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This is a true tale, a recounting of how my skepticism regarding things of a supernatural nature, most notably revolving around the existence of an afterlife, received a very solid kick to the groin.

Witness a tale of supernatural going-ons... )

Blessed Samhain!
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I must make a better effort to keep up with my blog. It gets to be a bit difficult, though, as my leisure time is somewhat limited and often taken up by other pursuits. Alas...

On my way at about 2 in the morning last Tuesday, I had a bit of a disturbing encounter with some of the local thuggery. As I was walking along the street nearing home, a jeep full of young men turned around the corner from the opposite side of the sheet. They swiftly pulled to a stop just ahead of me, after having accelerated through the turn. I continued walking along, though I strongly suspected I was the object of their attention, for a number of reasons; first, they have simply wanted some information, like directions. Second, if their intentions were not so benign, showing fear by stopping or altering travel is a mistake. Third, if it was to come to a physical confrontation, the jeep would have served as a good tactical obstruction by which to limit how many of the little boogers could come at me at once. (Crikey! With that level of paranoia and continuous risk evaluation, you'd think I'd grown up in some crime ridden ghetto.)

There were five young men in the jeep, maybe in their late teens or early twenties. Fortunately, all of them looked like I could drop them in one solid hit. And perhaps that's why, when I finally got fairly close to the vehicle, they peeled away, with but a singular, violent throwing motion (hardly threatening as the passenger window was rolled up) and a menacing sneer from the driver. 'Course, slightly annoyed look I was probably sporting at the time might also have had something to do with it. As mentioned earlier, thugs of this nature prefer a fearful nature and it was actually kinda hard to be fearful of this lot, even if there was five of them.

Still, when I got home, I phoned the event in to the local police. These little hoodlums may have had second thoughts about picking a fight with me, but I have smaller and female colleagues at work, some of whom I knew would be walking these streets mere hours from the point this occurance. That's aside from any other unfortunate member of the public who might've ran afoul of them. In most cases, I'd be skeptical if the cops would do anything about it, but these local ones actually seem to maintain a pretty active presence, as demonstrated on Saturday, so perhaps something good came of that call.

In other news, I've racked up a bit of a bonus by working a day of overtime yesterday. Yeah, I'll be working a six day week, but, honestly?, that's not at all that taxing. The only issue is squeezing in time to get other stuff sorted in my off hours. Today, for example, I took a bike ride out to a local charity used goods warehouse to check into possible furniture for my flat. Sadly, that seemed to be nigh a wasted effort as they were charging quite a bit for what was quite slim pickings. I'm better off shopping for stuff at Walmart and Zellers. This was especially disappointing because I really wanted to pick up something I could use as an altar (I've been feeling somewhat spiritually amiss) and it was over an hour's worth of time I could have devoted to other things. I at least, however, came home with a rice cooker/veggie steamer in reasonable condition for a mere four dollars.

I also got a bit of exercise on the bike, which helped clear out the lactic acid burn from yesterday's run. It was a pleasant enough run that took me through a lovely marsh and allowed me to soak up a luxurious amount of sunshine. Sadly, though, my nipples got chafed (owie!) and, alas, there was no one about to kiss them better for me. *melodramatic sigh*
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 I do so love receiving heart warming tales of human and animal friendship, such as the following, in my e-mail box:  

In 1986, Mike Membre was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. 

On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.  

The elephant seemed distressed, so Membre approached it very carefully.  

He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it.  

As carefully and as gently as he could, Membre worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. 

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. 

Membre stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Membre never forgot that elephant or the events of that day. 

Twenty years later, Membre was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. 

As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Membre and his son Cantri were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Membre, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. 

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Membre couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. 

Membre summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. 

The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Membre's legs and raised him high into the air and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.


Probably wasn't the same elephant.

The Gift

Jul. 7th, 2008 10:39 am
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I often tell a version of this Zen story to many of my pupils.  

From: nsults.html 

There once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.  

One day an infamous young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.  

Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior's challenge. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he left feeling shamed.  

Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him. "How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?"  

"If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it," the master replied, "to whom does the gift belong?"

the_vulture: (Default)
 Yesterday was very interesting. Originally, it was supposed to be a fairly relaxed Friday in which my year 10s would spend most of the class watching the first bits of Of Mice and Men whilst most of the other classes worked on storyboards of Jimmy Dean's most famous ballad  "Big Bad John."  

