It’s always nice, at the end of a year, to do a little reflection on things that you’ve tried out during the year.  Whether they have worked well or not.  From significant, to shallow.

Smoothies = WORKED

Fruit smoothies have been a consistent addition to my diet since early summer, and possibly one of the best things I’ve done for my bodily health in a while.  Every week I buy a punnet of strawberries, raspberries, something else, bananas and peaches and some juice.  Then mentally divide the whole lot into 4, meaning that 4 days out of 7 I’m getting more than my 5 a day in one delicious concoction.  I also add a teaspoon of chia seeds (supposedly a good protein source, and good for hydration) and half a teaspoon of super green powder.  It’s hard to say, but I feel like I’ve had less colds so far this winter, than I might have had otherwise.  Either way, I’m doing something good for my innards, which is delicious and easy.

Amazon Lockers = WORKED

Such a great system, that is miraculous for people like me who are usually out of the house during working hours.  Now I can order something from Amazon and free of charge (although you can pay £2 for next day delivery if you want), get it delivered to a “locker”.  In my case, these lockers are located inside a small supermarket-large local shop about 2 miles away.  There I know that my package is safe and secure until it is convenient for me to collect it.  No more wondering which dodgy courier they are going to use this time, where anything can (and does) go wrong, and my package ends up in Wellingborough or something mad, and if I want it at a time I’m sure to be in, I’ve got to pay for the privilege.  Screw you couriers, I’m with Amazon Lockers now!

Netflix/Amazon Instant = WORKED

Technically these were set up Summer 2014, so this was my first full year with them.  Both cost me around £7 a month, and Amazon Instant comes with my LoveFilm disc subscription anyway.  Both have proved to be fantastic investments.  I’ve seen loads of great stuff through them, particularly Netflix, that now I wouldn’t be without them.

The clothing ban = WORKED

In September I decided that I wasn’t going to buy any more clothes until the end of the year, because I had enough.  And I think I did quite well!  There was a £5 Primark dress in the sale, which was too nice/good value to resist, and I’ve worn it loads.  There was a fluffy sweater-dress which I paid for with vouchers, and a Christmas party top.  And I haven’t missed shopping.  In fact, I used to go into town at least every other weekend for a mooch/coffee, but the clothing ban has broken the habit, and I don’t think I’ve been into town for anything since at least early November.  I’ve currently got no desire to visit the clothes shops…  Occasionally an urge hits, but then I go and look in the drawers or in the wardrobe and realise, actually…  No.

Online Christmas shopping = WORKED

This year, I resolved, as much as possible, to do my Christmas shopping online, and with the exception of a few food-related bits, I succeeded!  I had it all delivered to school (the Amazon Locker system seems to shut down around December – I assume too much demand) which worked like a dream.

Mini-breaks = WORKED

One of the best times I had this year was my one-night stay in London over Easter.  I did what I wanted to do, no catering for others and their whims, and it was perfect.  I have resolved to try and “mini-break” more in 2016, finances allowing, as it does great things for my mental health.  In the same category I could put “a proper summer holiday”, and by that I mean “get out of the country”.  My summer 2015 trip to Cape Verde was one of the best things I did for myself all year.  Mental health investments are worth any amount of money, I think.

Things to work on in 2016 –

I wish I’d read more books this year.  According to my records, this was my worst year for total books read since 2011.  That being said, the last 18 months I’ve been pretty dedicated to the ‘Outlander’ series.  Of which I am currently on the 8th book of the (currently) 8-long series, where each one is 800-900 pages of dense, dense type.

I also want to find more time, generally, to read.  I feel like it is something that is good for me, that I should shoe-horn into my daily schedule a little more than it is now.

I’ve also taken on a 2nd year university mentee to work with until at least the summer.  Initial introductions have been made, but now the ball is in her court to make the next step.  Something tells me this isn’t going to be a blinding success, but I’m willing to make the effort if she is.

I’m sitting here with my diary, to look through, and see what the highs and lows of the year were.  I’m hopeful that highs will out-number lows, fortunately!

