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

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Oh ****!

I confiscated a swanky little phone this morning from one of my students.
Unfortunately, she didn’t turn it off before the “hand-over”, so I had to figure out how to do so myself (after the end of the lesson).

Whilst fiddling around looking for the on/off button, I pressed “record video” instead….and soon realised (in a moment of sheer horror) that I had just filmed myself (THREE times!) looking at the lens in sheer exasperation, trying to work how to turn the damn thing off.

Having entered an Everest-like learning curve, I eventually managed to delete the said video files and find the pesky button. Thank G-d those machines don’t have a recycle bin.

I have learned my lesson. Next time, I’ll get the kid to switch off the machine before handing over.

This is truly the stuff of nightmares.

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

The Magic Crown

The Magic Crown    by Talia (aged 7)

Once upon a time there lived an enchanting king and a famous queen who lived far, far away in a huge kingdom. On the king’s 39th birthday, he got a crown, but when he put it on his head, it started jumping up and down, left, right, but would not stop. The only way to get it to stop was by saying the word ‘stop!’

Just then, right in front of him, were two men.
“Hello, I’m Mr Brilliant!” said one of the men.
“Hello, I’m Mr True!” said the other.
“We are the Super Brothers!” they both said together.
“We know how to stop your crown. Crown, STOP!”
Suddenly the crown dropped right on his head.
“Thank you. If I would not have a crown, I would not be a king!”
“Three cheers for the Super Brothers!” said the queen and they all lived happily ever after.

A Very Positive Start

Having just watched Israeli Prime-Minister elect Ehud Olmert finishing off his victory speech, I feel a certain sense of elation.

Watching the internet, I witnessed some live footage of Olmert, standing at the Western Wall, praying. Similarly so, at the end of his speech, he donned his Kipah (skullcap) and recited a prayer familiar to anyone who attends Shul on Shabbat morning, asking the Lord to bless and protect the Land of Israel.

There are no doubt cynics who might say that these were simply token gestures to garner some extra brownie points amongst the Religious members of the cabinet (or country for that matter) whilst also getting a little more credo from within the hostile settler community. Personally, I would like to think that this was not the case, rather a human being like you or I, who also happens to be Prime Minister of the only Jewish country in the world, remembering that, at the end of the day, there is someone/something more important than himself controlling events on the ground.

In other words, he demonstrated to the world what Judaism is really all about.

The ancient kings of Israel who followed the word of G-d, never sought to take the credit when the People of Israel were rescued from their enemies. They were very much aware that, although they were indeed kings, in the eyes of the Lord, they too were as prone to human failings as any of their subjects.

Maybe tonight, Ehud Olmert, soon to be the most powerful person in Israel, showed the rest of us that whatever solution(s) he and his cabinet choose to end the bloodshed in Israel, he acknowledges that it is only G-d who can bring real peace.

This was truly a Kiddush Hashem – a sanctification of G-d’s name and it made me feel extraordinarily proud to be a member of his tribe.

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Movie Review: The Pink Panther

As someone who grew up with the later batch of Pink Panther movies, I came to this “prequel” with a certain amount of trepidation. Peter Sellers made Clouseau so much his own, that anyone, even someone as skilled as Steve Martin would find it impossible to play the character “correctly”. In truth, he tries hard and at times is very very funny (I was in stitches in one scene) but unfortunately, I found the ghost of Peter Sellers taking over every scene the hapless detective found himself in.

There is also the issue of this being a prequel to the first movie, despite the fact that Steve Martin looks older than Peter Sellers did in the original 1964 movie and this version is set in the present day. It’s probably best not to examine it too closely!

The movie is entertaining, in fits and starts and Steve Martin works very hard (maybe too much so) to play what is, ultimately, an unplayable role (see above). I think this movie will be appreciated more by kids who are new to the character and who laugh at seeing the hapless detective get his hand stuck in jugs, fall down stairs etc. The problem was that every time he made a hapless boob, I remembered Peter Sellers doing the same thing – but better.