I got into the Friday morning staff meeting a few minutes late (not a biggie) and the assistant head looked quite relieved to see me. After the meeting, mere minutes before morning registeration, he came to me and said, casually, "Michael, you're not here today." 

"I'm not?" I replied with understandable curiousity. 

"You're on a training session today," he said. 

"I'm what?!?" I responded, with a bit of inward panic, as I tried, vainly, to recall what memo, e-mail, announcement, or school calendar event I had forgotten about and/or failed to read. 

The situation rapidly went weird from there. I was informed that I had only a short amount of time to arrange cover before meeting with another teacher and catch a ride with her for a full day training session. Whilst dealing with my registeration group, I was verbally giving my cover work to my head of department whilst setting up AV for the first class.  

More details came to me from a variety of people as I bustled about. Apparently, the other teacher and I were to attend a training session for a new software platform that the school is in the process of implementing. The other teacher apparently found a mere 10 minutes before I did and upper management, really, hadn't been informed that much earlier. Essentially, the head of IT phoned in that information whilst he was on the road. Okayyyy.... Of course, it seems that we were not the only school to have had a similar issue. This was a training session we were supposed to attend in December, but had gotten cancelled for reasons I cannot even recall. Regardless, it was a situation TARFU that I, at least, wasn't in any way responsible for. 

The training day wasn't all that boring, despite the fact that my familiarity with IT made it exceptionally easy to grasp what was going on. The whole idea is to create a "virtual learning environment" where teachers can place resources for pupils in an easily accessible location, give and receive assigments, share resources with others, and give marks and feedback. Really, it simply about using a standardized data storage system that is more user friendly. I pretty much just spent the day getting familiar with a new interface. 

Yes, an easy day with pay away from the kids who just want to play. 

And the lunch catering was actually pretty decent, too! 

The training session ended about a half an hour before the school day would've. The other teacher dropped me off at the train station and then headed on her way home - no point for her to head back into school. And there really wasn't any point for me, either, as it was now afternoon registeration and neither of us were actually expected back. The only nagging thing was that I had arranged some afterschool detentions that should've been seen to, but the other teacher's comments regarding doing so still rung clear in my mind: 

"You're going to go back for THAT?!? Listen, all the kids will know that you're away today; how many of the one you're expecting do you think will actually show up?" 

Fair enough! That sound argument had me about five minutes walk from my flat as the final pips rang for the school. *grin* 

Yep, a very relaxed day indeed. 

And I get another one the week after next!  


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One afternoon, my good friend Dwayne and I (Yes, he is a character in yet another lobster tale.) were standing transfixed by the amazing expense of live lobster in a tank at a super market in British Columbia (west part of Canada), when we were approached by a friendly and eager young store clerk who asked us if we needed any help. 

We explained that we were just looking and, as she was rather cute, we carried on the conversation a bit further into the topic of lobsters and the cooking of them. 

She told us about how she learned to make lobsters "go to sleep," before putting them in the pot, as she felt uncomfortable just putting them in whilst still moving about. This involved curling the lobster's tail under itself and stroking it until it stops moving. 

"Dwayne," I asked, "if I remember correctly, those tiny paddle-like legs on the underside of a lobster's tail are its gills, are they not?" Being a brighter fellow than myself, with a biochem degree to prove it, I can usually count on him to at least have an educated guess about such things. 

"Yep," he affirmed, just moments before sprouting a wicked grin, showing that he just realized the implications of the situation. 

Alas, the poor cherubic store clerk's face flooded with dismay when I asked her, "Did you realize that, when you curl the lobster's tail under like that, you're effectively suffocating the lobster to death before plunking it in?" 

Dwayne and I can be such bastards...

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The graduation/mortgage burning party was good for, not one, but two rather amusing lobster tales. The second revolves around Dwayne, a very good friend of mine, who, like a number at the party, had no clue as to how to eat a lobster.  

