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

Wednesday, 26 April 2006

When The Expected Became Unexpected

I heard some news today that hit me right between the eyes.

An old friend of mine emailed to tell me that she's getting divorced from her husband. One never really knows what goes on behind closed doors, but still, she was the last person I would have thought of in such a position.

Tragically, there are also children involved and so the situation becomes a whole lot messier and more painful.

What can I say to this person to ease her obvious pain? What are the right words, if any, to give consolation?

We go through life saying that we expect the unexpected, but in all honesty, we climb into our own little cosy corners, get on with our lives and then get a real shock when life hits us with a curve-ball.

To this friend, the divorce is already done and dusted. The rest of us need time to acclimatise to the new reality and hope that the people we care about get the chance to sort their lives out quickly, with as little pain as is humanely possible.

If you are reading this, "X", please know that right now, my heart and prayers are with you.

I apologise for not realising that things had got so bad for you...and for forgetting that the world around my cosy little corner of this planet can be brutal and unforgiving.

Please forgive me for allowing the expected to become so very unexpected. May the good Lord give you every ounce of strength and determination you need to get through this.

Remember, I'll be here for you.

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Some New Additions

Some of the more eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed a few additions to the left hand column (sidebar). I thought it be interesting to make the site as up-to-date as possible, irrespective of whether or not I had decided to post on any particular day, so I have added both the Gregorian date and the corresponding date in the Hebrew Calendar.

I have also added a continuously updated news-feeder which reports the latest developments in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world.

I view this site as representing the person that I am. Yes, I'm a teacher, but at the same time I am also a very proud and practising Jew who holds his religion and of course it's homeland, the State of Israel, at the very heart of his being. I am a Zionist through and through and will always stand up to be counted with my fellow Jews, both in Israel and the Diaspora - hence the strong connection to Israel exhibited on this site.

If you would are interested in finding out more about the Hebrew Calendar, please click here.

An Evening With Nick

Dana and I have just returned from a very enjoyable evening spent in the company of a well known UK Radio presenter called Nick Ferrari. I had bought her tickets for her birthday,as she really enjoys listening to his weekday morning broadcasts on the radio.

The show was ostensibly an excuse for him to plug his new book, of which we bought a copy and had personally signed by the man himself.

For those of you who don't know Nick (we're on personal terms, don't you know), he's a larger than life character who possesses a great sense of humour, a high level of intelligence and a wonderfully rich voice. I listen to his show on almost daily basis, as I drive to work and indeed told him that I found that his frequent comments on the state of education and teaching in this country as "hitting the nail on the head". Dana told him she listens because she likes his voice - he replied that he'd try not to lose it!

We sat there, in a packed auditorium as he regaled us with stories of his experiences in the media and on holiday (including a hilarious story of what happened when he went horse riding in had to be there to appreciate it), in addition to giving his opinions on more weighty issues such as the state of politics in this country and the sorry manner in which pensioners are being treated by a Government that he has little time for.

We saw some of the regular callers to the show (yup, this was bordering a touch on the cultish, but who cares) and had a great laugh when he set up a quiz between two elderly ladies. To be sure, we were one of the younger couples there, but it was a real treat to spend some time in the company of a very charismatic and charming individual.

It was an refreshingly informal and thoroughly enjoyable evening.

If you are interested in listening to his show, you can also catch it on the internet on the aforementioned link.

Monday, 24 April 2006

Business As Usual?

I knew that school would start again eventually, I just didn’t think that I would get used to being back so soon (!)

Like the kids, I didn’t feel much like being back. The good news is that my room has been sorted out and the electricity problem has been fixed. The bad news is that my computer was so affected by the too-ing and fro-ing that it decided to pack up and the technician spent most of the day reinstalling Windows.

Added to my woes, I had an observation of sorts and to be honest, I gave a really shit lesson. He knew it, I knew it and so did the kids. I tried to blame the lack of whiteboard and resources, but we both knew that I was bullshitting. In all honesty, he really shouldn’t have been looking at my teaching on the day I return from a two-week holiday, but then again, who said life was fair? It wasn’t an official observation, so it’s ok and he did help to give me ideas when I have to re-teach the same lesson to three different classes in a row, tomorrow morning.

It is exam week and I did some invigilating for Year 10. I can’t think of anything more boring (it’s definitely up there with watching paint dry). I almost hoped that some kid would be caught cheating – anything to enliven the monotony.

