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

Wednesday, 31 May 2006

The Authorised Crooks

There is something seriously wrong with this country.

Is it the fact that violent crime is (allegedly) soaring?
Could it be that a terrorist attack might be around the corner?
What will happen to all of us if we attack Iran?

No, ladies and gentlemen, it is none of the above.

In short, I’m being screwed. I have committed the cardinal sin of going over my bank overdraft limit by a sum that is a touch less than £3 (under $6) and so far, the bastards have taken £70 ($130) in “penalties”. The fact that one of the amounts they snatched came about as a result of their throwing me over the limit in the first place, only makes me feel even angrier. My bank are basically robbing me blind and I don’t know if there’s much I can do about it.

Dana was in a car accident last week (its ok, she’s fine), whereby a car hit her from behind and was then hit by another vehicle. As I understand it, there were 3-4 cars involved in this very mini pile-up.

Our insurance company agreed that we were not at fault and instructed their approved garage to repair the car. We were loaned a very nice Chrysler Voyager by the car rental people.

Today, the garage calls me up to tell me that the insurance is refusing to pay for the repair and is claiming that the car is a “write-off”. They have apparently instructed the breakers yard to pick the vehicle up for trashing. I have contacted the garage - who are understandably miffed by the insurance company’s response (we’re talking about a damaged bumper for G-d’s sake) -  as well as the insurance agents and put the trashing on hold. They are sending one of their “engineers” down tomorrow to look at the “wreck” and he’ll decide on the outcome.

In short, I am being ripped off by both the bank and the insurance company.

I used to be afraid of being robbed at home by some hooded thug.
In truth, I can lock my doors as securely as I like, because no matter what I do, I’m going to be screwed by “the establishment” anyway.

So much for being an honest, hard-working citizen eh?

Monday, 29 May 2006

World War Free Me

It’s true. “Work” is definitely a four letter word and if that four letter word happens to concern itself with another four letter word – kids, then another word immediately comes to mind – exhaustion.

I was naively led to believe that this week, I was on “holiday”. Having had the company of my wonderfully exuberant and energy-busting daughters for the last three days, I’m beginning to wonder whether school is that bad.

It is past seven p.m. and my little angels, though upstairs, show no sign whatsoever of calming down. My tolerance levels disappeared at around-about six o’ clock p.m. last Friday and I’m wondering if they’ll ever re-appear, from under that dense mass currently enveloping my nervous system.

The constant fighting, emotional nuking and general misbehaviour has worn me down to the extent that I’ve now found myself looking around eBay for the location of the nearest padded cell. Maybe I can check myself in for next week or so until I’m ready to return to school.

Holiday?

You’ve got to be kidding me

The Slave...And The Master

For the last forty eight hours or so, I have been a slave to my computer.
After religiously adding program after program and mercilessly lashing the poor “C” drive with new/old/uninstalled/re-installed applications over the last three years, the poor thing finally gave up the ghost and starting behaving rather strangely.

I foolishly, nay, naively, thought I could fix the problems with a mere repair job, but the machine was having none of that. In the end, I gave into the inevitable and reformatted the disk, in the vain hope that the fifteen backup disks I’ve amassed over the time will contain everything I could ever wish to reinstall “should the doomsday situation arise”.

So far, so good. I’m being a good boy now and only reinstalling the software that I really need. It’s amazing how much gunk you amass over the years, thinking that you’ll need it. Actually I don’t and the machine is keeping up its part of the bargain by behaving frighteningly well. Of course, I know that no sooner have a posted this than the temptation to misbehave (we’re talking about both of us here) will overcome our sense of fairness.

I’ve been the slave for too long. It’s to regain my place as the master.

As they say, power corrupts….and don’t I know it.

Sunday, 28 May 2006

Much Ado About (Pretty Much ) Nothing

I know, I know...I haven't exactly been forthcoming over the last week, but I reckoned that you needed a little rest from my tirades.

I've also been extremely tired, not least because the kids have been pretty horrendous, granted that we are off for the half-term holiday. It began yesterday, but the realisation that I have a break from the little darlings has not really sunk in yet. By the time it does, I will be driving back to work, in only nine days time.