It was probably an impossible act to follow and there is certainly a question as to why a new set of film-makers even bothered, but in my humble opinion, The Pink Panther movies ended when Peter Sellers left this mortal coil at the criminally young age of 54.

The Teacher’s rating: Ok, but kids will probably enjoy it more.

* * * (out of 5)

Monday, 27 March 2006

Real Teaching

Today, I managed to achieve a first in my (albeit) brief teaching career. I taught four IT lessons without the use of IT. The computers in my room are beset by a mysterious electrical fault that keeps on tripping the fuse board and rendering nineteen out of twenty seven machines as useless as a chocolate teapot (a favourite phrase of my first boss many, many years ago).

It’s amazing how quickly one adapts to using just a standard, non-electrical whiteboard, marker and cloth. Saying that, this was real teaching, in every sense of the word and believe me, as authentic and traditional as it was, I am praying that the problem gets solved by this time tomorrow. Give me back my computers!

If I wanted to teach without the use of pc’s, I don’t think I would have bothered going into this profession.

Tense Teacher and all those out there like you, my hat off to you for doing what you do. Man its tough!

Apathy Vs Enthusiasm

The Israeli media are falling over themselves to describe how apathetic the average man/woman on the street feels about tomorrow’s election. This is despite (or perhaps as a result of) the endless onslaught of pretty party ads; the novelty of sending Multimedia Messages to mobile phones to sway punters and the incessant politicking which has taken over just about every Israeli media outlet in existence - the public are just plain bored.

I’m not Israeli. I live about 2,000 miles away from the nearest voting booth (unless you count the ones they’ve installed in the Embassy) but let me tell you, I can’t wait for tomorrow night.

Why?

Because for the first time ever, I too will be watching the election night broadcasts – not the limited, acid-laced, one-sided BBC or CNN “special features” but the real thing -  via the multitude of Israeli internet sites that have spent the last fortnight filling my inbox, begging me to click onto links that take me far beyond the British Isles.

Thanks to the magic of broadband, I can now watch live video from Rabin Square, where the locals are living it up, listening to music, schmoozing, socialising and having a pretty good time; tune into numerous radio stations and hear the endless analyses and phone-ins; witness debates (in English no less, although my Hebrew ain’t bad) featuring the pundits, politicos and semi-important personages and most importantly, see the results as they come in, district by district, party by party - all this from my l’il ole PC.

I guess it’s a question of one man’s apathy being another’s enthusiasm.

Israeli election night?
I can’t wait.

Sunday, 26 March 2006

Why Bother?

I have read with growing disbelief (but sad resignation) about the 74 year old British hostage who was rescued from his captors in Iraq. His initial refusal to publicly thank the men who literally risked their lives to get him out (after months of planning) stinks of the kind of left wing, namby pamby, bleeding-heart liberalism that I really detest.

Four days on, he has now given his “thanks” to those brave individuals, along with this cringe inducing explanation:

"I do not believe that a lasting peace is achieved by armed force, but I pay tribute to their courage and thank those who played a part in my rescue,"

Gee thanks.

My question is why these people bothered to rescue this imbecile of a man in the first place.

I fully understand his desire to help those who were less fortunate than himself and this is indeed a noble act. However, let’s think about this: He is seventy-four years old; I don’t know how good his Arabic is and in truth, his mission (if we interpret his recent comments correctly) seems to have been as much about proving a point (i.e. the British and Americans shouldn’t be in Iraq) as helping the natives.

He got captured, worried the life out of his family and friends and when he was finally rescued, used the media as a tool to attack the Establishment. I honestly think the soldiers should have left this ungrateful potz to his fate.

If the soldiers involved feel aggrieved, they have every right to – this man’s behaviour is frankly inexcusable.

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

350 Years For This?

The disgrace of a human being we call the Mayor of London has once again demonstrated his odious anti-Semitic colours. At a prestigious dinner last night in the City, he suggested that two Jewish brothers, property developers who are involved in the 2012 Olympic development, "go back (to their own country) and see if they can do better under the Ayatollahs".

