Not In My Name…

After hearing the decision to launch strikes in Syria, I was horrified at the imminent death sentence that has been given to countless innocent civilians.
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I don’t use this space to promote my political views or agendas, but I’m angry that a decision was made on my behalf by a group of over 300 people, most of them belonging to a party that I didn’t vote for.

#NotInMyName

 

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I Quit My Job Update: Seven Months On

I quit my teaching job update

I was scrolling down my Facebook feed this morning, and one status from a teacher friend immediately stood out:

‘Is it wrong to have the Sunday night blues at this time in a morning?’

How I remember that feeling. Twelve months ago, my state of mind was exactly the same, except, my Sunday night blues would start on Saturday morning – the respite from the almost permanent state of anxiety I experienced would be on Friday nights, when I knew I wouldn’t have to face anything for two days and was busy comforting myself with huge amounts of junk food in an effort to make myself feel temporarily better.

Just over seven months ago, I decided that I’d had enough, and I quit my teaching job without a new job to go to. This was the scariest thing I have ever done – I’ve had a job since I got my National Insurance Card at the age of 16, and I’ve never left one job without securing another first. Want to know the full story? Click here – I’ve had an amazing response to this. Continue reading

Back to a New Reality

imageI did my first day of supply teaching today. I was lying in bed at 8.45am, contemplating getting up and facing the day, when I received a phone call to request two days of cover for an absent teacher at my former school.

I was surprised, I didn’t expect this sort of work for at least a few months, but it was a brilliant opportunity to see all of my former colleagues and earn a bit of extra cash – never a bad thing in my opinion!

Admittedly, I was a little nervous on the way there. I was covering languages all day, which is far out of my comfort zone, and I hadn’t met any of the new students. There have been a few changes in the faculty as several staff left with me last year, and after ten weeks of being away from the classroom I was concerned that I would struggle.

It was initially a very surreal experience. My surroundings were so familiar, and yet it seemed totally different. It was a completely new reality.

However, it turned out to be an enjoyable day – I was greeted by some of my favourite students with ‘I thought you’d left – good to see you back!’ and one sixth former launched himself down the corridor to give me a massive hug. I also found it amusing that staff said hello as they normally would, and then did a double take when realising that I was at work. It was really good talking to everyone and listening to stories of their summer adventures, and after a while it almost felt like I had never left.

Almost.

What was particularly brilliant was that after a few months of doubt over my decision to leave the profession, there were several occasions where I had to deal with challenging behaviour, (despite knowing these particular students well), and it was a solid reminder that I was absolutely doing the right thing.

Best of all, I left at the end of the day just after the students, several hours earlier than I used to, without a single piece of work to do in the evening – no marking, no paperwork, no worries. Instead of going home with a headache and anxiety, I met my friend and went to the pub.

I could get used to this!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks, and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.

 

Ten Things That Teaching Has Taught Me

image1. I have more patience than I ever believed possible. As somebody who possessses a nasty temper when pushed, I’ve surprised myself by usually being able to remain calm and speak in a slow, positive tone even when faced with the most challenging of behaviours. Usually.

2. I am capable of adapting to unforeseen circumstances at the last minute.

3. I am never too old to be able to learn new things and develop skills, and I enjoy doing so. Continue reading

The Day After the Week Before…

imageAll great changes are preceded by chaos.

And how chaotic it has been. After twelve consecutive days of full rehearsals and six performances, we finally finished the production at work. By the end of Friday night, we were all completely shattered – the staff were exhausted, the kids were exhausted, even The Bloke was exhausted after being my personal taxi service all week and we had done it all during the hottest week of the year so far. Continue reading

If We Were Having Coffee #9

imageIf we were having coffee, I would begin with an apology. For the last seven consecutive days I have been in work, completing two major orchestra rehearsals and a concert, sports day, Immersion Day, staff training day and then all-day rehearsals on Saturday and Sunday for the musical production that we are putting on all of next week. My routine has been predominantly work/sleep/work/sleep, and the blog, my house and my general life is in a state of temporary disarray. Comments have yet to be approved and replied to, I’ve read virtually nothing, and my stats are at their lowest since November 2014. Just bear with me… Continue reading

Expectations of the Perfect Partner

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Our students participated in an interesting set of workshops today. They were all off their usual timetable, instead discussing issues surrounding physical, emotional, social and sexual health. I spent most of the day supervising the sexual health workshops, which were predominantly focused on personal relationships and the expectations that each individual has of them.

The facilitator set the kids a really interesting activity. They were asked to draw out a shape in the form of a gingerbread man on a large piece of paper, with the title, ‘The Perfect Partner.’ Around the outside, they had to write the physical attributes that they would like, and on the inside, personality traits.

By the end of the third workshop, I had developed so many ideas in my head that I did the activity myself.