Life goes on. I'm delighted to report that sometime contributor to this site, Bradbox, has become a father yet again and now has a new daughter to add to his gorgeous collection. Mazel Tov to all concerned.

As for me, I'm taking it easy, looking forward to facing off the end of the academic year (two months to go....two months to go....) and dreading having to start writing my class reports very shortly. No doubt, I shall bore you silly when I start that little project!

It's a new week.
Smile.

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

Our City

Tomorrow night, we will be celebrating the thirty-ninth anniversary of the return of Jerusalem into Jewish hands.

Many people around the world continue to deny the Jewish people the right to claim the city as our eternal capital. On the Temple Mount, the Arabs do what they can to destroy any evidence of our ancient presence, yet, despite their efforts, they cannot erase the basic fact that Jerusalem has, is and will always be - ours.

This is not to say that the city is less important to persons of another faith. What I am stating and categorically so, is that Jerusalem is accessible to anyone who wants to worship therein, but never it let be forgotten that, at the end of the day, we, the Jewish Nation are the only people who, since time immemorial have chosen this very special place as a destination for all our prayers - she belongs to us.

Every time we pray to G-d, we face towards Jerusalem. Every single Ark in every single Synagogue faces towards the city. It’s presence in our psyche is as powerful an image as the setting sun whose famous reflection provides the golden glow that once seen, can never be forgotten.

It is thirty-nine years since the miracle of June 7th 1967, when G-d helped us to recapture the Western Wall (of the Temple Mount), the holiest site we possess. In reality, this event is but a drop in the ocean of the history of our sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Five thousand years ago, Abraham chose the very spot where the Temples would later stand, to offer his son, Isaac in sacrifice to G-d. We have fought many battles to return to our capital and the struggle to achieve international recognition still goes on – but, at the end of the day, time is really not a factor because Jerusalem is imbedded inside every single Jewish man, woman and child who inhabits the planet earth and no-one will ever be able to take that from us.

The sooner our enemies accept that the Jerusalem and the Jewish Nation are one, the sooner there will be a real peace.

We’re not going away and neither is our capital.

Sunday, 21 May 2006

Cold Comfort

For what it is worth, Police have arrested a sixteen year old suspect in connection with the murder. Somehow, even if they do have the right person, it still seems like cold comfort.

We are living in terrible times.

Friday, 19 May 2006

Our Children

Yesterday a fifteen year old boy in a nearby school was stabbed to death outside the building.

In registration the morning, we talked to the kids about the incident and reassured them that this kind of thing was very rare. We also told them what to do if they ever encounter someone with a knife.

The murder has shocked everyone, not least the kids in my school, some of whom knew the victim very well. During the first period, I had two Year 8 kids coming into my lesson in quite a state. One of the boys spent the first fifteen minutes crying, whilst the other was extremely subdued. Both boys knew the young man.

The rest of the class (the ones who have given me so much trouble in the past) were certainly not themselves.

Many of the kids had played football with this young man and he was tipped to be a hot professional player in the future.

Not any more.

The tragedy of the murder is not only the act itself, but the fact that “our” children are having to cope with a situation that even adults can’t understand.
No words can describe the feeling around the entire school today. I didn’t know the child, but as far as I was concerned, he could have been one of my students.

Sitting at a computer.

Waiting to be taught.

He could have been one of our children.

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Sir Paul McCartney's Statements II

Here's another one, posted late last night...and before you start getting bored, I won't post any more, unless I deem them absolutely necessary:

"MEDIA REPORTS - MESSAGE FROM PAUL - 17.05.2006

In reading the media reports that are coming out, I would urge people not to believe them. Almost everything I'm reading is 100% untrue. I urge people not to read this stuff and support Heather and myself at this difficult time."

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Wow

I decided to take the plunge and upgrade my computer memory from 256mb to 1gb. I received the module today and plugged it in.

I can honestly say that I don’t recognise my computer. I feel that the 85 year old fart device I was blowing hot and cold at, has now been transformed into an extraordinarily sexy 21 year old girl…man oh man, it’s fast!