Aside from the fact that the said brothers were born in India of Iraqi descent, the suggestion that they “go back to their own country” smacks of the worst kind of classic anti-Semitism. It’s funny how he always keeps his choicest remarks for members of one single minority – and it ain’t the Asians or Afro-Caribbean’s.

He will of course make worthless pronouncement after pronouncement stating how much he respects the Jewish community blah blah blah – but we’re not fooled by his pathetic rhetoric. He’s just a nasty little racist who is using the platform of Mayor of London to propagate his insidious world-view. The scandal doesn’t centre so much on what he’s saying – it’s more to do with the lamentable fact that no-one seems to be willing (or able) to do anything to kick him out for saying it.

We, the long suffering Jewish Nation have become tired of his Nazi-like utterances.

Why doesn’t he do everyone a favour and go back to the gutter from whence he originated? The Office of Mayor of London deserves better. Much better.

The Jewish Chronicle doesn’t stop trumpeting the fact that 2006 is the 350th anniversary of the re-admittance of the Jews to the UK. It’s a pretty hollow commemoration if we have to keep on enduring the filth emanating from the trap of such an obnoxious shmuck – and his being allowed (by the power-brokers), to say it.

Oh, To Be Loved

I confiscated a tub of Vaseline from a Year 8 student today. The same kid admitted to throwing a stub of paper at me from the back of the room.

After the end of the lesson, I refused to return the Vaseline to him, whereupon he curtly told me to “drop dead”. When he approached me at lunch and asked me again for his precious tub, I told him that he could have it back if he wrote me a letter of apology. His response - “shut up”.

Sometimes, I wonder why I bother teaching these children.

I know that moaning about it here won’t help in the slightest, but at least it makes me feel a little better by getting it out of my system

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

The Mellow Hour

Stars shining bright above you,
Night breezes seem to whisper "I love you" ,
Birds singing in the sycamore tree,
Dream a little dream of me.

Say "Night-ie night" and kiss me,
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me,
While I'm alone and blue as can be,
Dream a little dream of me.

Stars fading but I linger on, dear
Still craving your kiss.
I'm longing to linger till dawn, dear
Just saying this.

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you,
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you,
But in your dreams whatever they be,
Dream a little dream of me.

This post won’t have any resonance the minute dawn breaks somewhere in the world, but right now, it describes the kind of mood I’m in - mellow.

This is in no small measure as a result of the fact that I’ve had an average of 5 hours sleep over the last three days and I really should be in slumber land right now (so why am I blogging at 11.30 pm?)

Soon, those stars will fill my dreams and maybe you too will read this when you’re about to shut down for the day. If so, perhaps we can share the brief feeling of inner peace one sometimes gets at the very end of a long day.

Sweet dreams my friend.
The soft pillow awaits our weary heads.

Testing 1 2 3...4...5...

I went over to that other school today (the one I visited back in January). They are trialling online ICT tests for Year 9s and my school wants to find out how they work.

The first sitting with one class was very interesting and revealing. By the end of the session, I had a good understanding of how to administer the tests, set up the computers etc.

Unfortunately, that was only the first of five (yes, five) classes to take the test. In other words, I had to help invigilate five identical (fifty minute) tests. After the experience, I can honestly state that there is nothing as soporific as walking around a small classroom, looking at thirty computers being used in five different lessons by around a hundred and fifty kids in all – doing exactly the same exercises.

I can’t wait to set up the system in our school, so that I will then have a chance to re-live the experience all over again….and again…..and again….......

Monday, 20 March 2006

Oscar Night

I thought I’d add a few posts as I haven’t updated the site for nearly a week.

Last night, we were invited a lovely Bar Mitzvah and my cousin promised that he would pop in to see what I was up to here. If you’re reading this J, welcome!

The venue was a Gentlemen’s Club. Now before any of you get the wrong idea, there was a nary a scantily dressed woman in sight. No, this was an old fashioned “women are barred from so and so room club”, you know, the kind you see in films like “Around The World In 80 Days”.