Highs –

  • Adele and I had our annual Bicester jaunt in January.  We both really enjoy it, and love treating ourselves to a few special bits and pieces. 😉  Plus, we’re both big fans of Pret a Manger for coffees and snacks!
  • When the naughtiest boy in my class called the whiniest boy in the class a “crybaby wanker!”  I still laugh about that one…  Because it was true. 😉
  • Went to see ‘Spamalot’ in Birmingham.  It was freezing cold that day, but such a good show.  So funny!
  • A sad day turned funny when I bumped into an old secondary school teacher at a funeral.  She INSISTED I took her phone number, plus the number of my old head of year.  Needless to say, I haven’t called…
  • I got pretty obsessed with Grand Theft Auto V on the Xbox.  I played it for so many hours, and it ended up being only the 3rd game I’ve managed to complete – although I did have to skip loads of levels I couldn’t pass…  It was the absolute perfect way to wind down after stressful days at work.
  • Spent a cold and wet day in London with Laura visiting the Sherlock Holmes exhibition, and then hiding out in Pret for hours to escape the weather.
  • Dressed as a crocodile for World Book Day.  The massive crocodile head gave me the perfect chance for a bit of shut-eye during our weekly snooze-fest diary meetings.
  • Went to Fosse Park for shopping with Adele and Ed.  Fun purchases made.
  • Baby Eli was born.
  • Caught up with some Nicholson family members, who we’ve not seen for years at Blist Hill Victorian town.
  • Had a fantastic over-night stay in London.  Had a lovely jaunt round Camden Market, then saw ‘War Horse’.  Got a 5* hotel half price!
  • Went up the Shard.  Almost had it to myself at times.
  • A fun day spent training with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • A jaunt to Tamworth for mum’s birthday with the fam.
  • A dramatic arrest at school for psycho/drugged parent!
  • A Pampered Chef party at Lauren’s.  Bit random, but fun.
  • The ‘Outlander’ finale on Amazon Instant.  OMG.
  • Saw Derren Brown in Northampton with Hazel.
  • A permanent job offer!
  • Job celebrations in Rushton with Louise.
  • A very hot and sunny day in Cambridge with Laura.
  • A lovely alfresco meal at Sharon’s house.
  • Farewell pub garden drinks with the girls.  Lots of presents.  Felt very loved and spoiled.
  • £109 worth of stuff from ‘Next’ for £7!  Yay for sales and vouchers!
  • A most marvellous week on Boa Vista, Cape Verde.  All-round perfect.
  • 3-night trip to Ely with the parentals.
  • 2-night stay in Glasgow with Brian.  Great shopping!
  • Annual Ragdale visit with Adele.  Glorious, as always.
  • Trip to Stafford to see various family.
  • Sunny trip to Packwood house with the fam.
  • Saw ‘Hairspray’ with work girls.  Met Peter Duncan of ex-Blue Peter fame in Ask afterwards!
  • Auntie Margaret’s 90th birthday in Cambridge.
  • New iPhone.
  • Giggles with Trish at Beckworth Emporium.
  • Visited Lisa and baby Arabella.
  • Baby Flora born.
  • A windy trip to the Bell Plantation with Adele.
  • Whole school trip to see ‘The Snow Queen’ at the Derngate.  Enjoyed by all.
  • A successful blood donation!
  • A delicious school Christmas dinner!
  • A Christmas buffet at Adeles.

Lows –

  • Our old neighbour Betty died in Late January.  She was a character who will be well missed.
  • Adele and Ed sadly lost their longed-for baby daughter Robyn at 25 weeks.  Unfortunately, Robyn was very ill, and would have not have had a chance at normal life, had she survived at all.  But it was still gut-wrenchingly sad.  It is so devastating to see people that you love hurting, and not being able to do anything to help, beyond being there.  At the end, they were helped out by a local charity who provides funerals at no cost for babies and children.  And so I made that my yearly Christmas charity donation.

