulfilling their commitment to put an end to terror and its infrastructures, eliminate the anarchic regime of armed gangs, and cease the incitement and indoctrination of hatred towards Israel and the Jews.

Until they do so - Israel will know how to defend itself from the horrors of terrorism. This is why we built the Security Fence, and we will continue to build it until it is completed, as would any other country defending its citizens. The Security Fence prevents terrorists and murderers from arriving in city centers on a daily basis and targeting citizens on their way to work, children on their way to school and families sitting together in restaurants. This Fence is vitally indispensable. This Fence saves lives!

The successful implementation of the Disengagement Plan opens up a window of opportunity for advancing towards peace, in accordance with the sequence of the Roadmap. The State of Israel is committed to the Roadmap and to the implementation of the Sharm El-Sheikh understandings. And I hope that it will be possible, through them, to renew the political process.

I am among those who believe that it is possible to reach a fair compromise and coexistence in good neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs. However, I must emphasize one fact: there will be no compromise on the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, with defensible borders, in full security and without threats and terror.

I call on the Palestinian leadership to show determination and leadership, and to eliminate terror, violence and the culture of hatred from our relations. I am certain that it is in our power to present our peoples with a new and promising horizon, a horizon of hope.

Distinguished representatives,

As I mentioned, the Jewish people have a long memory. We remember events which took place thousands of years ago, and certainly remember events which took place in this hall during the last 60 years. The Jewish people remember the dramatic vote in the UN Assembly on November 29, 1947, when representatives of the nations recognized our right to national revival in our historic homeland. However, we also remember dozens of harsh and unjust decisions made by United Nations over the years. And we know that, even today, there are those who sit here as representatives of a country whose leadership calls to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, and no one speaks out.

The attempts of that country to arm itself with nuclear weapons must disturb the sleep of anyone who desires peace and stability in the Middle East and the entire world. The combination of murky fundamentalism and support of terrorist organizations creates a serious threat that every member nation in the UN must stand against.

I hope that the comprehensive reforms which the United Nations is undergoing in its 60th anniversary year will include a fundamental change and improvement in the approach of the United Nations, its organizations and institutions, towards the State of Israel.

My fellow colleagues and representatives,

Peace is a supreme value in the Jewish legacy, and is the desired goal of our policy. After the long journey of wanderings and the hardships of the Jewish people; after the Holocaust which obliterated one third of our people; after the long and arduous struggle for revival; after more than 57 consecutive years of war and terror which did not stop the development of the State of Israel; after all this - our heart’s desire was and remains to achieve peace with our neighbors. Our desire for peace is strong enough to ensure that we will achieve it, only if our neighbors are genuine partners in this longed-for goal. If we succeed in working together, we can transform our plot of land, which is dear to both peoples, from a land of contention to a land of peace - for our children and grandchildren.

In a few days time on the Hebrew calendar, the New Year will begin, the
5,766th year since the Creation. According to Jewish belief, the fates of people and nations are determined at the New Year by the Creator - to be spared or to be doomed. May the Holy One, blessed be He, determine that this year, our fate and the fate of our neighbors is peace, mutual respect and good neighborly relations.

From this distinguished podium, on behalf of the people of Israel, I wish all the people of the world a happy New Year.

Shana Tova!

Joke

 
Scott took his blind date to the carnival. "What would you like to
do first, Mary?" asked Scott. "I want to get weighed," she said. They ambled over to the weight guesser. He guessed 120 pounds. She got on the scale, it read 117 and she won a prize.
 
Next the couple went on the Ferris wheel. When the ride was over, Scott again asked Mary what she would like to do. "I want to get weighed," she said. Back to the weight guesser they went. Since they had been there before, he guessed her correct weight, and Scott lost his dollar.

The couple walked around the carnival and again he asked where to go next. "I want to get weighed," she responded. By this time, Scott figured she was really weird and took her home early, dropping her off with a handshake.
 
