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

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.