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 This weekend was, as expected, bittersweet. I said goodbye to a couple of very good friends. The hardest was the woman who helped me so much through all the grief I endured during my stay in England (and outside of it). She's the one that gave me Teddy to keep me company during one particularly stressful period in my life. We both had pretty damp eyes when I took a photo of her with him.

But the goodbye that took me by surprise was to the city of London itself. On my way to Aylesbury, I paused in London to get a few snaps of Teddy with Big Ben and a few other sites, as I had yet to take any photos of him there. It was with a bit of sadness that I walked along the Thames, realizing that this, perhaps, would be the last time. It was then that the city itself granted its own goodbye. As I walked by the London Eye, I discovered that the mindnumbingly long queues that were ALWAYS present, the ones that look like they lasted hours and, thus, kept me from ever going up in it, were NON-EXISTENT.

A short time and £15.50 later, I was aloft in the London Eye and treated to a stunning view of the city. It was amazing to be able to see so many landmarks from just one point. Turn one way and you can see St. Paul's Cathedral and the 'Gherkin'. Turn another and both the Parliament buildings and, in the distance, the Battersea Powerstation can be seen from above. Yes, many pictures were taken, including some with Teddy. *grin* Those will have to be added to the growing list of photoblog entries that I need to sort out out when I have the time to do so. It brought back a lot of memories of my many gleeful explorations along the Thames and the city streets. My experiences of that magnificent city will be a treasure I will always hold in my heart.

As I left London by train to return home, I whispered 'goodbye' to the city that I realized that I had come to love, despite whatever else that has happened to me in the rest of England. And I promised myself that I would one day return; a final farewell would be just too heartbreaking to endure.

Home

Jan. 29th, 2008 09:17 am
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The definition of 'home' has been problematic for me. Much of that I attribute to a lot of wandering. My father has been an industrial electrician for most of his life. As such, my childhood has been one of constant relocation, moving from one project to the next, rarely spending more than a year in any one place.  

And those places? They consist of pretty much every one horse town in central British Columbia and a few beyond. Perhaps part of the reason I took to the small living space of my flat in the UK so readily is because much of my childhood was spent living in trailers (larger caravans, for you Brits), mobile homes, townhouses, and even hotel rooms. I don't remember exactly when we actually moved into my parents' home in Prince George. I think it may have been when I was around 10 or so. However, we never stayed in it much, as Dad's job kept pulling us elsewhere and everywhere. The house served more as a 'base camp' to which we would return to on weekends and between jobs. It was only after my first year of high school (a psychologically disastrous one for me) that my mother insisted that she, my brother and I had to remain in PG.

Few of my memories of any of these places are at all fond. As the perpetual new kid, along with sporting glasses and being a butterball, I quickly developed a strong distaste for local populations of rednecks early on in my schooling. By the time we truly settled in PG, what social development I had was pretty much stunted by nearly a decade of intense bullying. I may have spent more of my life there than in any other one location, and, indeed, it is even the city of my birth, but it ceased being 'home' for me long ago and, instead, became a prison from which to escape. 

That escape took place in my early twenties when I left for Victoria, BC, to attend art school. Victoria was a whole new world for me, filled with wonder, beauty, and culture. Surrounded by Mother Ocean and filled with many hidden treasures, I felt an immediate and deep connection to this place. The move to Victoria reflected more than just a change of geography, it also marked my transformation from bitter ex-Catholic to a life-reaffirming Wiccan, as well as the first steps towards becoming a teacher. It was Victorian soil that saw me blossom spiritually, educationally and socially. 

In part, being separated from the only place I ever truly considered 'home' was one of the reasons why my first year teaching in the UK was so traumatic. (Of course, the sheer wretchedness of my first pupils played a MUCH greater part.) The irony that I was moving from place to place following the work, as my father had done (and still does), did not escape me. 

For all the trials of teaching here, all the tears, all the trauma, the UK has seen a lot of my development, professionally, emotionally, and even physically, albeit much of that in a 'sink or swim' capacity. I've even come to enjoy the last year of my existence in my cozy little flat, the only place I've ever occupied entirely by myself. I will miss it, and the farms, and the trails along which I run. I will also miss the wonders of London and other amazing parts of Britain that I have, and yet to have, explored. 