Her roommate, Laura, asked her about the blind date, "How'd it go?"Mary responded, "Oh, Waura, it was wousy."

The Big Mistake II

The weekly Jewish Chronicle newspaper wrote an editorial criticizing Sharon for handing the Synagogues over to the Palestinians, in the knowledge that they would behave as they eventually did. It continued by saying that the ministers in his cabinet chose not to go ahead with the destruction due to a popular feeling against this action. They said that Sharon should have taken a “more considered, responsible decision”. I was incensed and have written this letter, although I doubt it will be published:

“Dear Sir,
 
I was most disheartened to read your editorial regarding Sharon's decision to leave the Gaza Synagogues intact.
 
You write that 'the ministers from his party preferred to ride the tiger of populism, rather than take a more considered, responsible position' regarding the destruction of the buildings.

I would rather infer that Mr Sharon realised (or was made to realise) that if Jews started destroying their own places of worship, regardless of whether or not they contained religious artefacts, some hostile groups may use this as justification to carry out similar attacks around the world.
 
The fact that the 'rampaging mobs' acted in the way they did, does not mean Mr Sharon should be criticised for choosing to take a moral stance vis a vis the Synagogues. Had the Palestinian Authority chosen to act responsibly, they might have instead suggested converting the extremely well constructed buildings into Mosques, Madras's, libraries or clinics and in this way, the rebirth of Gaza as a Palestinian territory would have signalled a willingness to consecrate buildings instead of desecrating them.”

Saturday, 17 September 2005

The Big Mistake

It was a decision that none of us should ever have to face.

Israel had left Gaza and emptied the Synagogues of all religious artefacts but for whatever reasons, chose to not to dismantle and re-situate the buildings inside the Green Line.

What to do next?

Ariel Sharon initially wanted to destroy them, to avoid the inevitable desecration by the Palestinians. A cursory glance at history told him that some Arabs do not respect our places of worship. A case in point was the destruction and desecration of numerous Synagogues in Jerusalem between 1948 and ’67 by the Jordanian Army. They had even taken gravestones from the Mount of Olives and turned them into a walkway.

Destruction seemed to be the only option.

Fortunately, Mr Sharon listened to the arguments put forward by the members of the international Jewish community who stated quite rightly that “if the Jews destroy their own Synagogues (in Gaza), how can they complain when anti-Semites in other countries go about doing the same thing?” In short, destroying Synagogues, regardless of their content goes against every ideal that we hold dear. Think about it. Had the Nazis destroyed only empty synagogues on Kristallnacht, would we have been any less traumatised?

So he took the decision to leave the fate of those twenty one synagogues to the Palestinians. Surprise surprise, when they walked in, they immediately set about desecrating and destroying our former places of worship (and as an aside, I don’t know of a single case where the Israelis ever desecrated a Mosque or Church that they took over – we just don’t do things like that) with a ferociousness that shocked every one of us who saw the pictures.

That some of the Palestinians showed themselves up to be the racist savages that they truly are, on the international stage is really no consolation, nor is the fact that the Palestinian Authority felt the need to raze the Synagogues “to avoid further desecration”.

I believe that the whole messy business could have been avoided had some positive and constructive thinking existed within the minds of the Palestinian leadership.

Yes, to the Palestinians, the Synagogues represented the hateful Jewish occupation. But then again, these monuments had in fact been places of worship. So, why couldn’t someone have put forward the idea of using these extremely well constructed buildings to house new edifices such as Mosques, clinics or schools?

Why not promote the idea that a house of G-d – the very same Deity respected by Judaism, Islam and Christianity – could be used as a tool to build the future Palestinians State?

Why not build instead of destroy?
Why not consecrate instead of desecrate?

I truly believe that the Palestinians actions, in destroying these special buildings will return to haunt them. If they really want to establish a responsible, peaceful and democratic State, the last thing they should be doing is disrespecting the buildings that are deemed as being Holy to another religion.