Sitting at a table with relatives, my eyes were drawn to a glass cabinet lining the wall. To my surprise, I spotted an Oscar statuette. I went over to have a look and lo and behold, their found myself staring at the genuine article; a real Academy Award. It had been presented to famed British director Emeric Pressburger for “best writing of an original story” in relation to ‘The Invaders aka The 49th Parallel’ in 1942. He was a member of the club and when he passed away, he bequeathed all his trophies to the institution. It was sitting next to a BAFTA too (but that’s not nearly as exciting as the Oscar).

I wandered around and couldn’t help but imagine this group of crusty old men reading The Times, smoking their Havana cigars with a glass of brandy in their right hand.
It really was a different world.

When I left the club and re-entered 2006, I could almost feel the ghosts of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells accompanying me through the cold night air of London town.

The Last Riddle Saloon

Those eagle-eyed amongst you will no doubt have noticed that the “new” riddle I added a while back is still sitting on its perch. The simple reason is that no-one has answered it.

Before I decide to hibernate away for the Australian winter, I’d like to give you one more chance to have a crack. Go on, you know you want to…

R&R For (Nearly) All

Dana very generously allowed me to go to my parents (read that as “sent me to….”) for some well needed and much appreciated R&R (rest and relaxation) over Shabbat. The result was that I got acres and acres of sleep (I don’t know, can one get an acre of sleep?) and she ended up in bed with the flu (albeit 24 twenty-four hours later).

As you can appreciate, I feel quite guilty that I left her alone with our little angels, only to develop exhaustion and fever. To mitigate things somewhat, Dassi, Tali and I are invited to stay with my parents next week as we will be attending a Sheva Brachot Shabbat lunch in the area. If all goes well, Dana will get her R&R the Shabbat after, when she’ll stay with her parents.

I hasten to add that the kids will get some R&R from me, the week after Dana’s sojourn as I will be recovering from my 19th nervous breakdown.

(and yes, that was a Stones’ reference)

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Purim 2006

The girls dressed up for Purim.

Michal was Sleeping Beauty, Dassi was a Hawaiian girl and Tali, a nurse. Shira who is not shown was a fairy.




I also decided to get dressed and thought carefully about my costume. Irrespective of that, Dana had a better idea and I turned up as....



yes, you guessed right...The Grim Teacher!

We went to the Synagogue to hear the reading of the Megillah and join in the party that followed it. My disguise scared the life out of most of the kiddies present (he he he) and even some of their parents...



...but after a while, the girls got used to the interesting disguise and as you can see from the next photo, didn't seem too frightened...



By the end of the evening, the make up had started melting and I looked less like death and more like a panda!

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Sensational

I swear, you couldn’t make this stuff up! The Palestinian Authority once again demonstrates it’s breathtaking incompetence to the British and Americans, who rightly decide to pull their people out of the Jericho Jail… the Israelis, once again showing off their stunning tactical operations are on the spot before the Palestinians can say al-boo and the terrorists end up inside Israeli prisons.  To exacerbate the situation, the Palestinians then go and burn even more bridges by attacking Western targets and kidnapping people.

Oh…and it all happens on Purim.

Let’s enjoy the irony of the whole situation, before the Palestinians take the inevitable bloody revenge.

Monday, 13 March 2006

Watch Out!

Tonight, we will start celebrating the festival of Purim when we remember how G-d saved the Jews of ancient Persia from annihilation by the machinations of the evil anti-Semitic Prime Minister – Haman.

It is therefore particularly fitting that this year, we look once again towards the same country, now called Iran and wonder when his latest incarnation, Ahmadnejad will also get his just desserts. This evil individual, who speaks the same foul language as his predecessor (and I’m not referring to Farsi, which is a beautiful tongue) is at the moment, on a crusade (excuse the malapropism) to de-legitimise our nation and country. He will fail in the same manner that befell his predecessors, but he doesn’t know that yet.

The Hagaddah (the book we read at the Passover Seder) tells us that in each generation, someone arises who wishes to destroy us – but the Lord, G-d saves us from this fate. Yes, Hitler did kill 6,000,000 of our brethren, but we’re still here and the ancient empires who also tried to “wipe us off the map” are no longer in existence – please stand up any Babylonians, Greeks or Romans out there – so Mr Ahmadnejad had better take note.

