Thursday, November 30, 2006

and so Ends NaBloPoMo


I wish I had an epic post for the end of a month of daily blogging, but events of late haven't exactly been good for my creativity.

At the start of this month, I hoped that this personal challenge would be good for me and help me to become a better writer...

Not sure about the writing part, but it was fun trying to think of interesting things to talk about. There were a lot of ideas I'd had for blog posts this month that never did get written.

This month I realized just how much I enjoy blogging. When I started writing in this almost a year ago, I was just joining in with some of my friends, who had just started their own blogs. It was like the summer of '94 when a few of my friends and I started writing in this communal journal that I'd completely covered in pennies. We wrote in that book all summer and loved reading what everybody else was writing: ramblings filled with teenage angst, lists of favourite songs, and silly stories about stuff we used to do. I still have that book. It's great looking back at all of us (after 14 years of friendship), remembering the people we were back then.

Now there are bloggers who I've never met but genuinely feel like I know - and would invite out for a drink at the pub anytime. The support that people give each other through their blogs always amazes me. When Magazine Man lost his dog Blaze (if you don't know the story, click here), dozens (or maybe hundreds) of people were frantically checking his blog several times a day to see if there was another post - or a happy ending. I had tears in my eyes more than once for this family and their beloved pet who were going through such a terrible time - a family I've never met and likely never will. Each post was followed sometimes 40 comments, all offering prayers and support, or offers of help. I was amazed at how many people took the time to wish them well. Having recieved a lot of incredibly sweet and supportive comments from the readers of my blog, I feel the same comfort that I'm sure their family did.

My writing is still surprising me. Some days I know exactly what I want to write, and can toss out a 1000 word post in no time at all, and other days it take hours to get it right. I've learned that my work ethic does extend to this blog, even through hard times and horrible colds.

And now, one question remains:

Will I post tomorrow?

I'm really not sure...

But I'll probably be back the next day. Good habits are hard to break ;)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

why does this stuff keep happening?

I really won't be making a long post today.

Jeremy got the news we did not want to hear. They denied his visa application, stating that he couldn't provide adequate proof that he has a place to live (with me) and that I'll support him financially as he searches for a job.

Interesting that they said that SINCE THEY NEVER CALLED ME.

So now it's a flurry of phone calls from all of us as we try to figure out the appeal process and see if there is anything else we can do.

He might have to come back here and apply from France. Which means we'll be spending Christmas in Paris. I would obviously love that, but this is not a likely option.

I can't write anymore right now.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

and the light goes on in their eyes

Today was a day I'll remember for a long time.

Over the weekend, I puzzled for hours about how to introduce the concept of multiplication to a bunch of 6 and 7 year old children - some of whom still can't write their numbers the right way. The other Year 2 teacher, N, had a lot of trouble getting her class to understand the relationship between groups of objects, adding, and multiplying.

Yesterday's lesson went far better than expected, with about half of the kids in my class 'getting it'. Feeling a little more confidence (both myself and the class), we started exploring multiplying a little more today. I had different tasks for the different ability groups in my class, ranging from counting by 2s and creating groups using coins to creating multiplication problems to challenge fellow group members. The students all seemed to really enjoy what they were doing and there was the sound of animated conversation echoing from our classroom down the hallway.

During the last 10 minutes of the lesson, I stopped them all and started asking random multiplication questions to see which students really did understand how it worked. They could all multiply by 1, even when I said "what is 1 times a million?!"

As I was asking them questions, every student in the class was as excited as if they were in a game show - shouting out answers and putting their hand up to answer questions.

One little boy, C, who gets in trouble daily and can barely read and write (every class has a kid that other teachers say "Oh, you're got ____ in your class." in this knowing tone - he is that kid in our class), kept putting up his hand to give answers. This is very out of character for him, and he usually just shouts out "TEN!" to every question, so when it came time to answer "2 x 5" and he stuck his hand up, I thought "I'll just pick him so he'll get the answer and make him feel good".

I had no idea that he was going to sit there looking at his hands thoughtfully and counting something under his breath as the rest of the class waited impatiently (they expected him to get it wrong).

"hmm...mumblemumble. 9? no wait... 10!"

Every person in the room (students included) stared in shock. It was obvious to all of us that he had worked it out properly in his head, rather than just guessing.

R, one of my other 'difficult' students shouted out: Miss! I think C should get a team point for that! Then the class erupted into applause for little C, who not being used to that kind of treatment, puffed up his little chest and grinned the proudest smile I've ever seen from him.

This child, who needs constant reminders just to sit properly in his chair, participated just as well as the rest of the class. He was trying so hard, which I know takes more effort than from the other students.

It made my entire day.

Somebody must have told the Head Teacher about it, because at the end of the day he came into the room with a laminated piece of paper that read:


You were truly a Star Student today! Well Done!
We are all very proud of you.

Signed : Head Teacher"

I can't wait to see this kid's face when he sees it tomorrow.

And this my BloggerFriends, is why I'm a teacher. Moments like that. When your hours of commuting, working 2 hours at the end of each school day to make sure things are ready for the next day, dealing with irritated parents, whiny children, and dozens of other daily tasks that go along with standing in front of 30 little people every day, hoping they learn SOMETHING, finally pays off and you see the light go on in their eyes. Because they've learned something. And you are the one that helped them get there.

I hope I never forget that even the most difficult child can be reached - it just sometimes takes a little bit more time...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Technical Difficulties

Freaking hell.

After a pleasant day at school, I came home in a great mood that lasted for about 2 minutes.

The little green light on my power plug for my laptop was off, even though it was plugged in. After trying several plugs, and watching the little green light go off after 20 seconds or so each time, I realized that the plug had decided to stop working properly.

Meaning that when the battery dies on my laptop, I will no longer be able to use it...

"Hello Dell? I'm having a problem with my power cable and am pretty sure I need a new one... I haven't gone through technical support because I'm experienced with troubleshooting computers, so I'm looking to order a new cable".

thick Indian accent: "Ma'am, the technical support is closed after 6pm"

Me: "no, you don't understand - I don't need tech support. I need a new cable."

"Um, well technical support opens at 9am tomorrow morning"

"Can I please just order a power cable?"

"Well our orders office is not open anymore either".

"WHAT?! Aren't you Sales?! I don't understand how you're not open if you're answering the phones right now."

"Well you can't order any parts after 6pm. You call tomorrow morning."

I'm still gritting my teeth in anger.

I swore never to compare North America with Europe, but I have to say that back home Dell is open 24/7 and has customer service people who actually speak proper English and can understand me when I'm talking to them. This phone call just increased my frustration meter about 1,000%.

Not having a TV means that my laptop is my sole means of communication with the world. I read the news, chat with Jeremy and friends from back home, watch streamed episodes of Friends, and listen to internet radio. All things that make my day more relaxing.

Now I'm not relaxed and I need to turn off the computer until later so I can at least read a few blogs and maybe watch one episode of Friends before going to bed.


I hope tomorrow I get somebody on the phone who speaks proper English and can get me a cable in 24 hours so I don't have to purchase one at a store.

Gonna go have Sangria at Eve's place. That should cheer things up...

Until tomorrow (I hope)...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fresh Raspberries on the 28th Floor

I couldn't decide if I was going to haul my butt out of bed to get ready for an afternoon drink at the Windows bar near Hyde Park with Eve and her friend Michaela. Still coughing a lot from this horrible cold (but feeling a lot better after a restful weekend), I decided to see how I'd feel after a shower.

Still coughing but determined not to cancel, I got dressed, did my hair, and managed to get myself ready just in time for the knock on my door.