In short, if you treat G-d with disrespect, don’t be surprised if He takes every dream you have (of conquering that land) and throws it back in your face. The Palestinians who burned and hacked away at our Synagogues will get their just desserts.

In the Bible, Numbers 13:22, the Spies (from ten of the tribes) who scouted out the Land of Israel said “'The land, through which we have passed to spy it out, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof” and I predict, without a doubt, that Gaza will indeed eat up her current inhabitants, only this time, none of them will be amongst my brethren.

Divine Retribution will take place because it always has.

Friday, 16 September 2005

The Teaching Codes

This is the way I see it:

Teaching is made up of a series of codes that need to be unlocked to ensure survival in the classroom.

The first of these is learning the kids’ names and I think I’ve nearly cracked that one. I don’t know every child’s name, but I feel confident that I can match at least 20% of names to faces in each class. This one should be in the bag by half term (he says naively)

Code #2 however is proving to be far trickier. In short, I need to get the seating sorted out. This will be achieved by trial and error – working out whom should be sitting next to whom, or not for that matter; where to seat the disruptive or weaker kids and finally, which places in the classroom are danger zones – i.e. the parts of the room where mischief will be more prevalent (such as corners or areas that extend beyond my eye-line) and where I should instead sit the kids whom I can trust to get on with their work independently.

I have discovered that putting together a successful seating plan is nothing short of an art-form. I’ve even had to resort to asking other teachers where they seat the same students in their classes.  There are so many pitfalls to keep in mind that you need to seat and re-seat the kids until you are absolutely sure you’ve got it right, otherwise they will continue to disrupt/fight/avoid working whilst you watch your lesson turning into a mini-Iraq.

I’ve only discovered two codes so far.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 15 September 2005

For Rachael...


My good friend Rachael (you are my friend aren’t you Rachael?) asked me to clarify how the schooling system works in the UK.

So here goes:

Kids start nursery between the ages of 3 and 4. They then go into Reception, Year 1 and so on.

The classes I teach constitute these ages:

Year 7………..11-12
Year 8………..12-13
Year 9………..13-14
Year 10………14-15

Year 11………15-16
Year 12………16-17
Year 13………17-18


The cut-off date is 31st August. Shira, who is born on this date will therefore be the youngest in her class. Had she waited about eight hours to pop out, she could have been the oldest!

Rachael, I hope this clears things up!

That Blank Look

Are you alone?
Are you reading this carefully?
I have a confession to make (shhhhhhhhhhhhhh  don’t tell anyone)

In my last post, I ever so slightly exaggerated the amount of time I have to wait until I get to see my next holiday. I mischievously wrote that I won’t be getting a break for another three months. This is, in fact, a downright lie because in just over a month, I’m going with Dassi and my parents to the US for a whole week.

Let me let myself (slightly) off the hook by telling you that it seems as though the holiday is three months away (you’re not convinced are you? I can feel it from your cold stare).

Another tough day at school didn’t help and I was observed once again - I think I gave a totally crap lesson.  The kids in Year 9 were pretty unruly and I could clearly see that dreaded “blank look” covering their little faces as I tried to explain the concept of using a formula in Excel, to carry out a straightforward calculation - the glazed, pained and frankly bored expression of kids who don’t want to think of the “M” word when they walk into a computer room (I’ll give you a clue, it begins with Maths).

I gave the same lesson again to the next class and they seemed to get it. Let’s not fool ourselves though - by next week, both the concepts and the lesson will be but a distant memory in their ever-expanding minds.

Days like these don’t inspire me to teach but then again, if the little darlings did understand concepts first time around, I’d probably run out of things to teach them. My day improved somewhat when I taught the Year 7’s (so little and cute!) how to use Publisher to create a poster about Health and Safety. At least they seemed to comprehend something I was teaching them….(groan groan groan moan moan moan).

