Monthly Archives: November 2005

Please excuse me while I rant

I just wonder sometimes where education has gone wrong.

With kids whose experience of Maths has been failure and confusion, I like to build up their confidence by spending long enough on a topic for them really to feel they understand it. To go fairy-step by fairy-step so they’re saying “This is easy, Miss” in that lovely tone of utter surprise. I like to seize on opportunities to do something that’s fun, like tying learning about money into putting together a Christmas wish list (cutting and pasting the toy section of an Argos catalogue onto a Christmas stocking cutout and listing the prices and what coins you could use to buy them, or what change you’d get from a £20 note – i.e. very little!) and learning to tell the time by making clocks and calendars.

And do you know what? It works. I have few children in my groups who are afraid of maths any more, and all are making outstanding progress. BUT

I am no longer to do this. I have been given my orders. I an to adhere more closely to the national curriculum. This esteemed document informs me that within the next three weeks leading up to Christmas I am to teach my nine-and-ten-year-olds: the time, weighing, measuring, capacity, using metric and imperial measure, adding, subtracting mentally and on paper, basic decimals, multiplication tables, worded problems, coordinates, transformations and number sequences. Whether they are ready for it or not.

Why do I do this job? Why? Why? Why? Does my professional integrity and expertise count for nothing?

A rare treat

A rare treat for you, Smudgie, to have a day at leisure, all to yourself.

Those were my minister’s kind words this morning. I didn’t disillusion him.

6.10 a.m. my alarm goes off, I make up Dad’s breakfast tray
6.30 a.m. I go round to Dad’s and wake him and carry out his ablutions.
7.00 a.m. I make breakfast for myself and the Smudgelets, supervise the organising of swimming bags and choir outfits, get washed and dressed and apply a little gentle nagging (the tone of which was slightly undermined when, intending to say “I’m not your servant” I got my words a little confused and said “It’s not as if I’m your mother!”)
8.15 a.m. Fill the car with petrol and purchase packed lunches for the Smudgelets. (Experience premature aging when the 25-year-old shopkeeper turns to me and says “Didn’t you used to teach me?” )
8.30 a.m. Play the attentive and supportive mum gesturing encouragingly to Smudgelet during his half-hour swimming lesson.
9.00 a.m. Play the attentive and supportive mum gesturing encouragingly to Smudgelet during his half-hour swimming lesson – yes, they were training new instructors and didn’t have enough children to make up an extra group, so Smudgelet was asked to stay on and have a free extra lesson.
9.30 a.m. Wait impatiently for Smudgelet to emerge from the gents’ changing room, purchasing yet another new comb to replace the one that should have been in his swimming bag.
10.00 a.m. Set off to Shankling to deliver a box of posh biscuits to the nursing home and collect the bottle of pain killers that Dad accidentally left there and desperately needs.
10.30 a.m. Wait by reception in ever-decreasing hope that someone will come and find me there and give me the bottle of pain killers!
11.00 a.m. Go to the post office to collect Dad’s pension and some stamps
11.30 a.m. Make Dad a cup of coffee and resist the temptation to fall asleep in the chair.
12.30 p.m. Nip up to the church for the Christmas Fayre – buy raffle tickets, guess the name of the teddy, purchase sundry second-hand knicknacks which are not really wanted but it’s all for a good cause, and answer multitudinous enquiries as to Dad’s health and the whereabouts of the Smudgelets (who are out for the day at rehearsals). Collect our Christmas Dinner which they’ve kindly put on a plate for me to take home to Dad.
1.30 pm Reheat Christmas dinner which has gone a little cool while waiting for the raffle to be drawn (We won two prizes, mind!)
2.30 pm Load washing machine yet again, load tumble drier yet again, load dishwasher yet again
3.20 pm Pick up M and drive to Cowes for the Smudgelets’ concert, remembering to stop at B&Q en route to purchase a new loo brush and a couple of bins.

A rare treat for you, Smudgie, to have a day at leisure, all to yourself.

(PS – Proud mummy post probably pending, once the concert’s over, mind!)