I spent two hours playing around on a totally rejuvenated Google Earth.

I am reborn.

Sir Paul McCartney's Statements

As someone who cares a great deal about all things Beatles related, I feel it my duty to reproduce these statements, published today on Paul’s site:

“McCARTNEY STATEMENT - FROM PAUL AND HEATHER - 17.05.2006  

Having tried exceptionally hard to make our relationship work given the daily pressures surrounding us, it is with sadness that we have decided to go our separate ways. Our parting is amicable and both of us still care about each other very much but have found it increasingly difficult to maintain a normal relationship with constant intrusion into our private lives, and we have actively tried to protect the privacy of our child. Separation for any couple is difficult enough, but to have to go through this so publicly, especially with a small daughter is immensely stressful. We hope, for the sake of our baby daughter that we will be given some space and time to get through this difficult period.”

“MESSAGE FROM PAUL - 17.05.2006
  
By now you will have probably heard the unfortunate news that Heather and I are going our separate ways. We have issued a statement expressing our sadness at this turn of events but I would like to let people know my feelings about some of the stories which have appeared in the media over the past few days.

I'm really disappointed that during a very difficult and emotional time for both Heather and myself there are certain people in the media who are writing things about Heather that are just plain untrue. It's been suggested that she married me for the money and there is not an ounce of truth in this. She is a very generous person who spends most of her time trying to help others in greater need than herself. All the work she does is unpaid so these stories are ridiculous and completely unfounded. I'm very sad to see that some insensitive people would choose a moment like this to spread these vicious rumours. “

The Teacher’s Comment

It’s all very sad, especially for the baby. I guess £825 million can’t buy you love…or happiness.

Movie Review: Mission Impossible III

Having seen the first two movies, I came with the usual expectation for action, some sort of storyline and Tom Cruise being, well, Tom Cruise.

I have to say that I left the cinema feeling somewhat under-whelmed. Mission Impossible:3 resembled an extended episode of the TV show. Yes, it was a little more interesting because Ethan Hunt’s character showed a little more emotion than usual, but so what?

I think the film’s main weakness was the miscasting of Philip Seymour Hoffman as the villain. The character may have been mega-clever and sadistic, but he was totally bland. I like my villains to be full-bodied and slightly deranged - think Dennis Hopper (Speed) or John Malkovitch (In The Line Of Fire) or even the many incarnations of Blofeld in the Bond movies and you’ll know exactly was I mean. Hoffman came over as being quite a wimp especially in the scene when he was fighting with Tom Cruise. I mean, what kind of a boring death was that !!!

It’s also worth keeping in mind that I am a huge Bond fan and so any imitations will obviously never quite match a 007 movie.

The best thing about it was the fab music which garners it an extra point.

Teacher’s Recommendation: Wait six months and get the DVD unless you like watching your M:I movies on the big screen.

Disappointing.

Teacher’s Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Tough Tuesday

Boy, are Tuesdays tough or what?

My timetable (which has been changed three times since the start of the academic year) has me teaching three Year 7 classes in succession. Not only that, but I have to teach very same lesson to each of the classes.

Each lesson is seventy minutes long, which means that I am ending up teaching the very same lesson for a period of three hours and thirty minutes.

Every single Tuesday.

Today was no exception, apart from the fact that I ended up throwing four kids out in the first lesson for incessant disruption, lost my temper with kids during the second lesson and taught the third class for a full ninety minutes, because they just couldn’t keep quiet.

The only, and I mean, only, positive outcome from this masochistic exercise is that by the time I’ve reached the third lesson, my teaching strategies (regarding the subject matter) are stronger and more coherent. I could very easily fall into the trap of going into automatic mode, but I have to keep reminding myself that although I’ve heard myself telling the kids the same information twice before...its this poor class’s first time!

So, Tuesday is over for another week and I’m exhausted. Fortunately (or maybe not), tomorrow will see me invigilating (yawn) for most of the day, so that at least my voice will be rested enough for my “challenging” Year 9 classes on Thursday.

