Thursday, August 31, 2006

#90 on wanting to blog

Current mood - nervous excitement
Current music - none

Am currently sitting in the staffroom of my new school typing this entry as I have no internet connection at home. It would appear as though my ISP have entered into a dispute with BT leaving the bills unpaid and me (and my mum and aunt who went with the same company on my recommendation) without internet access.

Never mind.

So I'm just about recovered from Greenbelt - my tummy is still a little churny but I've caught up with my sleep and have the fond memories to keep me company when I'm daydreaming. Among the most fond are hearing A sing with the sublime Steve as part of a beautiful triple bill with Julie McKee and Juliet Turner. A master stroke of planning and organisation in my opinion.

It was also fantastic to introduce Jude Simpson who, quite frankly, was on possibly the best form I have ever seen. Her poetry was delivered with exquisite timing and the in between banter played to the crowd magically. A treat to have been there.

I didn't catch much of the music programme but Weapons of Sound stand out as my most enjoyable musical experience. Being able to get right to the front of mainstage with two small children in complete safety was magic. I'm going to try and book a workshop for school.

I'm also going to try and get the mobile farm to come to school as well. That'll be a hoot.

So I sit here in anticipation waiting for my new job to kick in first with staff on Monday and then with kiddiwinks on Tuesday. I can't help but feeling homesick for my old job and I know there are friends who'll be going back there who'll miss me - heaven knows I'm going to miss them too but I have to say that there were some things about the way that school was being managed that made it impossible for me to stay and advance my career. I'm sad but not bitter. Put bluntly I'm putting more energy into the new challenges ahead of me than on the frustrations of the past.

So don't expect too many posts for the time being. i'll do what I can and let you know of prgress. By the way if Euro1net do fold, who would make a good replacement?

Friday, August 18, 2006

#89 on a fiendish and addictive game

current music - none (been listening to Big Brother in the other room)
current mood - frustrated (read on...)

So i get to the end of a successful day. Met an old friend and all our kids played together well. Wrote a whole bunch of Greenbelt emails that should hopefully wrap things up. (Like that's going to happen). The current toal of emails in my Greenbelt box is 879, more than last year. Phew.

So anyway, i've finished my emails. I've seen Pete win Big Brother. (I feel quite good about that and I'm looking to see how the mass media try to put a handle on him.) And now i sit down do play my current time waster - Hapland! Now let's be clear - this game is a bastard and what makes it worse is I know there are walkthrough guides available that will show me how to rescue those little stick men.

So why not click the link and give it a go. I guarantee that once started you will not be able to leave it alone.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

#88 on A level results and electricians

current music - 'Tubular Bells' by Mike Oldfield
current mood - frustrated (I am really getting into Linux but by golly it's a bugger to configure)

So we are greeted with the news today that most of the kids who stayed on for A levels have passed them and yet again the same old same old debate kicks off again - are they getting easier or are the kids getting smarter etc.

Rant number one is at non-lives who ring into radio chat shows and say 'well i did my A levels in 1962 and they were bloody hard then and only 3 people in the country who passed and we lived in a cardboard box and we had to lick it clean every morining and then work 25 hours a day down pit...' and so on and so on. Yeah A levels have changed and rightfully so in my view. Quite frankly anyone who, in my day, could cram two years work into their head and come up with the answers for a three hour exam was either lucky or slightly freakish.

Having said that I think the pendulum has swung a bit too far. Didn't the examining boards suspect that by allowing the pupils to do coursework at home, some over anxious parents might help (FFS). And I'm not talking about getting mum to colour in the bars on the graphs. In this age of communication when one pupil has worked it out (or got their uncle with a degree in physics to work it out) all the pupils are going to know about it.

My favoured option mirrors some (and looking back on it, not enough) of the courses I read at university. There we had 18 week semesters broken into study, revision and then exam phases. One essay mid way through the course to check we were on the ball and one exam at the end - three hours, three questions bosh. Harsh but fair. It made you revise but you knew you only had fifteen weeks to revise, not two years. And if you buggered up the exam your essay score would usually bump the average and if you buggered up the essay as well, well you probably deserved the fail. Harsh but fair. You are there to learn after all. Now if they applied that to A levels, maybe examiners would get a more satisfactory picture. A terms work and then an exam. Bosh. First year results to give a grade average and away you go on the second year. Bugger it up you have to repeat the year.