Action Stations

It looked like being an ordinary day at school… well, apart from the fact that Smudgelet was surreptitiously tucked away in a corner of the classroom as he had a development day at his school and I had nowhere to leave him. I covered a registration group for one of the three staff off sick and then turned my attention to teaching year eight about simplifying fractions. (They looked relieved at the start of the lesson when I said we were going to learn to simplify fractions… they weren’t so impressed when they realised this did not mean that we were suddenly going to find fractions easier!)

Suddenly I hear bells. Yes, it’s my mobile ringing, half way through demistifying the search for a common factor for the numerator and denominator. Tiddles’ school secretary – apparently Tiddles has thrown up twice on the bus on the way to school, and continued parting with his breakfast and bemoaning a migraine-type headache for the next half hour, please would I go and fetch him home as they were running out of buckets for him. A frantic message to the Head’s office results in me being asked to hold the fort until they find someone to cover my lessons as another teacher has been sent home sick. I send Smudgelet up to the staffroom to get our coats and wait for me there and turn my attention back to deciding whether you should say twenty-twoths or twenty-secondths which awaiting relief… relief which sadly was not forthcoming for about half an hour.

Just as I am waiting for my year seven group to line up properly (a thankless task!), I hear bells again. Not my mobile this time, but the fire alarm. I have to marshall the kids out onto the school playground, bypassing the rules and regulations to nip up to the staffroom to rescue Smudgelet from the flames. Needless to say my car keys were still in my coat pocket in the staffroom, which was out of bounds, so even if the supply teacher had arrived then, I couldn’t have escaped to pick up my ailing child. A quick phonecall to his school to inform them they’d have to hold on to him a little longer.

I get my class in and settled and start to issue some work for them to do with the supply when I suddenly hear bells yet again. No, not another fire drill (which had been a false alarm) but this time it’s my mobile again. The nursing home. There’s been a change of plan – my father is being discharged and brought home early…. i.e. any moment now – and hasn’t got a key. I’m furious, if I hadn’t been coming home to get Tiddles I couldn’t have left school. The timing of the ambulance had been arranged especially so that I would be home from work (and could get his bungalow ready for him) and able to look after him and liaise with the occupational therapists. So in some ways it was quite a blessing that Tiddles is so poorly, but I didn’t half feel harrassed as I quickly put together some work for my remaining classes and handed over to the supply teacher when she arrived.

It’s a bit daunting waiting for him to get home. He’s going to be exhausted most of the time, I reckon, as it’s such a long walk from room to room in comparison with how far he’s been managing to walk so far… and without me around to fetch and carry, even having a mid-morning cup of tea is going to be a real ordeal for him.

One thing’s for certain, though. Much as Tiddles enjoyed his hike, he’s really not enjoying the days following it, so he won’t be going hiking overnight again. 🙁


This reminds me of my childhood. My Dad used to work shifts and consequently was quite a light sleeper and often asleep during the day. One weekend in four he worked “Quick Change-over” which involved him working six hours on, six hours off over one 40 hour period – the intervening six-hour stints mainly being spent either eating or asleep – and at this time the whole household suddenly became hushed. It was in many ways my favourite time; a time when watching TV was a necessary indulgeance; a time when mum and I hid away together in the lounge and watched the Saturday afternoon film and, at 4pm, our absolute favourite – the wrestling! 😀 ; a time when the chocolate box came out and the fire went on and we just revelled in the quiet and each other’s company; a time I actually resented it if a friend came to call.

My sisters and I were discussing it the other day and saying how we all have an exaggerated concern for sleeping people, seeing their sleep as sacrosanct and doing anything to avoid waking them (and also finding it extremely irritating when people wake us from our sleep by carrying on with the normal volume of the day). So it’s rather nice this lunchtime to be closeted away with Smudgelet, eating croissants and tomato soup and watching the DVD of Robots while Tiddles sleeps. Now, should I put the fire on and break out the chocolates?

Can I go to bed now please?

It’s been a hard day’s night. And what a night to be out. Still, at least it was dry – what’s a bit of frost between friends as long as it’s not raining. And there was plenty of food and hot soup in the rucksack at the start of the night. A coat would have been a good idea, but then we can’t remember everything, can we? But after all those miles hiking through the dark, mainly in Parkhurst forest, I am ready for a good day’s sleep now.

