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“So you don’t have to go back to work until February, right? Wow, I wish I got 6 weeks of paid holiday!”

 

1301BlamingTeachers-ArtAt this time of year, the only smalltalk among friends and family during Christmas celebrations is a comment on my ‘extensive holiday period’.  I’d like to see some of my family members do this holiday with as much style as I manage to pull off!

But firstly: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Australia! 

Traditional Christmas Symbolism:

tree one

Australian Christmas Symbolism:

snowman sand

 

….although, to be fair, it did drizzle a bit on Christmas Day 2013.

How to Christmas Holiday like a Science teacher: 

1. Increase coffee intake so that your 10-week sleep debt catches up with you on the 27th, not the 25th. Try hard to remember that it’s not nice to snap at people.

2. Purchase gifts for everyone within two days. Do not buy anything that is more than 50% plastic and refuse shopping bags wherever possible. Don’t forget that children should be engaged in learning from their Christmas presents. (Yes, people ARE grateful when I’m their Secret Santa, why do you ask?)

3. Wrap presents as well as you can with minimal wrapping paper (reduce), rip the old tags off of last year’s gift bags (reuse), and separate the sticky tape and foil paper from the papery paper before putting the rubbish into your bins (recycle). Advertise unwanted boxes on freecycle for people who are moving.

4. Conveniently forget that the supermarkets are closed for two days. Neglect to shop for groceries. Strategically plan your meals based around the friends and family you visit.

5. OPEN GIFTS! Plenty of chocolate, Science documentaries, household trimmings and books to read! These gifts are truly orgasm-inducing! (Turn into boring adult: check!)

6. Watch housemates leave for work. Brainstorm people to hang out with…..but they’re all at work. Wait for something to happen on FaceBook.

7. Eat many things.

8. Sit on couch with no prospects of company for many days. Find reasons why usual exercise schedule is absurd and unachievable without a school routine.

9. Eat ALL chocolate with nobody around to avoid possible social tension stemming from an unwillingness to share.

10. Begin intense household cleaning regime.

11. Cook lots to pass time and to create MORE things to eat. (WARNING: Do not interact with scales).

12. Become dissatisfied with housemates and enter into harebrained scheme to move house. Keep this scheme continually running in the background.

13. Allow the days to pass in a blur of domesticity, superficial social encounters, overeating and vegetating.

14. One week before the return of school, panic.

15. Lock self in office and complete all planning, marking and resource creation that was supposed to be spread over six weeks.

16. Begin the term and dedicate yourself to teaching again at the expense of housework. Restart exercise routine. Plan to clean and cook again in ten weeks’ time. It is now safe to approach the scales, but you might have to leap over piles of mess……..

 

And that’s why they tell you to marry a teacher! 

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When it’s not your turn to be the teacher: Managing my/their/everyone’s behaviour #3

I have written before about changing friendships and those moments where I forget to turn off the teacher voice, but the problem of teaching becoming who you are rather than what you do encroaches further into my life than that. Every time I interact with a person who is unreasonable, overly officious or obdurate, it is me who takes the role of pandering to their needs in order to calm them. When I meet a person whom I find disagreeable, I make myself more agreeable to accommodate them. I even do this when that other person is in a position of authority or if they have been employed to cater to my needs. I automatically try to avoid conflict where I might have sought it in the past. I notice in the staff room at school that we all do this for each other as well. When somebody comes in with their temper in fragments, they are not often blamed for it. Instead, everyone else tries to keep out of their way or make them feel better, or simply avoid loading any further responsibility onto them. I definitely appreciate this when it is my temper that has erupted and I think it’s one of the major strengths of our faculty.

The power of placating service people is a useful skill and can win me extra consideration and bargaining powers. It’s also nice to have someone else think that I am a lovely customer. However, there are situations where managing people is a drawback.

When the habit of dispersing tension leaks into your personal life, it costs you meaningful relationships. Managing another person’s behaviour categorises them into a new box in your head. Instead of being equal to you, that person is now lesser. They become equivalent to a student and they also take mental effort to deal with. They will never be a person whose company you seek for pleasure and you will never be able to turn to that person for advice or comfort when you are having a rough time. It also ties you to someone whom you would normally meet and then forget about or refuse to see again. The problem is that you’ve gone to effort to make them feel good at the expense of an opportunity for you to feel good. They leave the interaction liking you, and you leave the interaction pitying them. You end up with a superficial friendship that becomes an obligation. It’s never comfortable and it’s frequently awkward. You end up either making all of the plans  because part of your role in their life is to organise things, OR you get no say because your role is to accompany them when they’ve got nobody. When I began to find relationships like this creeping into my life, I began to question those relationships I had pre-teaching that were a little awkward. It turns out that some of my relationships were less than ideal and I’ve begun to make more efforts with people I actually like. It’s comforting that other people just past my age have said they went through the same thing in their twenties.