I'm certain my journey through life will take me through many other incredible places. Aside from the UK, it has already seen both coasts of Canada, a couple of stays in Toronto, visits to Washington State and California, and even two months in South Australia. Along the way, my fascination with problem of personal connection to space has manifested in an astounding collection of photos, some of which are the only thing that can say "I have been here." I'm certain I will add many, many more photos to that collection (and to that of my heart shaped stones) before I finally come to 'home.'

the_vulture: (Man/Vulture)

In about ten minutes, I'll be out the door and on my way to London. I'll be staying there overnight and then heading out to the airport in the morning. I'll be on Canadian soil later that afternoon!

Though I won't be stopping in Toronto along the way, I'm thinking of taking a weekend trip to there sometime during August. Details to follow as soon as I invent 'em.

Have a great summer!

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*chuckle* I'm just feeling a wee bit lazy at the mo'. There's been a lot going on in the week since I last posted, mostly to do with sorting out the new classes for next term and attempting to (successfully) stave off being stuck in a hot, tiny room with large groups of pupils notorious for poor behaviour (well, I still have those pupils, but I've got a big, airy room to let them run rampant in).

Aside from that, Saturday was spent walking about a wet and chilly London that was warmed by the company of a delightful new friend I made a number of weeks ago (on the Avesbury trip, to be precise). Highlights of that day include a nice walk along the Thames, roaming Lambert Gardens (only open to the public four times a year) and enjoying a fine meal at Studio 6 on Southbank, all of which was liberally dosed with brilliant conversation.

Other than that, my week off has been, ummm... lazy. Okay, yes I did do a lot of laundry, a fair bit of tidying up, sorted a lot of my new classroom, and stuff like that, as well as a couple of running sessions and another Kenpo lesson, but I've spent far more time sucking on my VR crack pipe (the computer). *chuckle*

At some point, I have to get to the planning for next term, but not tonight...
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Yep! I did manage to make that tour of Avebury, as well as Lacock (Harry Potter fans may now drool with envy.). The evening of said day was spent in London in the company of a lovely woman I met during the tour. Having been working and living in inner London for a while, she was able to point out a few places I didn't know about, key amongst them an excellent Mexican fast food restaurant that served up the best burrito I've had in years!

Check out my Avebury and Lacock albums here: http://s6.photobucket.com/albums/y220/CathartesAura/

In other news, marking is going well and I should be able to readily avoid burning midnight oil in a blind panic on Tuesday night to finish off for moderation when I get back on Wednesday.

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... so far I've gotten on track for the new term of classes, sorted out and finally went on the massive year 7 field trip to London that I've been planning since November, and found a new place to soon call home. All of this has had its ups and downs, but, end result, things are getting sorted.

The new place will be a nice and cheap, if smallish studio apartment. It's well laid out and has relatively new fittings for the kitchen and bathroom. I also like the colours. It's going to cost me a lot more than I'm used to live there, but it'll be MY space (read as "free of psycho flatmates"). Plus, I've been wanting to try living on my own for quite some time, so why not now? Besides, if all goes according to plan, I'll be earning more money next year after my QTS is sorted.

As for the field trip, it was great! We had an action packed day of touring the National Maritime Museum, taking a river cruise from Greenwich to London, and then touring the London Aquarium. We even managed to dodge predicted traffic on the way home to arrive just in time for dismissal from school (as opposed to the predicted half an hour later)! Not only was the trip a success (especially given it was the first field trip I have ever planned), but it also plugs up the most difficult to fill gap in my teaching experience needed for QTS. It's a double win for me!

To wrap the day off, I've come home early (as little prep was needed for tomorrow) to watch a couple episodes of Lost before crashing for the evening.
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Actually, a good couple of days - yesterday I got in two films that were reasonably entertaining: Doom and Cruel Intentions (though the former required some serious suspension of reality).

Today saw another walking tour of London; this time of features and events that are/were below the surface of London, including the creation of the Embankment to house tube lines and (more importantly) sewers, everything I ever wanted to know about bunkers during WW2, secret meeting rooms, Parliamentarians displaced from their crypts, and the infamous Gunpowder Plot.