The glow I felt after finding out I’ve passed my NQT year  has completely evaporated. Now, it’s sheer bloody-mindedness that is keeping me going until the next break, which is (ahem) a whole eight school days away.

Monday, 15 May 2006

The Half-Merry Month of May

I can’t believe it, but we are already half-way through my favourite month.

Why, it seems as though it was only yesterday when I found myself singing the praises of the month of May. How can the last fourteen days have slipped by so nondescriptly?

I suppose I should count my blessings and make the most of the next sixteen days. At midnight on the 31st, we’ll have slipped through this gentle, magical period for yet another year and the echoes of spring will rapidly fade away as the summer aggressively takes over our lives.

yeS yES YES !!!

This morning I found a note in my pigeon-hole requesting me to go to the school office as soon as possible.

I made my way with not a little bit of trepidation to the office and was greeted by the Head's PA, who asked me to sign the DfES (Department for Education and Skills) form which is sent by the school to the Government, stating that the school is satisfied that I have now successfully completed my NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) induction year.

This means that, as of receipt of the form and confirmation letter from the DfES, I will be a fully qualified teacher in the British school system. It has taken me nearly two years to reach this point and I can tell you, right now I feel like a million dollars.

The Teacher is now qualified.
Man, that sounds great.

Silly Games

I’ve noticed a funny aspect of human behaviour that I have yet to work out.

Why is it that some people never tell you when you’ve upset them? They just go down the route of ignoring your phone calls and emails, believing that you will know exactly why they are behaving the way they are. The fact that you really don’t know what it is you’ve done, seems to be beside the point.

I can think of two people who are totally ignoring me right now and I don’t really know why. Is it something I said or did, or didn’t do? Here I am, writing emails and not getting a reply. In a similar vein, I leave messages on voicemails and return phone calls don’t come.

I have sadly but I believe wisely come to the conclusion that life is just too short to worry about people who behave in such a petty manner. If someone is angry/upset/disappointed with you and you have no way of knowing the reason – what is the point in trying to find out?

Life is teaching me that real friendships are those where people can talk and argue and yes, finish off by making up. As for the rest, let them go and find some other friends to frustrate.

I’m not playing these silly games anymore.

Sunday, 14 May 2006

Satisfaction? Perhaps.

It’s been one of those rare occasions when I actually managed to get most of my lesson planning out of the way by mid afternoon. It was so unusual, that I’m starting to wonder if I’ve worked hard enough!

This year has been challenging, not least because I’m teaching quite a bit of the material for the very first time. I would imagine that next year will be somewhat easier, in terms of planning at least; because I can re-use the plans I’ve pored over for many a Sunday afternoon. The end of the tunnel is in sight and I am aware that, incredibly, the summer holidays are but two months away – and not a moment too soon.

I haven’t planned the Wednesday morning lesson yet, but it occurred to me that I will be able to kill two birds with one stone, in that I will be covering the same subject with both the Year 8’s and 9’s on the same morning. This is not a bad thing, in that I can use the first lesson (Year 8) as a sort of dry run for the one I will later be assessed on. Obviously, I will have to target the subject at two different age groups, but that’s not too difficult.

Friday, 12 May 2006

Intrusions

For one reason or another, this has not been one of the easiest of weeks. School has been quite demanding and the weather, though beautiful, not really the most conducive to teaching.

Next week, the school is having it’s usual observations week, which I’m not particularly looking forward to as I’ve become quite happy to get on with my teaching without having people sticking their noses in and commenting on what I’m doing wrong.

I know it’s not the right attitude to have - observations are useful and do help me become a better teacher...but right now, I’d rather just do the job and teach the kids in my own way. Saying that, I am just over month away from hopefully (successfully) exiting my NQT (newly qualified teacher) status, so I suppose I’d just better grin and bear it…

…albeit through clenched teeth.

Wednesday, 10 May 2006

10,00 Hits!

Hey people, we’ve passed the 10,000 hits mark!

Granted that not a few of the visits are yours truly clocking up his own counter (c’mon, we ALL do it), it’s still a feat and I am beholden to all of you who visit and come back again and again to see what’s going on in my mind/life.