Additionally, being a behaviour manager makes it difficult to behave graciously when being taught by someone else.

I got a remote first aid certification recently. It was a two-day course with a mixture of practical and theory, with a very experienced first-aider as a teacher. He had a few tics that it was difficult to ignore though. He had a habit of saying only half of a sentence and ending it as a question, as though waiting for one of the adult pupils to finish the sentence on a subject we had not been taught about yet. He was also patronising and he threw us into practical situations that we could not solve because we did not have the knowledge. I was there with a colleague from school and although the teacher’s first-aid experience and knowledge could not be questioned, we harshly critiqued his teaching methods and laughed helplessly at his manner. Our behaviour was unbecoming and something we would never tolerate from students of our own.

Teachers, like all professionals, have a multi-faceted life with many priorities and responsibilities, but I am finding that I’m turning into a person who approaches all of my priorities with my single-faceted personality. If I continue to do this, I will continue to struggle with making meaning of the place in my life that each person I know holds. In my future, I would like to keep the behaviour management at school and relax when I go home and when I go out to socialise.

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Managing my/their/everyone’s behaviour? #1

behave 2

better bart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behaviour management is the

proverbial ElephantInSchool during university education degrees. The lecturers are confident that you’ll figure it out for yourself when you’re on prac. On prac, the supervisors handle all of the obstinate learners for you, while you die of shame in front of them. The Teacher Instruction literature guilts you into believing that if the students are misbehaving, then your educational practice is unsound. The Inspirational Teacher literature is not worth consulting when it comes to student discipline. It contains more verbose imagery and orchestrated catharses than poorly-written erotica.The maxim referenced by most of them is: “The only behaviour you can manage in the classroom is your own”.

 

My Behaviour

I do manage my own behaviour. I enact coping mechanisms to prevent myself from physically harming the students or other staff members. This behaviour management approach protects my career, and prevents episodes from being exacerbated, but it does not improve the behaviour of my students in that instant. When I go home, I have to enact further strategies to ensure that I can still interact with other humans.

 

Excuse me while I disembowel this orc to release my frustration and carnal rage. 

LOTR Lego

 

 

When it’s your turn to manage behaviour for the first time in first year, you have to decide where you’ll draw the line, and you have to make constant judgements about when a kid is playing you and when they’re being sincere. Sometimes, you will be wrong, and most of the time, you will be accused of favouring a student who you like more.

News flash: I tend to dislike students who lie to me, swear at me, physically threaten me and refuse to participate in my classes. Students who wait for instructions to be given so that they know how to do the wrong thing incur my wrath. It is therefore nonsensical for a student being disciplined for any of the above behaviours to complain that students doing the right thing are not being given punishments.

Nonsensical is what teenagers do best.

If anybody wants to talk to me, or ask me to do something: tough. I’ll be sitting at my desk plugged into a musical paradise working by myself. 

There are also  instances when the students are very clearly managing your behaviour, and you don’t have the emotional energy to stop it from happening.

“We’re not going outside, we’re too tired. If you take us out there, we will run away from you and make you chase us. Go back to your staffroom and get us a DVD!” 

Seniors are the professionals when it comes to manipulating me. Homework extensions can be easily granted and excursions can also be wheedled out of me for the price of smiles and consolations and the promise of ‘a posse’ during playground duty.

bodyguards-entourageTo be honest, those moments where someone else is making suggestions  and caring about you are rare and very sweet.

 

I don’t care what we eat for dinner, in fact, I think I might be too tired to chew. I change my vote to soup or coffee. 

 

I find it most difficult to manage my own behaviour when there are spiders in the classroom and when I am undertaking playground duty. During Winter, a huntsman spider took up residence above the doorframe of my lab. The first group of students to come through that door after the huntsman moved in were Year 12 Biologists coming to school for a study day. When they noticed him, they screamed and ran to the opposite corner of the room. They all tried to stand on tables and chairs and there were shouts of “Miss! Miss! Kill it now!” I REALLY wanted to be among those standing on chairs. There were no other staff members around because they were at home for the holidays, so I looked for my male biologists. They were cringing behind the girls, covering their heads. I found some adrenaline  somewhere and by standing on a lab bench, I was able to sweep the offending creature into a beaker with a dustpan and brush. This did not curb the bloodlust of my class, so I had to spray the beaker full of insecticide and watch the spider jerking as though subjected to the cruciatus curse.