The London Hilton on Park Lane hotel is only about a half hour walk from where we live, but it's been really rainy lately (big surprise there), so we took a bus to Marble Arch and walked past car dealerships for Corvette, Cadillac, and BMW (did I mention this area is super posh?) until we arrived at the hotel.

The Windows Bar (I keep calling it the Sky Bar) is on the top floor of the hotel and has views of the city that are nothing short of incredible. We watched the sunset over the city, taking lots of pictures and trying to spot places we knew. You could see Green Park, Hyde Park, Harrods, the Thames River, the London Eye, some of the bridges (I couldn't tell which ones), and a mix of new and old buildings as far as the eye can see.

I've been to the top of the CN Tower and seen breathtaking views of Toronto several times, but nothing prepared me for how amazing London looks from the air. When we flew into the city, I was spellbound by what we were seeing, but the stress and exhaustion I was feeling didn't give me the chance to really enjoy the view.

This time I was dressed up and feeling very excited to get a view of "my neighbourhood" from the sky.

I wasn't disappointed.

We ordered virgin drinks because the ones with alcohol were ridiculously expensive (started at around 13.50), asking for cocktails with orange and raspberry in them. They were served in these really nice glasses, with fresh raspberries crushed into the drink and two on a spear at the top of each glass. Probably the best / most expensive raspberries I'll ever eat.

Now I'm back on the ground in my cozy little flat, trying to decide what to make for dinner. While my choices may not be like the pricey entrees listed in the restaurant we were just in, sometimes I'm just as happy to have soup and a BLT. And a carton of juice for 79p.

Until tomorrow...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A little Christmasy

I said my first word in front of a Christmas tree at 9 and a half months old.

When I was a baby, my mom would sit with me in front of the tree, whispering "pretty" as she pointed at the tree.

My first word was a whispered "pwitty" (trying to say pretty) as I stared up at the beautiful tree.

I'm writing this post in my darkened flat in London, listening to Sade (never realized how talented she is) and watching the candles flicker. In the bedroom is a string of Christmas lights: a warm glow of colours that takes me back to being a little kid beside the tree in our living room, full of hot chocolate or some yummy cookies, and probably reading Archie Comics.
The snowbanks out the window would glisten (only at Christmas does "glisten" not sound cheesy) with the reflection of the coloured lights in everybody's windows. I loved having snow on Christmas - so much that when I was 11 years old and in Florida, I prayed for it, even though it hadn't snowed there in 111 years. Turns out God has a sense of humour, and the entire state of Florida shut down that holiday season on the day that the temperatures dropped and teeny snowflakes coated the palm-tree studded streets. People went crazy, there were brown-outs and car accidents, and people cursed the frigid -2 degree temperatures. To a little girl from Canada though - it was a miracle. That little girl keeps telling me to pray for it again this year if I want to see it so bad. London would look amazing with a white blanket of snow covering the busy streets and gorgeous parks...

I absolutely love the Christmas season. It has such warm memories (as does much of my childhood) of snowy days, skidoing, hot chocolate, Christmas cookies and carols playing over the stereo. I remember coming home from school to the smell of baking and my mother humming along with Bing Crosby as she pulled things out of the oven.

The first Christmas I spent away from home was 3 months after I moved out. I was living in London, Ontario and had just started a job with the Call Center, which was open every day of the year with no exceptions. There were so many people who had been there longer than me that i had no chance of getting enough time off to go North for Christmas. I had friends in town, but they were all going home, so I was alone on December 25th.

I was pretty homesick during that time, but tried my best to make up for it. Dinner was crab legs and a nice bottle of wine, followed by rasperry cheesecake. mmmm

When I finally did travel home that Christmas, it was a little strange not going to Christmas Eve Mass, but all of those warm feelings were still there. That was when I realized that as long as you're with your loved ones that it doesn't matter if you have to celebrate a few days later.

Unfortunately, I'll be off by a lot more than a few days this year. Getting through being alone that first Christmas means that I can anticipate the bittersweet feeling that this year's holiday season will bring.

The last few Christmases have beeen a flurry of driving and visits with both my family and Jeremy's family. The schedule is always the same: we drive to his aunt and uncle's place in Port Colborne, Ontario for Christmas Eve, eating an incredible Christmas dinner, having a few drinks, and lots of great conversation with music playing in the background. Once all of the vistors had left, some of us would jump into the hot tub for some champagne and nice soak.

The first year I spent with his family on Christmas Eve, they mad me open the champagne. The cork flew up into the starry sky and landed somewhere in the snow. We sipped the champagne and talked about how much fun the night was and how excited the kids would be the next morning. I was missing our family's traditions a lot that night, but couldn't help but enjoy the time with his family. They make me feel so welcome and cared-for (even that first year we were together) that it's impossible not to have a wonderful time with them. That and the fact that they're all friendly, funny, wonderful people who know how to have a good time.

Christmas morning is a flurry of opening stockings and presents, laughing and hugging over the things that people get each other, then a delicious breakfast before Jeremy and I get into the car for the long drive to Sudbury.

That first year, I was surprised to find out how much I enjoyed driving on Christmas Day. There is very little traffic on the highways (though more than I'd expected), so it's a pretty easy drive. Since I love Christmas music, it doesn't bother me that every station is playing it from Toronto all the way to Sudbury.

We usually get home around 4pm on Christmas Day, carrying overstuffed bags and presents into my parent's house, taking a deep breath of yet another incredible turkey dinner. (Since our families make such different turkey dinners, we have no problem at all having it two days in a row. Even if they were exactly the same, I don't think it would bother me...)

Then it's a movie or games of Euchre with my parents as Crosby and Sinatra and Elvis and all sorts of others sing about being home for the holidays, silent nights, and white christmases. All of those old songs will remind me forever of being home for Christmas with my family.

In bed at the end of the night (after sneaking a teeny piece of still-warm stuffing from the fridge), I lie there thinking about the last few days and feel thankful for the fact that we have two amazing families who care about us and will always be there.

Yep, this year will be different.

We'll be missing home and our families and all of those wonderful memories will be a little painful for (hopefully) the only time in our lives. I'll go to Christmas Eve mass at the church nearby and listen to the choir sing songs that I've heard all of my life. And I'll be sad because I'm alone.

But we'll see the tree lit in Trafalgar Square, listen to carol-singers as they move through the streets of London, see the lights on Oxford street and other places around the city, buy ourselves some Ferrero Roche chocolates (our favourite) and have a nice dinner in one of the pubs in the City (if there are any open - I've heard that all of England shuts down for at least a week). There will be lots of phone calls overseas, and I'm sure a few tears because we're all missing each other. I'll try my best to make the best of things and make sure that Jeremy and I have a Merry Christmas in our little flat in London.

and I'll be praying for snow...

Friday, November 24, 2006


I guess I missed a day...

I fell asleep on the couch last night around 9pm, woke up an hour later and stumbled into bed without thinking about anything except the nice comfy mattress and how I couldn't wait to slip back into dreams.

I wasn't going to write a long post, but the topic was the fact that at the school I work at, I am allowed to do a Christmas UNIT with my class - at least half of whom are Muslim or of other non-Christian faiths. The Head Teacher says that since we talk about all of the other festivals, and since Christmas is the biggest festival in Britain, we damn well should teach the kids living here about its meaning.


back later...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

the Power of Positive Thinking?

Today was not the Worst Day Ever.

I didn't wake up later than normal and have a hard time getting out of bed because I was still really sleepy.

I didn't feel like that annoying cold I've got is succeeding in making me feel worse (despite taking vitamins and eating healthy every day).

I didn't leave 5 minutes later than normal.

While riding the train today, there was no announcement that the Victoria Line (which I'm learning to really love a lot) was having "signal failures" for the 3rd day in a row, making me have to jump trains at King's Cross, take another train, then hop 2 buses.