Actually my really favoured option is to do what we have been doing in Key Stage One for ages now. Just hand in the teacher assessment and forget about stupid bleedin' exams. Ask any teacher worth their salt and they will be able to tell you within a gnat's crotchet what level any pupil is on and what that pupil needs to do next to move on to the next level. That's what we do. That's why we are shit hot at our job. That's why we get paid so much?!

Broadly speaking I think the kids are getting smarter. For several reasons. Firstly we do get brighter as a nation as time goes by (academically that is, not morally). How long ago was it that most of the country was illiterate? When I went to school we did electric circuits with bulbs, batteries and wires in High Shcool. Now we teach it in Year 2. We are teaching more stuff in better ways to younger kids becausethey are ready to learn it. No wonder they can pass the top tier exams.

Secondly, the A level curriculum has changed very little over the past few years. Now this is a key point. When governments stop interfering in schools, teachers get on with what they are good at getting on with - teaching. Even if the system is a bit crap, they can still make it work. I tell you, when the goal posts have wheels on to make it easier to move them, when the only consistent thing is the amount of change, when the secretary of state states, 'change is here to stay', our jobs become very difficult, almost to the point of imposibility. That's what pisses teachers off. More than the money.

And thirdly, kids have wised up to the fact that if they want to get on in the world they need a degree. And the route to University is through A levels.

Well I say bollocks to that.

I failed all my A levels. I was immature and very unhappy. There was no pastoral support at school. Home was a mess and I wanted to be there less than I wanted to be at school. The teaching was pretty crap as I recall and looking back on it it was the biggest mistake of my life to date, especially as I already had a job in th bag which I backed out of to stay on at the advice of the careers teacher. I'm not trying to pass the buck - I deserved what I got and my only regret looking back was that no one, including me, had the balls to say this isn't working sooner, and let me sit through those awful exams knowing already what the outcome was.

To continue the autobiography, I went to wrok and eight years later, with a BTEC A level equivalent from night school under my belt, I went to university to study for my BEd in which I got a first, thus proving (to myself) that I wasn't thick because I couldn't get an A level.

Now University was great for me and so has been my career as a teacher since. Why? Because I had eight years from the University of Life to help me do my job. So many of the kids I studied with had never left school. And don't start talking to me about gap years. FFS. Back packing to Burma for a couple of months does not prepare you for the real world. One year is not enough.

Now my mate D is an electrician. I honestly don't know what his educational qualifications are but I tell you what, he is never out of work. Come to think of it have you ever met a sparks or a plumber or a tiler who is short of work or cash? Yes, they need a level of academic achievement, of course they do, but the middle class, so called, intelligensia peer down their noses at those who don't have letters after their name as if their job is menial and pointless whilst clapping our hands with joy because Johnny has got three A's which means he can go to the University of Nowhere to study Balderdash and Frisbee.

It seems to me that kids who study really hard for A levels and then go on to University believing they are guaranteed their passport to the real world are putting their ladders up against the wrong wall.

The debate should not be about how hard A levels are. It should be about what is the point of A levels. Should they simply be a route to University or should they be a means of preparing brighter pupils for a successful place among the workforce.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

#87 on checklists, wu wei and getting things done

current music - none (no reason just haven't configured amaroK properly yet)
current mood - resolute (determined to get to the bottom of my to do list before Greenbelt)

I sat in the bath today and tried to think through how I can stroll throu
gh this rainstorm called life avoiding the raindrops and yet manage to get all the things done that I need to get done without a nervous breakdown. My prcess of thought went roughly along the lines of ditching the unnecessary, doing the necessary a little and often, revere each minute and make space to relax.

Today was successful. Tomorrow is another day.

So now in my mind I have a checklist of all the things I ought to do each day. If I lived in the 100 Aker Wood, Rabbit would have got Christopher Robin to draw up a chart, Owl would have made crammed too many items in it and eeyore would tell me it's pointless and not to even bother. I'm going to emulate my good Pooh and just let all of the things take care of themselves.

