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Image result for Pink Ranger gifWhen I was a child I was obsessed with Power Rangers. Many weekends were spent high kicking and karate chopping in the garden attacking imaginary Zed Putties. My favourite ranger was the Pink Ranger. I thought she was awesome and kick-ass. I didn’t even think about her suit colour or the fact I was a different sex to her.

I just thought she was great.

My mum and dad did not approve and I was bluntly pushed towards the blue ranger with all the subtlety of Rita Repulsa’s transition to Dad-Eye-Candy in the new film. (Whole different blog post there.) But regardless of what my parents thought, I still thought she was great and, in a very child-like way, she was a bit of hero for me (until I grew out of my Power Rangers phase).

And then as I got into my teens the Doctor came along, bringing with him a range of heroes and role models for me to fantasise about (Errm…excuse me. Not like that.). How awesome was Rose? Loyal and quick-thinking. Donna Noble – hilarious, sensitive, self-less and selfish at the same time. Awesome characters – I wasn’t going to pretend I didn’t like them just because I’m a guy.

I was sixteen when Torchwood started and I was instantly obsessed. Part of the pull for me was the relatable characters – including Gwen and Toshiko, both fearless and flawed, making terrible decisions but fighting their way back on top and learning from their errors, however painful.

I didn’t think that because they were women I shouldn’t admire them. And who wouldn’t want Storm’s powers in X-Men? She’s brilliant!

So, my point is, it shouldn’t matter what gender your favourite TV character is. I’ve got girls in my class who love Spiderman, but somehow that is a bit more acceptable in society than a boy who likes Wonder Woman or Elsa or Clara Oswald. It shouldn’t be. One girl in my class LOVES Doctor Who, she’s actually obsessed with Matt Smith and David Tennant. If a six year old child is able to look past gender then so should adult fans of the show. A female Doctor has been on the cards for long time and, judging by how incredible Missy turned out to be, I’m looking forward to seeing Jodie Whittaker’s take on the time lord. A role model is a role model and gender should not be a factor. We admire these characters for their personalities and their responses to various situations, so there’s no reason we should be discouraging boys from watching Doctor Who now that the main character has changed sex.

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So, it was Sunday and I was in the cemetery. Not how I spend every Sunday but I ended up talking to a lovely lady. During conversation, she asked where I worked and when I told her she replied with ‘A teacher? Oh I couldn’t do your job. You all work so hard, hats off to you.’

It’s at that point that I realised this was the first time a stranger had reacted like this to my career choice. I usually get some sarcastic quip about holidays (honestly, come on, give me something original) or ‘your lot are always complaining, aren’t you?’. It felt lovely to be complimented. Then, as I was recovering from the shock of the incident, the same thing happened again tonight at the gym. This time it was another lovely lady who ‘couldn’t do [my] job. It must be very tough.’ (And…she was a nurse, so I reciprocated the sentiment!). So, twice in one week I’d had very rare positive comments about my career. I had to write about it.

Truth is, us teachers have a bad rep. Even my own mother thinks my job is easy. On passing my PGCE she said ‘And now you’re a part-timer. Finish at 3pm and for most of the year you’re on holiday.’ Great. Thanks, mum. I’ve got other family members who refuse to believe that I don’t walk into work at 9am and put my feet up at home by 3.15pm. I’ve joined a profession that is rapidly losing its respect. (Disclaimer: Thankfully I do have family members who know exactly what my job entails. I’m one of three teachers in my family.)

But why? We’re working harder than ever to provide an education for the next generation but for some reason what we do is seen as easy. A job anyone can do. Not only are we putting every effort into educating and caring for children (which is why we all went into the job in the first place) but we’re having to deal with deadlines, paperwork, red-tape and ever-changing schemes and systems. So, forgive me if I’m a bit insulted when people insinuate I don’t deserve my holidays.

Whilst I was training, the main point the trainees brought back to the lecture hall was how firm a grip parents have over classroom management. The craziest of actions are carried out all through fear of offending a parent. I’ve heard plenty of complaints of well-experienced teachers being forced to apologise to a parent for moves that were only undertaken with the pupils’ best interests in mind. I’ve heard many a rant about parents swearing and threatening teachers for ridiculous reasons. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced any of that this year and my bunch of parents have been very kind and supportive, but I know I wouldn’t have heard horror stories like these if I’d have entered the profession twenty years ago.