Mess with us and you will end up losing more than an election

On a more positive note, may I wish you all a Happy Purim !!!

Saturday, 11 March 2006

The Oasis

The washed out faces greet each other across the hallway. There is a faint, knowing smile, a momentary glance at the ceiling and then a farewell - for the next sixty or so hours.

He unlocks his classroom door, enters, sighs and picks up his bag. As he leaves for the last time, he casts his eyes around the room to make sure that all the computers are switched off. He pushes the light switches up and exits the war-zone, now achingly quiet. The sound of a lock turning can be heard all the way down the hall.

He walks wearily down the staircase. On his way out of the entrance hall, he looks to see if any of the secretaries are still in. Seeing that the office is empty, he opens the front door, feels the cold air brushing against his cheeks and tries to remember where he parked the car, all those hours away. He closes the door

School is finished for the week.

The drive back home is relatively trouble free. At least the rush hour hasn’t kicked in yet. When he opens the front door of his house, he hears the usual sound of his kids screaming, the TV blaring and his wife walking around the kitchen, making the Friday night meal. He walks in. She immediately tells him the little one needs to go to the toilet, the eldest hasn’t done her homework, the second one was rude on the way back home and is in her room as punishment and the other one is square-eyed watching TV.

The oasis of peace that he has been so looking forward to, at the end of another challenging week, is nowhere to be seen. He wishes it were already evening and the kids were asleep; that he could sit down and take a breather – but right now, there’s no time. Shabbat is drawing in the house is in the usual turmoil. The oasis he hoped for has disappeared into the ever-expanding desert.

He has no time for the children. He is bullish and impatient towards the wife and the kids. She responds aggressively and he knows that, far from finding his oasis, he’s walked into the burning heat of the midday sun. She’s tired and although she really can’t understand how stressful his week has been – she too needs her own Shangri-La.

The Sabbath barges in and the kids get noisier and more hyperactive. Supper-time turns into the usual rat-a-tat affair and although she puts the kids to bed for him (after the usual dramas), his oasis seems to have evaporated.

He knows that he needs some time to himself. He’s realised that unless he has a chance to enjoy the Oasis of Peace that is Shabbat, he will enter the new week in the same manner he exited the last. His dilemma is how to find the time to spend a minute in the sun. When he does take a moment (or two hundred) to recharge his batteries, the wife resents him for daring to taking the time out, leaving her to look after the kids. In trying to address his own inner disquiet, he has succeeded in creating a new storm. Her resentment becomes the weekend equivalent of the aggression he has to deal with from the kids in his class.

He knows that, until he returns to school on Monday, his home life will consist of hostility and resentment. He resigns himself to this and gives up any chance of locating the long lost oasis.

On Monday morning, he will back in the war-zone that is his classroom and the dream of that sweet, unreachable oasis will just have to remain there in his memory.

Who knows, maybe next week, he’ll get a little closer to drinking from its waters.

Thursday, 9 March 2006

The Thrill/Stress Of It All

The stress of the job is getting to me. Yesterday, I didn’t go in. I was all bunged up and my voice was shot.

The day off did me the world of good.

I went in today and seriously lost it with one of my Year 9 classes, who just couldn’t keep quiet. I’ve been struggling for the last month or so to teach them control systems (i.e. Flow Charts to you and me) and today, after yet another attempt to explain it to them, I’d just had enough. I asked them if they understood the concepts, they told me they wanted me to explain them yet again and when I did, they ignored me and spent the lesson chatting.

I have a policy of not talking above the children’s noise level. When I don’t adhere to this, I find that they louder I try to get myself heard, the louder their chatting gets and then I feel my voice straining. Today, I got to the point where I was screaming at them to shut up and got so angry when they responded by laughing at me, that I walked out of the class to get another teacher in for support. I know that in the kids’ minds, they saw this as a weakness but to be honest, I was so angry that I was beyond caring.