Like blogging a bit more often.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

#86 on getting ready for greenbelt

Current mood - excited
Current music - 'Praise You' by Fat Boy Slim

Many of prepare for Greenbelt in different ways. Of that I am sure. Back in the Castle Ashby days I remember one mate decided to join us at the last minute and turned up in his cortina estate with a box of apples and no tent. He slept in the back of his car and swapped apples for bread etc. We have a fantastic photo of him standing in front of car one morning bedecked in his stripy dressing gown. He's a Salvation Army Officer now. Oh well.

As for me I am in the beautiful place between getting all my emails sent and replied to (well mostly) and actually pitching up at that beautiful thin place where you can stand on the ground and touch heaven.

So, having borrowed my sister's tent and pitched it in the garden to check that it is all there, me and the boys decided to eat our tea and then go to bed in the back garden.

It's a father to son thing.

So I am currently typing by torchlight (no backlit keyboard for me you smug macbook users) listening to ipod - one year they played 'praise you' incessantly between acts on the mainstage and it's sort of stuck with me now as my greenbelt song.

And now I am officially excited.

Friday, August 04, 2006

#85 on perseverance

Current mood - tired but satisfied
Current music - none (everyone's gone off to bed leaving me all alone)

So I'm at my mum and aunt's house right now typing this entry on their rather posh, it must be said, laptop that they invested in a few months ago. They also splashed out on a rather posh printer cum scanner and a digital camera. Their aim - to scan the zillions of old family photos that currently fill their spare room plus to photograph pretty much all they do as they share their well earned retirement in Suffolk and beyond.

The last time I was here I showed my aunt how to use the scanner and the lesson this time was transferring images from the digital camera. It took some time but my aunt showed great perseverance to get her head around not only the concept of transferring images but also how to store them too. I kept it simple and I think she understands fairly well. I'll type some instructions and we'll see how she gets in in the future.

It could have been so easy to type a patronising entry about how crap she is at all this technology stuff but I tell you what if I'm as open minded and patient as she is when I'm her age I will be very proud indeed.

So this entry is dedicated to your dear aunt. Now don't bugger it up.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

#84 on cars

Current mood - relaxed
current music - Saturn from The Planets Suite by Holst

Well last night's post didn't quite make it to blogger. Don't quite know why and stupidly I didn't save it elsewhere so we'll just put it down to experience. It was some self indulgent twaddle about having a bit more time to do stuff I should/need/want to do etc. And as if to prove a point, tonight's thought download refers to a trip to the cinema with A, S and N today to see Pixar/Disney new offering 'Cars'.

Much like my own car it took some time to get going; a long preface led our main caracter (sorry for the pun) into a small town on Route 66 of the main I-State where he has to pay penance for being brash and proud and self serving. So we get our tale of learning new values and friendship and, well you know pixar's style by now and it all turns out ok in the end. It reminded me somewhat of 'Doc Hollywood' where Michael J Fox gets stuck in small town America and has to work his punishment for some misdemenour and so on and so on.

On the up side the technical wizardry made the production completely believable. Pixar's reliance on non human characters means that we don't object to seeing solid and inanimate objects actually moving. A couple of set pieces were really enjoyable too - the scene in the field of tractors is very funny and the ending credits sequence where the cars go to a drive in to watch other Pixar movies with cars playing characters like Woody and Buzz and James P Sullivan, were inspired.

On the down side - and this frankly has been the problem with every single animated tale since Monsters Inc. - the story just wasn't inventive enough to capture the imagination of the kids, let alone the adults. It doesn't matter seamless the production is, if the story isn't good enough, the movie isn't good enough. Also my eco-alarm rang as I witnessed scenes of car racing with literally thousands of American cars in the spectator galleries and scenes of roads with literally thousands of American cars on them. The American (and ergo British) love affair with greenhouse emissions is really reinforced in this movie as cars are turned into cute creatures with feelings too.

Come to think of it I don't recall seeing any exhaust fumes at all.