Then you’ve got the children. I thank the teaching Gods every day that I don’t really have to tackle this problem at Primary level as our behaviour strategies are always very effective, but hearing from colleagues in secondary schools is enough to keep me tucked safely in the foundation phase. It can be very hard for teachers to gain respect from their teenage pupils.

The fact is people just don’t regard teachers with the same respect they used to do. So what is it? What is causing people to think a teachers life is an easy one? I don’t have the answer, but as a profession we need support, from everyone, to ensure our work is the best it can be, because nothing is more important than educating the future generation.

And next time you meet a teacher, please don’t mention the holidays.

 

Last weekend I finished my first ever set of reports. It was a scary process, reviewing each child’s progress and writing my little summary at the bottom. It gave me a chance to think about each child, how they’ve grown, their little quirks and characters, and how they might continue to progress next year. Dangerous territory for a Sensitive Sidney like me.

My biggest fear in September was that we’d reach this point of the year and the children will have learnt nothing! Thankfully, that isn’t the case, and each one has progressed in their own way. They’re not alone, as I’ve picked up a few pointers for my own personal development too. I always knew that organisation was a key to this role, but I underestimated just how organised I needed to be. We’re talking way beyond the Monica-Gellar-Organised that I operate with. I’ve certainly upped my game this year and still feel like I’ve got a way to go.

Despite all the courses and meetings and observations and paperwork, my biggest learning curve has come from the children. It’s fascinating to see how their brains work and, as well as lots of laughter, we’ve had a lot of ‘wow’ moments too. I’ve learned so much about how a child thinks (and I’m sure this is far from the end of my learning) as well as how I operate. They’ve taught me that there’s no point being stressed or grumpy or miserable because it all works out in the end. On the (rare) days that I’ve stomped into work under a thunder cloud, they’ve helped me bring the sunshine back by 9.15am. When I’ve been flapping round amongst the paperwork, they’ve calmed me down. And on the days where I’ve felt like I couldn’t carry on, they’ve sung a song, told a joke, pulled a face, or come out with a cracking one-liner that has made me remember why I became a teacher. They always make me feel proud.

What has surprised me the most is just how much I’ve loved being in the foundation phase. I was tentative at first, being so used to working in KS2, but this is definitely my jam. I love the scope for fun (as well as learning) and watching the children grow and achieve has been a privilege. In September they were fresh into the system, coming in from Reception where things are a bit less controlled, but they settled in quickly and now they’re heading into Year Two with an exciting enthusiasm for learning and being creative.  We’ve had tears, hysterical laughter, wails of despair, cheers of joy, a missing aubergine, a magical postman, giant toilet paper, a wandering tortoise, terrible jokes, the odd tantrum, silly faces, serious faces, grumpy faces,…

…And at the end of it all, I’ve realised I really don’t want them to go.

 

 

It’s been a testing week at school with several big events culminating in the space of just a few days. Yes, it’s been exhausting and everybody is feeling the stretch, but I’ve started a new week armed with some interesting new knowledge.

For example, last week I learned that I am coping better with pressure. My diary was full and I jumped from job to job, day to day, with ease. In the past, the Monday morning of an action-packed week would have seen me flapping round the staff room scrutinising the briefing. But this week, I tackled each challenge calmly. So, I’m definitely getting there.

I also learned that I can speak Welsh. Surprise!  Hoorah! After an oral assessment which seemed to come completely out of the blue and with minimal preparation time, I managed to babble my way through each part of the test and, smugly, was pretty proud of my results.

Thirdly, I learned that the next few weeks are going to be tough on the heartstrings. I’m a sensitive sod and the reality that I only have 14 school days left with my class is starting to sink in. I know I’m going to struggle in the last week but I’m starting to realise that this is the nature of the job. I’m sure it gets easier. Seeing the excitement on their faces as they spent the afternoon with their new teacher stirred mixed emotions. I was excited for them, whilst faced thoughts of just how much I’ll miss them. But I also began to understand what other teachers have said – it’s a vicious cycle. At the moment you might be ‘the best teacher ever’ to them, but next year their new teacher will steal your crown and you’ve got another bunch to win round *sniff*.

Lesson four – you can get through anything with good work mates who know how to laugh.

