Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Splish, splash, splosh.

Oh the rain.
It has been raining in Sydney for three days straight. Or maybe it has only been two, but man it feels like three. I don't mean for this blog to turn into a rant about teaching and the trials and tribulations, but please, hear me out:

Why do we have to go to school when it rains?

We can't leave the room, for starters. As the rain pounds against the walls, we become locked in a battle of wills as to who will break first: the students or myself, in this brightly-coloured prison. Yes, I like a positive learning environment, so my walls are a thing of beauty, but that does not mean I want to stare at them all day long without a break. Who will need to go to the toilet first, me or them? Who will hit someone first, me or them? Who will attempt to sneak out of the classroom first, me or them? Strange things happen on a rainy day at school.

I spend much of the day chastising children for getting wet. I am not really sure why I bother. They do take umbrellas with them when they walk around the school, but I am sure they only take them to humour me. Umbrellas seem to serve mainly as an obstacle against collection of rainwater in one's mouth, or to hamper optimal puddle-jumping velocity. They come back with the bottom of their trousers soaked, their shoes muddy and the tell-tale sign of excited, pink cheeks. They've just had the time of their lives.

Wouldn't it be good if we all lived in a Shirley Hughes book? That way, puddles could be celebrated (and even encouraged, by the purchasing of special puddle-jumping boots) and birds could be chased and we could get muddy, grassy and wet and it would be nothing but exhilarating. We could wear 'macs' and 'wellingtons' to the park, and to school, we'd wear sweet little brown t-bar shoes and corduroy trousers.Then we could all go home and dry out wet clothes on the hearth, with a mug of steaming cocoa warming our hands.

All images by the lovely Shirley Hughes, from her must-read book 'Alfie's Feet'.

Monday, 16 May 2011

In her prime, but teaching has taken its toll.

I think I mentioned in my first post that I am a teacher.

I teach very small children. They are in their first year of primary school, and most of them haven't had any kind of schooling before now.

Sometimes I love them. Sometimes, they do things that make me want to tear my hair out, run for the hills, scream and throttle them. All at once.

I find that most of teaching is common sense, particularly dealing with the age group that I have. It is less about teaching content (although there is plenty of that) and more about teaching them the social skills and routines required at school. Still, sometimes I am stumped. 

What do you do, for example, when you spy one child roaming around the other side of the playground, lost, but you have your whole class with you, with nobody else around. My approach was just to take them with me, like a mother duck and her ducklings, however things took a turn when one child fell and another child vomited. Thankfully the roaming child came back.

Then what do you do, when said roaming child puts her empty bag over her head (with her head inside) and promptly trips over a group of seated children, like a wild, two-headed bowling ball? Not much, actually, except watch with a faint sense of amusement mixed with the familiar feeling of dread.

What do you do when one child screams blue murder, furiously rips leaves off the nearest bush and tries to kick you when all you did to warrant this type of behaviour was to ask him to stop pushing his classmate? I ignored him and ate my sandwich.

What do you do when a child turns up to school with no sandwich and no socks on a freezing cold winter's day?

What do you do when a particularly overzealous parent demands to know why her son cannot read? When every fibre of your being is concentrating on not yelling out "Because your son is super-dumb!" 

What do you do when the children put stickers on your skirt, hug you spontaneously, write their first sentence, remember your name and where the homework belongs and how to get to the library? When they make you pretend choc-chip ice-cream because you requested it or find where you left your sunglasses? When they notice your new haircut as soon as they see you or are so passionate about your new shoes that they feel the need to rub their hands and face all over them and occasionally clean them with their own spit?

Sigh, tie their shoelaces, send them home and thank your lucky stars you are not their parent.

Until you pull up at your local supermarket and one of them bloody pulls up* in the carspace next to you.

*in the back seat of course!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Mother's Day

My mother had me, age 19. She was barely out of high school, living in a different city, with a newborn baby that she didn't know what to do with. Both my parents have told me that I was the first baby they had ever held.

My parents had all three of their children by the time they were 23. My mother recently rang into Adam Spencer's radio show and proudly boasted that she thought my father was the youngest person to ever receive a vasectomy, age 23.

I cannot even imagine being in my mother's shoes....although she does have some lovely shoes.

She went to university when my youngest sibling went to school. She was on the honour roll. She went on to teach in both Australia and Europe. She is now an executive teacher at one of the most prestigious schools in the area. She is also an empty nester, but at the peak of her career, with at least 15 years to go. How many people could say that?

My mother taught me, among many other things:
How to read before I went to school.
How to clean a toilet.
The importance of petticoats.
How to effectively remove food from my teeth without the aid of a mirror.
The value of tea.
How to be cheeky.
How to laugh at myself.

Despite the significance of all these things, perhaps most importantly, she taught me what sort of mother I would like to be. A mother who never shies away from telling their children they are loved. A mother who pre-empts teenage conflict by saying, "I am not going to do this for the next five years." A mother who happily checks essays, sews dresses overnight, writes letters and tucks them into lunchboxes and only occasionally throws the odd plate with rage.

No matter how lovely the shoes are, they are just too big to fill.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Kate Middleton: the ultimate Sensible Girl

Along with 2 billion others, I watched the Royal Wedding with my mother with glee. I loved everything about it. But I especially loved Kate. She is the ultimate Sensible Girl. Here's why:

* Kate takes very few risks. Just look at her hair: Kate has the most sensible hair I have ever seen. Sensible length, sensible colour, sensible cut.
* Her frock: Long sleeves. So sensible. Modest and weather-appropriate. Manageable train, veil, flowers. That girl had a heck of a walk down that aisle, best to make the accessories as sensible as possible. And she did.
*Her future. For someone with not a lot of working experience, at age 29, what better way to secure yourself than to marry a prince? The groom promised to share all his worldly goods, and in this case, that is quite a good deal for Kate. What a sensible choice!

Being not only a sensible girl, but a romantic girl, I was stinging for the balcony scene. In the end, just as William was about to kiss his sensible girl, my father announced he had spotted a rat in the living room. Moment somewhat spoiled and I ended up watching the balcony scene perched atop the coffee table.

My husband said later, "Yes, but why did you get onto the coffee table?"
Ruby: "I don't know. It's just instinct, isn't it?"
Him: "But why the table?"
Ruby: "Because, obviously, so the rat doesn't run up your trouser leg."
Him: "They never do that."
Ruby: "They do! Look at the cartoons!"

Being sensible does not always translate to common sense.