To fully appreciate this tale, you'll have to understand that most maritimers know how to eat lobster, I mean REALLY KNOW how to eat lobster. What the maritime approach to eating lobster does NOT entail is prissy plastic bibs and a nutcracker, like one would see in a posh restaurant. Rather, one would see the active and expert use of a large bladed instrument, such as a kitchen knife, and the judicious application of well placed blows to the back of said bladed instrument. A true maritimer can have the seemingly impenetrable armor of a lobster hacked to a sufficient number of pieces as to render every morsel of lobster flesh available for consumption in under a minute. To those uninitiated into the secrets of lobster munching, however, that armored crustacean glaring at you from the plate can be rather intimidating. 

So it was with Dwayne, who, like a small handfull at that lobster feast, had no clue as to how to enjoy his lobster and looked on in envy as most everyone around him dug in. However, Dwayne, being fairly clever (he has a biochem degree, afterall) decided that the best course of action was to ask for help.  

And so he turned to my uncle Daryl for assistance. Darryl informed him that he was missing a critical tool and told him to wait a moment whilst he obtained one. Dwayne waited expectantly, expecting a large knife as many around him were wielding. 

Darryl returned some minutes later. From behind his back, he pulled a meat tenderizing mallet with which he then proceeded, with great gusto, to smash the lobster to bits, as Dwayne watched in stunned astonishment.  

"There you go," said Uncle Darryl cheerfully, before casually turning and walking away. 

Dwayne returned his gaze to the demolished lobster before him. He shrugged and began picking out the bits of edible flesh from amongst the shattered shards of shell. 

Dwayne was always pragmatic about such things...

the_vulture: (Default)
Being of maritimer descent, I have had, throughout my life, a number of interesting encounters with that quite hideous, though fairly delicious denizen of the sea, the lobster (le homard, en fran├žais).

At approximately the same time that I graduated from high school, my parents also paid off their house mortage. As such, in celebration of both events, they decided to have some lobster shipped in from the east coast of Canada for a grand feast.

During the preparations that fine summer day, I beheld, looking out the screen door, a good family friend putting lobsters (live, of course) into the large pot of boiling salt water.

Sensing he had an audience, he held one of the lobsters menacingly over the pot and, with melodramatic flair, bellowed out...


Needless to say, I was doubled over with laughter.

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 [ 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 [ 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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In order to try and curb the "Beef Jerky" nickname (see my previous post), I would pull a pupil or two aside, whenever I was called that, to ask them why they were doing so. Most of them, not really privy to the weird mental workings of the year 10 girls, did not have a clue. This gave me the opportunity to explain why that name had come about. That seemed to discourage a few, as it lacked any real negative connotations, and may have something to do with the reduction of the use of that nickname.

Of course, the drop in the use of "beef jerky," especially amongst the year 10 boys, may also have something to do with one boy's unfortunate attempt to make something out of the nickname. This lad, among the naughtier of the older boys, interrupted one of my explanations by attempting to spread one of his own, namely that the term arose because I have a small penis (I could see how a masturbation referrence could be derived, but a small penis?). I wasn't able to deal with him the first time he said this, as he pulled a rapid escape before I could call him back.

The second time, however, was quite decisive. The next day, I found he and his mates gathered together during break. On seeing me, they all began calling "Beef Jerky!" In a friendly fashion, I approached the boys and began my usual spiel, expecting the one lad to again interrupt with his own. He did not disappoint me. Unfortunately for him, he failed to realize that teachers tend to be observant and can often recall things about pupils that the latter may wish to be forgotten, like say, in this instance, that the lad had acquired a nickname of his own.

I got as far as "You know, that's really quite ironic coming from someone nicknamed Gherkin..." before being drowned out by the laughter from the other boys. The lad hastily started an explanation "Wait! It's not like that," but was shouted down by his mates with "You got cussed by Sir!!!"

It was all taken in good fun, though, and, since then, I've noticed that I receive a much higher level of respect from the year 10 boys, especially "Gherkin."

Beef Jerky

Jul. 29th, 2006 08:21 pm
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I do recall mentioning somewhere in an earlier post that I have to catch up on a tale from the class room or two. Actually, let's make that a few.

I'll begin a simple cautionary tale about the dangers of entering the classrooms of a less cosmopolitan area of England with a foreign accent.