I had a lovely lunch at Quizno's (in London), then returned home to do a running session, showered, packed and came to [livejournal.com profile] imapunkin's place to spend the final week of holiday (free of her kids, as they are away on holiday!). The first task of the evening was to get kebabs for takeaway. We then moved on to Big Brother Winner's Week and a couple episodes of Tru Calling (awesome!). We're both still trying to sort out what to do tomorrow.
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... I managed a trip out to London. I spent a few hours touring the Tate. There quite a few interesting exhibits of both old and modern British art. I got to see a variety of artists that I want to do a little more research on, such as William Turnbull, as well as a few favourites, such as Henry Moore. I also discovered that I rather enjoyed J.M.W. Turner's landscapes (or at least some of 'em, anyhow).

Afterwards, I did a short walk to the Parliament building, took a few shots of that and headed home, as that was about as much as my back was going to take for the day.
the_vulture: (Man/Vulture)
Today saw me in London for two walking tours and a bit of a look-see through Chinatown. The first walk, starting at two, was titled "Somewhere Else" London and basically consisted of a two hour jaunt from Embankment Station, over the Thames, along the south Embankment, and, finally, into an area with what is described as truly Dickensian architecture. I didn't see a whole lot that was new to me, but I got some interesting bits of info and it was a good enough excuse for a long walk in lovely weather.

The next tour was at 7:30, so I walked from Embankment Station to Chinatown (near Leicester Square), pausing briefly at an aquatic sports outfitter to pick up a waterproof carry bag for all my miscellaneous stuff (like wallet and keys) for the next time I head to the beach. I may have to pick up a second (they're cheap), as I've just discovered that I can operate my camera for semi-reasonable shots through the bag, making shallow depth aquatic photography possible and, at the very least, allowing me to take my camera to the beach without worry of sand, salt or sea air doing it damage.

In Chinatown, I looked through a bunch of shops trying to find red lanterns for [livejournal.com profile] imapunkin, who desperately wants one (she's into all things Chinese). Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the selection; most were quite tacky. I also couldn't a shop that sells sweet and sour pork buns (a favourite of mine). The greatest tragedy, though, is the confirmation that the Tuk Tuk Noodle Bar is truly gone, leaving me to despair as to where I can find a decent laksa (let alone the heavenly mango and cream pudding that I've seen nowhere else).

London Chinatown, sadly, is quite disappointing in general. Given the size of London, one might expect a really large Chinatown, but this one is maybe two to three times larger than Victoria's. It certainly pales before the sprawling scape that is Toronto's. Visually, even Victoria's wee Chinatown packs in a lot more visual impact. I would have taken pictures to compare, but the view is currently downright unappealing, courtesy of the massive road work taking place. Still, it is a serviceable Chinatown and, more to the point, the only one for quite some distance (do they exist in other parts of Europe?).

I nearly decided against the last walk as I was getting a bit tired, but I was glad I didn't! This was the quite popular Jack the Ripper Haunts tour and it was made especially entertaining by the exceptional story telling talents of the tour guide (the same one from the Ghosts of the Old City tour I did with [livejournal.com profile] ekatarina a while back).

All-in-all, it was a great day out with plenty o' (semi)fresh air and exercise.
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As you may have guessed from the title (or by following my friends page) [livejournal.com profile] ekatarina and I did eventually make it to the showing of Titus Andronicus. We even got good seats for the event (by absolute luck), which proved to be enthusiastically gruesome, if entertaining.

I've also had the pleasure of learning that a particular pupil, who gave another instructor and I an unimaginable amount of grief during a bowling trip on Monday, is facing possible permanent exclusion (details on this to follow in a future posting).

I crashed mightily early Tuesday evening for about 10 hours following the mere 4 or so I had Monday night (Heather: turns out I could have gotten home from London Bridge if I'd remembered to check for another train station that's only twenty minute's walk from home (argh!)).

Before crashing, I swapped out my 80 gig hard drive as it was failing immensely (grrr...), for a 40 gigger that I had kicking around. I now have to clean out that drive, at some point, so that I have enough space to do what I want with it.