On a different note, tonight and tomorrow is Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) in Israel and therefore by extension, a commemoration observed by Jews around the world.

It is a day of reflection and thought, memory and hope and has extra resonance this year, what with the continued anti-Semitic pronouncements and Holocaust denial by Hamanejad in Iran.

Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Defense Minister stated that a nuclear Iran is the most deadly threat faced by the Jews since Hitler. He’s not wrong. So, let us pray that on this, one of the saddest days in our calendar, we see the demise of this fascist of a man – or at least the beginning of his end.

If he’s still around twelve months from now, we’re all in deep shit.

On a happier note, the days are getting longer and sunshine is starting to permeate through the clouds. It’s the end of one day, but the beginning of the next. You have to be positive, irrespective of everything out there that tries to get you down.

You have to remain positive.


Sunday, 23 April 2006

1492 And All That

There are some events in your life that you never forget. You know, those special moments that will never, ever be repeated.

I had one of those today.

Dana brought home a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. I must be one of the few people on the planet who had not hitherto tried one of these foodstuffs. Having satisfied myself that they were kosher (something that Dana had checked before – but I’m a stubborn bastard)…I took a bite.

How can one describe the first taste of a Krispy Kreme donut?

It was nothing short of incredible.

The soft, succulent dough melted like honey in my throat. My taste buds took their sunglasses out, stripped down to the waist and sat there, sunbathing on the beach that was now my tongue. It was almost a religious experience.

Fortunately, of the twelve Dana bought, there is still one left.

I am a new (Krispy Kreme) man.
My life will never be the same again.

Forget 1492, today I discovered the REAL America.

A Full Week

With the end of Shabbat yesterday, I was delighted to contemplate the idea of a whole six days without a Yom Tov (festival) followed within 24 hours by Shabbat.

Please don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my festivals, but considering that the last two weeks consisted of two days of Yom Tov leading into Shabbat, followed by three days of semi-normality and the again two days of Yom Tov, Friday and then once again Shabbat… was all a little too much!

Today is Sunday and wonderfully, I have a full week ahead. That said, I return to school tomorrow, so I’ll probably wish that Yom Tov was starting again on Tuesday night.

To those who are totally lost by the above, let me explain that when we celebrate either Yom Tov or Shabbat, we literally cut ourselves off from the world. We don’t drive, use electricity, go shopping, go to the cinema etc. This is great for one day a week (i.e. Shabbat/Saturday) but when we have a period of 14 days, of which six are either Yom Tov or Shabbat, we start to go a little doo-lally).

Friday, 21 April 2006

It's Over!!

The last few days of Pesach have been very pleasant. We were invited out to friends on both afternoons and it really made a difference. Aside from the fact that the people who invited us were extremely welcoming and hospitable, the kids had a chance to play, get out of our house and end off the festival in a wonderfully jovial manner.

Dana went through the countless boxes of pans, crockery etc and got rid of at least half. I can't believe that we managed the changeover last night (back to everyday plates and kitchen stuff) in less than an hour and I ended up returning less than ten boxes back to the attic.

If you've celebrated Pesach, you will know exactly what I am talking about....if you haven't...thanks for popping by, have a nice day and think about the countless Jews in the world, who will be eating their first piece of bread/pasta/pizza in ten days.

If you are an Israeli (who finished the festival a day early)...stop laughing!

Monday, 17 April 2006

The Decision II

Yet another suicide bombing and more families mourning their dead.

Before anyone starts saying that Israel “brought it upon themselves” by shelling Gaza, let’s remember that the reason why Israel is currently defending itself is because the terrorists are raining missiles down on innocent men women and children.

The Nazi republic of Hamasistan has now well and truly come into itself and the Palestinian people, who voted these fascists into power have only themselves to blame.

The Palestinians must feel so proud of their decision.
They danced with Satan and now he’s come to finish the waltz.

The Decision

You probably won’t be surprised to read that as I’m writing this, an email is winging its way over to another school, bearing a very important attachment – my newly completed application form.

I guess the straw that broke the camel’s back was on the last day of term, when a very nice female teacher had to leave school early. She’d received a stone in the face as a goodbye “present” from a Year 10 student.