Anyway, a learning mentor came in and gave them an absolute bollocking. Between the two of us, we had them standing there for close on twenty minutes, dead silent whilst we (well, mostly she) blasted them without pause and made it very clear that, if they couldn’t be bothered to stay quiet and do some learning in their lessons, they might as well go elsewhere as we were not going to break our heads teaching them.

Then the strangest thing happened. The learning mentor told the students to apologise to me for their behaviour and of course I received a chorused “sorry”. The bell went and I made a conscious note of which students had the decency to repeat an individual “sorry” as they passed me whilst leaving the room. Interestingly, the brightest kids walked straight past me, ignoring me and of course refusing to apologise, whilst the less academic ones were quite gracious in their sorry’s. I don’t know if one can take anything out of this and I probably shouldn’t analyse, but I did find this behaviour quite interesting. Tense Teacher, what’s your take on all of this?

Fortunately, I had both lunch and a free lesson to calm down but I can tell you, those kids this morning really pushed me. It will be interesting to see if this has had any impact on their behaviour, because, if it hasn’t, the one hour after-school detentions will be flowing like confetti.

I’ve just had enough.

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

My Daughter, The Poet

I am extraordinarily proud to report that Hadassah, my very bright eight year old daughter has had one of her poems picked to appear in a forthcoming anthology.
She will be a published poet!

The theme of her poem is a celebration of the Rosh Chodesh, the date when the New Moon appears and we mark the beginning of a new lunar month.


Rosh Chodesh

R achel looked up at the moon,
O bviously it will be here soon.
S he knew that Rosh Chodesh was the time,
H er 'banana' moon was the sign.

C hildren learn that new months begin,
H aving seen the new moon with a grin.
O nly to greet Rosh Chodesh anew,
D oing things that every Jew can do.
E nters Hallel for this special day,
S aying Yaaleh Veyavo.....yah!
H appy Rosh Chodesh for you today!


(Hallel consists of some additional Psalms that we say on Rosh Chodesh and Yaaleh Veyavo is an additional supplication included in our daily prayers and Grace After Meals).

Well done Dassi!!!
Your parents are seriously chapping naches (i.e. deriving pleasure/pride from your achievements)!

Some Oscar musings

I watched the Oscar show last night.

I got some satisfaction from a number of results:

Firstly, the Palestinian film (nominated in the Best Foreign Film category) that glorified suicide bombing came away unfeted, unpicked and generally ignored. I guess you could say that the film makers attempts to give legitimacy to the murder of both Jews and Arabs….blew up in their faces (I couldn’t resist that one).

Additionally, Steven Spielberg’s “important” Munich was glossed over by the Academy. Aw shucks Steven…maybe you should stick to making films that you do know something about (bitch bitch).

On a lighter note, March Of The Penguins, which I reviewed here, justifiably walked away with the Best Documentary statuette. This is totally deserved (dodgy film work and all).

The pre-title sequence with all those former presenters refusing to re-do the job this year, was nothing short of inspired. I laughed at loud when they showed Jon Stewart in bed with a very demure George Clooney. Classic stuff.

Another highlight was the teaming of Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin to present the award to Robert Altman for the “He’s just about alive, so let’s honour him before he drops” Oscar. Weren’t they just great together? (of course, if you haven’t seen the show, you won’t know what I’m prattling on about.)

Oscar has worked his magic again, especially in the choice of Crash over Brokeback Mountain. Having seen neither film, but wanting to see the former, I can’t really give much comment except that it’s all part of the fun.

Monday, 6 March 2006

The Oscars 2006 - My Predictions II

Well, I did guess the best actress, supporting actress, best animated feature and best picture.

For the record, my first choice was going to be Philip Seymour Hoffman, but I thought they’d give most of the awards to Brokeback Mountain.

That’s how much I know. It would also help if I’d actually seen any of the movies I was rooting for.

Nice to see George Clooney being honoured too.

The Oscars 2006 - My Predictions

I don’t know how close I’ll be, but here goes:

Best Actor:  Heath Ledger – Brokeback Mountain
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon – Walk The Line

Best Supporting Actor: Paul Giametti – Cinderella Man
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener

Best Animated Feature: Wallace And Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

Art Direction: King Kong

Cinematography: Brokeback Mountain

Best Director: Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain

Documentary Feature: Enron – The Smartest Guys In The Room

Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain


I reckon that Brokeback Mountain will walk off with most of the honours.