Today, I finally had my appointment to register with the local surgery (doctors' office). The interesting bits of info that have come out of that include:

1) I have shrunk 2 inches in height from my former 5' 11"
2) According to my BMI, I am technically "morbidly obese" (chuckle (for those of you who are wondering, the reason why I am taking this quite lightly is because BMI takes no account of how muscular one is (and I am a powerfully built individual)))
3) "Pagan" is one of the listed options for religion on this surgery's registry system

And that pretty much covers the first half of the week.
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This has been an eventful week, beginning with a lovely Monday evening spent with [livejournal.com profile] ekatarina, during which we had a nice dinner, toured a bit of the south embankment of the Thames and enjoyed an informative and entertaining guided walking tour exploring haunts and hauntings around St. Paul's Cathedral. I wound up really missing my camera, though, as there was plenty of interesting architecture to capture in pixels.

Since then, I've discovered that, courtesy of an issue of being paid till the end of August like a teacher, yet being on administrative pay roll which does not, and the required resolution of such of by the headteacher, I am still not yet on the payroll, though I will be for next time. Fortunately, the bursar arranged for a direct deposit of pay, instead of those awful time consuming cheques (up a week to clear in this country), so my bank account is currently happy.

Thursday was spent trying to assist about three groups of pupils through the process of creating model buildings for a presentation to other school and a team of designers next week. I'll go through a fuller description of this sad state of affairs at a future point, but, currently, the kids are still at a point that they will be embarrassing themselves, the teachers roped into this bombshell, and the school. Worse still, they know it and, despite any encouragement we can give them, they are feeling exceptionally unmotivated. It is really unfair to them as this is not a situation of their own making, but we are all stuck in it till the bitter (and likely humiliating) end.

Friday, on my way to [livejournal.com profile] imapunkin's place, some young punk tried to nick my MP3 player! I was on the first bus, standing at my seat whilst waiting for a group of about five young adults (late teens) to pass by me. The last youth in the line noticed the player and turned around to face me. He casually reached out, grabbed it, and unplugged the headphones before I quite realized what was happening. I snatched it from him and bellowed out an indignant "What do you think you are doing?!" in that certain I-am-about-to-tear-you-a-new-a**hole-so-wide-your-head-will-fall-through-it that only a seasoned teacher in the British school system can deliver.

Between that and the fact that I felt, and consequently did not demonstrate, absolutely no fear of him (though he was fairly athletic and towered over me by a good six inches), he was sufficiently intimidated to back off in a hurry, saying words to the effect of "Just chill!" Sadly, the whole incident had me fuming for the remainder of the trip. Fortunately, cuddles with [livejournal.com profile] imapunkin on my arrival soon had me relaxed.

Saturday saw the return of the petrol powered strimmer purchased two weeks ago as the engine kept cutting out. It was exchanged for a new one (an upgrade since the former was not in stock) and J. and I spent some bonding time putting it together. We also watched Coneheads, as well as the usual doses of Big Brother.

Sadly, though, the evening involved tears for [livejournal.com profile] imapunkin as she discovered she got ripped off for £100 by someone who used to be a trusted provider of doll parts. Said person had taken an advanced order on a doll she had been really looking forward to, but never delivered. His on-line store has subsequently disappeared off the net.

Late yesterday evening involved a lot of cuddles and chatter until we were both just too tired to continue (silly grin).

Today, in theory, I'll be headed back in the early evening to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] ekatarina to hang out and catch up. One topic of conversation will be how to deal with the current complication for Monday evening's plan of watching Titus Andronicus at the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The original idea was to book tickets for the yard (where all the "groundlings" get to stand for the whole performance (but arguably have the best view)), but, sadly, when I phoned in, I found out all that was left for advanced booking was seated with restricted viewing. The current options are to book a couple of those, or wait and call the box office on Monday to see if anything else is available.

Yep, it's been an interesting week!
the_vulture: (Default)
Nicked from [livejournal.com profile] dancingwriter...

You Belong in London

You belong in London, but you belong in many cities... Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sidney. You fit in almost anywhere.
And London is diverse and international enough to satisfy many of your tastes. From curry to Shakespeare, London (almost) has it all!