Unlike the previous two schools I've taught at, the one I'm teaching at now has very little in the way of foreign teachers (or even foreign pupils). As such, these pupils have a stronger fascination with my "American" accident than others have had. Of course, having such little experience, they were at first confused as to what my accent was, even guessing that I was Australian (and, yes, I did, out of a sense of mischievousness, "assist" in that misperception).

It shouldn't have been such a surprise then, when, during a conversation with year 10 girls that wound its way to foods that I miss from Canada, one of the girls took to immediate obsession with the way in which I pronounce "beef jerky." From then on, whenever she saw me, she would exclaim "beef jerky" with her best high pitched attempt at mimicking my accent. It didn't take any real length of time before her friends joined in and, after only a few weeks, I soon acquired the term as a nickname (which I hope many will forget over the summer).

Of course, though many pupils call me that, few have any understanding of how the nickname came to be. That almost led to an unfortunate misconception, but I nipped it in the bud quite quickly and effectively, to the amusement of all but one. However, that's a tale for another day...

POST-NOTE: I was a little remiss by failing to mention that many of the year 10 girls used (and sometimes still do) demand that I say "beef jerky." This odd little behaviour has spread to younger year groups (boys and girls), though many of the year 8 girls have recently taken up demands for their own word of choice, "tasty."
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It's been a while since I've posted an entertaining tale from the classroom, but this one's worth waiting for.

I was teaching a group of year 11 boys it ICT (computer stuff). This group is ill behaved and one particular pupil (we'll call him "Mandeep") was becoming a major pain by snatching things out of my shirt pocket and nicking my employee pass card. He'd then hand these off to another pupil and I would have to go, from pupil to pupil, demanding my stuff back until whoever had it at the time finally gave in.

Truth be told, Mandeep and friends were not being malicious, but their amusement at the cost of my time and patience had become exceptionally aggravating and I decided it needed to end. It was time to teach Mandeep a lesson.

Mandeep snatched my pass card again and handed it off to someone else. Instead of asking for it back, I flatly told him that he would be responsible for getting it back to me. He exclaimed, as he had before, that he didn't have it. I explained that, regardless of whether or not he had it or not, as he had taken it, he would be responsible for all consequences should it not be returned to me.

"What do ya mean?" he asked, taking the bait.

I then began to elaborate,in a stern style, that, if I did not receive the card, he would be responsible for the cost of hiring a technician to reprogram the pass card system and replacing ALL of the staff pass cards.

Mandeep began to look a little nervous and began asking around for the card. Sometime later, he returned to me, explaining that no one would give it to him. I reiterated that he was responsible for getting it back. Nervously, he asked if he could expelled for this and I explained that, given his track record of bad behaviour at the school, expulsion was quite likely. He renewed his search in earnest.

Whilst Mandeep was occupied elsewhere in the room, I approached Mike, the pupil I suspected currently had the card, and asked him to return it. He refused, claiming that he didn't have it. In a low voice, I explained that, if he gave the card back, I wouldn't tell Mandeep that I had it. With a conspiratory grin, Mike handed it over.

With Mandeep out of my hair (and currently engaged in searching every corner of the room for the missing card), the rest of the class was spent productively assisting those who needed help with their current projects. Periodically, I would be interrupted by a nervous Mandeep, who would plead that he couldn't find the card. Each time, I would bluntly state "You took it; it's your responsibility to get it back."

Chance allowed me to play it up even further; I received a phone call on my mobile (set to vibrate) and stepped out of the class to answer it ('twas a call from my agency). Mandeep saw me re-enter the class whilst putting my phone back and, with some measure of trepidation, asked if I had called the head teacher. Without missing a beat, I assured him that, yes, I had, indeed, informed the head teacher of the situation. Mandeep asked again if I thought he would be expelled and I replied that it would be up to the head teacher to decide.

Mandeep's efforts to retrieve the card recommenced in earnest, beginning with another round of pleading with those pupils he thought might have it. They responded, quite emphatically (and this time with honesty), that they didn't have it and (as Mike had kept quite tight lipped about this) that they didn't know where it is.

Soon after, I was paid a visit by the head of year 11 (due, as I would discover later, by a chance miscommunication at the front office leading him to believe that there was a problem at my class). Again, taking advantage of the situation, I sternly asked if I could speak to him outside.