And finally, over the weekend, I learned to take more notice of one of my favourite quotes:

‘People will forget what you said, and forget what you’ve done, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ Maya Angelou

I’m not trying to be enigmatic and mysterious! Nothing dreadful has happened, but after a few unrelated conversations I realised just how true this is. It’s bloody hard to forget cruelty and we must always remember kindness.

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Well, after the news over the weekend that Executive Produce Sean O’Connor has left EastEnders with immediate effect, I’m sure it’s no surprise that this blog post was going to be focused on Albert Square. Twitter was rejoincing on Friday night as the news broke that O’Connor has delivered his last duff duff. Unpopular is an understatement. As tweets celebrating his departure came thick and fast, feelings of frustration and relief were apparent.

It’s frustrating that O’Connor has been allowed to mess up the show for so long and the damage couldn’t have been prevented sooner (assuming he’s been sacked, if you believe the tabloids). Before he wielded the axe at so many fan favourites and before he ordered the storyliners to create tales focusing solely on the bin schedule. It’s bloody annoying that, in the last few months, nothing has happened.  Each night I settle down to an episode, knowing that by the end I won’t have anything to report. Gone are the excited whatsapp conversations to friends that populated DTC’s era. Now it’s just ‘Don’t bother watching if you’re busy. Stacey put the bins out. Sharon’s hair was nice.’

I’ve been patiently sticking with the show, convincing myself that O’connor’s vision will soon kick into gear and the slow episodes would just be side-effects of the producer change over. But after reading Friday’s press release I realised he’s been in post for a whole bloody year! Although his stories have been nothing short of awful I was looking forward to the ‘big summer story’ and hoped that the tosh we were seeing on screen was just a slow build up to something great. It’s frustrating that we probably won’t see that big reveal now that O’connor has gone. I’ve been willing to give his new characters a change – such as the Taylor family and Ted and Joyce Murray – as they haven’t really been given much to work with. Each of O’connor’s new characters seemed to pop up in an introductory couple of episodes and then disappear into the background. If the new producer gives them some decent material then they should be given a chance.

But, obviously, it’s a relief that this reign of drivel is, hopefully, over. What the show now needs is a producer of DTC’s ilk, who respects the show, understands the history and knows what the viewers want. Here’s what I think the show needs:

  • Give us answers! – Max lingering moodily in the background, ‘The Chairman’ dropping enigmatic promises, Ted Murray holding a gun then stuffing it in a cupboard for six weeks….we don’t need any more teasers! It’s no longer exciting, it’s just frustrating and annoying. Just tell us what’s going on!
  • Keep Whitney away from Mick – We all know Mick and Linda are a solid couple and would never stray from each other. So Mick mooning over daughter-in-law Whitney just doesn’t wash. A Mickney affair would just be awful so the new EP’s best plan is to get her out of the Vic. Why not move her in with Lauren?
  • Bring back Babe – One of DTC’s best inventions played by the fabulous Annette Badland. Walford needs a good Villain. Bring her back!
  • Fix Kim and Denise – One of the most frustrating things O’Connor did was have Kim and D’s mum hurriedly tell them they’re not actually sisters before disappearing into a cab. The ‘sisters’ spent an episode moping about this revelation and then it was never mentioned again. WTF. A decision like this could be forgiven if it was for the sake of storytelling but, literally, nothing happened afterwards! On the subject of the Fox-Hubbards, the EP needs to use Patrick more. Bringing back Claudette might put a smile on his face and could also lure Vincent out of the house and into some storylines!
  • Bring back Pam and Les – I loved these two and, even if they can’t come back permanently, it would be great to have them recurring.
  • Integrate the new characters – Again, the Murrays and the Taylors have arrived on the square and locked themselves away. If there’s any chance of them being successful, they need to start building relationships on the Square.
  • Kathy – She’s had a quiet few months and, as a character with such a rich history, she needs a decent storyline. Give Ian a bit of break though. I’m fed up of him salivating over doughnuts.
  • Fix Steven Beale – He’s sticking round for another year and he’s an interesting character. He deserves more than looking after Lauren’s child and never leaving the Beale sofa. My advice – Have him leave Lauren and start to make friends on the Square.
  • Sharon and Michelle – A strong friendship with a lot of history. These two have been hilarious in some episodes and it would be good to see more of that. Throw Linda into the mix too and we could have a new ‘book club’ situation.
  • And finally – Bring back Ronnie and Roxy – I don’t care that they’re dead. I don’t care how ridiculous the storyline is. I’m willing to suspend all realism and accept a storyline that sees them being restored to life on Halloween during a séance with Dot and Jack. I’ll forgive it all, just bring back R&R!