The buses were on time. I didn't stand with 20 other people for 24 minutes in the damp, cold street.

The second bus I take did not take 15 minutes longer than usual to arrive at the station, and it didn't stop at every single stop on the road.

There was no construction on the road we needed to go down.

I didn't arrive a half hour late to school this morning, and the Head Teacher didn't have to watch my class while they waited.

Our classroom wasn't under construction (getting new lights), so we didn't have to go and work in the library all day.

The library was all set up for our class, with tables and chairs, so we didn't have to spend almost 30 minutes getting things arranged so they could get work done.

My children were well-behaved and patient through all of these unusual changes to their routine, and I didn't have to get cross with them because they were being naughty.

I didn't miss two phone calls from Lloyd's Bank regarding a screw-up with my bank account.

I didn't have to call an irate parent who did NOT like what I had to say about her child's progress (or lack thereof), and she didn't tell me that she wished the regular teacher was still around. She also didn't complain about my lack of communication with her regarding her child's misbehaviours, nor expect daily calls if he gets too far out of line.

I also got all of my plans sorted for tomorrow because the staff meeting didn't run long.

The trains weren't running on delays and were not packed like sardines on the way home.

I'm not going to cry or throw a tantrum.

I will not drink a couple of strong vodka & OJs and lie in bed watching episodes of Friends streamed from a Japanese website (with Japanese subtitles) to cheer myself up.

I will have a good night and tomorrow will be a GREAT DAY.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

so much for a nice 200th post

Authors note: the first link contains disturbing and extremely disgusting language. Click with caution (no little ones around).

Well I HAVE to comment on this.

If you've just clicked on the link, you'll know why I'm so shocked. I have been a longtime fan of Seinfeld and always like Kramer the best - his character was by far the most entertaining and I always admired Michael Richards for his comedic abilities.

You probably already all know this piece of news - in fact, it was in the paper this morning. Something totally different about watching a well-loved (well used to be anyway) comedian becoming a racist asshole makes the story even sadder.

Here's the CNN story about this, with an interview from an audience member.

Some people say that it wasn't a big deal because black people use that horrible word all the time. Okay fine - but it doesn't mean they're right to use it either. The remarks that were made in addition to this are even worse (something I didn't think was possible).

Here is his apology on Letterman.

Take his comments as you will. I don't feel comfortable posting about this any further because I will rant for 2000 words about how much I hate intolerance and racism and how people are people no matter what their damn skin colour is. It also brought back memories of a horrible situation that happened when I was living in London, Ontario (that I won't get into out of respect for the only person who has a right to share it).

I can only hope that the little kids I see every day are not dealing with this.

Realistically though, I'm sure some of them probably are...

Since they literally hold our future in their hands, I will see to it that every child that comes through my classroom will never, ever learn to speak that way, or accept it if somebody says anything of that nature to them.

Be good to each other...

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Joy of the Commute

I've got my morning schedule down to a perfectly tuned, minute-by-minute choreography of showering, doing hair and makeup, reading a little news, drinking juice, getting dressed, etc... While these things don't need to necessarily be in order, it always throws me off when something interrupts the routine.

This morning it didn't happen in the flat. It happened on the street. More specifically, at the Underground station that I use every single morning...

I was absolutely not prepared for the sight of iron gates and darkened insides of the station I usually rush into with a newspaper in hand, preparing to begin my 60 minute trip to school.

"Central Line is not running at any stations due to power failure." oh crap, I'm thinking.

There are a dozen different ways to travel through this city, so I immediately thought of rushing to the next nearest station, where I can take the Circle Line to King's Cross and catch the train I need to get to North London (where the school is).

Upon arriving at Bayswater Station, I saw the message "Circle Line is closed to due power problems". OH CRAP, I'm now shouting in my head.

This started an adventure that had me running into the school after 90 minutes of travel, where I learned that a supply teacher was going to be watching my class while I completed reading benchmarks (standardized reading exams for my students) and that she needed my plans.

The plans I was supposed to write when I got to school EARLY.

To make things more complicated, the regular teacher for the other year 2 class wasn't there today, and had a supply teacher who showed up a half hour late. So we had to juggle two classes while I tried to figure out plans for they day. Definitely made for an interesting start of my week...

I'm pretty proud of handling things as calmly as I did, while everybody else kinda panicked. One of us had to be cool, so I decided to be the good-in-a-crisis person. The day did end up going pretty smoothly, and the children had a good day in both classes, so we were happy.

You would think I'd learned from that experience to be hyper-prepared for tomorrow, with all of the things laid out and photocoping done. But I've got the worksheets sitting in the classroom, waiting to irritate myself or my TA while they run sloooowly through the photocopier tomorrow morning.

Which of course means that that entire Underground will stop running and I'll have to rent a horse to get to school.

Until tomorrow...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

One of the good things about living in England and not owning a TV...

is that I have apparently been spared from all of the media coverage about that wedding that happened over in Italy yesterday. Somebody mentioned that a girl my age was marrying some crazy dude who used to be hot but is now very much not. And apparently he's waayyy older than she is too!

Being curious, I of course looked at some of the photographs and stories following this crazy "wedding", and realized that this couldn't be the Wedding of the Year because it actually isn't a legal union. Interesting...

Anyway, if you look at the wedding picture of Tom and Katie (I refuse to ever even utter that ridiculous name-combination that the media dreamed up), it appears that he is just a bit taller than her. Which is funny, because she has at least 3 inches over him when wearing flats. Even more interesting....

Getting married in a castle would be pretty fun. I won't lie and say that an Italian wedding with candles and torches and gorgeous flowers wouldn't be incredible. Then you look at who went to the wedding. Suddenly David and Victoria Beckam (why haven't they come up with a name for them??) are such good friends with the newly married nutbars that David is risking being kicked off of his soccer team because he attended the wedding instead of going back to his team as instructed. We all know that Oprah didn't attend - which is strange, but nothing Tom does anymore will surprise me (unless he allows Katie to rejoin Catholicism).

Will they last? I wouldn't bet on it, since he doesn't have the greatest track record for marriages. When it does end, the world will probably look on the inevitable messy divorce the same way they looked at Britney and Kevin: vague interest and the hope that they'll just go away soon.


In the last week, I have put out some pretty miserable posts. Being completely aware of this, yet determined to participate in NaBloPoMo, I charged ahead and sat at my laptop with blurry, tired eyes more than once this week. This hasn't been easy and now I'm wondering why exactly I opted to try this, since it most definitely has not improved my writing. I don't want blogging to become something that is a chore.

If anybody is still reading this, I apologize for the state of these last several posts and will not be doing anything like that again. If I do continue posting everyday, I'll just put up a picture or two with a brief comment when I don't have anything to talk about.


On a whole other note, I have officially become inducted into "Teacherhood". Two words:

Report Cards.

The mere mention of these tricky documents makes my mother shudder and brings on tales of hours spent in front of the computer, learning the programs that are used to create the reports (which seemed to change every other year when she was still teaching).

In England, they call them Progress Reports, and they are written by hand. Not a lot of writing either - I actually really like the format and will be spending a lot of time today working on getting them completed, so the kids can bring them home tomorrow. This is not something that a supply teacher should be doing, but there is nobody else to complete these for the class. And so when I was asked about these reports, I happily told the Head Teacher that "sure! I'd be glad to write these for you! They're supposed to go out tomorrow? Uh, is Monday fine? Okay - I'll do them on the weekend! Um... How do I write these?"

To his credit, he didn't act too shocked or upset that I not only didn't know how to write a Progress Report, but also had no idea that the school was handing these out this week. 'Tis the life of a non-permanent teacher though...

So here I sit, armed with several Progress Reports, hoping that I will be able to communicate the strengths, weaknesses, struggles, successes, and areas of improvement for each of the 30 children I've been teaching for less than a month. In Canada, teachers must be with a class for 6 weeks before legally being allowed to write Report Cards, but here I'm not sure what the restrictions are. Both the Head Teacher and Deputy Head are extremely supportive and grateful that I'm even doing this, so I have gotten a lot of support, and have been told to come early tomorrow if I need help with any of them.

Here's hoping that things work out...

I'm wishing for Tim Horton's more than ever today.

I will try to post something better tomorrow, but if you only see a picture with a brief little explanation (like the one of the payphone that was on the wrong end of a conversation), then just blame the report cards.

have a great Sunday everyone!

ps. I did write a post yesterday, but it was so bad that I've decided to just leave it as draft. Trust me - it would have been 5 minutes none of you would ever have gotten back.

Friday, November 17, 2006

British Humour

hmmm... i'm attempting to write this post after sharing a couple of bottles of wine at the comedy club that Eve insisted I visit tonight. We met up with some of her work colleagues, all of whom seemed to be from Germany. Lots of people speaking rapid German around me while I sat and smiled and nodded...

The comedians and the MC were absolutely hilarious (can't believe I can spell that right now) so it was pretty much nonstop laughing.

I've got pictures of the club, but right now have to go back up to Eve's for a goodnight drink. So I'll add more to this post shortly...This is a picture of the doors in the Ladies Room - they were actually fuzzy (and not because I was drinking) and totally reminded me of what you'd see in 70's porn videos.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Too tired to write...

I keep waking up at all hours of the night. Last night I actually had a nightmare where I was a character in one of the Nora Roberts books I've read recently. Very strange - I woke up to the sound of my own whimpering - and I don't think I've ever whimpered before (actually I'm pretty sure I've never even used the word in a sentence).

So the last two nights I've gotten very little sleep and it's already 10:11pm and I should be in bed, but I had to write in my blog.

So I thought I'd post a couple of pictures - one of the adorable teddy bear that Jeremy got for me and the other of a cool gift from Eve.
This is by far the coolest candle ever:

It's so relaxing to sit with a couple of other candles lit - gives the place a really cozy feel.

In fact, it's so inviting that I think I'm going to go curl up in bed and read a bit.

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Fergie, of the Black Eyed Peas, says that anyone who insults her voice insults God. “I may not have the type of voice you like, but I can sing,” the white hip-hopper told Vibe. “You can’t take that away from me, ‘cause singing is a gift from God, and when people say I can’t sing, it’s kind of like insulting God.”

Oh.My.God. Honestly I think there is something very wrong with her. I've already ranted about the frighteningly bad latest songs she has inflicted upon the world, but that comment just killed me. How is it possible that somebody that daft is making millions of dollars??? I just don't get it.

Today Eve and I went down to the Earl's Court Exhibition Center where the World Music Awards was playing. We thought it would be fun to try and catch some celebs on the red carpet. Of course, I'm a total shrimp so that plan didn't work out so well. I think I caught the side of Lindsay Lohan's head, but other than that I really didn't get anything noteworthy. We were much too far away to see anything good, except the dozens of crazed Michael Jackson fans shouting his name even though he wasn't there.

SO annoying - his hotel is two blocks away and poor Eve has to sleep with her window closed because of the crowd of morons shouting for the "King of Pop" at all hours of the night. And here is the one benefit of a basement flat - I can't hear them at all.

By the way - Jeremy made it home safe and sound, which is a relief. I'm already counting the days until he gets back. Time to go and have a glass of wine before bed...

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Okay, I promise that this will not be a super whiny post about how he's gone for 5 weeks and how lonely and quiet the flat seems without him...

Today would have been a terrible day even if he wasn't gone.

I could have titled this post "Melinda and the No-Good-Very-Bad-Day".

After a very teary goodbye this morning, I forced my feet to walk out the door, knowing that I'd need to get myself together or I'd need to try and reapply makeup on the train (a feat I've never tried and don't really want to). Expecting to have a not-so-pleasant ride to school, I grabbed a newspaper in hopes that it would distract me from my life for a little while. Then I heard an announcement:

"Ladies and gentleman. There are severe delays on the Victoria Line, with no service running between King's Cross and Walthamstow Central. You will need to find alternate routes this morning. We apologize for the inconvenience."

I never swear in public, but I couldn't stop the "FUCK" from coming out of my mouth, following by "Are you freaking KIDDING ME?!"

I ride the Victoria Line to Walthamstow Central every single day on the way to school (between taking the Central Line and a bus), so this news was really really bad. Since I had no idea how I was going to get to school. Reaching for my mobile, I noticed that it wasn't there. In my overly emotional state, I had forgotten it on our kitchen table. This brought things from bad to worse - since I had no idea how I was going to call the school to let them know I was running late...

Being the sort of person who has good directional sense helped me map out a plan to take a different train line to a place called Finsbury Park, where the Victoria line intersects. Using the logic that I could just switch to the proper train line if it was running, or at least catch a bus from that point had me feeling pretty proud of myself (considering the previously mentioned emotional state). Upon arrival, I quickly learned that the Victoria line was still not running at all, so it was time to find a bus...

I should mention that I'm not as good at figuring out the hundreds of buses that travel through the streets of London each day. After asking one of the Underground workers, I had to get back on the train for two more stops, than catch a bus to get to Walthamstow, where I would have to catch yet another bus. And almost definitely be late.

I finally caught a break while riding on the first bus. It passed the second to last stop on the Victoria Line, Blackhorse Road, a station I often travel to from school, since there is a bus that runs directly between. A bus that I realized I could probably catch and get to school on time. A bus that was on its way to the nearest stop as I was crossing the street, so I got to do the "worker dash" (running at top speed in dressy looking clothes and not-good-for-running schoes while carrying a business bag) up the street. Getting on that bus was the first good thing of the day, and as it turned out - I did get to school on time.

I ran into the classroom at 9:01am (we bring the kids in right around that time, but there is no bell, so we're often anytime between 9:00 and 9:05 each morning. As luck would have it, the kids were just starting to line up, so nobody except my teaching assistants had any idea about my hellish trip.

Then more bad luck struck as the Headteacher popped in to let me know that I was going to be evaluated on a literacy lesson and could I 'please rearrange the schedule to make sure it was being taught between 10-11am'.

I don't mind being evaluated, but since I'm a supply teacher I really didn't expect to be evaluated at all. The lesson went okay, but the kids were chattier than normal, and things took a lot longer to get completed.

They were like that all day, partly due to the rain that we haven't had in ages, and the fact that I was probably giving off funny vibes (even though I obviously never let any of those emotions show). One kid who is particularly challenging had a really rough day, which always makes things run less smoothly.

As it turns out, the visitor during my lesson didn't think much of it, although she did like my rapport with the children and how I kept their attention. woohoo. I did finally get some good constructive criticism about my lessons, which were kindly given with the comment "I know you are working at a disadvantage and without the benefit of additional help and training, so don't worry about it". Plus, it seems that some people are going out of their way to tell the Headteacher about how well I'm doing. So it wasn't necessarily a problem that the visitor didn't like my lesson - just added to the general crappiness of the day.

Then I dropped half of my photocopies into a puddle on the way back to class after lunch, knocked a chair over while walking in the classroom, stubbed my boot and scuffed it beyond repair on the pavement while getting off the bus, had to walk in the rain because I forgot my umbrella, and walked into an empty flat at the end of a very long day.

Now it's 9pm and part of me just wants to curl up in a ball and cry. I know the nights will be the hardest, and it's been a very long time since I was alone when going to sleep, so this is going to take some getting used to. Right now when I think about going out with Eve or some other friends and returning to this place, it makes me feel sick to my stomach knowing that he won't be here.

Funny how the presence of a person turns a "place" into a "home".

Monday, November 13, 2006

Early post

It's 6:25am right now and I should be getting ready for school. I wanted to write a quick post this morning so I'd be able to spend all of my time with Jeremy when I get home.

He will be there tomorrow morning when I leave for school, but on a plane when I get home. I'm probably not dealing with this as well as I should be (hence the not-so-interesting blog posts for the last few days), but I'm trying my best.

Okay, well bursting into tears without warning isn't so good.

Neither is feeling sorry for myself because I'll be alone in a strange place for such a long time.

I wish I could crawl back into bed and spend another day with him, but school beckons. And so, I get up, get ready to be "Miss" again, and start one more day.

This is going to be a hard week...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Who would have thought...

that in some places around the world, people are turning to blogs as their only way to express themselves without being arrested.

They call it tadween, which means "to chronicle".

Men and women in Saudi Arabia and other similar countries are turning to the anonymity of the blog so they can share themselves with the world.

Unfortunately, the crackdown has begun already, with several blogs being blocked and some people being arrested for writing.

Fascinating article. Thinking about women writing sexual or political content in their blogs (or even having one in the first place) is something I've taken for granted. Just like being able to vote, drive a car, and consider myself equal to everybody else on this planet. An all-girls high school left me with a strong sense of self and confidence in my own abilities that I probably would have developed eventually, but perhaps not quite as well. It saddens me to think that there are places where women don't believe that they are equal to men (and where that thinking is encouraged).

Even worse is the fact that some people are not allowed to express their opinions for fear of winding up in jail. I hope the brave bloggers in those parts of the country keep safe and may continue sharing what they would like to say.

To any blogger who writes because it makes them a little bit more free - I am in awe of you and hope to never again take my own rights for granted.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I apologize in advance

I am writing today's post after drinking 4 glasses of italian house wine and a king can of Stella (for the bus ride home). Since it's freaking NaBloPoMo, I can't edit this before publishing or I won't complete my promise to write everyday. So here it is... my first attempt at semi-drunken blogging. (I have no doubt that reading this tomorrow will be painful)

Tonight Jeremy and I went to see the Lord Mayor's fireworks display down at the Thames River. Along with a zillion other people, we wandered up and down the riverfront looking for a good place to watch. The only problem was - we didn't have a clue where the fireworks would be set off, so a "good place" for one angle would not be so fantastic if they came from a different direction.

I must have pissed somebody off somehow. Somebody who can put curses on other people. What's my curse?

To have a 7 foot tall person in front of me whenever I want to see something.
here's his shoulder blocking my view

This happens all the time and is a great source of frustration, particularly on nights like tonight. This dude kept moving to the left, more and more in front of me, leading me to move over to the left, irritating the man standing beside me. (i'm sure he didn't want some strange girl cuddling up to him during the fireworks display) Thankfully, he looked at the behemoth blocking my view and seemed to understand...

The fireworks were okay. Honestly, I got much more enjoyment out of the ones we see in Port Colborne every summer with Jeremy's family (might have something to do with the company though). I took a few pics during the show, then a few more of the waterfront at night.

For the first time in ages, we decided to go out for dinner, and went to the Spaghetti House. There is a Spaghetti House in Toronto (and several in the UK), so it may actually be part of the same restaurant chain, but we're not sure. The food was fantastic (took me three tries to type that word for some reason), and we split a litre of their house wine. Since we haven't been going out much or spending money, it seemed like a nice thing to do before Jeremy leaves for home. Our next night out will be for Christmas...

The people at the restaurant were really funny and very friendly - even offered to take a picture of us after serving our food.

The food was really delicious. It was so nice not having to make something ourselves that we didn't even think about the fact that pasta dinners were costing us about 8 pounds each. Considering the area of London we were in, that's really not too bad though.

On the way to the bus, we stopped in and grabbed two Stellas for the ride home, in memory of our first few weeks of riding around in the top of buses, drinking, as we explored the city.

Oxford street looked amazing - all lit up, full of people, with gorgeous Christmas displays already in most of the stores. Definitely made for an interesting ride home.

Anyway, it's time to go - I've suddenly got the hiccups, and have spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy making sure there are no spelling mistakes in this post (can't account for bad writing right now though), so I'm going to sign off before things get worse...

Before I go, I need to do something I've wanted to do since I read this article;

connosouir. connosiour. connosseour. (okay, maybe this word just doesn't work when you're drinking)

Time to back away from the computer :)

Until tomorrow...

Friday, November 10, 2006

My original title for this post was: 'I don't know what to write about today'. Ha.

It's been a really loooong week.

This morning I woke up and noticed that it was lighter outside than usual. Turns out Jeremy had forgotten to set the alarm and unintentionally given me an extra hour of sleep. (probably a good indication that I need to start setting my own darn alarm, but after 8 weeks of this, we've gotten used to the routine) I jumped out of bed and noticed that it was 7:05am. I usually get up at 6am, and leave between 7:15 and 7:30, so the extra hour under the covers was not a very good way to start the day...

Being one of those people who needs time for a decent shower, doing the hair, putting on makeup, 15 minutes of downtime with the computer and a big glass of juice, I responded very poorly to only having 25 minutes to get ready. I ran around our flat (like a complete moron) trying to remember what I was going to wear today, splashing water on my face, and trying to soothe my abnormally puffy eyes so I wouldn't scare my students.

Here's where I must confess: I have this thing about my hair.

I honestly cannot go outside and feel comfortable unless I've had a shower and spent at least a half hour styling my hair into it's everyday look. It's been this way since high school and is not likely to change.

Finding the outfit for the day, putting on the makeup, getting snacks for school, and the other morning routines were only mildly stressful this morning. It was the view of scraggly, unwashed hair that needed smoothing and a lot of work in order to be presentable (in my mind) that stressed me right out. I think I spent 15 of the 25 minutes I had trying to style it into submission, knowing that by the end of the day I would have an oily looking scalp and there was nothing that could be done.

Wow, I sound like a total princess. And I'm digressing again...

I was running 10 minutes later than normal all the way to school, chasing after two trains and a bus, finally getting to school only to realize that I hadn't gotten something ready for the first lesson (and remembered my original plan: to get there around 8:15). This is where improvisation comes in and I decided to do a "circle time" lesson about Remembrance Day, reading them the Flanders Fields poem and having a class discussion about the wars and how they fought and died for our freedom. It was the first conversation about this for some of the kids, and they really responded to the topic. One little boy commented during the the lesson, saying that people were still fighting for freedom.

Of course I wasn't going to touch that kind of political / social minefield. I responded but guided their conversation towards the first two world wars.

It turned into a very pleasant morning, and overall not a bad day at all. I didn't get hit with the exhaustion until I was on the way home and they stopped the train 9 stops before mine, saying the Victoria Line has been suspended due to Police Action at King's Cross.

Not one person complained. I was in awe of the calmness with which the tired workers around me listened to the news, until I realized that 7/7 is still very much with them. So they don't question anything like that - and will always report abandoned luggage to the authorities. Then wait patiently for the Tube workers to take the bags away for inspection (they don't run the trains if unclaimed baggage is found). Luckily, the train started moving after about 10 minutes, so I didn't have to try and figure out how to get all the way across town using buses.

I finally walked in the door after picking up some pizza slices (1 pound per slice) from this really good place around the corner. Tonight will be a quiet night: a little Alize and a movie, instead of the pub as previously planned.

This is my last weekend with Jeremy before he gets on the plane for Canada. We're going to see the Lord Mayor's parade and fireworks display tomorrow on the Thames River, so I'll have some good pics and hopefully a good post about it.