In her “farewell and have a nice rest” speech, a pretty fiery assistant head teacher chose to avoid mention of the incident and instead remind us all of how we were working in the “best school in the UK”. To say I wasn’t impressed is an understatement.

That morning, I had been witness to a child going ballistic and almost trashing a computer room; I had endured a Year 10 kid that I teach three times a week, under the cover of darkness (I’d put a DVD in for them to look at, as a special treat) printing out paper which bore the legend “shut up Mr ***** ” (the stars are blanking out my surname) added to the young teacher being hit. These three incidents came on the same day when an notice appeared in the local newspaper advertising a job for a “Teacher of Information and Communication Technology” in a school which had received a pretty hot OFSTED report.

How could I not even try to go for it?

I don’t know if I’ll get this job, but that’s not really the issue here. The main point is that I’ve decided that enough is enough. I also know that I’m in a win-win position. Whatever happens, I will still have a job at the end of the day, even if this application goes nowhere. The worse that can happen is that I stay in the school for the time being and look out for other posts. The one thing that I do know is that I will not start in a school mid-year, because it’s just too hard a job and if need be, I’ll stick it out for another year in my current school, until a suitable vacancy calls out to me.

I did something important today; I made the first move to try for a better school. Suddenly, I feel a whole lot better.

Saturday, 15 April 2006

Why Is This Night Different?

About a week before Passover (Pesach) began, I attended a talk given by Rabbi G. who gave us some fab ideas about how to make out Passover meals (or Sedarim ) more memorable.

He wasn't kidding.

What with my dressing up as Pharaoh, getting the kids to pack their "leaving Egypt" bags and throwing plastic frogs around the table during the recounting of The Ten Plagues, the Seder was certainly different from the norm. I used a few of his ideas and the results were fantastic. For the first time this year, my usually heavy and drab first night Seder was transformed into a fun filled, children-oriented extravaganza - and everyone attending had a grand time.

Another bonus was getting the kids more involved than in the past, so that Tali took control of the Four Sons part, Michal and Dassi sang songs from school and all four girls gave a sterling performance of the Mah Nishtana (or Four Questions.)

Most importantly, for the first time in my ten years of leading the Seder, I actually relaxed enough to enjoy the evening - and this was certainly a first for me. For the second night, we went to the Shul, where a more conventional offering was on show.

The rest of Yom Tov/Shabbat was very nice and today, we had a lovely afternoon when our family and two others trekked out to the local park for a good few hours. There were 5 adults and 8 was quite an afternoon!

We were then invited back for tea to one of the friends in the group and this was truly the icing on the cake of a great day.

So far, we're three days into Pesach and it's turning into one of the most pleasant I can remember in many a year.

Happy Pesach to all who celebrate....and Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate too!

Monday, 10 April 2006

Two Days And Counting

Two days to go and the kitchen looks as though it’s been fitted into a spaceship. All the surfaces are covered in silver foil, there are boxes of strange shapes and sizes everywhere and the house I thought I lived in, looks unrecognizable.

I’m so stressed out that I was musing whether or not we should have left Egypt in the first place. When I made this thought public to an old school friend of mine who is a Rabbi, he didn’t seem too amused.

I’ve had a haircut and all I will say about it is that Dana is going to spend the next two weeks take the piss out of my new, very short look.

The groceries have been bought, way too much money has been spent and thoughts of school are a very long way off.

The festival starts on Wednesday night and I hope I’ll make it there with my sanity intact.

Sunday, 9 April 2006

The Real Workers

Messing around time is over. This is the week that will separate the men from the boys. Am I talking about school? Hell no! I’ve got a kitchen to prepare for Passover…and if that’s not stressful, I can’t think of anything that is.

I really shouldn’t complain though, because, as any Jewish woman out there will tell you, they are the ones who do the real work. What with all the cooking, keeping the kids out of the kitchen (ah yes, that’s our job isn’t it?) and well, basically getting on with it…they certainly have their work cut out for them.

We men do our minimal bit and then spend the rest of the time complaining, whereas our wives, mothers etc just do it. I guess it’s lucky that men aren’t left to prepare the Sedarim (Passover meals) or else there would be matza….along with tinned gefilte fish, and not much else.

So, I suppose I’d better stop writing this and get on with it (groan, moan, groan, moan).

Saturday, 8 April 2006

Teachers Of The World Unite!