This was what I came up with:

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I’m in a long-term, happy relationship with a wonderful bloke, but being Little Miss Cynical I found myself thinking that the activity was perhaps setting false expectations for the students – surely there is no such thing as the perfect partner because there is no such thing as the perfect person? I mentioned this when I had a conversation with the practitioner after the workshops had finished, and there was something that she said that stuck with me for the rest of the day…

“None of the things that they all listed were impossible or unachievable – nobody wanted a partner that could fly or magic money out of thin air. The idea behind it is not to give young people false expectations, but to have expectations in the first place. By acknowledging things that they want in a partner, it gives them a chance to focus on two things: that personality is far more important than the way somebody looks, and that they will only be treated in the way that they allow themselves to be.”

She was absolutely right. Their ideas were not anything unexpected. Initially, the boys thought more about boobs and large bottoms and the girls talked about the importance of height and blue eyes, but by the time everyone had finished they had all filled the middle of their diagram with lots of ideas that would make the perfect personality.

I asked some of the students after school what they had gained from the workshop. One of them simply smiled and said,

“I am going to go home and do the activity about me instead of my perfect partner. That way, I know what sort of person I want to become and then I can expect exactly the same of my future boyfriend.”

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A lesson well learned, I think!

What about you? What would your perfect partner look like?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook and Pinterest pages

http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks
http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks

 

Student Life

imageIt was a glorious day on Sunday, and I decided to go for a wander outside to enjoy the weather. Across the road there were a group of five people who were moving into a house. Everything about them screamed ‘student,’ from the items that they were carrying out of a small white van, to the way that they were dressed, and it made me smile, particularly when they sat outside with bottles of beer and cigarettes after they had finished. Watching those people (while doing my best not be be obvious as a nosey neighbour, which I blatantly am) brought back memories of student days. I remember the student accommodation I lived in during my first year…

Then I realised something – it was fourteen years ago that I started university.

Fourteen years?!

I did everything a little differently to most of my friends after sixth form college (for 16 – 18 year olds) had finished. Instead of applying to a university, I knew that I wanted to go to a music conservatoire instead – I had played the violin for ten years by that point and had decided that my dream career was to be a session musician – and so I took a gap year so I could audition, earn some extra cash and spend a little more time studying baroque instruments with my A Level music teachers. My audition was on 6th November 2000 in Birmingham (I’ve never forgotten the date for some reason), I fell in love with the city and was I ecstatic when I was offered a scholarship for the following September. The first thing that I did after receiving my acceptance letter was to visit the local Woolworths (which those of you over thirty in the UK will remember) and purchase two cooking pans, a matching plate and bowl and a cheap cutlery set, despite it being ten months before I was going to move away. I worked as a supervisor in a nightclub during the week and every time I got paid, I bought something else.

Ten months later, I was standing in my Halls of Residence. My belongings had fit into the back of a Ford Mondeo (eventually, after my father had inevitably lost his temper), my sisters had grunted a goodbye at me and we had made a two and a half hour journey where my mother was trying not to cry. My box room was part of a shared accommodation with nine other people – there was a bathroom per two rooms, with a single kitchen and lounge area. The building was old, my bathroom was mouldy, my mattress had a plastic covering on it and there were cigarette stains on the ceiling of my bedroom from the previous tenant. My mother (who has always been a clean-freak) was quietly trying not to have a heart-attack at the state of the place, discretely taking out cleaning products and scrubbing brush and blitzing everything that she could get her hands on, despite my protestations. There was a welcome pack hung on my door – it contained a Pot Noodle, some lollies, some stationary and a condom, which caused my mother to freak out even more.

After they had left, I went to the window and had a cigarette while I surveyed my new territory – my parents didn’t know that I smoked at that point and it was the first time where I didn’t have to worry about the smell being obvious. In fact, it was the first time where I could do anything I wanted – it was an overwhelming feeling of freedom. Within an hour I had unpacked everything. Looking back, I realise how little I had in the way of possessions – I had no TV or computer and my phone was a Nokia 3210 (which I affectionately called the brick). There was no Internet, no Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram – they didn’t exist – all I had was a CD player and a stack of CD’s, my kitchen items, a mirror, my clothes, a hair dryer and brush, some make up, bed linen, towels, my favourite twenty books and a couple of memory boxes that I had created over the years. I adorned the walls with photographs of friends and family and posters of my favourite singers. I made my bed and finished the cleaning that my mother had started, and then went to the pub with some of my new housemates.

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I can honestly say that that point was the cleanest it was all year…

I regret that I have no photographs of that little room, because what followed was one of the happiest years of my life. It was small, it was basic, but it was mine, and I bloody loved it.

What about you guys? What are your memories of student accommodation?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

Things Teachers Want Parents To Know

imageThe other day, I attended Parents Evening for a cohort of my students. After nearly ten years and about seventy similar events, I realised that this was my last ever set of parental meetings. It was quite an unusual revelation. Of the thousands of conversations that I have had with parents over the years, there are things that, from a teacher perspective, I and many of my friends and colleagues want them to know.

1. I genuinely care about your child and their well-being. I believe that your child has the potential to become a well-rounded, successful human being and I work hard to help them in their journey.

2. Teacher training days are important and aren’t there for the purpose of inconveniencing you. Most professions require training and professional development on a regular basis and we have them to develop our ability to support our youngsters in every aspect of their lives.