OK, so it wasn’t me doing the hiking. Might have been better if it were – give me something to take my mind off it. Not that I stayed awake half the night wondering how Tiddles was doing, out there in the dark. No, no, of course not… calm and collected me, slept like a log. Well what do you think? Would you have slept if your thirteen-going-on-six year old was out with four others, all under fourteen, hiking across the Island unaccompanied from 9pm to 3am? (I say unaccompanied – of course there were marshalls every inch of the way to make it feel a real adventure but make sure the kids were safe).

He’s now soaking in the bath after one of the most exciting nights of his life. Navigating, hiking, doing first aid, climbing rope obstacles while carrying a cup of water in one hand (woohoo – not bad for a fellow who’s scared of heights!), pioneering a makeshift ship’s mast and, here’s the classic, using the five ship’s biscuits he’d made earlier in the day as ammunition to throw at a target. Classic!. Especially classic when you know the trouble we’d gone to to make those. We’d made a slight mistake with the recipe and overdone the salt (my fault) and the water (his fault) so ended up using two whole bagfuls of flour just to get something nearing edible… which means my fridge is now clogged up with a massive blob of brownish stickyish gloopy dough of which we used just a corner to manufacture six semi-edible biscuits. If we’d left it as it was to start with, they’d have made much better grenades!

Pickup this morning at 8.30 – a horribly early start for me after such a traumatic night! One tired but proud boy, covered in mud, starving, and desperate for a bath and his nice warm bed. Me? Proud of him? Nah! Well.. maybe just a little bit. 😉

In case of dire emergency, please do not resussitate!

I thought of having this tattooed on my forehead, but people might get the wrong idea. I mean, a nice hunky paramedic would be more than welcome to give me the kiss of life. You wouldn’t find me arguing (particularly as I’d be unconscious at the time… unfortunately). But I’m more than a little concerned about my safety if my Boy Scout son should try to save my life. I’d rather take my chances.

This weekend he has a night hike with the Scouts – his first ever. It’s a four hour hike in the middle of the night, navigating with a map to various check-points and carrying out challenges there with a team of four others. (I am trying extremely hard not to be a worry-wart of a mother). One challenge will definitely be first aid, so we’ve been practising and going over what he’s learnt.

M: OK, you come across a casualty lying unconscious on the ground, what do you do first?
T: I check for any danger, like the tide coming in or them holding something electrical.
M: And if they have some bare wires in their hands, how do you stop them giving you an electric shock?
T: I’d put my woolly gloves on and then take the wire off them.

M: Right, the casualty is safe, what checks do you now need to do?
T: I need to check their level of consciousness. I’d shout at them and see if they answered. And to see if they responded to pain I’d thump them on the chest.

M: You’ve found out they’re unconscious, so what do you do now?
T: First of all I’d check their airway is clear by tilting their head back and making sure they’d nothing in their mouth. (Good, good). Then I’d put them in the recovery position.
M: Would that be a good idea if they weren’t breathing? Is there anything you need to check first?
T: Ah yes, I’d check they were breathing. How would I do that? Hmmm… I’d lick my finger and stick it up their nose.

M: Right, the casualty is not breathing, you now need to check whether their heart is beating. How do you check circulation?
T: I could put my hand on their heart. Oh no, I remember, I need to check their pulse.
M: Where would you find their pulse?
T: I would hold their thumb and squeeze it between my fingers to see if there was a heartbeat there.

M: You’ve established there’s no pulse and no breathing. It’s up to you to save their life. What are you going to do?
T: I’d talk to them in a calm voice.
M: Is that all?
T: Hmmm… I suppose I could put them in the recovery position.
M: And you think that would help?
T: Well, you said that hearing was last sense to go, so it’d be good to talk to them, ask them some questions or something, until the ambulance gets there.

M: You have to get some oxygen into them. You’ve learnt how to do the kiss of life. How will you do it?
T: I’ll make sure their airway is open and breath into their mouth. Then I’ll hit them on the chest for fifteen minutes. Then I’ll give them another breath.

Tiddles, darling. If ever you find me unconscious on the floor, please please don’t try to save my life.