 

Student/teacher interactions during class:

shark2

 

Student/Teacher interactions during playground duty:

pgroundD

During recess and lunch, you again have to decide what level of behaviour you will demand from the students and then enforce it. The most frustrating part of playground duty is when the executive members of staff do not support your decisions or follow up the reports you give to them.

 

Irritated and enraged to the point of tears after dealing with students, I have no wish to engage in an argument with you, my colleague. If you provoke one, you will not get sane or stable answers. My sarcasm and flippancy is designed to evoke the same feelings inside of you as the feelings that are inside of me. I will also retaliate at a later date by pulling a prank on you. 

 

You have to carefully balance managing your behaviour and de-stressing. Too much either way will undermine your professionalism or cause your teacher identity to absorb your everyday alter-ego.

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Friendship is for kids

IMG_1182 IMG_1183 IMG_1188

Friendship is a recurring theme for high school children and it is referenced constantly in the education literature about hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum is a term for those things that children learn at school outside of the curriculum mandated by any Department of Education. Friendship is an important contributor to mental health and self-esteem for teenagers and it can also be a badge of popularity. For many students, it is not the quality of the friends they have that is important, but rather the quantity of friends they share moments with, or the quantity of photos taken and posted to social media. Most people will agree that it is important to have friends and that it is important to be seen by others as having friends.

As a school student, I would have said that I was friends with a great many people, and those I was closest to, I termed ‘best friends’. As an adult, my perception of friends is very different from that teenage view, and I often feel that I have very few friends. In fact, despite giving advice about quality relationships and correct treatment of others, I have plenty of people I deem ‘friends’ who do not treat me well, and there are other people that I am sure I do not treat well due to a lack of interest in them. I sometimes find myself wondering if they would call me their ‘friend’. The Book of Faces thinks that I have 300+ friends, and yet I socialise with a small group of people who do not share the same interests, beliefs, morals and viewpoints as me. It is wonderful to interact with and learn from such a diverse range of people, but there are times when I hide my own thoughts and opinions from them so as not to cause offense or seem lesser than them. As a teenager, I would have said that honesty was the most important aspect of friendship.

My teacher alter-ego takes from me a great deal of emotional energy and so I have fallen out of those circles of people who socialise by partying in night clubs every weekend. My friends and I have physically moved apart from each other as well, sometimes to different countries, to chase our careers, and we have deprioritised our commitment to each other. By moving out of my family home and into share accommodation, I have taken on the responsibility of maintaining ties with my family as well as the responsibilities of caring for myself and the share house. Social interactions with housemates are usually polite, but extended politeness is a mechanism for masking discord.

Who are my friends then? When am I being friendly and when am I being polite? How do I measure how much I care for someone and how can I measure how much they care for me? I think that it IS important to find a measure for the level of friendship you have with someone, because that measure dictates the acceptable intimacy and frequency of interaction. This measure becomes particularly important when cementing friendships with attached members of the opposite sex. I have always found it easier to converse with males. I have a simple biological answer for why this is, but it may not be the correct answer: I am not competing with males for mates and therefore I am not intimidated by them. Since this is a fairly candid post, I should also admit here that I do find the males I want to mate with intimidating and I avoid all conversation with them where possible! The only other time I struggle with males is when their mate would prefer them not to become friends with a female. I then have to find a way of keeping my distance and acting ultra-appropriate. That is definitely NOT friendship. I find many females intimidating and it takes me longer to form firm relationships with them. Perhaps that is why I forgive so many of my female ‘friends’ when they neglect to make time for me or when they do not reciprocate the effort I put into organising social events or asking after their wellbeing. It took me so long to make those friends in the first place that I do not want to let them go.

 

At the moment, I have no easy answers for which of my friends are actually friends and which ones are not, but despite experiencing only transient feelings of intimacy with others, I still have people to go climbing with, people to go to yoga with, and people I love teaching with and eating with. I have people to discuss novels, movies, politics and environmentalism with and I have plenty of people with the expertise and life experience to enrich my knowledge and challenge my opinions.