Tomorrow is a training day, which comes just at the right time. I need a few days away from the kids to re-enthuse myself.

I love teaching, but by Thursday night, I’m happy to face the weekend in the company of adults – which is interesting, because the average age in our household is 5.

Kids. Don’t you just love ‘em?

Wednesday, 14 September 2005

End Of The Honeymoon

The air in my room has definitely turned quite chilly in the last few days. I don’t feel last week’s warm breeze, the one wafting through the air, over the computer tops towards the front of the room. The Autumn chill is making itself comfortable as is the realisation that it’s three months till the next major holiday.

School’s back in session and it’s going to be a long, hard slog.

Classes that I held sway over so confidently last week are starting the inevitable rebellion, leaving me feeling both frustrated and exhausted.

Yesterday, the headmaster came up to help me sort out my Year 8’s (a horrendous class by anybody’s standard). Today, my Year 9’s tested my patience, to the extent that I ended up telling one annoying student that I would be making his life ‘a misery’ (in other words, I’m turning into one of our hated teachers of old).

Two rotten classes on consecutive days and Thursday hasn’t even arrived yet.

On the positive side, I did give a good lesson to Year 10, so I shouldn’t really complain and Friday will be a training day (i.e. no teaching) and that is something to celebrate – in a strange sort of way.

It’s midweek and the weekend is on it’s way. I love teaching and get a buzz out of each and every day. Unfortunately, sometimes I find that “buzz” a little overwhelming.

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Have A Look

I found this quite moving.

Monday, 12 September 2005

Mere Coincidence?

There follows some striking similarities between the Gaza disengagement and Hurricane Katrina. You decide if these are mere coincidences.

- Close to 10,000 Jews were expelled from their homes in the Gaza Strip and parts of northern Samaria. Katrina's death toll is now expected to reach at least 10,000.

- America 's population ratio to Israel is about 50:1. Ten thousand Jews who lost their Gaza homes is the equivalent of about 500,000 Americans who are now reported to be displaced as result of Katrina.

- Gaza's Jewish communities were located in Israel 's southern coastal region; America 's southern coastal region now lies in ruins.

- The U.S. government called on Louisiana residents to evacuate their homes ahead of the storm. The Israeli government, backed by statements from U.S. officials, demanded Gaza residents evacuate their homes.

- Katrina, written in Hebrew, has a numerical equivalent of 374, according to a biblical numbering system upheld by all traditional Jewish authorities. Two relevant passages in the Torah share the exact numerical equivalent: "They have done you evil" (Gen. 50:17) and "The sea upon land" (Exodus 14:15 ).

- Bush, from Texas and Rice, from Alabama, were the most vocal U.S.backers of the Gaza evacuation. Hurricane Katrina hit the states in between Texas and Alabama – Louisiana and Mississippi.


- Similarity in scenes: Many residents of Jewish Gaza climbed to their rooftops to escape the threat of expulsion, while residents of the Gulf Coast climbed on their own rooftops to protect themselves from the rising waters.

- Jewish Gaza homes described as beautiful and charming were demolished this week by Israel 's military. Once beautiful homes in New Orleans now lie in ruins.

- The day Katrina hit, Israel began carrying out what was termed the most controversial aspect of the Gaza withdrawal – the uprooting of bodies from the area's Jewish cemetery. There have been media reports of corpses floating around in flooded New Orleans regions.

- Citizens of Israel were barred from entering Gush Katif; people were only allowed to leave Jewish Gaza. As Katrina was making landfall U.S.authorities barred citizens from entering the affected areas. People were only allowed out.

- Gush Katif was an important agricultural area for Israel , providing the Jewish state with 70 percent of its produce. A New Orleans port that exported much of the Midwest's agricultural production was destroyed by Katrina.


Mere coincidences?

Sunday, 11 September 2005

Marnie And Me

Have you ever seen the Hitchcock’s Marnie? It’s not one of his better known movies, but I think it is, without a doubt, one of his most fascinating studies.