(This is a post I’ve actually been sitting on for a while, but recent events have only reconfirmed and heightened my convictions on the issue.)

I am pro-choice and pro-abortion like I’m pro-knee-replacement and pro-chemotherapy and pro-transplant surgery. As the last protection against ill-conceived childbearing, choice is a part of the set of tools that help adult couples to form the families they are equipped for. I believe that choice can only be a positive social good. I suspect that a lot of other people secretly believe the same thing, or would when they were truly confronted with it. And I think it’s time society said so with a bit more conviction.

Choice is about who gets to make the decision. The question of whether and when we bring a new life into the world is, to my mind, one of the most important decisions a person can make. It is too big a decision for us to make for each other, and waaaaay too important for perfect strangers to have a single opinion or comment about.  Particularly that dangerous breed, the white-middle-class-conservative male.  Often repulsively arrogant and ill-informed on the rights of any person who isn’t exactly like them.  To quote the ever-wonderful sitcom, ‘Friends’, “No uterus: No opinion”.

But independent of who owns the decision making process, I’m pro the right to make an informed and adult decision, YES, that decision can ABSOLUTELY come about after advice from experts/doctors/family/church, but those institutions should NOT be the final decision makers on any case.

Here are the reasons why:

1. I’m pro-choice because being able to delay and limit childbearing is fundamental to female equality. A woman who lacks the means to manage her fertility lacks the means to manage her life. Any plans, dreams, aspirations, responsibilities or commitments – no matter how important – without adequate pro-choice materials – have a great big contingency clause built in: “Until or unless I get pregnant.”

Think of any professional woman you know. She wouldn’t be in that role if she hadn’t been able to time and limit her childbearing. Think of any girl you know who imagines becoming a professional woman. She won’t get there unless she has effective, reliable means to manage her fertility. In generations past, nursing care was provided by nuns because avoiding sexual intimacy was the only way women could avoid unpredictable childbearing and so be freed up to serve their communities in other vital ways.

2. I’m pro-choice because well-timed pregnancies give children a healthier start in life. We now have ample evidence that babies do best when women are able to space out their pregnancies and get both pre-natal and post-natal care.  Wanted babies are more likely to get cuddles and developmentally appropriate stimulation, to be welcomed into families that are financially and emotionally ready to receive them, to get preventive medical care during childhood and the kinds of loving interactions that helps young brains to develop.

3. I’m pro-choice because I think motherhood should be taken seriously. Most female bodies can carry a baby, and thanks to antibiotics, cesareans and anti-hemorrhage drugs, most are able to survive pushing a baby out into the world. But parenting is a lot of work, and doing it at all decently takes twenty dedicated years of focus, attention, patience, persistence, social support, mental health, money, and a whole lot more. This is a life-transforming thing, not to be undertaken lightly. The idea that women should simply get on with it when they find themselves pregnant after a one-night-stand, an assault, poor contraception or emotional immaturity, completely trivialises motherhood.

4. I’m pro-choice because intentional childbearing helps couples, families and communities to get out of poverty.

It is no coincidence that the middle class as we now know it, rose along with the ability of couples to plan their families, starting at the beginning of the last century. Having two or three children, instead of eight or ten was critical to prospering in the modern age. Today, unwanted pregnancy is declining for everyone but the very poorest people and communities.  Sometimes, strong, determined girls and women sometimes beat the odds, but their stories are the exception to the rule. The rights of a woman living in a civilised society dictates that the full range of contraceptive tools, and should it come to it, the most humane and safe termination care, should be available to all those who need it.  Not just the privileged, educated few.

5. I’m pro-choice because reproduction is a highly imperfect process.  Growing a human is a complicated business with flaws and false starts at every step along the way. To compensate, in every known species including humans, reproduction operates as a big funnel. Many more eggs and sperm are produced than will ever meet; more combine into embryos than will ever implant, and more implant than will ever grow into babies.  This somewhat “touchy” system makes our very own bodies the world’s biggest abortion provider.