A fellow teacher who also teaches in the UK has very kindly included this site under her list of “favourite blogs”. If you think I’m making a lot of the stuff up, please do pay her a visit by clicking here.

Under the posting titled “My 2001 threshold application” – it’s about a third of the way down, she has managed to compare, with razor-sharp accuracy, the so-called educational standards expected of us by the Government, with what actually happens in our schools.

If you are a teacher, you will be either crying into your coffee or shaking with laughter (I did the latter).

Some guidance for those who are not in the profession:

DFES: Department for Education and Skills

INSET: In-house training days

Estelle Morris was the Secretary of State for Education in 2001.

The Threshold is the level we need to pass through, in order to migrate from a lower pay scale to a higher one.

Friday, 7 April 2006

One Year On

I find it hard to believe that exactly one year ago today, I posted my very first blog on this site.

Some of have been following my exploits all the way back to that very first posting of 20th April 2004 (but who's counting?!) but coming here really freed me from the confines of my original AOL offering and in the process allowed me to develop some pretty useful HTML skills.

Those of you who have been following my exploits will very much be aware of the kind of "fun" I've had over the last three hundred and sixty five days. In all honesty, it has been a fascinating year, jobwise. I know that as a teacher, I've really come a long way (although, witnessing the kind of behaviour I saw today in my classes, makes me sometimes wonder why I bothered)but the journey is far from over.

On this special occasion, I want to say a really heartfelt and sincere thank you to everyone who pops in, either on a regular basis or once in a while (not forgetting the newbies). Your comments, support and yes, sometimes painful, but honest comments have often helped to me to climb out the very dark hole I found myself in. With this in mind, I'd like to say a very special thank you to these friends (and I do consider you to be such):

Rachael, The Tense Teacher, Bradbox, Larry, Just and the Y.M.

I know that you, ladies and gentlemen are regular visitors and I want you to know that I really appreciate your invaluable contributions.

So here's to the first year, let's raise a glass of virtual champagne, take a sip and gird our loins for The Teacher - Year 2 !!

Happy Birthday folks.....and thank you Blogger for giving me the chance to let it all out.

Onwards and upwards - kadimah!

Thursday, 6 April 2006

The Term Is Nearly Over!

Tuesday, 4 April 2006

Because Teaching Isn't Challenging Enough!

After nearly a year of teaching, another “first” happened to me this morning.

I was teaching my Year 7 form, who are without a doubt the most dysfunctional class in the entire year (just my luck eh?) and as usual a fight broke out amongst the students. I tried to get over to the victim, but as I approached her she was already on her way out of the room.

After an incident last week where I got into trouble for stepping out of the room for a moment, only to come back to a fight, I have drawn an invisible border around the edge of the doorpost, through which I will not venture when a class is in session. With this in mind, I didn’t give chase through the hallway and also assumed that she’d calm down and eventually come back.

She didn’t.

In fact she’d walked out of school and gone home.

When the lesson was over and I had dismissed the class, I spoke with some of the other kids in playground to find out if they’d spotted her. They told me she’d taken the lead of another student and gone home (after a fight).
I immediately got hold of the head of Year and explained what had happened.

He called the house and sure enough, there she was. Later in the day, she came back with her aunt who complained that she wanted to take the girl out of school because it wasn’t “safe”.

So let me get this right:
A girl walks out of a classroom, leaves the school premises and goes home. We get in touch to find out if she’s ok and we’re told that we aren’t safe!

I do feel a little bad about the whole situation, but at the end of the day,
I refuse to be held responsible if a child takes a decision to remove herself from my care. The one issue that could have been contentious is if she had been injured (i.e. run over) on the way home from school, since we are responsible for her wellbeing during school hours.

So, how was your day?!

The Second Podcast (I'm On A Roll!)

Monday, 3 April 2006

My First Podcast

Ok, this is how it works. If the title of a post is coloured orange, it links to my podcast. Could you therefore please click the above, to hear my first vocal message to you.

Feel free to leave comments!

Sunday, 2 April 2006

Coming Soon (?)

I thought I’d try my hand at podcasting, so I’ve made a recording and am waiting to get the green light to upload it to an online host. Once that’s done, it will be accessible from this site (well, that’s the theory).

Watch this space…

Am I A Bad Parent III?

Four seminal words that have kept me going through the last 48+ hours:

Thank G-d For Chocolate.