Let’s wait and see…

Sunday, 5 March 2006

Radio Days

I remember the time, about twenty years ago, when my father came home carrying a rather interesting looking object. It turned out that he’d found a supadupa Russian shortwave radio, the kind where you could listen to seven different bands and pick up virtually any radio station in the world.

It was a huge, brown hulking thing that weighed a ton.

Each night, he twiddled the dial and miraculously found the ever so slim frequency that enabled the Kol Israel Radio station to crackle it’s way into our living room. For a short while, our hearts lifted up as we heard the wonderful sound of the announcer saying “This is Kol Yisrael, the voice of Israel, broadcasting from Jerusalem”. For, at that moment, although we were two thousand miles away, our ears and souls were right there, in the heart of Jerusalem.

After a while, my father got hold of a nice, dinky little shortwave radio and to my delight, I found myself in possession of the radio. I remember parking it by the window in my bedroom with the antenna touching my window. I twiddled and twiddled looking, sometimes in vain for the 32 shortwave band.

The weather dictated the success of my trials. On cold nights, I seemed to have more luck. Then again, anything could stop me finding the station – be it the rather rude and loud Greek stations that seemed to hog the airwaves or perhaps some radio ham getting a buzz out of sending a signal to his girlfriend in northern Belgium. Additionally, I never did manage to hear the radio before at least 8 p.m.

Occasionally, I might get lucky and eventually hit the station but find that at peak times, it had melted away into the depths of the stratosphere. Then again, falling asleep to the sound of the Hatikvah (the Israeli National Anthem) at the end of broadcasting, was something that I shall never forget. Damn! That old radio had a lot of character.

A few weeks ago, I happened upon an Internet Explorer toolbar that allows you to listen to over 30 Israeli radio stations in crystal clear digital sound. Unlike the old Shortwave radio, I don’t need to wait till dark to hear the news. I can listen for 24 hours a day if the mood takes me. I can also watch some Israeli TV channels, pop in on sessions at the Knesset (The Parliament), find out who is doing what in the upcoming elections and live as a virtual Israeli, listening to the identical sounds that a young soldier hears as he makes his way to his army base at the start of the day.

I have to say that although I am delighted to be able to share in another side of the Israeli experience, strangely enough, I find that it doesn’t give me the same thrill that I used to get when I found the crackling, fading sounds blasting out of the hulk. Maybe it’s because I’m older and I don’t get the buzz that I used to get when I was a teenager – or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that the challenge of finding the Israeli needle in the haystack of foreign radio stations is no longer a factor.

I miss that radio and the emotions I used to feel, from it’s presence in my bedroom.

Times might have changed, but I would give anything to be back there, twiddling the dials and waiting to see if that night would bring such a sweet and unforgettable sound.

Radio days indeed.

Saturday, 4 March 2006

The Two Heads.

The head that hit the pillow last night had endured what can only be described as a pretty hellish week.

My meeting with the Year 7’s ten days ago, convinced me that it was time to re-jig the seating plans in most of my classes. Some of the kids who were falling behind were doing so because they were either sat too far to the back, or next to some undesirables. Additionally, I am of the belief that it’s quite healthy to move the kids around every now and again if they start feeling too comfortable – and as a result getting into cruise control, work-wise.

I knew that I was asking for trouble but I soldiered ahead with my plans. Some kids expressed their dissatisfaction quite readily and were given the choice of either moving to where I had put them, or leaving the class and thereby incurring a one hour after school detention.

If this wasn’t bad enough, there was a bombshell awaiting us all…

On Thursday morning, we were ushered into the hall by the Chair of Governors, to be informed that the panel had chosen a new Head Teacher. When incumbent was announced as the new Head, there was a very stony silence from everyone in the room (aside from the Chair) - you could have literally cut the air with a very blunt knife.
The teachers present were not in the least pleased, because this person is doing zilch to stop the kids from spiralling out of control. Monday’s attack on the staff member seems to have had absolutely no effect on the panel’s decision to choose this extremely affable but weak person to challenge what is becoming a pretty serious problem for us all.