In humans, a high percentage of fertilised eggs fail long before becoming babies.  But the weeding-out process is also highly imperfect. Sometimes perfectly viable combinations kick themselves out; sometimes horrible, life-ending defects slip through.  Like any other medical procedure, therapeutic contraception and abortion complement natural processes designed to help us survive and thrive.

6. I’m pro-choice because I think basic morality is about the well-being of sentient beings. I believe that morality is about the lived experience of sentient beings—beings who can feel pleasure and pain, have preference and intention, who can live peacefully in relation to other beings, love and be loved, and value their own existence.

What is the pre-term foetus capable of wanting? What are they capable of feeling or understanding?  In this moral universe, real people count more than potential people or hypothetical people.

There is always an argument over when a person becomes a person…  But I believe that that the idea of “lived experience”, or “to-be-lived experience” trumps all.  In essence, what does the woman making the decision know?  And what does she know of the life she is expecting for her child?  Is she bringing a child into health, stability and love?  Or disability, in-stability and resentment?

The other day, I was having a reminisce, and chuckling to myself about some of the stuff I used to think when I was a kid…

Your little human brain just tries to figure everything out, but most of the time, you’re just so wrong.

So, without further ado, here’s some stuff I used to think, when I was a kid.

I should just preface by saying that Dad is responsible for the first 2 of these, and so I am therefore not to blame.

1: The Longleg Family

Every year, around September to October time, the house would be invaded by daddy longlegs. I’d be all, “There’s a daddy longlegs on the curtains!” And then dad would come along, peer at it carefully and go, “Umm… No. That one is smaller, so it must be a Mummy longlegs.” And so, for quite some time afterwards, I believed that there were Daddy and Mummy longlegs, which you could tell apart by their size. And I distinctly remember checking with Dad for clarification as to whether I was looking at a Daddy or a Mummy, AND he’d look at them, really seriously each time! He’s such a liar!

2: Leicester and Liecester

One day, I was in the car with Dad, heading towards Leicester. We’re just chatting about this and that, when he suddenly goes, “You know? Isn’t it really silly to have two towns so close to each other, with such similar names?”

I say, “What do you mean?”

HE goes, “Well, there’s Leicester, and right next to it is Liecester! Isn’t that so silly?!”

I’m like, “Yeah! That’s so silly! Why would they do that?!”

There is no Liecester. He spontaneously made it up.

3: “Why does Mum have a box of needles in her wardrobe?”

I must have been a nosy child. I don’t know, I was probably looking for birthday presents or something…

One day, I was looking in Mum’s half of the wardrobe when, in a drawer, I found a box of what I now know to be tampons. My small child brain was not familiar with this, so I somehow came to the conclusion that these cylindrical objects, wrapped in paper, must be syringes for giving injections…? And so, for some years afterwards, whenever I’d go in the wardrobe for something, I’d be like, “Oh, there’s Mum’s needles.” Never once did I feel compelled to question WHY there was a box of wrapped syringes in the cupboard.

 4: Birth control

Every morning, at breakfast, Mum would take a birth control pill. She was very honest and did always say when I asked “It’s to stop me having a baby”. Now, small child brain took this information in, and made the leap that this small pill was absolutely vital, and that if she didn’t take it, literally within MINUTES, a fully formed baby would spontaneous appear out of her.

It was like, “Phew! Imminent baby arrival averted just in time! Until tomorrow…”

And yet, I did know how babies came to be (I had a surprisingly graphic book)… My child brain just never made the leap.

5: Cardi-akarrest

I’m going to blame Dad again for this one, for poor enunciation.

If something surprising/silly/shocking happened, Dad would clutch his chest and go “Help! Help! I’m having a cardiac arrest!” (I think he’s quoting Monty Python).

Now, my kid brain had no concept of what a cardiac arrest might be… Neither of the two words meant anything to me. So I just put the word back together in a way that made some sort of sense to me. In this instance, I knew the word “cardi” as in something you wear… The rest of it I had no idea about. Other than, perhaps, some sort of chest pain, based on the actions from Dad I’d seen.

For YEARS, until I learnt at school what the word “cardiac” meant, did my neurons fire and I realised that the word for heart stoppage is not cardi-akarrest, but cardiac arrest. EVEN NOW, this is a phrase I still have to mentally check with myself before I say it, as my first inclination is to think cardi-akarrest.

6: Sun tans

I thought I could get a sun tan by taking my top off and laying in front of the gas fire. ‘nuff said.

7: German measles

When I was little, I remember hearing about the illness german measles. I was quite content with that, until I got to the age of about 10, and suddenly realised, “D’oh! I’m so silly! OF COURSE it’s not german measles! Why would you get measles from Germans!? It must be Germ AND measles!”

I thought for quite some years, that I had just misheard Germ And Measles and always had a little internal chuckle to myself at my childish silliness…

Until I found out that it is, in fact, German measles, and 5 year old me had more brain than 10 year old me.

8: “Family”

My parents both have(had ;)) dark hair and blue eyes… So, when I was really little, I understood that the 4 of us were “family” and “family”, to me anyway, meant coming out of your mum’s tummy, making you related by blood. I didn’t understand that mum and dad weren’t blood relatives and had chosen each other…? That didn’t make sense. So kid-brain came to the conclusion that because they had similar colouring, they must be brother and sister to each other. Just a lot older than me and MY sister… How very weird and incest-y.

I am mostly packed for my week away now.

I sweet-talked dear Big Sis into driving me to the train station during her lunch break tomorrow, and that is where the holiday officially starts!  I’ve booked into the same airport hotel I used last time I flew (for Adele/Ed’s Santorini wedding 4(!!!) years ago) which worked absolutely brilliantly, as the front door of the hotel is literally a 2 minute walk across the bus park/taxi rank to the front door of the departures area.  I am also booked in for the night the day I return, as we don’t land until about 8:30pm, and after baggage claim/customs/etc, it’ll be at least 9pm, and I didn’t then want an hours trip back to Northampton after I’ve just got off a 6 hour flight.

I actually fly out bright and early on Wednesday morning.  Check-in at 4am to take off at 7.  Sociable hours. 😉  But that does mean arriving at the hotel (hopefully!) in time for a late lunch!

Anyway, hopefully it’ll be a pleasant week in Cape Verde!

I went to get some Euros today (technically, the Cape Verde dollar is their actual currency, but hotels and the airport etc, all accept Euros.  It seemed a more sensible option to get Euros than to end up with a very obscure currency that I would be unlikely to use again.  Euros are much more transferable).

I’d been lazy and put off getting them, because Euros are easy-peasy to get hold of.  I knew the big Tesco near me had a currency exchange desk.  I checked the opening time and everything.  Then got there, only to find the place was closed “today only” for some sort of re-fit.  *sigh*  In the end, I had to drive right over to the other side of town, to go to the Thomson/First Choice shop on Sixfields.  What a strange shop that is.  It’s HUGE, with miles of empty space, with only the sides spotted with the occasional desk.  They’ve been there for years, so clearly they are making enough money to be able to rent this cavern, but it was very oversized and odd.

Anyway…

On a different topic…  I am making the most of the summer holiday so far, and watching a lot of Netflix!  I thought it might be interesting to do a little write-up of the shows I have been watching most recently, and enjoying.

1:  Hannibal

I am having to watch this via “alternative means”… 😉  I watched season 1 and 2 via LoveFilm, but am now watching season 3 weekly, as soon as it is uploaded.  Season 3 hasn’t been anywhere near as good as 1 or 2, which might go some way into explaining why it has now been cancelled, and there won’t (for now at least) be a season 4.

The show itself has always been quite “arty”, and the first half of season 3 got silly in that there was lots of talk, but no action.  Characters no one was really interested in got lots of screen time, and the excitement and fast pace of the first 2 seasons got lost in clever camera angles and pointless chat.  However, the 2nd half of the season has picked up a bit with Hannibal’s capture and the introduction of the Tooth Fairy character.  Plus, I love Richard Armitage who plays Francis Dolarhyde AKA the tooth fairy.  It was him who I saw in ‘The Crucible’ last summer, who spent 3 hours within touching distance, in various states of (un)dress.  He is one of those insanely attractive, watchable actors.

Plus, the famous Hannibal Lecter himself is played by Mads Mikkleson, the Danish actor who played the horrendously creepy baddie in ‘Casino Royale’ so memorably.  I LOVE him as Hannibal, and you know an actor is doing something so, so brilliant, when you find yourself cheering him on when he’s doing utterly despicable things.

2:  Bates Motel

I binged season 1 and 2 of this within a week.  LOVE IT.  The acting is brilliant, and it’s just creepy enough to keep you hooked all the way through.  I’ve watched season 1 and 2 via Netflix, and season 3 is all ready for me to watch via my “alternate means” very shortly. 😉

The story is set as a prequel to the ‘Psycho’ story.  I am sort of aware of the Psycho storyline, but I don’t really know any of it beyond the stabby-stabby shower scene.  And that doesn’t matter.  ‘Bates Motel’ works just perfectly as a stand-alone story, but I imagine knowing the Psycho story only enhances the experience.

3:  Spooks

This is a BBC drama from the late 00s.  I missed it the first time around, but I know lots of people raved about it at the time, and I’m seeing why.  Each episode is a mini stand-alone drama, but like all good long-running shows, there is something of an over-arching story thread.  I’m only just starting season 3 of this, and there are 10 in all, so it’s nice to know that there is plenty more to look forward to.

4:  Elementary

This is Sherlock Holmes, in New York, with JOAN Watson.  I initially though female Watson might be weird, but it works.  But mostly I watch it because Jonny Lee-Miller, who plays Sherlock is HOTTTT, and takes his shirt off quite often.

5:  Suits

I’ve only just started with this, in that I’m only 3 episodes in.  But I’m enjoying is so far.  I doubt its going to be one of those series I will binge my way through, but it’s good to watch episodes off here and there.  I shall stick with it.

And as a bonus, Humans on channel 4.  It was it’s final episode last night, but it’s all on catch-up, and I’m sure it’ll be out on DVD quite soon.  If you haven’t watched it, you should.  It was fantastic.  The best drama series I’ve seen on telly for quite a while.

Plus Fargo is returning for season 2 soon!  YAY!

I shall continue with the same scoring system as before.

1: Location and facilities

2: Children

3: Senior management

4: Other members of staff

5: Parents

School C:

There was a gap of an old fashioned term between school B and school C.  During that time, whilst looking for more long-term work, I did supply teaching.  I never got a huge amount of work, but living cheaply, I managed to make it pay the bills.  I never actually sat down and did the sums, but I can’t imagine I was taking home any more than 1k a month.  Supply really is the bottom rung of the teaching ladder, and I really can’t imagine anyone, or certainly anyone of my age/stage, voluntarily deciding to do supply as their sole income.

1:  This was at a school in Brackley, about 15 miles away, and it took me about 25 minutes to get there/back.  It was an easy drive and I didn’t mind it.  The school itself was an odd mash of styles and eras.  It used to be the town’s old girls grammar school, but had been added and changed, unsympathetically over the years.  There were a number of badly placed staircases, and my main classroom was far away from the staffroom.  3/5

2:  Quite easy children here.  Many of the parents were educated/middle class, and a lot worked in the motorsport industry, as a number of the F1 teams are based locally.  Here was where I first encountered the unusual branch of Christianity, the Plymouth Brethren.  I never quite understood their exact views, but if asked to describe them, it would be a very conservative, male-dominated sect.  The women and girls uniformly wore long skirts, long hair and a hair covering.  The children in this class lacked training to start with, but were no real trouble.  5/5

3:  The (male – unusual in a primary school) deputy head was my Year 1 partner teacher on a part-time basis.  I found him, to my slight surprise, very easy to get on with and work with.  The actual head was an older lady, who retired the term after I left.  She was pleasant enough, but just like so many heads of average sized primary schools, generally uninterested in what went on lower down the school.  The head of KS2 was not well liked amongst other staff, but I never had any problem with her.  5/5

4:  Other members of staff, I’d struggle to fault.  Particularly those in my most immediate teams.  There were some teachers at the top end of the school who basically ignored me, but I never saw it as a deliberate snub.  It was more that our paths never crossed.  4/5

5:  Parents were generally very easy here.  I fell out with one mum late in the school year when, before school had even started, I watched through the window as her daughter pushed another child over.  I went out to remonstrate with the child, only to be accused of picking on her child and blaming her for something she’d not done…  Only thing was, I’d watched the kid do it.  4/5

Total Score:  21/25

School D:

1:  About a 10 minute drive, round the ring round.  So incredibly convenient.  The school was virtually a new build.  The classrooms were bright, large and modern, and had fancy things like under-floor heating.  AND I was very close to both the staffroom and the toilets!  5/5

2:  Again, quite easy children.  A mix of children from different socio-economic backgrounds, and quite a lot of EAL in the class, as well as additional learning needs.  The class certainly had their challenges, yet I enjoyed the lot of them and nailed some particularly good results that year.  5/5

3:  The head and deputy were faultless, but my KS1 team leader was a complete lunatic.  I genuinely believe she had some sort of borderline personality disorder.  She’d rant and rave about nonsense, as well as tell out and out lies to your face.  She once tried to tell me that someone had complained about me, but when I raised it with the head, it turned out to be a complete fantasy.  She made multiple attempts to bully and intimidate less experienced teachers on my team, and after my own bullying experiences, I was not going to have that.  On one occasion, she marched into my room, whilst I was teaching, and proceeded to start shouting at me.  I drove her out of the room, and followed her when she marched next door to attack the NQT.  An exchange of words was had, and I fetched senior management and complained.  At the end of the year, the head played a risky game of “who will break first?” with the loon, and the loon went off to be a SENCO at another local school.  To which we all added THAT school to the list of “Places I Will Never Ever Work At”.  4/5

4:  Again, uniformly great.  Yes, some I liked more than others, but there was no other member of staff there that I didn’t feel at least neutrally about.  5/5

5:  Some odd ones here, as well as some culture clashes.  I found some parents hard to communicate with, either through language barriers or just different expectations of education.  I was grilled a number of times by some parents as to why I’d only put “good effort” on their reports, rather than “excellent effort”.  Like I was the one who wasn’t working hard enough, as opposed to their lazy little toad. 😉  I also encountered my most difficult parent to date.  She was very clearly mentally ill, and was prone to aggressive and unpleasant outbursts almost at random.  And yet…  I quickly worked out her triggers, and she LIKED me!  In her eyes, every other member of staff, including my wonderful TA, were mini-Satan’s.  Yet I was her shining angel of joy.  3/5

Total Score:  22/25

School E:

1:  A 20+ minute drive away.  Pleasant enough in the light months, but unpleasant in the dark winters.  The school itself was probably a 1970/80s build, and my classroom was probably the least pleasant in the whole school.  It was dark, and had an over-hanging roof outside, so it got next to no natural light.  Everyone described it as a cave, and it really was.  Probably the least pleasant classroom I’ve had so far.  But on the plus, it was very close to other useful things like the staffroom, toilets and photocopiers.  3/5

2:  For the first time ever, I struggled to like the class.  There WERE lots of lovely children, but just enough irritating ones to really bring the whole thing down.  3/5

3:  Senior management…  I liked them tremendously AS PEOPLE.  But as useful managers, they were surprisingly hopeless.  My TA described one of them as “about as useful as a wet fart”.  Which summed them all up perfectly.  My most immediate manager was also quite hopeless and managed to get people’s backs up with minimal effort.  I never thought she was intentionally hopeless, just promoted too soon.  She could have done with a few more years of class teacher behind her first.  OFSTED are, I think, going to have some things to say about the management.  2/5