Hourly tweets reminding us it’s baking. Near-naked Instagram pics coming in thick and fast. Snpachats of thermometers just in case we forget it’s warm. It all kicks off when the sun comes out.

I’m already sick of the summer moaners. A bit of sun and we get relentless groaning. ‘It’s too hot’. ‘It’s better to stay in doors’. ‘Oh, I can’t cope’. My advice – just enjoy it!

We live in the UK. 90% of our weather is rain. The sun will probably only be out for a couple of days and then it’ll be autumn. There’ll be cloud cover by the time you’ve dug out your espadrilles. We can’t change the weather – just enjoy it and chill out (pun!).

In school, the fans have been broken out of the outdoor store, my TA is draping fabric over the windows at a rapid rate so the side of the school resembles a circus tent, and we’re operating in darkness to stop any heat from the lightbulbs pushing us over the edge. But we’re not complaining. Because it’s summer.

The children are hot and sweaty and agitated, and at times it’s difficult to get any work done. Today, we knew we were up against it. Whether it was sticky, sweaty fingers or suncream running into their eyes, the children were fussing before 10 o’clock. So, we adapted. In the afternoon we armed ourselves with clipboards and headed to the field for some outdoor learning.

It was a lovely change to spend the afternoon working under the shade of trees.  The children were a lot more comfortable and enjoyed poking around the gardens of the school (luckily our science topic was plants!). When I got the job (a year ago!) I remember pledging to take the children outside as often as possible, so as soon as the sun shone this morning I knew we needed to get out into the fresh air. So make the most of it, and stop moaning, it’ll be over before we know it!

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been forced to make a very difficult decision. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind for the last year but, the time has come where I can’t ignore it anymore. It’s time to say goodbye to Pepe the Peugeot.

Pepe was my very first car, and my cousin’s before that. I’ve had him for five years now and we’ve been on many adventures together. For quite a while I knew Pepe was on his last wheels. The left door is dodgy, the rev gage is broke and I didn’t feel comfortable going too far with him in case he conked out. Last week his exhaust fell off and then he overheated due to a crack in the radiator. So, it’s safe to say Pepe is not in good health.

Last year, I was offered a chance to swap cars and, although I was tempted, the thought of not having my Peugeot was heartbreaking! I know, some might say It’s just a car, but it’s really hard to say goodbye. It felt like I was giving away a member of the family!

Your first car is always special. Pepe was my freedom. Because of him I could visit friends, stay out late and go to ASDA for chocolate whenever I wanted! I could travel to see family and help people out by giving lifts. Oh, and most importantly, he rescued me from the perils of public transport. This car was even more special because I inherited him, and I felt I owed it to my cousin to look after hm.

The last five years have been very important for me and although friends have come and gone Pepe the Peugeot has always been there. He was there when I was stuck working in a petrol station, desperate to get out and find a purpose. He was there when I started working in schools, forging a career path and meeting new people. When I was travelling around Wales during my teacher training, I was driving Pepe, and it was behind his steering wheel that I was flitting between elation, excitement and uncontrollable sobs of frustration. He’s faithfully ferried me from school to school during my year on supply, and when I moved into my first solo home, he came with me. He’s just always been there.

He may not be in the best of shape, but he can tell many stories! He’s stuck around for five tough years and, although some might think I’m a sentimental sod, I’ll always remember my first car and be genuinely upset when he’s gone. It’s been tough to accept, but his days of cruising around the north Wales coast are over.

So, it’s with a heavy heart that I’m beginning the awful task of looking for a new set of wheels and preparing to park Pepe up for the last time. *sniff*.

I used to have a bit of a fear. I didn’t like doing things on my own. I’ve got friends who would happily go to the cinema alone or eat in a restaurant by themselves but I never felt comfortable doing any of those things. I’d feel like all eyes were on me and I just the thought was enough to make me cringe.

As we get older, we do start to lose that horrible feeling of self-consciousness and realise that the world is not looking directly at us. If anything, we’re pretty invisible. Last year, I started going to the gym. At the first, it was with a friend, so any awkwardness could be laughed off, but when my friend could no longer find the time to gym, I was faced with the option of ‘go alone or stay at home’. I was tempted to jack it all in and vegetate in front of the television but the desire for a healthier lifestyle made me choose the first option. Initially, I was self-conscious but after a couple of solo visits I realised everyone else was too busy focusing on their own work-out to be scrutinising my sweat sessions. Hitting the gym became my ‘me time’, a chance to work out and spend quality time with myself.