3. Your child isn’t stupid. Even at the age of thirty-three, I still struggle with maths. If you asked me to sprint 100 metres it would probably take me longer than most. My attempts at drawing and sketching real life would make Picasso look like an amateur. None of these make me stupid, I just have talents in other areas. Your child has their own strengths and weaknesses and telling them that they aren’t clever or good at something could possibly result in self-confidence issues that may affect them on a long-term basis. Levels aren’t always everything – if your child works hard and does their absolute best, I can’t ask any more from them.

4. Discipline and manners begins at home. I shouldn’t have to explain to a sixteen year-old why rolling their eyes, tutting, huffing and snapping ‘what?!’ at me is not an appropriate response when I call their name in a lesson, or remind them to use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ during their interactions with myself and their peers.

5. Correcting your child when they make a mistake doesn’t mean I dislike them or am ‘picking on them.’ If a child makes a mistake in a lesson, I will speak to them about it and give them the opportunity to change their behaviour. If I have to speak to them more than once, I will issue an appropriate sanction that is consistent for every student I teach. You may believe that your child is an angel, but telling them that they don’t have to do a detention I have set and that I am clearly being biased is teaching them that their behaviour is acceptable.

6. Allowing your child to play on their XBox until 1.00am does not help me. When I’m tired, I lose concentration and motivation and I’m far more irritable than usual, even as an adult. An eleven year-old who has had five or six hours of sleep may as well not be in school – by lunch they have switched off completely.

7. My job is to facilitate learning, not to actually do the work for them. Your child is not finding the work too difficult, they’re simply lazy. I set differentiated tasks in each lesson to accommodate the needs of the entire class and I try and challenge each individual as much as possible. I set weekly coursework catch-up sessions, detentions, I ring home, send emails, I even remind students of impending deadlines as I’m passing them in the corridors. If your child doesn’t complete their coursework to the standard that they are capable of, it is because they haven’t put the work in, not because I am a bad teacher.

8. I am not perfect and I make mistakes. Move on. I treat each new teaching day as a fresh start and if a child has had a bad day we start again with a clean slate in the next lesson. Reminding me of the time I upset your now sixteen year-old when they were twelve is not relevant or productive to their education.

9. Your child is not being bullied, they are a troublemaker. This is perhaps the most difficult element of the profession that I have dealt with in my conversations with parents. I experienced years of bullying when I was at school, and as a teacher it is something that I will absolutely not tolerate. However, I have been in many situations where a child has deliberately gone out of their way to cause trouble amongst their friends because they like to create an element of drama in their lives and have then accused others of bullying them when they have retaliated. Of course, any parent will want to protect their child if they feel they are being threatened and I will always do my best to resolve any conflicts amongst students regardless of the circumstances. However, yelling at me without listening to the whole story first is not going to teach your child that deliberately causing trouble will have consequences.

10. I want us to be a team and I appreciate your support. My job is made much easier with the knowledge that I can share your child’s achievements or my concerns without fear of judgement or blame being placed in my direction. Thank you.

What about you? Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to say in your profession, but can’t?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks and Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks

 

Blog Of The Day: Meet Teachez Well!

imageMeet Katherine!

She’s the creator of Teachez Well Blog, a site dedicated to teaching children with learning difficulties and special needs, and with over forty years of experience, she’s more than qualified to provide assistance to anyone who has children that have certain needs!

She has a wonderful sense lf humour, and her About page (and indeed every email she has ever sent me) makes me smile when she discusses her husband, the blog widower…

I am a semi-retired special educator with 40+ years experience. Yes, that makes me pretty old and I was probably teaching long before many of you were born. I always wanted to be a teacher, probably because I had some amazing and loving teachers myself. I have taught kids with a wide variety of disabilities, primarily in the public school system at the elementary level. My specialties are reading and social skills. Have you heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers: The Story of Success?” Gladwell summarizes research that suggests it takes at least 10,000 hours to develop expertise in some field. That makes me appreciate all those long hours st school when I start to feel old and creaky…

My husband of 42 years and best friend for 45 (yes, I had to use a calculator) now declares himself a Blogging Widower. He just came out here, where I am hunched over my computer, gave me a kiss, and announced his new status. He’s been a Teacher Widower for 41 years, so this is not an entirely new role for him. You would love him if you met him. All my students who have met him always ask when he’s coming back. He has made many runs to school when I frantically ask him to bring my lunch, that file folder, my purse, the materials I need RIGHT NOW to teach, my phone, and my planner (for all the good that has done me). He’s also made trips to school when I have taken his house and office keys to work; fortunately, he keeps his car keys in a separate place.

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Are you a homeschooler for a child with barriers to learning or have children with specific learning needs? Then this is the blog for you. Katherine is positive, extremely supportive and friendly, and has provided many wonderful comments on Suzie81 Speaks… Go and check her blog out and say hello – I’m sure she would be delighted to meet you!

Check out her blog here!

Want to be featured as Blog Of The Day? Check out my Sponsorship page for details!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks