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charlie, computer cat

March 2016

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Mar. 20th, 2016

laden coal creature

(no subject)

Somehow, coming back from a holiday always seems to mean that I've fallen so far behind with things that I have to scramble to catch up again. Thus, I see that I haven't written here since getting back from the Caribbean, even though that was about a month ago now. I think this was compounded by the fact that (a) I was sick for a lot of the Christmas holiday and so didn't manage to get much done then, so I felt like I was trying to catch up for most of term 3, (b) we were away for most of half term, which is when I would normally get caught up with things and (c) the amount of pressure we're under as a result of the ridiculous farce that is KS2 assessment this year means that there's much more work than normal to keep up with. Still, I feel like I'm finally getting somewhere, which is nice and probably not unconnected with the fact that there's more daylight and the occasional glimpse of sun. I even went out and did some garden cleaning up last weekend.

I'm finding the whole thing with assessment this year is really weighing on my mind - I seem to be spending much more time than usual feeling really stressed out or, alternatively, furious with the DfE for putting us in this ridiculous position. We're teaching practically nothing but Maths and English at the moment, even in the afternoons, which is depressing and tiring for all concerned but given that there's no way we're going to reach the targets set this year, we have to show that we've done everything possible to achieve them. Parents evening consisted of a lot of me saying to parents "the expectations have been massively raised this year and while your child would have met the old writing targets, they won't meet the new ones". A few parents asked why the expectations have been raised so much, which is a fair question, and it took all my self restraint not to just say "Because the DfE are fuckwits who don't know what they're doing and have no idea about how teaching and learning actually happens".

Between all that, and the current behaviour of the democratically elected government, I am currently giving serious consideration to leaving the country. Unfortunately, it looks as if my teaching qualification would not be accepted in Canada, which is annoying, so I'll have to look into doing some further study before we could do anything about it, but that's not the end of the world and will hopefully be useful even if things change and we end up not flitting. Bah. I miss just being able to enjoy my job. At least SATs are in May - after that, we can have some fun again, but right now, it feels like a long time coming.

I need to think about what I want to do next educationally anyway, as I'm about to finish my OU degree. Currently, I've reached the bit of this course which I find least interesting, but at least it doesn't matter too much as my mark in this module is irrelevant to my end result and there is another interesting bit before the end. I just can't find it in me to like Dickens! I rather surprised myself in the last assignment by actually writing a poem though, which was a completely unexpected but rather interesting experience. I don't see it starting a trend or anything but it was still very rewarding as a one of experiment.
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Feb. 15th, 2016

jasmine

Living the Caribbean dream...

So, since my last update, I have:

- Been to the Grenadan Independence celebration at the National Stadium. Lots of marching up and down, fun with the police marching band and a stirring address by the Prime Minister (to a lot more cheering than I can imagine any PM at home getting!). There were lots of songs about how lovely Grenada is and how the national characteristic is being friendly and welcoming (story checks out) and all in all, it was a rather fun, relaxing morning.

- Been snorkelling for the first time to look at the underwater sculpture garden. I didn't love the actual experience of snorklling - I could never quite get the mouthpiece to feel comfortable and I had to pause for breath quite a bit - but it was totally worth it to see the underwater sculptures, which are gradually turning into an artificial reef, as well as all the little fishes floating around in the clear water.

- Actually done some teaching in school! I taught them some maths, which was interesting. They're good on concepts but they are much more used to being led than my students so they really struggled when I was asking them to spot patterns or reason for themselves. They're very keen though, and were very excited to try out some of my times table games :)

- Been to Brownies, which was lovely! I am going back next week and I'm going to teach them a song and a game from our Brownies and hopefully video some of their Brownie things

- Spent more time floating in the Caribbean - rather necessary after a long hot day at school! The road down to our favourite beach has a drainage ditch next to it, which is lined with hundreds of crab holes - if you walk along in the evening between about 5 and 6 you can see them all out grazing and sunning themselves, which is rather lovely. I have discovered that I can't stop pointing them out even though there are probably literally hundreds there :)

- Been to a Golden Oldies, Caribbean style clubbing night! Not exactly my kind of thing, particularly as my body clock seems to have adjusted to early mornings, early nights while we're here (partly because it gets dark around 6/6:30, which makes it then feel really late!) but we did have quite a bit of fun.

- Visited Fish Friday in Gouyave, where local fishermen basically cook up their catch for the day on street food stalls and sell it to tourists. We saw some great drumming and ate some delicious fishy dishes.

- Hiked around the shore of Grand Etang (it's a big lake near the centre of the island)! All the locals we've told this to have said variants on "gosh, how adventurous!" I think most people just go to the bit of the lake shore by the bus stop but we went all the way around. The trail was pretty muddy in places and there were a few slots where there didn't seem to be much trail at all, but it was actually an amazing experience - we felt like jungle explorers! And we saw a monkey! A real live wild monkey, just eating fruit from a tree near the visitor centre!

- Visited the Palmtree Botanical Garden and the Laura Herb and Spice garden, both of which I highly recommend, especially the Palmtree garden. We got lovely guided walks of both places, saw some massive caterpillars, some more lizards and some really beautiful blooms.

moar photos!Collapse )
charlie, computer cat

Photos

OK, I *think* I've fixed the problems with the photos in the last post - can anyone who couldn't see them before have a look and see if they can see them now? Ta!
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Feb. 6th, 2016

charlie, computer cat

Grenada!

So, we made it to the Spice Isle! I'm still in slight "I can't believe we're here" mode, but it's starting to sink in... It's gorgeous here - sunny and hot with just enough breeze to make it comfortable. We're staying in a B&B right in the city centre which, given that this is independence weekend, puts us right in the thick of everything, which is pretty amazing. I wouldn't say the view is anything to shout about but the breakfasts a great and the fact that we're right next to the buses means that it's incredibly easy to get anywhere. The buses are actually more like maxi-taxis, with a clever arrangement of fold down seats to maximize the number of people that they can fit in and I'm more and more pleased with the decision not to hire a car for this trip as the roads are narrow, steep and busy so I think it would have been pretty high stress!

So we arrived on Thursday and we had thought we might go to the beach that evening but in fact after checking in we were too tired to do anything other than have a stroll around town and a quick snack before turning in. Friday was our first day into school and it was their indepedence street parade. All the children were dressed up in Grenadan national colours and we marched and danced through the streets singing "Happy Birthday Grenada". The gist of the songs seemed to be that Grenada has sun, spices and friendly people and I have to say, that seems basically true. When we got back to school, there was a TV camera there and after talking to the head, we got asked for comment! A little un-nerving but I managed not to stutter and to sound enthusicastic but I haven't looked for the spot, incase I look like a grinning idiot :)

After the march, we had the national dish - oildown - for lunch, which was a sort of stew made with chicken and coconut milk and a vegetable who's name I forget which was a little like spinach and carrots and something else rather like bread fruit. It was pretty good actually, although they gave us a massive portion so I think they thought we didn't like it; it was more that we couldn't possibly have eaten it all! After that, they very generously gave us the afternoon out of school to recover from jetlag on the beach! The head teacher gave us a lift down to Grand Anse, which is the main tourist beach and dropped us off by a well reviewed beach bar so we spread out our towels, relaxed on the sand with books and swam in the Carribean! The presense of some clouds in the sky meant that the beach was really quiet but actually it was amazingly nice - not too hot to be comfortable.

Today, with more clouds forcast we decided to take advantage of their cooling properties to do a waterfall walk inland. We took a bus up just past the Grand Etang to St Margarets falls, also known as the Seven Sisters. When being given our sticks as we paid for entrance a nice chap offered to guide us and we decided to take him up on it. Although the route was actually pretty clear, I'm really glad we did as there were some pretty rocky spots to pick our way over and a stream to ford on stepping stones and having a helping hand made all the difference in a couple of spots. When we got there, our guide took a seat on then bench while we took a dip in the pool just below the waterfall! The whole thing was gorgeous - really tropical jungle feeling - and we saw one or two bits of wildlife, even though we missed out on seeing monkeys - still, there's plenty of time for that yet! Our guide knew loads about the local flora and showed us things like nutmeg, cocoa and banana trees as we went along. Despite the fact that the way back was mostly steep up hill, I managed it pretty well, which I felt good about. I wouldn't want to do something that exerting every day but I think we may do another hike type day next weekend.

photos!Collapse )

Jan. 26th, 2016

sunflower

(no subject)

Overheard in class today:
Child A: so what *is* communism then?
Child B: well it's like this thing where all the people in a country decide to put all their money together and then share it out equally.
Child A: oh! Well that's just better!
Child B: well I don't know - then no one wants to do the really hard jobs.

Turns out Child B is reading Animal Farm, which was the starting point for this conversation. I look forward to their future career with interest. I have been teaching them Werewolf and The Resistance at board games club - this may be a mistake :)

Jan. 22nd, 2016

who's a rock star?

(no subject)

Yesterday was the first time in what feels like a really long time that I woke up and felt like I actually had energy and was more well than sick. This has been the most horrible cold season and who knows, maybe this is just a brief respite, but it's really putting me in a good mood. For most of last week, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I needed to do, mostly at school, but also sorting out home maintenance stuff and so on and I feel really pleased that I made the firm decision on Monday that I was going to abide by one of my original stipulations when I decided to try the gym thing and accept that I was not well and that I therefore did not have enough spoons or energy to go to the gym so I skipped Monday and Wednesday without making myself feel bad about it, so yay for positive planning!

One of the things that has been stressing me out, apart from the massive volume of marking that year 6 seems to require, is the fact that my Grenada trip is now pretty close and as part of that, two Grenadan teachers are visiting our school starting next week. I have to host one in my class part of the time, so that's kind of daunting, but also, I have to get a massive amount of stuff planned and ready for when I am away so that my colleagues who are still here don't suddenly have double workload! I spent about a hour of my PPA time yesterday just getting my head around the timetable for the next few weeks because we also have to fit in all our mid year assessments before I go and so I got up to make a cup of tea kind of resigned to doing a bunch of planning this weekend, but as luck would have it, the next few sets of maths objectives are ones that we taught last year as well so I was able to have an incredibly productive couple of hours in which I managed to not only plan, but resource and create the smarthboards for all the maths teaching up to the end of this half term! That took a massive weight off my mind and made me feel just really positive about life and everything - I've missed having bursts of productivity!

So far, I've managed to keep it up today as well. We've had our shower cubicle re-done and as we're not allowed to use it until tomorrow, I have been taking advantage of the dryness to touch up the paint on the ceiling and I'm just about to go up and sort out the floor tile grouting too. I also had a gym session that, while I wouldn't go so far as to describe it as enjoyable, was definitely satisfying. I've managed to figure out a routine for using the elliptical that makes me feel like I am challenging myself but is not too horrible/exhausting and, because I was later than I was in previous weeks, the pool was really quiet - so much so that I'll probably aim for this sort of time next week.

Jan. 2nd, 2016

wine

Hello again!

Seem to have got rather sucked into busyness at work and having horrible colds in the last quarter of the year! Ah well. Rather than completely paper over that period, let's see if I can manage at least some info about what I got up to.

5 things about October 2015Collapse )

5 things about November 2015Collapse )

5 things about December 2015Collapse )

Sep. 27th, 2015

webdesigner - chez geek

Further possibly interesting facts...

I have calculated that I make in the region of 460 car journeys per year, of which 98% of the trips are < 5 miles each way (commuting, Brownies, faffing around in Oxford). However, the remaining 2% of trips (visits to my and Alex's folks) account for around 50% of my annual mileage!

Sep. 26th, 2015

laden coal creature

Decisions, decisions

So, I've found myself thinking relatively seriously over the past few days about whether I should buy an electric car. I can't remember now what prompted the stray thought in the first place, but it's kind of lodged so I thought I'd put it down in typeface for a bit of a further think. So far, my pros/cons list basically looks like this.

1) We're on a 100% green energy electric tariff so the ongoing driving emissions would be close to 0. This is good!
2) The vast majority of my driving happens over short distances (e.g. to and from work). This would be no problem.
3) Here's where we get to the cons. It looks like I might make it to Alex's folks in a single charge, probably (although, because it's speed and temp dependent, I'm not certain of that - we might need a top up). To get to my folks, we'd definitely need a charge. That would add half an hour to the journey, and probably more like 45mins once you factor in actually getting the thing plugged in, the minor diversion to the charge point, etc. On the one hand, that's a bit of a pain. On the other hand, I don't actually hate the idea of having a break in the drive if I know I'm going to need it and plan ahead. An annoyance but not a deal breaker, I would say. Those are the long distance journeys I make most often, by quite some way.
4) Longer trips. If we went to visit [personal profile] coalescent, that would involve an extra hour to ninety minutes (two charges) on a very long journey. On the other hand (a) it's such a long drive that it's already borderline whether we do it in the car or on the train - it's only really the fact that we want to take lots of games that tips the balance and (b) we do it rarely enough that it would be totally reasonable/feasible to just hire a car for the one or two occasions in a year we want to take a trip of that length. I wonder if there are car clubs for borrowing long distance vehicles for electric car owners? I don't think I would consider doing the trip in the electric, but that's not necessarily a problem.
5) I would miss manual transmission. Odd, I know, but true.
6) Cost. I'm putting it down but this is a fairly minor consideration. Running cost would obviously be lower, but there would nevertheless be some financial outlay and there's nothing actually wrong with my petrol car right now, so I'm putting it on the list.

I don't know. I feel an odd disinclination, but I suspect that might be status quo bias rearing it's ugly head. What do you think? Am I talking myself into something silly? Or would it be more rational to have a go?

Aug. 23rd, 2015

tiny kitn

(no subject)

1) I've actually been putting off making a post this week because I feel like writing this down will make it more real, so I'm going to start by getting the bad news out of the way - I managed to spill orange juice all over the keyboard of my lovely lovely (and expensive) Dell laptop and now it has died :( Even after taking it to the repair guy to look at, it will only make horrible noises when it starts up :( Obviously, it can be replaced, and there's nothing on it that's not backed up on the cloud except the very start of a database project, which I'm not bothered about but still, I'm really upset and cross about it. It looks like it is covered on the home insurance, although they want their repair guy to look at it before we talk replacements, which seems fair enough. What I'm slightly worried about is that they'll try to palm me off with a similar spec model - I loved the aestheics of that device, which was one of the reasons I chose it. Hopefully, we'll be able to come to some sort of "cash to the amount of the model they want" deal and I'll make up the difference.

2) So, with that out of the way, other than that I've had a pretty good week. My student passed her maths test, which means that we don't have to completely rethink my Fridays this year, which is a relief. I'm not sure she quite realises how much work there is to do, but hopefully she'll get used to it! She seems like a lovely person though, so hopefully we'll be able to work together well. My classroom is looking tidy and like a nice learning space, my cupboards are spick and span. I've not done my displays yet, but that'll be a job for Mum and Dad next week :)

3) We finally got delivered the lovely new computers for our ICT suite that we were promised about 8 months ago as a donation from a private school! You can't complain too much when you're getting something for free, but about time too! Fortunately, they were worth the wait, and the fact that all the computers in the ICT suite currently match gives it a bizarrely professional look. I spent quite a dull day, somewhat relieved by Radio 4, getting them all joined to our network and anti virused and so on, but it'll be totally worth it in the end! By the way, we're about 4 laptops away from being able to go one computer per child in the ICT suite, so if anyone has an old laptop that still works that they'd be happy to donate, please let me know!

4) I did manage to do some actual reading of new books! I was quite pleased with myself. I finished off Lagoon, which I liked intellectually, but didn't really connect to emotionally and The Diary of a Fall, which Dad lent me ages ago, and has a much better first half than second half, I would say. I also, at Alex's recommendation, read Rat Queens 1 & 2 and Nimona, both of which I really really liked and finished off extremely quickly. I am sad to say that it's only occured to me today that my copy of Ms Marvel really should go into my bookshelf at school now I've read it. I'm currently trying The Book Of Strange New Things, which was in my heap but I can't remember where I got it from (probably [personal profile] coalescent). So far, seems like an interesting idea but I'm finding the execution a strain - I'm giving it 100 pages to either introduce another viewpoint character or make this one more interesting. Hopefully when he actually meets the aliens it'll start to take off.

5) Only a week and a half before I have to teach actual children again! I can just feel the faintest beginnings of butterflys in my stomach (I started on a whole extended metaphor about summer chrysalises there but grossed myself out slightly).

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