Hope you all have a great Friday night.

Until tomorrow...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You might find this post anticlimatic...

Okay, as promised, I'll tell the story about the pockets.

When I got to school, they were empty.

Throughout the day, I pick up markers, little objects kids are playing with when they should be paying attention, pieces of paper, and assorted other things. All of these things wind up in my pockets, so I spend 10 minutes looking for "that marker" when it was happily sitting in my left pocket.

(wow, I don't think I've ever said pockets this often at one time before. pockets pockets pockets pockets pockets. ha. Now it doesn't look like a word anymore)

Yesterday after school, I put my hand in my pocket and felt something jab my finger. Upon emptying out the pockets (and cursing quietly about my finger), I found

can you see it?

What I found was a little pushpin. Okay, not a big deal right?

The problem is, I did not pick up a pin at anytime during the day, nor did anybody give me one. Combine this with the facts that I have never even seen pins like that in our classroom and also that I don't take that sweater off so nobody could put it into my pocket without me noticing, and now you can imagine my confusion.

Sorry that wasn't more interesting. I was trying to make the point that spending a blog post on what's in my pockets would be a more engaging topic than Britney and Kevin, but even i must admit that I was wrong.

Here's something a little better:

At the end of the day, we went to visit Eve for a little while. She's going to Germany and wanted to spend some time with us before she leaves on Friday, since Jeremy will be leaving on Tuesday for 5 weeks. She had brought home a couple of bottles of nice red wine and a raspberry trifle (sooo yummy). While we were talking, she pulled out a bag of something called Goji berries. Apparently this is the new trend here in London amoung the young businesspeople set, along with daily visits to the gym, no-carb diets, and vegetable juice (okay, I'm widely generalizing here, but the description was too good to resist).

After teasing her about falling into the trend, she started rhyming off the good things that these berries evidently do:
* help prevent cancer
* have more vitamin C than an orange
* help to boost the immune system
* raise your libido and prevents morning sickness
* have a bunch of different vitamins and minerals

Turns out, she missed a LOT of the other things:

The Chinese Wonder Fruit
These Goji berries are wild crafted from the hills in the Ningxia Region of Ch
ina. Also known as Wolfberries, Lycium berries and Gou Ji Zi berries, they have been used in Traditional Mongolian, Tibetan and Chinese medicine for centuries to nourish yin and improve the functioning of the 'water element'.

A handful a day is said to provide the energy to overcome difficult obstacles in healing, promote cheerfulness and brighten the spirit.

They have strong antioxidant, anti-ageing and anticancer properties and are used to boos
t the immune system, improve hearing, eye-sight, and liver function, maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, strengthen bones and tendons, burn fat, build muscle, increase libido, enhance fertility and reduce morning sickness.

They are a delicious, gentle and soothing tonic fruit that is loaded with available

Goji berries have the highest content of carotenoids, including beta carotene among all known foods on earth, and can contain up to 500 times more vitamin C than oranges. The fruits also have significant amounts of vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. They are rich in amino acids an
d trace minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, calcium, germanium, selenium and phosphorous.

This berry is now being used in clinical settings for a number of common maladies including the treatment of early-onset diabetes, tuberculosis, dizziness, blurred vision, bone marrow deficiency, and digestive disorders.

When she gave us a couple to try, I noticed that they looked like raisins, tasted kinda like dried cranberries, and had an aftertaste that Jeremy describes as being "like when you're a kid and you're sucking on popsicle sticks". The best part about his description is its accuracy - the aftertaste is exactly like a soggy popsicle stick.

If you clicked on the link above and read through to the end, you would have read some comments about this whole phenomenon, which are pretty funny if you consider that one article praises them, and the other one completely discredits any claims that they are "wonder berries".

I'm thinking about trying them for a week myself and seeing what happens.

Incidentally, I do have a bit of a real life cliffhanger happening with regards to my career. I can't talk about it quite yet, but there are some things coming up in the very near future that I will need to make some decisions about. Going in a certain direction will completely change things for me. Not sure if for the better or for the worse (that's why I'm still thinking).

I'll share as soon as I can.

Here's a picture of Banjo Man playing "Heartbreak Hotel" from Elvis. (I know that doesn't give back the time you spent reading about my pockets, but hopefully you'll find the idea of a man singing and playing a banjo while people in business suits rush past him importantly as amusing as I do)

Update on yesterday's silly post about a silly girl: aforementioned silly girl was caught looking "very smiley" as she went into Sony studios in NYC today (as reported in the London Metro). I totally called it.

I need to go pat myself on the back now.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Go ahead - call me a hater

I have to weigh in on this since, well, I admit it...

I can't stand Britney Spears.

She has always irritated the hell out of me - one of those pretty pop starlets who is only famous because she's hot. Sorry to the fans out there, but I've heard clips of her singing live. Not that talented. A good dancer, yes. A good performer? Sure. But as a singer, I just don't get it.

When she married K-Fed, I thought it was hilarious because she immediately turned into this cheeto-eating trailer trash chick. The media made fun of her at every opportunity and nobody was taking her seriously.

I find it really funny that the instant she announces this divorce that her name is back in the good books, coincidentally along with the newly back-in-shape figure that you can't help but see. How many women go skating in an extremely low-cut sweater, then out in a skimpy dress the night they file for divorce?

Clearly it's either a publicity stunt or she never really gave a damn about her marriage in the first place. Nobody's that cold. (I hope not anyway)

As much as people poked fun at them, at least she stuck by her man. I honestly thought that she was in the right and respected her more for not caring what people thought of their relationship.
Now we know that wasn't true either, since this break-up is clearly being played out for all of us to see.

Most celebrity break-ups take awhile for definite confirmation. This one came out of the blue - and since she evidently broke it off by text message while he was at a MuchMusic interview it was impossible for people not to find out. Or talk about it. Ya THAT sure wasn't meant to be a publicity stunt at all... It reminds me of the episode of Sex and the City when Carrie gets dumped by a post-it note. Same kind of callous, high school drama-queen behaviour. This poor (sad) dude is a real guy and while he definitely cannot rap (and should never ever try), he is the punchline of every joke now. I can't help but feel sorry for him.

So while the world rejoices that cute little Britney is free again, I roll my eyes and prepare for the onslaught of TV, magazine, radio, and newspaper interviews (in skimpy outfits) as she talks about the "hardship" of being alone and having her marriage not work out.

Wonder when her next album's coming out. I'd be willing to bet any time in the next month or two - after she's milked this "sad experience" for everything it's worth.

I can't believe I actually just spent this much time writing about this.

I'll be back tomorrow with something better.

Like what I found in my pockets after school today.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Proof that British food is dodgy after all...

I took this picture on Walthamstow High Street a little while ago. I had plans to get some nice pictures of the tents set up and all of the people walking around, looking for bargains on food, clothes, electronics, shoes (lots and lots of shoes) - pretty much anything you can think of.

Then I saw him.

An ordinary looking man, serving a few customers, who also looked normal. Until they moved out of the way and I got to see what it was that they were buying...

I am a huge fan of seafood and have been known to eat entire shrimp rings, but I draw the line at this:

I'm not sure what I find more offensive: The concept of jellied eels or the fact that a bowl of them costs 30 pounds (that's over $60 to people in North America).

And they think poutine sounds disgusting. I don't know about you, but I'll take fries with cheese and gravy over jellied sea creatures anyday.


Monday, November 06, 2006

This s**t is bananas

People always say that you know you're getting old when all of the new music sounds the same: heinous, ear-pounding noise with lyrics that are either "impossible to hear" or don't make any sense. Lately I've noticed that some of the new music out there just sucks. There's not better way to describe it. Tuneless, bad singing, nonsensical lyrics - a smorgasboard of bad taste.