The Book of Faces reflects these relationships and displays many photos and check-ins attesting to my status as a friend of many who frequently enjoys outings with others. I am not condemning social media as a facade of friendship because I do not believe that this is so. Many people do take that point of view, but I think that social media has given opportunities for relationship development that would not exist outside of these websites. Social media allows friends and families separated by distance to converse regularly and it also helps with ice-breaking during the early stages of any friendship or co-worker interactions.

I am grateful for social media, and for the people who take the time out of their lives to share some company with me, but most of all, I am grateful to the rare few who ask how I’m going, chat to me for no purpose and acknowledge me when I am sad. Thank you to the people who share their inner thoughts with me as well as a movie theatre, staffroom, novel or climbing rope. I hope I am meeting your standards of friendship too.

 

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Breaking Bad with Facebook

Friday was momentous. I had my first experience of dealing quietly with a situation to protect my students, and myself, from the principal. Don’t worry, they don’t see it that way, they are firmly convinced that I wage a continual war against all things fun. The story:

A boy in my year 10 class stumbled across my carefully disguised Facebook page by finding the page of a colleague I was friends with and seeing a comment I had written. From there, he found a photograph of me taken by another teacher at the year 12 formal and published publicly to my timeline. He took a copy of this picture and transferred it to photoshop where he painstakingly cut my head out of the picture. He took a photograph of himself and repeated the cutting process. He then pasted the two heads onto this background:

breaking-bad-logo

The completed artwork was published to his own timeline as his cover photo.

I am told this sequence of events took place approximately two months ago.

………………………………………………

Friday’s Lesson: 

The aim was to roll  plastic collision trolleys down  friction ramps at different heights (and therefore at different speeds) and investigate how far from the trolley plasticine people were propelled at the different speeds when they hit a 2kg weight. Simple, fun and relevant to people about to obtain Learner Driver Licences. Once the kids seemed to be working, I performed the prac up the front to make sure that some accurate numerical data existed for a graph at the end. My average-ability/below-average-interest-level class however, were much less amused than I was by the fun toys.

What they were supposed to concentrate on:

IMG_0079

What they DID concentrate on:

IMG_0077 IMG_0080

When I saw what they were doing, I asked them if I could take photographs of their work to show the other teachers and I also expressly asked if I could put pictures of what they had built on the internet. I was thinking of this blog, but their minds jumped straight to Facebook. They all gave instant permission, and a group of my boys huddled in the corner looking something up on an iPad.

When I finished taking the pictures with my own iPad, the group of boys came over and showed me the Facebook account of the Aspiring Jesse Pinkman (AJP) with his Breaking Bad photoshop art. I was shocked, and they were apprehensive. I settled on the  routine of “who, what, when, where, why, how” and obtained the information I listed at the beginning.

It was an interesting artwork with a strange correlation with the show. For those of you not familiar with Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman was Walter White’s student and together they begin to cook Crystal Meth. When Jesse was a student, he was a lacklustre chemist and he did not appreciate his teacher in the least. In fact, there are hand-drawn artworks of Mr. White looking less than flattering……

What I was thinking: the photo is not in the least offensive and it’s clever. However, if the principal should see this, I could be in trouble because of the drug references. If evil students see this, it sets a precedent of creating photoshopped graphics of teachers and displaying them publicly on the internet, thereby destroying some of their credibility. If I do nothing, and someone else discovers this and does something, they will immediately say “Ms. Blue saw it and didn’t care”. 

The situation of a colleague dealing with something I failed to deal with was one I had to circumvent at all costs. There is nothing worse than having a colleague pull you up for being ‘unprofessional’.

I wanted to tell the boys that the art was clever. I could not. I wanted to ask them for a copy. I could not. Instead, I zipped up my supersuit, pulled down my mask and said: “hand me that iPad please”. With them all watching, I deleted the photo from Facebook and allowed the boy to choose a new cover photo. I signed out of AJP’s Facebook for him, and said “all the boys in this group will remain behind for five minutes at the end of the lesson.”

I used the rest of the lesson to devise a speech:

I explained that it was technically fine for them to create anything they wished to  and that they could share such material with their friends. I went on to explain that part of the photo they created belonged to me because it was an image of me and that I had not given them permission to publish it to the internet. I asked them how they might feel if I created something using a photo of them and published it to my Facebook, but they still didn’t empathise.

They left saying things such as “unfair” and “over-reaction” and they complained that only two of them were really involved, despite the fact that they had all been present and encouraging during the creation of the artwork.

………………………………….

The truth is, kids making fun of teachers has gone from:

teacher drawing

*passed around room behind your back*

to:

teacher drawing

+

facebook

= even kids and parents who are not from your school forming a negative image of your professionalism.