Marnie (played by Tippi Hedren) is a thief who goes bonkers whenever she sees the colour red . I won’t give away any spoilers but keep this idea in mind, as you try to decipher why I have a similar crazed reaction whenever one (or more) of my kids scream/s too near to my ears.

I’m NOT saying that the screaming gets me into the kind of frenzy that would make me do something stupid, but it really winds me up – in a way that I get very nervous and edgy, a feeling that can last for up to half an hour after the event.

I can’t understand why this should be the case. What trigger could it be from my childhood? Thinking about it, I did grow up an only child and so am unused to very loud noises, but why should screaming act as a trigger to make me feel so very uncomfortable?

Any Freud’s out there, I’d be fascinated to hear your explanation. Is psychosis starting to set in?

The Fourth Day


Four years on and is the world a safer place?

Whatever the factors that led to the bombing of the WTC, one thing and one thing only matters – innocent men and women were butchered. Children lost their fathers and mothers and the NYFD became an instant legend.

I lost two distant relatives on that horrific day – one in the WTC and the other on the plane that crashed into the field. The heroics exhibited by people like you and me is truly astonishing, whether it be the passengers who tried to overcome the terrorists or the firemen who went into the blazing towers, never to come out alive.

I could write reams about how I feel about the attack, but sometimes, silence is all that is necessary to convey one’s feelings.

G-d bless America and the freedom it stands for and may He give solace to the many thousands of people who will be crying bitterly over the next few days, remembering this excruciatingly painful reminder of the evil that exists in some people minds.

Let us pray that the next three hundred and sixty five days help to ease some of this pain.

Amen.

Saturday, 10 September 2005

I Really Should Be Somewhere Else

Any teacher worth his or her salt will tell you that our work is never really done. Whilst sitting here and blogging I really should be doing something teacher related. The fact that it’s nearly 11 pm on a Saturday night is no obstacle to that either.

I’ve spent the last week dedicating virtually every moment of the days (and parts of the nights) to doing “teacher things” and I’m raring to go into the new week and it’s for this reason that I’ve decided to deliberately pull myself back and cut off from the job.

Yes, I have lessons to plan and yes, I should be doing them now but there’s always tomorrow and in all honesty, I do need the time off to refocus my energy and take a break from it all. Burn-out in this profession is probably more common than in many others. Dana warned me about the “trap” that many teachers fall into, by letting the teaching take over your life and I don’t want to let that happen. I enjoy what I’m doing too much to risk losing it.

I say this now, a week into term and I know that I won’t feel this enthusiastic, two months down the line.

Friday, 9 September 2005

I've Made It

It’s Friday and I’ve made it to the end of the week. To be fair, the kids haven’t been particularly difficult (in the main) although I have had to clamp down on some rowdier elements.

Today, I taught a Year 10 class who thought they could do what they wanted in my classroom. I soon put them right and told them in no uncertain terms that they “don’t want to get on the wrong side of me” and that I strongly advise them not to “mess me about”. You could have heard a pin drop after I’d finished my rant.

It’s moments like that which remind me how satisfying it can be to teach. Needless to say, the rest of the lesson went by extremely smoothly, discipline-wise.

Thursday, 8 September 2005

Qualified Teacher Status

Today, I received my QTS certificate. As of August 1st 2005, I am a qualified teacher.

I can testify to this because I’ve spent this week busting my arse teaching.

Ten Jewberry Muds

To get the full effect, this message should be read out loud. You will understand what 'tenjewberrymuds' means by the end of the conversation.

This has been nominated for the best email of 2005.

The following is a telephone exchange between a hotel guest and room-service at a hotel in Asia, which was recorded and published in the FarEast Economic Review:

Room Service (RS): "Morrin. Roon sirbees."

Guest (G): "Sorry, I thought I dialed room-service."