Being a musician myself, as well as a long-time affectionado of all kinds of music (from old jazz to hiphop to classical to rock to... well anything that sounds good to my ears), I consider myself fairly open-minded when it comes to what I listen to. There are some artists I can't stand and probably will never really enjoy, but even they occasionally come out with a catchy tune that I'll hum along with on the radio.

We have been listening to a lot of internet radio lately, which allows us to choose any kind of music to fit our moods. Usually I play the top40 / hiphop type stations, jumping from place to place after the music starts to get repetitive, or a particuarly bad song starts to play.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Have you heard Gwen Stefani's new song, Wind it Up?

If not, you're lucky.

I have never heard anything that sounds less like music. Even "London Bridge" from Fergie tops this tuneless horror (and that one's pretty bad). Don't believe me? Check this out. (I promise I thought of the Fergie thing before reading this webpage)

I was going to link to it, but have decided that since I like my blogger audience and would like you all to keep on liking me back, that it's a better idea to let you hunt it down at your own risk.

The song starts off with yodeling.

Not just any yodeling, but the song that you hear during "The Sound of Music" about the lonely goatherder. It was terrible in the movie and is even worse when combined with a very weird almost polka-y (is that a word?) beat and Gwen's random shouts (she certainly isn't singing).

In honour of Ms. Stefani's new tune, I bring you this Top Ten list:

Things that sound better than Gwen's new song:

1. Cats fighting
2. mosquitos buzzing in your ear
3. A girl I knew in high school's high-pitched soprano attempting to sing badass chick music
4. Car alarms
5. People chewing with their mouths open
6. tone-deaf people singing Celine Dion songs in a karaoke bar
7. my alarm first thing in the morning
8. our old neighbour's dog barking (for hours on end)
9. my father's incredibly loud snoring (that once forced me to spend the night in a hotel bathtub to escape the noise)
10. loudly ticking clocks (like the one at my grandmother's place)

Honorable mention: Suldog's "tough titties" (you know you wanna click on this link and find out what the hell I'm talking about...)


Update: Apparently Fergie has a new "song" out now too... consider yourselves warned.

Just in case you think I'm being mean here, this is what somebody on The Noise Boston website had to say about it:
Fergilicious is slightly better than My Humps or London Bridge, which is much like saying diphtheria is better than leprosy.

Listen at your own risk.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


I've been meaning to mention the links section of my blog for some time now.

Some of the people linked here (most of the Canadian Crew) are people I've known for a fairly long time - close friends, some from the high school days. People who remember me as a fellow musician and student council member (we had three councils in our high school), as well as a talkative teenage girl who loved Tim Horton's coffee and spending time with friends. Some of them are new parents (Kim, Steve, Ledawit, Dave, and Tam), some working hard at school and getting kickass grades, and another enjoying being newly married.

Some of these bloggers don't update very often, and one has decided to leave his blog behind in the face of undefined personal torment, but if you're looking to spend worthwhile time reading, I'd recommend any of them.

These bloggers are all so different.

Stories about saying the wrong thing, cars that have been loved and lost, the things that suck in life, how easy it is to waste a day off from work, nights out, a happy announcement that somebody got engaged, funny stuff outside somebody's door on Halloween night, comments from an undiplomatic dentist, funny videos about radio DJs and a post about free hugs, selling a car (and needing reassurance that it was the right thing to do), seeking truths and happily questioning everything, a very crappy week, the hunt for the perfect wedding dress design, political jokes directed at George Bush, witty stories about life in Chicago, reasons why NaBloPoMo is a silly idea and not at all necessary (for him anyway), voting and letters to God, the agony of watching a child endure chronic pain, weighing breastfeeding pain against breastpumps, and memories of being an awkward kid at a dance full of other awkward kids.

whew! That took a lot more effort than I expected.

Thanks to all of you out there who take the time to share some of yourselves with me and the rest of the world. Keep on writing and I promise I'll keep coming back to read what you've go to say...

...And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd

Cause these words are my diary screamin' out aloud
And I know that you'll use them however you want to...
- "breathe", by Anna Nalick

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Teacher Switch

I need to grow one...

What is it you ask?

At the pub a couple of weeks ago, a fellow teacher joked about his "teacher switch", that enabled him to turn into a teacher as he walked into the schoolyard, and turn back into a regular person when he left at the end of the day.

Yesterday's looong post is a pretty good indicator that I need to work on that.

I have a monster cold (just like a few of the other bloggers who've been posting lately), so today will be a day for make-you-groggy cold meds, vitamins, soup, a movie, and probably a good book.

... and the cough syrup kicks in ...

time to go before I start rambling about that whole diet coke & mentos thing:

Friday, November 03, 2006

Apparently it's all my fault

I really wasn't planning on talking about this, but this pissed me right off:

Teachers Blamed for Unruly Pupils

An article in the London Metro outlines the opinion of Ofsted workers after observing classes in several different schools in London. They have decided that students who act out or misbehave in class are doing this as a result of "their frustration due to poor teaching".

These people claim that teachers should work harder to motivate their students, using "more varied and interesting lessons".

The National Union of Teachers in the UK condemned the comments, saying that since teaching wasn't being evaluated that these workers didn't know what they were talking about.

As a new teacher, I can't claim to be an expert about the education system or even what it means to be a teacher. But I can say with authority that if a student is not motivated that it's often a result of THEM NOT GIVING A CRAP.

Aside from the few bad teachers who are out there (and yes, I know we've all had at least one), I can't see any educator not trying to make things interesting for their students. Not only do the students get more out of their lessons, but the teachers have more fun too. I would much rather teach a class using projection slides, hands-on materials, creative art, songs, and any other fun way of getting the children to interact with the subject matter. The days of copying from a chalk board or listening to the teacher talk for an hour straight are very much in the past (at least in most schools - certainly all of the ones I've been in).

I currently have a class of 30 children, aged 6 or 7. There are 5 students who constantly need to be monitored, with two who do not seem to respond to any of the various teaching methods or behaviour management techniques I have been using. It takes a lot of time and attention to keep these kids on track, and I fail just as often as I succeed. I could take it personally, but they are exactly the same way no matter who is in the classroom with them.

I keep on trying every day though...

During the last two days, I have been administering standardized tests in literacy and numeracy. These tests start off with very easy questions and increase in difficulty level with each new page. After a lot of discussion with the other primary teachers, I realized that there was no way some of the students would even finish.

The literacy test (today) was a complete nightmare. It required very careful and specific explanation and the children's constant attention - things that these kids have a lot of trouble with. Knowing this ahead of time, I arranged for some of my students who struggle more than the others to work with a reliable teaching assistant, that way I could keep a steady pace with the rest of the class. Talk about misplaced optimism...

"Okay class, look at page 3 and listen carefully. There is a story at the top of the page that you need to read to yourself. I cannot help you read any of the words, so if you don't think you know a word, just try to sound it out.* After you have read the story, look at the bottom of the page. There are three questions about the story there. Beside each question are four pictures of people from the story. One of them is the answer to the question. Underline the person who you think is the correct answer."

* During standardized tests, we are not allowed to give any assistance, as it's a method of measuring the overall ability of the class. Students are not expected to be able to complete every question on these tests (unless they have a very high IQ). It's really hard to watch them struggling and not be able to help...

I provided these instructions in a few different ways, and asked if anybody had any questions. Already there were students writing things, reading the story, or looking around the classroom - obviously not paying attention. The first time this happened, I didn't say a word and waited to see what would happen.

You can probably guess.

"Miiiiss - I don't know what to do!"

"Miiiiss - how many pictures are we supposed to underline?"

"Miss, this is hard - do I have to draw pictures?"