If that wasn’t bad enough, when I returned (at break) from the one lesson that I don’t teach in my room, I found that some little you-know-what had unplugged the keyboard from my pc, destroyed a floppy disk that had my name written on the front and walked off with my mouse.

The kids in the subsequent lesson were virtually unteachable and the message that the new Head is turning a blind eye to their recklessness is writ large in the air that flows throughout the school.

After yet another parents’ evening, I got home, having spent close on 12 hours at the school.

Despite my earlier post, I have started to think the unthinkable. Am I mad for staying on? Should I be looking elsewhere? One thing I can probably guarantee is that Thursday morning’s news will certainly lead to staff walking in July.

It’s all very depressing.

It was a very sore head that hit the pillow last night.

Friday, 3 March 2006

Wild In My Heart.

I was very sorry to hear that Jack Wild passed away. He was the young actor fondly remembered for his portrayal of The Artful Dodger in the film version of Oliver!

I grew up with that movie. Although it came out a year after I was born, it was as though it had been made for my childhood. I sang the songs, watched his mischievous antics and got a real thrill from seeing his warm partnership with the young Mark Lester develop through the course of the picture.

To me, Jack Wild was always that boisterous teenager, with the Cockney twinkle in his eyes. How could he dare grow up, make a mess of his life and die so young (he was only 52) from a horrible disease (cancer) that firstly claimed his voicebox and then the rest of his body?

I guess we’re all taken in by movies and we try to forget that the images on screen are just that – images. Jack Wild could never stay the same age in the same way that I too am no longer that 15 year old kid, trying to figure out what it is I am going to do “when I grow up”.

I’m sad because I feel as though Jack Wild’s death has robbed me of something of my childhood. I know this is ridiculous, because he can’t be held responsible for growing up, just like everyone else. It’s not his fault for being human.

Tragically, for all of us, watching Oliver! will never be the same again. Every time I see The Artful Dodger chewing up the scenery, it will be hard not to mourn the fact that the little boy I’m watching prancing around the screen is no longer alive. Jack Wild’s death has left a void in my life and yet another reminder that sometimes, even the movies can’t hide the fact that at times, life is so very cruel.

Goodbye Dodger.

Goodbye.

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

The 'F' Student.

An Apology (of sorts).

My very good friend, H, who reads this blog, rightly commented this morning that in my "Jew Teacher" posting, I should not have used the sort of language I did, to describe some of the children I teach. I have therefore replaced the offending word with numerous asterisks.

Today, yet another member of our staff (a lovely lady who works down the hallway) was assaulted by one of these little ***** (see H, I'm being careful) and if that wasn't bad enough, she then had to endure one of the lovely Year 10's I teach laughing in her face, after she had been accidentally wacked across the neck with a tennis ball.
Apparently, he found her misfortune extremely funny.

The attack that the preceded the accident was the fourth such incident against a member of staff in the last month or so. The little darlings are getting more violent by the day and we, both the teaching and non-teaching staff are really beginning to wonder as to when our turn will come (don't worry mum, I can take good care of myself).

As I wrote, a while back, I had a Year 7 kid take a swing at me last term. Had he hit me, I might have endured a broken jaw (oh c'mon, let me bit a little dramatic here!) or probably more likely, a bloodied nose. The problem is that I don't know where I stand if I then thump him and as a result, risk the chance of being prosecuted for this action of self defense.

I agree that violence breeds violence and so, in fighting back, I am only spurring the kid on. However, does this mean that I have to worry that if I do defend myself from what could be a seriously assault, I could lose my job?

I am sorry I used that derogatory term to describe the children I teach. I should have just called them 'hoodlums'. At least then, I would be reporting a more accurate picture of the kind of children - yes children - I/we are living with.

Then again, the most frightening thing to come out of all this, is that the children of today will be the parents of tomorrow.