RS: "Rye..Roon sirbees..morrin! Jewish to oddor sunteen??"

G: "Uh..yes..I'd like some bacon and eggs."

RS: "Ow July den?"

G: "What??"

RS: "Ow July den?...pryed, boyud, poochd?"

G: "Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Sorry, scrambled please."

RS: "Ow July dee baykem? Crease?"

G: "Crisp will be fine."

RS: "Hokay. An Sahn toes?"

G: "What?"

RS: "An toes. July Sahn toes?"

G: "I don't think so."

RS: "No? Judo wan sahn toes??"

G: "I feel really bad about this, but I don't know what 'judo wan sahntoes' means."

RS: "Toes! toes!...Why jew don juan toes? Ow bow Anglish moppin webodder?"

G: "English muffin!! I've got it! You were saying 'Toast.' Fine. Yes,an English muffin will be fine."

RS: "We bodder?"

G: "No...just put the bodder on the side."

RS: "Wad?"

G: "I mean butter...just put it on the side."

RS: "Copy?"

G: "Excuse me?"

RS: "Copy...tea...meel?"

G: "Yes. Coffee, please, and that's all."

RS: "One Minnie. Scramah egg, crease baykem, Anglish moppin we bodder onsigh and copy....rye??"

G: "Whatever you say."

RS: "Tenjewberrymuds."

G: "You're very welcome."

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Seems Like Old Times

Last night’s Sheva Brachot dinner was wonderful. There we were, the gang from ten years ago, sitting and laughing the night away. Dana said she couldn’t believe that nearly all of us were now married parents – it felt as though we’d never changed or aged.

One of the husbands and I provided the music. I got my supadupa Yamaha synthesizer down from the attic, reminded myself how it worked and got some good grooves going whilst my friend dazzled all present with his amazing guitar licks. We made our way through rock ‘n’ roll standards (Johnny B Goode, Blue Suede Shoes), R’n’B, pop (a very fetching Eternal Flame) and Jewish melodies. I also had the chance to play his electric guitar, the first time I’ve picked one up in probably a decade. Man I sounded good!

The downside is that my sleep average didn’t get any higher. Thank G-d I’m home tonight and if I make it past 9.30 awake, I will astound myself as to any stamina that I thought would have evaporated about two days ago. Saying that, my classes have been surprisingly well behaved so far (I probably shouldn’t have written that, let alone thought it) which makes me wonder how soon I will all be hit by the inevitable “storm” as the kids come out of holiday time and realise that they’re stuck with me until next July.

Midweek… and I’m chilled - dog-tired, but chilled nevertheless.

Deja Vu?

I read that Law Enforcement Agencies will be forcing people to abandon their homes, whether or not they want to leave.

Now, why does that sound familiar?

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

The Party Animal

To say that I'm exhausted is an understatement. I've had an average of four hours sleep for the last three night and if that's not bad enough, I've got another Sheva Brachot to ago to this evening. If I make to the dessert, it will be a bloody miracle.

I've also been asked to provide background music. What the unfortunate host does not realise is that I will be playing heavy metal, if only to stay awake.

My colleagues in school think that I'm a party animal.
They couldn't be more wrong.

Veni Vidi Vici

It's over. I've made it through the first day.

The first three lessons went frighteningly well. Period 3 and I had the Year 7 kids in the palm of my hand. I was proud, arrogant and totally unprepared for what happened after lunch, with Year 10 in Period 4.

I was teaching another Year 10 class. I repeated the lesson from period 1 and saw that one of the kids had her head on the desk. I chose to ignore this. Then, another one went down...and another. Damn, they were dropping like flies. So I made the mistake of asking the first if she was feeling alright and did she want to see the nurse?

"I'm bored" came the cutting reply and then I heard the monotonous, droning, monosyllabic sound that I'd heard many times before. I was in a boring lesson, except this time, I was the bore.

I changed tack and got onto the kinasthetic bit. These kids didn't want to hear any more of me - they wanted to do something. Activity underway and not a head on the desk. I have learned a bitter lesson.

This evening, we hosted the sheva brachot and it was lovely. Dana and the Cleaner had gone to great lengths to totally transform our living room and enable over 20 people to sit comfortably therein. It's nearly 1 am and there's still a mess, but I don't care.

Now, I'm the one who's going to put my head down.

Sunday, 4 September 2005

I Must Be Mad...

I’ve got school starting tomorrow and I’m not ready. Dana’s best friend is getting married this afternoon and she’s Maid Of Honour, so I’ve got all four kids at home. We have the dinner tonight and, if things aren’t complicated enough, tomorrow night, we are hosting a Sheva Brachot meal for the married couple - with 20 guests turning up at 7.30...

Movie Review: Spider-Man 2

This review is more than a year late and here's the reason why:

I have always been a fan of comic book movies (and to a lesser degree, the comic books themselves). I remember being taken by my parents to see the first Superman movie, at a showing in the West End. The cinema was huge, but the screen seemed bigger! I remember the titles shooting out of the screen. To a 9 year old kid, it's pretty incredible.

Fast forward to 2002. Dana and I went to see the first Spider-Man movie and came out pretty underwhelmed. Toby McGuire's acting was more wooden than usual, in fact, it was probably non-descript. The special effects, or whatever they were, made me wonder at times whether I was watching a 32 bit video game on a very large VDU and the story was at best, perfunctory. All in all, a major major disappointment. I therefore didn't rush out to see Spider-Man 2. I'd been screwed once, why waste more money on this overblown, paper thin franchise?

I could not have been more wrong. Last night I watched the movie on TV and kicked myself for not seeing in on a large screen. I can't think of words to describe what I think of this film. Magnificent? Glorious? The reason why movies were invented? These pretty much come close to my emotions at the end of the spectacle.

Spider-Man 2 (as you probably know) is a superb movie. The storyline, characterisation, emotional content and special effects are staggering (probably explains why they won an Oscar, hey?). I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat in the scene where the train is going towards the buffers with Spidey doing what he can to stop it (I won't spoil it). I also spent most of the movie with my mouth wide open, frozen in sheer wonder. It's also very funny in places.

I bet I'm the last person in blog-land to have seen this movie, but I don't care. If by any chance you haven't - you must must must see it ASAP. It's not a kid's movie (unless the child is well into his second figures, age-wise ) as it does contain some scary bits.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

In short, this film is amazing!


My Rating

5/5 Fabulous!

Friday, 2 September 2005

Gratitude

Before you read the following, I’d like you to keep one statistic in mind:

The number of American Servicemen who were captured, tortured or killed, trying to free this person's country from Saddam’s clutches, all but fourteen years ago.
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Senior Kuwaiti Official: "Katrina is a Wind of Torment and Evil from Allah Sent to This American Empire" To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=SD97705

In reaction to Hurricane Katrina and the destruction in its wake, a high-ranking Kuwaiti official, Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, who is director of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowment's research center, published an article titled "The Terrorist Katrina is One of the Soldiers of Allah, But Not an Adherent of Al-Qaeda."(1) The article appeared August 31, 2005 in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa.

The following are excerpts from his article: "The Terrorist Katrina is One of the Soldiers of Allah..."

"...As I watched the horrible sights of this wondrous storm, I was reminded of the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah [in the compilations] of Al-Bukhari and Abu Daoud. The Hadith says: 'The wind is of the wind of Allah, it comes from mercy or for the sake of torment. When you see it, do not curse it, [but rather] ask Allah for the good that is in it, and ask Allah for shelter from its evil.' Afterwards, I was [also] reminded of the words of the Prophet Muhammad: 'Do not curse the wind, as it is the fruit of Allah's planning. He who curses something that should not be cursed – the curse will come back to him.'