After the third question, I stopped the whole class and told them they must listen carefully to my words. I reminded them to put up their hand if they were confused about what to do. I repeated my instructions once again, answered a couple of questions, and sent the class back to work.

"Miiiiiss - I don't understand"

I stopped them again. (If this is getting annoying to read, just imagine how I felt after repeating the process 15 times in an hour)

This time I restated the instructions and asked one of the students in the class "How many pictures do you need to underline?"

"Um... 3?"

I asked another student how many times they could read the story if they couldn't remember the answers (I'd repeatedly mentioned they could go back as many times as they needed to)

"Um... 5?"

Back to the first student. "A, how many times can we read the story?"

"Oh I know! Once!"

At this point I was ready to either scream or cry, whatever came first. I'd lost count of the number of explanations that had been given, and had answered the same questions over and over. Obviously a large chunk of the class had opted not to listen at all. Some even worked ahead without knowing what they were supposed to do.

I stopped them all again and led the class in a discussion about active listening and paying attention to what people are saying. Not just looking at a person while they're talking, but thinking about the words that they are hearing.

Even after this, when I questioned the children about what I was just talking about - some of them still couldn't tell me.

Already at this stage in their lives, these children have chosen to not listen. Even during a very difficult test, they don't care to try their best and take advantage of the fact that a person is there to help them out. And they are the same with every teacher or adult in the room - after getting a talk about listening from my reliable T.A., I asked one of them to repeat what she'd said because I'd missed it. The first two kids I asked couldn't tell me anything about what she had just said.

So back to that article and the whole point of this loooong rant of mine.

Yes, there are bad teachers out there. Yes, some of them do not make the effort. Yes, some of them do not effectively manage problem behaviour.

For every one of those ineffective teachers is a person like me trying their best to ensure that these children get as much out of their school day as possible. That they learn something new every day and get valuable life skills while doing it. That they learn how to be a good friend and a nice person, and how to work hard and be proud of their successes and learn from their mistakes.

Some of the kids in this class will not be successful. Some of them will not go far in their academic careers, and will never realize the importance of things like learning, respect, and treating others how they want to be treated.

A student's success in the world of School is based on their effort, work ethic, support of their parents or caregivers (I could go on for hours about how incredibly important parents are in this equation), and a belief that learning is important.

Oh, and the help of a good teacher.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day 2: Dumb, Dumber, and Dumerest

I was worried about not having something to write about, but then I read CityWendy's latest post.

It got me thinking about the things that people do in the name of making money.

Being a fan of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and having read the "Trilogy in Five Parts" several times, I read Wendy's post and immediately thought of the part of the story when the main characters discover something very disturbing about how the earth was populated.

Apparently several spaceships were filled with hundreds of people with all sorts of white collar beaurocratic jobs. The people from their planet had decided that they didn't need beaurocrats anymore and figured that that the best way to get rid of them was to tell them that their planet was going to be destroyed, and that they had been chosen to travel via spaceships to a new world so they could prepare it for everybody else. Convinced that they were absolutely necessary to help things run properly, they happily got into the spaceships and allowed themselves to be put into suspended animation until they arrived at their new home. Of course, there was no new planet.

Unfortunately for the earth, their ships crashed there, where they woke up, and proceeded to hold meetings about what to do next. One of their meetings was about what to use as currency. Some argued that leaves would be great currency, since they were all over the place. Others disagreed because with so much "money" growing on trees, it would have no meaning, to which a third group countered that if they burned down all of the trees, their leaves would be worth more.

This book is ridiculous, but I still love it.

It's a work of fiction, but we definitely have jobs out there that don't make sense to me at all.

For example: the people who stand around watching the hundreds of travelers stream in and out of the Underground stations here in London. Today there were 7 workers all standing around, watching us intently for... ah hell, I have no idea. I think they spent more time standing there looking important and suspicious than actually doing real work (unless that IS their work).

Employment agencies and Flat-finding agencies are other examples of this silliness. I'll never understand how our society has managed to make it impossible for people with good qualifications to require one of these agencies to find themselves a job or a place to live. We have no choice either - you need their services now if you want to find a place to live in London that's decent. Employment agencies find you work, then take away part of your paycheck. The people who work in these places "find" you jobs - at your cost and the cost of the company looking for you. They are the ultimate 'middle-man' and make tons of money just be being there.

Maybe I'm just bitter because I have no money right now...


Then you've got the Reseach Companies who employ people to tell us things like:
  • Most brides take 7 to 12 months to plan their wedding
  • An average cob of corn has 800 kernels in 16 rows
  • The average lead pencil can draw a line that is almost 35 miles long, or be used to write about 50,000 words
  • Eating too much junk food will make you fat / unhealthy
  • Exercise is good for you
  • Women talk more than men
  • Global warming is because of pollution
  • Blue-eyed men prefer blue-eyed women
  • Being unmarried can shorten a man's lifespan by ten years
  • In New York City, approximately 1,600 people are bitten by other humans annually.
  • The average person: falls asleep in 7 minutes, laughs 15 times a day, and drinks 16,000 gallons of water in their lifetime
  • The size of a raindrop is around 0.5 mm - 2.5 mm, and they fall from the sky on average 21 feet per second.
  • Approximately sixty circus performers have been shot from cannons. At last report, thirty-one of these have been killed.
  • On average, there are 333 squares of toilet paper on a roll.

Forget teaching! I'm gonna make money counting stripes on watermelons or how many varieties of snowflakes there are. When I get tired of the snow, I'll move on to figuring out how many grains of sand are on the average beach...

Info courtesty of:


Keeping to the theme of wasting money, here is a list of things that I can't believe people actually have to pay money for:

* The privilege of driving on certain roads
* Listening to online radio stations
* To walk into a club
* International money transfers (as much as 20 British pounds if you go through a bank, yet the money changing place around the corner only charges 5 pounds)
* Owning a television (this does not mean cable - it's literally just for the TV)

And the absolute WINNER of the most ridiculous thing to pay money for:
* Using a PUBLIC TOILET (Yep, in London, it's a pound per pee)

I'm sure there are more examples, but I can't think of them right now.

Another long day is over. Now I just need to get through Friday and I get a couple of days of rest to try and get over this cold I have that just will not go away. Plus I get some quality time with Jeremy and hopefully a good book.

Today the song being played in the Underground was "You're Just Too Good to Be True", which immediately brought a huge smile to my face (love that song) and once again I couldn't help but softly sing along as I made my way home.

I'm hoping to see Banjo Man (exactly what you're thinking), so I can get a picture of him rocking out in the tunnel with his funky instrument. I'll be sure to post it if he's around and I remember to pull out my camera.

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Somebody decided to make a contest in which bloggers must write a post every day for the month of November. Hence,

National Blog Posting Month

I am not entering the contest, but am still planning on trying this daily post thing out. Writing a post everyday for an entire month is going to be a challenge, so I've been busy thinking of things to write about rather than the strange people in the Underground, cute things my students said / did, how much I miss Canada, or how lonely will be when Jeremy gets on the plane November 15th.

I'm taking this as a personal challenge to try and improve my writing skills and maybe gain some new readers too (what blogger doesn't want more traffic on their site?)

Last week, I spoke with somebody who said she's going to participate in this as well... Since she hasn't updated her blog in like a month, I'm not sure if she is still planning on trying this out. If anybody else wants to try this (cough, cough, Lyndsay? Sully?), I'll make a link section to list all of the bloggers I know who are participating.

And so begins 30 days of rambling from yours truly about anything and everything. I welcome any suggestions about topics you'd like to hear about or any questions you would like answered (kinda taking a page from MM's book - even though I know I won't get two dozen responses to my post).

Until tomorrow...