It actually fits, in a way. Italian restaurants, the British Museum, Caribbean festivals, Chinese New Year, Pagan-friendly pubs: I'm really big into experiencing all that the cultural diversity of London has to offer. Now if only it wasn't so damn expensive to live here...
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Image hosted by Photobucket.com




Each year since 1947, the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square has been the traditional gift to the people of London from the people of Norway. It is given by Oslo, the Norwegian capital, as a token of gratitude for Britain's support of Norway during World War II. http://www.london.gov.uk/mayor/trafalgar_square/xmas.jsp


I didn't have the chance to send out Christmas cards in time for delivery this year, so, instead, I went to Trafalgar Square and took this picture to share with everyone. Happy Holidays!

the_vulture: (Man/Vulture)
So many things have changed in the last few weeks. First, it appears that I will be staying on with the school for the remainder of the year and likely on through the next (where I will likely be teaching more art than I am now). This is great news for me!

Second, we're down to the final week of the first term and I'm doing just fine! Are things perfect for me? By no means, but I've made a good accounting of myself and I've received a lot of positive feedback.

Third, though this particular week has been long and hard, for both myself and the rest of the staff, as a result of the HMI inspections on Tuesday and Wednesday, the effort has been well worth it: we are now out of special measures (yeehaw!), which means no more HMI inspections for a year (phew!). On a personal note, I received a good observation during that inspection; the inspector seemed quite happy with what I was doing (yay me!).

Fourth, I have moved into West London to be nearer the school. I'm now about half an hour journey away, adding so much more free time to my daily schedule (phew!). I'm already feeling so much better rested. The apartment itself is a bedsit in a flatshare with about five others. Fortunately, I rarely see any of my flatmates, and I appear to be the earliest one up, so there's never a fight for the bathroom (which is large and has the most awsome power shower unit (instant hot water and plenty of it (mmm...)). The kitchen is also quite ample. I have access to a washer and dryer, so life is good that way. My room, itself, is small, but is set up quite functionally with a firm double bed that folds up into a sofa, a great wardrobe with plenty of drawers for storage, and a sink and mirror in the corner. The only real drawback to the place is the lack of a phone line (and, more importantly, broadband) which will not be resolved for a number of weeks to come (phone line installation will occur on January 3 (ugh!) and broadband will not happen for a couple of weeks after that). For the time being, broadband contact will be limited to the weekends when I return to my previous flat in Aylesbury (as I'm currently doing at the mo'). Oh, here's the best part of the flat: it's only £250 per month, all bills and taxes inclusive (save phone). Sweet, no?

Now, all I have to do is survive one more week and I'm into Christmas holidays (yay!).
the_vulture: (Man/Vulture)
‘Tis been a while since I last wrote. The last month has been particularly hellish. I’ve had worse thrown at me in the last few weeks than anything I encountered during my practicum. Events have occurred that have caused me to question my own fitness to teach. And I have been feeling like I have been coming apart at the seams. Last Friday I even began checking out what courses were available at UVic for me to take during the upcoming spring semester; I was that ready to come home.

But I have endured and I am still here.

I have been assured that the next term will be easier, even with just that the half term will only be six weeks long, as opposed to the eight and seven weeks of the preceding two. I have been offered a lot of help and support and it has been made clear to me that, whatever failings I have suffered during the last term, I am still wanted here, by both staff and students (I got 19 Christmas cards and three boxes of chocolate from my students!).

Last weekend marked a turning point for me; I finally shed a lot of concern over a few things that have been causing me a lot of stress over the last term. I am no longer worried about my application to remain in the UK. I will submit it as best as I am able (despite not having a number of answers to some potentially important questions (I can’t get any answers out of my agency and the immigration office is virtually unreachable)); they will either accept or not and I will stay or leave accordingly. I also discovered that it will cost a lot less for me to join a teacher’s organization (very possibly nothing) and I have finished sorting out issues with assorted student loan bodies to reduce my monthly payments to a more reasonable level; I will still be able to afford a reasonably enjoyable lifestyle, complete with fortnightly trips to London for whatever purposes I deem worthy at the time (methinks I may catch a showing of the musical production “We Will Rock You,” which is based on the life and times of the musical group Queen).