Am I A Bad Parent II?

This has been one of the worst weekends I care to recall. From Friday afternoon, I have been left to look after the kids. Dana came back last night, but it doesn’t seem to have made a blind bit of difference because, even though she’s back, I’ve still been left to look after the girls.

You women out there are going to have a go at me for complaining but I’m at the point where I actually don’t care how sexist or offensive I’m being – one thing we need to set straight here is that we men are not in any way, shape or form designed to look after children for a period of over two hours. Forty eight hours and we’re in way way way above our heads. Added to this, I’m beginning to wonder if our house is haunted, as I’m finding that the more I tidy up, the more mess there appears to be.

Dana spent the morning cooking lunch for my parents (and a cousin who never showed up), which turned out to be very tasty – more babysitting thrown in my face, whilst she wanted to keep the kids out of the kitchen. She then decides to go for a little sleep and guess who looks after the kids again?

By 6.30 p.m, I was going absolutely spare. There is a point when you reach the “I’m losing my mind” zone and this happened at around 4.00 yesterday afternoon. I adore my kids and would kill myself to protect them, but I need to have some time-out to reclaim my sanity. The combined stress of dealing with bolshy teenagers on a daily basis, trying to teach with the computers not working and then being lumbered with four children who are simply being themselves – without any time to myself to chill out – is just too much for someone with my limited abilities to cope with.

Am I A Bad Parent?

I shouldn’t have laughed so hard when Dana, in a voice of sheer exasperation told me that she wanted to either have Shira adopted or sold on eBay. This, being a couple of hours before Dana was due to go and spend Shabbat with her parents, leaving me in charge of four very active little girls.

Shira’s escapade had consisted of taking her mother’s keys (car, house etc) and putting them somewhere where they patently didn’t want to be found. Dana had searched the house for over two hours getting more and more desperate. In the end, the girls had to be brought home from school by three different mothers.

If this latest act weren’t bad enough, Shira is still refusing to use the toilet to deposit her natural wares. Our super-bright 2½ year old knows exactly how to use the said apparel, but, for reasons only known to herself, chooses not to. Dana therefore spends much of her time shovelling and cleaning you-know-what from every corner of the house. She has said that Shira is the first of our children to literally bring her tears, which is no mean feat, granted that the other three weren’t exactly easy.

Anyway, I digress. Dana left and Shabbat came in. After a pretty stressful week at school, I was really in no mood to put up with more crap (literally and figuratively) from kids, albeit my own. Please don’t get me wrong. I do not in any way begrudge Dana for going to her parents (she needed the break); I just wasn’t in the best of spirits to take over the parenting tasks.

Friday night went relatively smoothly. The girls on the whole complied with my wishes and Shira stayed dry. The first twelve or so hours of Shabbat went past without incident…

Shabbat morning came along and after Shira had watered the downstairs hallway, we walked en masse to Shul (synagogue) a journey which went remarkably well.

The problems however, began when we got back, i.e. the fighting/squabbling, trashing the house etc. With Shabbat being what it is, the things that I could (or wanted) do with the kids were limited to say the least, so I let them play together.

By 3 p.m. when the screaming, fighting, mess making etc had driven me to utter distraction, I could feel myself about to lose it with the little darlings and rather than getting into the whole ”father going ballistic” routine, I locked all four in their bedroom and went downstairs. For the first time in almost a day, I felt a soothing calm descend upon me. I spent the next hour tidying up the downstairs and generally relaxing. It was only after listening out for some sort of harmonious sound emanating from the room, that I ventured upstairs and let them out.

The girls were understandably not best pleased at having been incarcerated for nearly an hour. My logic had said to me that on balance, by physically distancing myself from them, I would be saving myself from totally losing it and as a result and having to eat guilty humble pie for the foreseeable future. Yet, a day later and I still feel as guilty as hell for my actions.

My question to you is this -am I a bad parent?

If Social Services were to hear of what I did, would I get into serious trouble and risk my kids being taken away from me?

Most importantly, what else could I have done – keeping in mind that the weather was very on and off, Shira is not potty trained and although a walk around the block might have helped, my tolerance level being what it was, I might have seriously lost it with any of them in the event that they did anything (and I mean even the smallest misdemeanour) wrong (like running too far ahead).

Am I bad parent?