It’s a significant issue, one that the teaching profession has not really kept up with very well. There are times where student created artworks can give you some ‘street cred’ such as the one I was forced to delete from AJP’s Facebook. But there are definitely times where something slanderous could be created and circulated that is not conducive to a learning environment.

Facebook itself is a significant issue in the working lives of many professional people and I do not agree with those who say that professionals should not have Facebook. I demarcate my working and home lives very strongly and I should not have to curb my social interactions outside of school because teenagers do not understand basic respectful behaviours. I think it has come time for parents to step up and explicitly teach their children the meaning of internet courtesy and respectful conduct.

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Something for Me; Something for Them!

A little while ago, I found this video circulating Facebook and I watched it and LOVED it! You should watch it too:

If I Were A Teacher-Ask Kingsley

The title of the video gives an inkling that perhaps this youth in a funny hat will be bagging out teachers, so I found his opinions and his arguments refreshing. I wish very much that I could share this with my students, but due to the explicit language and unsavoury themes, (stabbing people and wishing for bus crashes) I cannot. 

After watching, I perused some other videos by this enigmatic person because he is viewed enough to suggest that his audience values his opinions. The premise of his YouTube channel is that you can log on to his tumblr page and submit questions of any nature to him, and he will answer the ones he chooses in an amusing fashion. He also performs dares. It made me wish that I had the time to set up a YouTube channel dedicated to helping kids with their Science homework. 

Trust a boring old teacher to take the fun out of YouTube!

Instead, I now use a question box during select lessons. The box is always depressingly devoid of conscious thought and overflowing with the litter that usually adorns the floor. 

Still, I continue to cogitate about the influence this brave young soul possesses and I wonder how I could attain the same level of trust from the young minds entrusted to me. I suppose it also makes me wonder about the ethics and mechanics of persuasion…..

The other excellent resource I found from a colleague of mine is a DVD entitled Bag It. It can be investigated and purchased below: 

Bag It

This DVD is a documentary evaluating the impact of modern plastic use on the environment. It is not a balanced view because it seems the producers had difficulty in obtaining statements from a pro-plastics representative. It is food for thought, I changed my lifestyle in small ways as a result of watching it, and top students will empathise with the viewpoints presented. However, I have found that lower ability students or students who have difficulty behaving in a polite fashion during Science have strong negative reactions to the documentary. They often describe plastic reducing behaviours as “extreme” “not likely to become widespread” and “for hippies and crazy people”. 

Interesting. 

Often, the argument about sustainability and environmentalism is that we are educating a disempowered sector of society. I.e. it is not children who make decisions about the products purchased for the household, and if they tried to advocate reduction of plastic use, perhaps their viewpoint would not be valued. I had not thought to find children’s minds closed to building a sustainable future. 

 

Overall, the YouTube clip will brighten your day, and hopefully one day we will have a Parents Popcorn Night at school where we force them to watch Bag It with their children. I remember an awkward night with my parents at the end of primary school where we all learned about reproduction together, so I think showing Bag It would be a viable option instead! 

 

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I am a boring person

It is report time, and this is how I feel right now : 

Image

image: dreamstime.com

Why are reports difficult, you ask? Well, I am a high school teacher and that means that I teach five different classes of students. I am not at all hard done by here, either. Teachers who job share teach more than this. If the average class contains 28 students, this means that in the space of about a month I have to write 140 report comments. It takes all of my vocabulary to euphemise them. It also takes all of my diplomacy. In fact, I can safely say that interacting with real people might be difficult for me over the next two weeks. I am sure I will forget the words to use because they have already been used up, and I will forget to be polite or to ask how they are. I will probably just talk about reports, because that is all I have been doing. 

 

What if I were to meet someone new over the next two weeks? What if I run into the future love of my life? After five minutes of social interaction with me that basically just turns into crazed teacher talk, they will figure out that I am deeply boring and never want to speak to me again. I probably wouldn’t remember much about them anyway, so if we met again, they would remember me, and think me double crazy for being completely different AND not remembering our previous encounter. 

 

Should I resign myself to this new life? Feeling like an outsider all day whilst chatting with teenagers, walking on eggshells when interacting with other staff,  hiding my opinions that I’m too young to have and  being completely unable to impress new people. Will that ever change? 

 

Here I am at age 24, and I am completely old and boring. With the small surplus on my next pay, I may just have to invest in a zimmer frame.