"When the satellite channels reported on the scope of the terrifying destruction in America [caused by] this wind, I was reminded of the words of [Prophet Muhammad]: 'The wind sends torment to one group of people, and sends mercy to others.' I do not think – and only Allah [really] knows – that this wind, which completely wiped out American cities in these days, is a wind of mercy and blessing. It is almost certain that this is a wind of torment and evil that Allah has sent to this American empire. Out of my absolute belief in the truth of the words of the Prophet Muhammad, this wind is the fruit of the planning [of Allah], as is stated in the text of the Hadith of the Prophet.

"But I began to ask myself: Doesn't this country [the U.S.] claim to aspire to establish justice, freedom, and equality amongst the people? Isn't this country claiming that everything it did in Afghanistan and Iraq was for truth and justice? How can it be that these American claims are untrue, when we see how good prevails in the streets of Afghanistan, and how it became an oasis of security with America's entrance there? How can these American claims in the matter of Iraq be untrue, when we see that Iraq has become the most tranquil and secure country in the world?"

"But how strange it is that after all the tremendous American achievements for the sake of humanity, these mighty winds come and evilly rip [America's] cities to shreds? Have the storms have joined the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization?

"The Disaster Will Keep Striking the Unbelievers for What They Have Done"

"How sad I am for America. Here it is, poor thing, trying with all its might to lower oil prices which have reached heights unprecedented in all history. Along with America's phenomenal efforts to lower the price of oil in order to salvage its declining economy and its currency – that is still falling due to the 'smart' policy America is implementing in the world – comes this storm, the fruit of Allah's planning, so that [the price of] a barrel of oil will increase further still. By Allah, this is not schadenfreude.

"Oh honored gentlemen, I began to read about these winds, and I was surprised to discover that the American websites that are translated [into Arabic] are talking about the fact that that the storm Katrina is the fifth equatorial storm to strike Florida this year... and that a large part of the U.S. is subject every year to many storms that extract [a price of] dead, and completely destroy property. I said, Allah be praised, until when will these successive catastrophes strike them?

"But before I went to sleep, I opened the Koran and began to read in Surat Al-R'ad ['The Thunder' chapter], and stopped at these words [of Allah]: 'The disaster will keep striking the unbelievers for what they have done, or it will strike areas close to their territory, until the promise of Allah comes to pass, for, verily, Allah will not fail in His promise.' [Koran 13:31].

" Endnote: (1) Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), August 31, 2005.

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Funny

I found this very funny.

Monday Looms

It’s official – I’m walking up the bloody wall.

I went into school today for the first “official” day back. As Monday looms, when the kids come in, I am getting more and more anxious. Thank G-d, my Head of Department has offered to write up the first lesson plans for Years 7-10, which means that I only have to work on Year 13’s lesson(s) over the weekend.

We were treated to a lot of first day speeches which, though meant to inspire us, only made me feel more apprehensive. They say that a teacher who smiles before Christmas is very foolish and I’m really starting to believe it.

Saying that, my greatest ally is Dana, the teacher par excellence. She’s giving me all kinds of ideas to put into my lessons. We have been told that “Monday is crucial” and that if we get it wrong, we’re basically screwed for the rest of the year. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t care. I’ll be glad when I get through next week. You’ll all be thinking about me won’t you.

I’m quite looking forward to being a form tutor. I think it will be interesting to interact with the students (if they bother to turn up for registration) and maybe get some good discussions going. I will act as moderator, rather than active participant and will not be launching a Middle East debate! The object of the exercise will lie in getting them to develop their debating and (more importantly) listening skills.

Ok, moving on, can any of you think of good ways I can use to remember my kids’ names? I’ll be teaching classes of nearly 30 and I’m terrible with names. Dana has a good idea which I’m going to use, but I’m open to any other suggestions.
Teachers out there, please share your ideas!

I am awaiting your comments with bated breath.