It’s good to know that I’m not going through this journey alone and that you are there, holding my hand when times get rough and friends just can’t be found…like a bridge over troubled water….

Ok, enough of the jokes.
Thanks for sticking it out and let’s get on with clocking the next few thousand laps of this crazy journey we call life.

The Five Steps

Here are the five steps to employ, if you want to seriously piss off an IT teacher:
  1. Throw him out of his teaching room under the pretence that his computers need to be used for the “A Level” History Exam. The reasons why the students need computers to do this exam are still shrouded in mystery.

  2. Make arrangements for the said teacher to go to another room where there are no computers or an electronic whiteboard.

  3. Don’t tell the teacher of the room change in advance, so that the candidates show up and inform him that he’s being moved elsewhere.

  4. Don’t act surprised if the teacher, once he’s found out what’s going on,goes ballistic in front of most of the junior school. Then, make the situation worse by sticking him into a vastly inferior computer room where the ventilation consists of two windows, only one of which half opens - and do this when the weather is particularly humid and unpleasant.

  5. Ensure that of the twenty computers in the room, only ten have mice. Did I mention that there are twenty five students in the class?

I promise that if you carry out all of the above steps, in an identical order, you will seriously and I do mean seriously, piss your IT teacher off.

Monday, 8 May 2006

Marking Time

The guilt finally got to me and I decided that I must do some marking before the kids go into the next academic year.

Ok, I’m exaggerating, but truth be told, I had let the marking go quiet for a little too long. I do remember the last time I blitzed the hundreds of folders that line the alcove in my room - I just can’t recall whether it concerned work from the last unit or the one I taught before it.

I could go down the totally masochistic route of bringing all the folders home and praying for some mythical creature to get them marked whilst I sleep. Instead I’ve decided to be sensible and so I’m only bringing home one class’s folders per night. Fortunately, there is enough interesting stuff on TV to stop me from ripping the work up through sheer frustration – although I have felt myself coming near.

What! you gasp in astonishment….teachers mark students’ work whilst watching TV? You betcha…and if I didn’t, I’d find myself climbing the walls.

So far, I’ve got three classes’ work up-to-date. To my amazement, I actually went back into school this afternoon after I had left for the day, to bring back another load of files. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it gave me the opportunity to see a cracking thriller called “Breakdown” whilst I marked Year 9’s oh so exciting pieces on Flow Charts (yes, it IS as boring as it sounds).

No matter. Tomorrow and Wednesday night will see me finishing off the Year 9’s (hopefully not literally) and then I can look forward to marking Year 7’s offerings… spreadsheets.

Oh joy.
I can hardly wait.

Sunday, 7 May 2006

Well, I Never!

Do you remember that awful Year 8 class I wrote about a while back?

For those who don't, a quick recap: I have been teaching a Year 8 class since September who can be politely described as being "obnoxious" (imagine what I would call them if I were being rude!). We started our battles on Tuesday afternoon and fortuntely, due to a timetable change, things improved (a little) when the lesson was moved to first period Friday morning.

I said "a little" and I meant it.

Keeping this in mind, you can imagine my sheer delight when I taught the class last week...and had to pinch myself, wondering if the kids hadn't been replaced with alien look-alikes. The children actually sat down to work, listened to my instructions and let me teach!

I was so impressed with this about-change in their behaviour that I sent a mass mailing out to each set of parents praising their kid's behaviour.

I've gone over the lesson in my mind, time and time again and can't understand what it is that I did differently. In fact, I didn't think I'd say it, but the class was a pleasure to teach.

I know I'll probably regret all this praise and wonderment, because they'll revert to their "normal" behaviour at the first opportunity, but then I suppose I can remind them of how good they can be if they just make that little bit of effort.

It's for lessons like these that I went into teaching and it's most reassuring to be reminded of this every now and again.

...otherwise, the future looks too bleak.

Thursday, 4 May 2006

Our Girls - The Latest Portraits



Left to right - Shira, Hadassah, Talia
Michal is in the front.



Unusual Date

Today is the 4th of May 2006.

If you write it in the European manner (as opposed to American), the date becomes the 4th (day) of the 5th (month) of the 6th (year).