In the corridor, I showed him the card and then, loud enough for anyone in the class to hear, I explained the "situation" with Mandeep. He promptly came out of the class, perhaps to explain his side of the story or possibly to fish for sympathy. He was met, instead, by the convincingly harsh instruction to return to the class by the head of year. On seeing the look on Mandeep's face, it took all of the discipline learned during a summer acting course to keep from smiling. After Mandeep returned, the head of year flashed a canary eating grin; it seems that I was not the only one to appreciate the opportunity to give this class clown a taste of his own. The head of year then left to deal with other business.

I decided to let the charade continue till the end of the period, when I would then reveal that I had the card all along. I figured that letting sweat for most of the class would be far more effective in curbing that particular behaviour than any detention would.

It was near the end of the class, though, that this tale took a turn for the surreal.

I was assisting a pupil when I heard, from somewhere near the front of the room, Kelly, a particularly hard young man, state loudly "Brace yourself." With that warning, I turned around to see him punch Mandeep solidly in the side of the face. At first, I wasn't sure what had happened, as they both seemed quite posed, but the reaction from Mandeep was real enough. Assuming that this arose from some form of conflict, I quickly acted to make certain the two of them were separated. As I was doing so, however, Kelly quickly tried to explain that Mandeep wanted him to do so and that he did not "feel right" doing so. After talking further to both, it turned out that this was indeed the case; Mandeep, in a desparate bid to retrieve the card, went to Mike, whom he figured currently had it, and made a deal that, if he was struck by another pupil, Mike would give the card back. Mike, being an evil bastard (unbeknownst to me till then), allowed him to go through with it. He, of course, flatly denied making the deal.

I explained to Mandeep that, had I known this was happening, I would have ended this. I then revealed that I had card the whole time. I have never seen Mandeep look so down as he did then. Kelly even apologized and offered to let Mandeep hit him back (Mandeep declined).

Seeing that both boys had been through enough and did not want to carry the situation any further, I declined giving out detentions and simply wrote and filed an incident report, chalking it up to a random act of pupil stupidity.

My ploy had worked, however; since then, the snatching behaviour, from pupils in general, and Mandeep in particular, has greatly diminished. And, oddly, my rapport with both Mandeep and Kelly has improved substantially.

Yep, just another day at school...
the_vulture: (Man/Vulture)
This week was a long one. Aside from having to revisit my reports (leave it to me to trust the spell checker that just happened to be American), I've had to deal with a parent teachers' meeting for year 10 and other after school stuff. End result, I'm back to being behind in my marking. Ugh! Thursday was particularly trying; I had two bad classes right at the end of the day and, despite the much better classes I had earlier, I just wound up being hit hard by a lack of faith in my ability to manage a class. I was getting so frustrated with the last class that I sent a student to get the assistant head of English to give me some support before I hit a cracking point. 'Course, by the time he got there, I had managed to get the class settled again. And, yes, they wound up spending extra time with me after-school.

BTW, this particular group has come to surpass the Hell 9s in terms of unmanageability. From henceforth, they are the Hell 7s. There have been other changes in the class ranking as well; the year 10s still give me occasional grief, but they have migrated up the ranks to become one of the classes I actually look forward to. What used to be my worst year 8 class has gotten much better. I'm still trying to sort out the year 8 group that's drifted down to my second worst class. The former Hell 9s have drifted up to the best of the worst; I can generally keep them reasonably quiet (though getting many of them to work is another matter). And I still have delightful year 8 and 7 classes that have remained a delight to teach. Sadly, I share them with other teachers and don't get them as much as I would like. In general, the management has improved, but, as periods 5 and 6 of Thursday proved, I still have rough spots.

I also had a bit of emotional roughness later on that afternoon as I sorted and boxed the form group stuff for the next form tutor to take.

It wasn't easy to make the announcement about the changeover in form tutor the next morning. They had already heard about it and were demanding confirmation. Strangely though, it didn't go as I expected; I imagined that there would have been at least two or three cheers, but no. In fact, they were rather dismayed when they found out who their new form tutor will be. They did express some feelings of abandonment (this lot have gone through a LOT of form tutors), but they seem to handle it quite reasonably. At the end of the last registration period, a number of them (including key trouble makers) stopped to shake my hands. I had to put a strangle hold on the desire to reverse this whole process and take them back. (sigh...)

As for the three classes I am normally scheduled for on Fridays (yes, that's were three of my four free periods wound up), they went well, even with the wretched lot of little year 7s that caused me so much grief the afternoon before. I felt like things were finally coming together, but time will tell.

The day almost ended on a good note. Instead, it ended weird. In my pigeon hole that morning, I was dismayed to discover a cover slip for period 6 (alas!). In period 5, I actually took a close look at it to see what and where I'll be teaching. I was thrilled to find out that I was to cover an art class! I got to teach a lesson involving interposing letter and number forms, lines, and shapes to create graphic images. I was warned that the year group I would be dealing with was a noisy lot, but I 0wnZ0red them; I was on fire!

Unfortunately, so too was something in one of the girls' bathrooms. At about a quarter to three, the fire alarm went off. We started getting to ready to leave and were part way out the door when it ended. Okay, back in we went. Then it began ringing again. And out we went again. We gathered in a large lot behind the school where over a thousand students lined up by form. It was the near the end of the day and it was cold out; you can imagine just how noisy and unsettled they were. Trying to keep them in line in the midst of an informational vacuum, especially when the fire trucks arrived, was a bit challenging. It became even more so as 3 o'clock rolled by and the children wanted to be on their way home. Eventually, though, things got sorted out and we were able to release them.

The cost for all this mayhem? About 500 pounds worth of damage and many sore throats (mine amongst them).

I suppose I was incorrect in stating that the day did not end on a good note; I went back to the art department to square the student work that was left behind and to hand in the register sheet. I was treated to a tour of the art department by one of the art teachers, who had noted that I had kept good control of the class, enjoyed what I was teaching, and actually knew something about it. The English department may be a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but Art department was splendid, with three large, airy classrooms and an extra studio area for the sixth formers.You could FEEL the positive energy in this place! If offered a position in the art department, I'd sign on without hesitation. Yes, Friday did, indeed, end well.
the_vulture: (tvhead)
Yep, it's the end of another week and, although it started off a little rough, it went fairly well. I even had some productive classes with my Hell 9s.

'Course, the most memorable moment of the week was a really embarassing incident that happened early Monday morning.

Quite often, I play a game known as "silent ball" with my students, especially my form group. This involves tossing around a hacky sack (a small bean bag). Normally, it only comes out for the purpose of this game, but, as of late, I've been getting a little lax and I've been allowing the kids to toss it around during lunch and form periods.

That morning, I was in the process of checking planners for homework and had allowed them to play with the hacky sack during form period to keep them out of my hair. I can put up with a bit of noise from my class, but apparently it was aggravating the Head of English, who stepped into my class to talk to me about it.

At that moment, one of my students tossed the hacky sack to another a student. He failed to catch it and it smacked into the head of the Head. Yep, it was a definate "aw crap..." moment.

End result? The student got a concern slip over the incident (despite my attempts to explain the situation), the Head and I had an involved discussion over the appropriate behavior of the class, and the hacky sack was confiscated (when she took it, she didn't realize that it was mine and I didn't think it was a good time to bring it up (and, yes, it does mess with the kids' minds that a teacher could have something confiscated by another teacher (chuckle))).

I suppose it's one of those moments that you laugh at later in life. Heck, I already am. Things seemed to have smoothed over and my form has been trying very hard to be model students in during form period (or, at least, they're responding to my cracking of the whip).

'Course, I still haven't gotten my hacky sack back...
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Again, I have survived the week. Overall, it was okay. I had (relatively) good classes with my Hell 9s and one really bad class. It always seems to be two steps forward, one step back with these guys. Tuesday felt like it was two or three steps back. Oh well. I'm building up a better idea of which activities they can handle and which they can't.

Some of the other classes were acting up a little, too. But I've had significant progress with the year 10s. I think I can tentatively say they're back on track (if a little behind the game).

The biggest complication of the week was the nasty cold I picked up. This one completely bypassed my immune system; I didn't have any of the usual fatigue that heralds the onset (and gives me a chance to sleep it off). Instead, I wound up with a whack of interesting symptoms that I hadn't had in years (and some I've never had!). Some of them had the annoying habit of appearing in the middle of class. After a sneezing fit, my students advised me that I should go home (chuckle).

I think this little montage conversation sums up how the cold went:

Student 1: Sir, there's a tear running down your cheek.

Me: That's because my eye is watering.

Student 1: Why is your eye watering?

Me: I'm allergic to you guys.

Student 2 (in the back row whispering to another student): Why do teachers think they're funny?

Me (with a grin and projecting to Student 2): Why do students think that teachers can't hear them?


The week was made rougher by constantly being under slept. Six hours just doesn't cut it. I would have tried to get more, but was behind in my marking and I really needed to catch up, especially prior to a review with the head of English (a meeting I have already postponed to Monday). Ugh! I should be caught up on both sleep and marking by the end of the weekend, though.

Yesterday, I had to cover another class. Normally, I'm not supposed to be doing ANY coverage as I'm a newly qualified teacher, but apparently the rampant cold took out a lot of teachers on Friday. Fortunately, they gave me an easy cover; I got to babysit a group of year 10 music students while they were working on major projects. Unfortunately, I didn't think to bring anything for myself to do. Aside from wandering through the assorted music rooms to check for any mayhem in a vain attempt to feel the slightest bit useful, I pretty much spent the class practicing my drawing skills (yes, doodling) amidst a cacophony of instruments (plus a radio).

On the upside of things, I'm continuing to develop a stronger rapport with many of my students. I get a lot of questions about whether I'll be staying. One of them even began asking if I would be their year 10 form tutor. I've actually been told straight out by one of the students in my form, "I hope you don't bail out on us like a lot of form tutors do." That's probably as close to "Please stay," as any of them would be capable of expressing without sounding "uncool."As for my form, they're improving. There was little in the way of crisis this week and we even had a moment of triumph as we were the first group to enter assembly (after the constant crap we've been receiving for often being the last). One member of the class (I don't know who) did throw a berry at me in class. After I firmly voiced my disapproval of such an action as being highly disrespectful, one of the chief trouble makers, seeming a bit irate himself, voiced his own disapproval, decrying it as being "pretty low" and something even he wouldn't do. I haven't had a similar incident happen since.

At one point, I was feeling a bit rattled after getting snarled at by the head of English for missing a meeting (I was in the midst of dealing with detentions and had forgotten (too easy to do in this environment)). The door to the outside of my class was unlocked and a number of boys popped in to see if they could stay inside during lunch period. They had begun the usual whining and pleading when I told them "I need space." They left promptly without further argument. A little later on, another boy entered and responded just as quickly to that statement. Maybe, just maybe, these guys are beginning to care about me as much as I do for them.
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Early last week I was called upon to deal with some issues of contention between members of my form (homeroom). One fellow, Charles, asked me to deal with a few other people who were calling him names and intimidating him. One student, Robby, had apparently even kicked at him to trip him (this particular event worried me as this didn't seem to be in Robby's nature to do something malicious). I sat a number of these people down during break to discuss the matter.

I was in the midst of sorting out the mess (including learning the other side of the matter; apologies were strongly owed on both sides), when Robby finally showed up to join the discussion. At this point, people were a bit heated and I wasn't looking forward to adding to the flames.

I told him of Charles claim that he had kicked him and asked him straight out if he had. Robby turned to Charles and said, with his typical air of completely friendly casualness, "Sorry if I kicked you, I was actually aiming for Tim."

The resultant laughter was a much needed tension breaker.
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Yesterday, I was tutoring an ESL student. She's taking an English summer course and she needed assistance with a personal essay she had to write. The topic sentence was "the important things in life are the most enduring." In helping her with this, the topic of friendship came up. I asked her to think of an example of where a friend really came through for her. She was a bit stumped so I provided her with one of my own as an example.

When I first came to Victoria with a small number of good friends, we were well, very poor. We didn't have much in the way of cash on the move to here and some big financial setbacks made things quite ugly for a while. One of my roommates, Blaine, had a huge collection of paperback novels which he enjoyed reading over and over again. During this time period, he would sort through them and pick out his least favourites to sell for cash so we could pay for food. During the Thanksgiving of that year, he again sold a number of his novels and, with that money, bought us turkey subs from Subway so we would at least have turkey dinner. And that, folks, is what true friendship is about (chuckle!).


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