4:  Generally, I found the other staff to be fantastic.  I made some particularly good friends this academic year.  However, it’s a very cliquey place, and very much “if your face fits, great.  It it doesn’t, run away”.  I do think that “following what the popular crowd think/say” led to some misguided/bad decisions being made.  4/5

5:  A few difficult ones this year, but nothing too far out of my realms of experience.  The usual mixed bag.  4/5

Total Score:  16/25

In my teaching career so far, I have worked in 5 different schools. Without naming them, just referring to them as Schools A,B,C,D & E, I shall score them on the following categories:

1: Location and facilities

2: Children

3: Senior management

4: Other members of staff

5: Parents

School A –

1: Approximately a 10-15 minute from my house. The school was a single level building from approximately the 1970s, but the area I actually worked in had been built later and was about 8 years old when I got to it. 4/5

2: A mixture of social and private housing, but, as you’d expect in the very heart of London commuter land, there was little in the way of proper down-and-outs. Certainly none of the casual neglect of children that I went on to see later in other schools… There were little to no behaviour issues beyond the norm. Or certainly not in the younger classes I dealt with. 4/5

 

3: This is where it fell down badly, where myself, (and I subsequently found out later) teachers both before and after me, were targeted in vicious campaigns of work-place bullying. With excellent support from my teaching union, I left with a very substantial tax-free cash settlement, rather than push the school into a tribunal case, of which I would have won. Many years later, given the chance, I’d have to work very hard not to punch them in the face. Luckily for them, I’ve not seen any of them since, and the main culprit was herself fired some 18 months later. A great day. 0/5

4: With just one disappointing exception, all the other staff in the school were very pleasant. I’m no longer in an significant contact with any of them, beyond one or two FB “friends”. Not really a conscious decision, but perhaps my subconscious making an effort to draw a line under the whole affair. 3/5

5: I never had any major problems with parents that I recall. A few minor blips early in my NQT year because university never taught us, or indeed even mentioned, how to deal with parents. All blips were easily resolved, and indeed, some of those parents I had clashes with early on went on to become something bordering friends. 5/5

 

Total Score: 16/25

 

School B –

There was an 8 month break between leaving school A and starting school B. Rather more from luck, rather than judgement, I ended up back in the area where I grew up.

1: An approximately 10 minute drive from my house. Again, very convenient and easy to get to. An (I’m guessing) 1980s build. So reasonably modern, as schools go. But mostly decked out in an unattractive shade of muddy green that I never grew to like. 4/5

2: Some more complex needs here in terms of children and behaviours. A fair amount of EAL, which presents challenges at times. A couple of children came from particularly difficult backgrounds. One in particular it was easy to identify would have no hope/no chance of breaking free of his circumstances without serious interventions from other agencies. The children like that, whom you can identify at 4 or 5 years of age, are hard to see. They will never break free of the cycle of drugs, drink and violence that makes up their “every day”. 3/5

3: I never had a problem with the SMT. They were uniformly distant, inexperienced and uninterested in my area of the school. They basically left us alone most of the time, and after my experiences of SMT at School A, I was quite content with that arrangement. 4/5

4: My most immediate team were great people, who I really enjoyed working with. There were a few personality clashes with other teachers from the Key Stage above us. They thought they were the bees-knees and made no effort to hide their distain/dislike of us. In the end, the feeling was more than mutual. I actually bumped into one of them at a course earlier this year, and it only reminded me that she is a singularly unpleasant person. 3/5

5: There was only one parent I ever clashed with. It was one of the dads. A HUGE man of at least 6”6. So when he ranted at me in the playground one day, while his wife hid, embarrassed, round the corner, I had to leave the conversation. The next day, I invited him inside to SIT DOWN and continue the conversation in private. He seemed utterly flabbergasted when I informed him it was NOT appropriate for a 6”6 man to tower angrily over a 5”3 woman. To his credit, he took the information on board and apologised. 4/5

 

Total Score: 18/25

Other schools to follow in the next couple of days!