Wait till next year, when we will be referring to the 5th of the 6th of the 7th...

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Another Perspective

I've come across a really interesting blog, written by an Iranian expatriate.
Of particular note is his description regarding a visit he made to Israel a few months back, where he discovered that many of the "truths" he and his fellow citizens were taught regarding Israel were in fact myths (and conversely, the way Israelis he met viewed Iran).

You can read it here. The blog is called "Editor:Myself".

I will continue to post my views on the latest developments in the Iranian-Israeli "relationship" for the foreseeable future, so I think it's important to show another perspective, via his website.

You can also access the site through the newly added link in the "Other Blogs" section, to the left of these posts.

I Couldn't Resist

Today, a non too bright Year 10 student asked me this question:

“Sir, what would happen if you took your skullcap off?”

My instantaneous response:

“My head would explode”.

Doh!

A Love Letter

Dearest Israel,

Happy 58th Birthday! I want you to know that despite what you may think, there are many people out there who do love you so very much. We are so proud of what you have achieved and how you keep on pushing the boundaries of science, medicine and technology.

We salute your efforts to further the cause of peace, despite the lack of anyone tangible to make shalom with.

We glow with pride as we wonder in amazement, as to how you are once again a home for the Jewish Nation, who have suffered so cruelly over the last two thousand years. Your learning institutions bristle with the sweet sound of Torah being disseminated to so many individuals, who are thirsty to extend their ever expanding knowledge of our intricate and fascinating ancient texts.

Finally, you are the conduit to our everlasting capital, Jerusalem and it is to you that we face every day as we send our prayers to the Almighty.

Happy Birthday Israel.

We love you so very very much.

Monday, 1 May 2006

Yom Hazikaron - The Day Of Remembrance

General MacArthur’s famously said “old soldiers never die, they just fade away”. This is assuming that soldiers get old.

In Israel tonight and tomorrow, the nation commemorates the men and women, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who were killed, simply for trying to protect their own fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters from enemies whose sole intention was and is, to stop Jewish people from living in freedom in their own land.

Since records began, back in 1860, nearly a hundred years before the Declaration of Independence, 22,123 human beings have lost their lives in defence of the Jewish homeland. In only the last twelve months, 138 soldiers have been murdered for the very same reason.

We light a candle, say a prayer and remember in silence the loss of life, of potential, or ‘what could have been’ – had those young people been allowed to live their lives.

Forget the politics, the bias, the recriminations. These people were not out to kill or maim, destroy or humiliate. They only asked for one thing – to live as Jews in their ancient homeland. They didn’t go around blowing themselves up, trying to kill women and children. That is not our way. That is not who we are.

They reluctantly took up arms to ensure that the people they were protecting had a chance to live “normal” lives. It is for this reason, that I too bow my head, wipe away a tear and think of the soldiers whose ages remain frozen in time.

This is a painful day for anyone who cares about Israel. Tomorrow, we will celebrate our 58th birthday, but first, let us remember why tomorrow came about and at what cost we are able to celebrate this very special anniversary.

May the next year bring about no more tragedies.
Enough blood.

My Favourite Month

Today, we enter my favourite month of the year. There’s something about May that really makes it a very special time of year for me.

Perhaps it is the notion that spring is in the air, the trees are in bloom and winter has finally faded into the southern hemisphere! May is a month that seems to burst with optimism - summer is just around the corner, the weather is brightening up (although, you wouldn’t believe it, if you saw the grey, raining sky staring at me through the window right now) and life seems as though it might be that touch more entertaining.

May also contains the anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, which also engenders personal feelings of deep pride and renewed love of all things Zionistic. The icing on the cake of course, is that it is a whole thirty one days long - go go May!

Welcome to MY month. Let’s hope this May brings us all more success, happiness and fulfilment.

Go on, get your short trousers on, open the windows of your house and let the sounds and smells of spring fill every corner of your abode. Let’s celebrate the fact that winter has finally disappeared and things can only get better…

…and if you’re reading this in any place south of the Equator, you have my deepest sympathies.