I started to realise that I could do things on my own….

I’ve been desperate for a break away for years. I wasn’t fussed on where – abroad or closer to home – but I needed a trip away. When it became clear that going with someone wasn’t going to be possible, I decided not to wallow in self-pity at home but to bite the bullet and go solo!

So, I spent three days of the half term in London. It might not seem like a big deal to some people, the kind of people who travel alone all the time, but for me it was huge. I can be quite an anxious person, so the thought of being away from home, where so many things could go wrong, worried me for a short time after I’d booked the trip, but the possible adventures my trip could produce soon dawned on me. Being a huge theatre fan, I was determined to see a show or two whilst in the West End and I realised that I could see whatever I wanted! I didn’t have to compromise with anyone because this was my trip! I made all the decisions. So, on my first night I saw Les Miserables, a show I’d wanted to see for a years, and I was not disappointed. On the second night I saw David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho which was hilarious and extremely topical. Not once did I feel odd for being a solo audience member. In my time in London, I visited all the places I’d always wanted to see. I went to see Van Gogh’s painting in the National Gallery, spent a few hours in the British Museum, had a coffee at the Theatre Café and shopped in Covent Garden. I literally did not stop walking (just ask my poor feet!). I didn’t have to consult with anyone because each decision was my own to make – and it was very liberating!

So, if you’re the kind of person who would turn down the chance to do something great because it would mean doing it alone, take the plunge and be brave. This half term break has been the best for a long time because I didn’t let anything restrict my fun – I grabbed it and made the most of it! Not only did I have an awesome time but I learnt a bit about myself.  Travelling solo reminded me that I have strength, I can be brave and I can relax, and I can be comfortable in my own company. So my advice: Do it for yourself, go solo and enjoy!

The audience applauded and the lights faded. Another performing arts concert was over.  The beams of pride on the faces crowded onto the stage were infectious and enough of a reward for any club leader. 

I’d dabbled with performing arts club on several occasions, mostly assisting or being the guy in charge of the buttons. This year was my first time as leader and I was very aware of the responsibility I was taking on back in September. Of course I wanted the children to enjoy their extra-curricular club but I also wanted to provide a theatrical experience to the richest possible point. I wanted them to understand and share my passion for performance and hopefully develop a thirst for the stage. 

My idea was to give the children as much control as possible. I didn’t want this to just be another tick box job that’s rushed through. A drama club for the sake of having a drama club. I wanted then to learn and take enjoyment from it

Having ownership over the production ensured rehearsals were fizzing with energy and excitement. I discussed characters with each lead – motivations, backgrounds etc – and enjoyed watching ideas form in each actors mind. I encouraged improvisation (which often had hilarious outcomes) and I made sure the final script was jam packed with the children’s ideas. 

The result was fabulous. The energy this week has been excited but relaxed. We’ve had minor problems with prop-finding and line-remembering but all have been easily overcome. It’s been a very relaxed and pleasant final rehearsal process because the children were clear on what they were expected to do. I didn’t need to stress out because I knew I could trust them to pull it off. 

And they did! The positive messages from the audience (children,  staff members, parents) have been overwhelming. The actors handled each performance with a professionalism many would assume would be beyond a primary school drama club. 

It’s been a fun ride, not without its difficult moments, but I am itching to get going on next year’s production already. 

Oh. My. God.

48hours left.

Months of planning and prepping and rehearsing have led us to this week. We’ve spent today on a last minute hunt for props and costumes before having our final rehearsal.

Everything is as ready as it will ever be. A tree has been erected in the dinner hall and the PE cupboard is now home to Excalibur.

With just one full day left before the performance, the children are far more relaxed than the staff (which is how it should be!). Although today’s performance was not quite as energy-fuelled as other rehearsals, the children have worked hard to put this production together and I’m sure they’ll dazzle for the school and their parents on Wednesday.

Strangely, for me, an odd calmness settled over me today. I’ve got faith in the children to pull it off but it’s also oddly comforting to know that I only have to days left to worry about anything performing arts related! Bring on the show!