A renewed sense of purpose enabled me to deal far more effectively with the remaining day and a half of classes I had earlier this week than I had over the last few. The last few were quite productive, in spite of class wide expectations that the final classes were supposed to be “fun.” And, in retrospect, I can actually see an improvement in the behaviour of most of my “Hell 9s”; they’ve actually had a very productive half term and met all the coursework objectives. Aside from a few die-hard trouble-makers, most seem far more willing to behave and get to work. Classes at the school let out at noon on Tuesday. The year tens still have some growing up to do, though.

Last Sunday, I also crossed off one major item on my life long “to do” list; I made a trip to Stonehenge! Though, due to extenuating circumstances (that included an accident on the highway and heavy rain and sleet at the site the evening previous), I was not able to experience sunrise in the circle, nor enter the middle of it, I did get to touch the stones and consecrate a number of my spiritual tools with water from pools formed on some of the fallen ones. I also took a lot of great photographs (many of which are now on my photo page, for those who know where it is) thanks, in large part, to the new 512 Mb memory card I purchased for my camera with the Christmas money my folks sent me (thanks Mom and Dad!). I would have been very frustrated by the measly 32 Mb card that came with my camera. The tour also included a trip to Salisbury. And, yes, I also have some lovely photos of the very beautiful Salisbury cathedral.

Wednesday also quite pleasant; I went to London to meet with a group of London pagans. We went on a tour of the Egyptian and Greek exhibits at the British Museum (photos to come). The Egyptian statuary was particularly awe-inspiring. I got to lay hands on a number of statues of Sekmet, the lion headed goddess (and one of my favourites of that pantheon). We also did a walking tour of a number of Pagan friendly shops in the Convent Parks area. The evening came close to ending (much later) with dinner, drinks, and much pleasant conversation at a pub in the area. I made a number of friends that day and I look forward to the monthly events that this group hosts.

I say the evening came close to ending, as, after leaving the pub, I took a side trip to Trafalgar Square to take some pictures of the Christmas tree that was given to London by the city of Oslo (in Norway). They have sent one annually for the last sixty some odd years in recognition of the help that Norway received from Britain during the first World War. I met with a little disappointment at the end of the photo shoot as I had found an incredible shot, but, just as I was getting my camera ready to shoot, they shut the fountains off (at eleven, dammit). Ah well, such is life for a would-be photographer.

And, after reviewing my finances, I still have a bit left over to be mildly indulgent over the rest of the break. Methinks part of that indulgence will include another trip to Trafalgar Square for New Year’s Eve. It certainly included restocking my supply of Strongbow cider and picking up a bottle of Bailey’s (over ice is very nice) as well as number of fine pre-made meals.

I’m still dealing with a bit of depression over being away from home this Christmas, and I’m not looking forward to all the work I have to do in preparation for the next term, but, still, this will be a reasonably pleasant and laid back holiday season for me.

I hope yours will be, too!

Happy Yule and much holiday cheer to all!
the_vulture: (Default)
... and it's only Tuesday.

It began pleasant enough; Sunday I enjoyed some very pleasant company for another walk along the embankment and lunch in a nice restaurant nestled in a pocket of artsy bohemia that had me remniscing about the shops of Victoria. And, with that in mind, I should point out that I had some good luck in tracking down where to meet local pagans (that included finding a pagan friendly (if poorly stocked) knick knack shop in Aylesbury).

Monday went fairly well; the 10s weren't any worse than expected and the 7s and 8s were actually pretty good (starting the unit on "Holes" by watching part of the film helped). 'Course, the 9s spoiled it all by going completely mental in the last period; and they were much like that today as well. And the 10s, well..., they're still the 10s. I even had to break up a fight today. It was between one of my 8s coming into class and one of the 9s who should have been somewhere else. Perhaps I should feel guilty for saying this, but I'm hoping the 9 gets a few days of exclusion (suspension) out of this; he's one of the worst trouble makers amongst the 9s and I could use a break from him (especially given how buggy the 9s have been this week (and not just in my class, apparently)). And all this the day after I get a message stating that said 9's parents want to speak with me and his form tutor next week. I imagine it may have something to do with all the concern slips he's been getting.

Yep, fun, fun, fun...

Ah well, it's still going better than last week.

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