Friday, 25 May 2012

Oh, friends, Ta muchley.

I have had a Month. One of those months where everything has been stressful, awkward and meanly aggravating. Financial necessity requires me to work, and pore endelessly over bank statements, denying them ice-creams and losing my temper about it. It also requires me to meal plan to a tomato skins breadth, and this results in shouting and fighting at the table ("I HATE this food! Can I have a yoghurt?" NO! they are for your LUNCHBOX and there are precisely 5 of them!) It also requires me to take on work, so I am exam marking ( hollow laugh from anyone who has ever done this). This also requires me to take out my textbooks and spend the evenings swotting up on Metternich and Pre-unification Italy, not to mention Revolutionary France and pre-unification Germany, Cold War Europe and Vietnam. This results in husband watching too much TV, us not talking, and me stressing about how much I need to know to know how much the students don't know.

So, marking an exam will result in me going crazy and the in-laws having the kids for days over half term, despite being deaf and not admitting it and too old to cope for more than a few hours at a time, and Me not drinking for a month, staying up late, marking, and Me fretting about everything else in the meantime. And Me still cooking, cleaning, school running, and doing everything else. And Me collapsing in heap.

I have not worked in so long i've forgoten how to be brainy. I know I know this. I know I am capable. But i've forgotten how to be confident that i'm capable. I know, perusing the mark scheme, and that feeling in my gut when I see a student completely pass by the fact it's METTERNICH writing the document, that screams "D" grade!" , that I can still do this. But still, my primary talent is wiping arses, and peeling the white bits off of tangerines so they are edible to Veruca Salt, aka My daughter. I used to be someone. I used to be able to juggle jobs and teach myriad classes of varying talents and now I am panicking about exam papers and incapable of wiping arses and dealing with the school run and marking at the same time. Of course, daughter has picked this time to have a "pushing boundaries" moment and reduce me to tears about food, and yes, doing a poo. At the same time as frantically reviewing post-Napoleonic Europe, i'm mainlining Sears and any info on toileting problems I can find, trying to book a hospital appointment for a poo problem. Son picks this time to get put on ther naughty cloud, for the first time ever,highlighting the "MY MUM DOESN'T GIVE ME ATTENTION" vibe in the house.

So, cheap sausage meat dishes, combined with child pressure, and self hate have combined to make me feel like the world's worst mother over the past few weeks. Not to mention the worlds worst partner ("Yes, i'll be up in a minute, i'm just channelling Robespierre"). So thank God for friends. Who plied me with wine and fed my kids and got me a bit tipsy too early on a Friday. And so have ended my day quietly and tipsily, with cider in the bank, and a bit of bucked uppedness. An unlikely bunch, one says "Luv", another is Northern, another from Surrey, all afloat in Fenland, and all prepared to ply me with wine and stroke my worrisome ego.

Now all I need is a job in school hours that pays properly, and a husband who will share the domestic chores equally, and kids who won't mind if I go out to work. And pink elephants on parade.

Friday, 11 May 2012

I just want to stay home and watch Bargain Hunt: what to do when your kids start school?

If anyone asks me "Well, what will you do, come September?" again, i'll brain them. Because daughter is due to start school, she's got her place. She's good to go, with bro. And i'll be, well, what? Naturally, everyone has an opinion.
It seems to be this:  I must get a job immediately. Or I am somehow, despite getting no benefits at all, a drain on the state, and my kids will grow up not having a work ethic, despite seeing their father work all week every week. And me do all the "non-work" at home. The public, and especially the government, seem to view the starting of school as the starting guns for mothers to rush back to full-time employment, and bugger the kids. They can be flung into breakfast clubs and after school clubs. It's GOOD for them, right? You don't need to be a mum when they start school! The school does it!

Wrong. Mum work does not end when the kids start school. Your reception aged child will not suddenly stop needing you. They won't pop off to after school club happily and wave you goodbye in the morning. They'll be knackered, grumpy, tearful, and yes, NEED YOU MORE THAN EVER. And even come years 1-13, there will still need to be a mum to chivvy along the homework, serve up the fishfingers. And more than that: empty the school bag,deal with the friendship crises, the teacher grabbing you after pick-up for  "a word", the after-school judo/swimming/beavers/rainbows, friends round for tea, after-school matches. And guess what,Shiny Dave and Government? Outside of Eton, all this happens between 3 and 6 pm, some of the hours i'm expected to be at work.Not to mention what happens when one of them is ill.

So, the solution is to find part-time work? Of course. I'd LOVE a job-share. I'd be fine with doing just one school-run and sorting out arrangements for the other. That's a good compromise. Can I be a part-time teacher, please? I'd be great, honest. I'd still do all the meetings and parents evenings. What's that you say? You can get an NQT for peanuts who'll work full-time? So sod me? Oh. Let me look in the TES. FT,FT,FT,FT. 20 miles away, 35 miles away. Oh. And if anyone says to me that teaching is a family friendly job, I might nut them. How about I use all my educaitional qualifications to work in the public sector? That's pretty Mum-Friendly, right? What's that you say? It's all been cut to ribbons? My library qualification is worth nowt without libraries. Factory work, then. I'm overqualified? How about I be a TA? A Teaching Assistant? What do you mean, no? I'm overqualified? I won't keep telling the teacher what to do, honest! Supply teaching? Oh, you have Cover Supervisors now. And TA's, who are not teachers, doing it. I see. Why can't I keep on doing it voluntarily? Do I really need to answer that?

So what, then? Watching Bargain Hunt after cleaning the loo it is.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Why girls hate PE

So, a new report tells mums what they already know. Girls hate PE. The media act as if this is a shock. The pundits come out and tell us that's why we're fat. The Government harumph and say "more exercise.....(wobble jowls, sell off school playing fields....)". I can tell them that no amount of wagging the finger and ticking off will EVER make girls like PE beyond a certain age. Here's why.

Periods. No-one ever feels like trotting round a field running the 800m when they are petrified that a bloody stain might start showing through their unflattering sports shorts. Or feels like tennis when they have cramps. Or feels like netball when their boobs hurt. But you have to do, oh yes. The PE teacher says so. She says "It's only a period, get on with it". But it isn't only a period. It's a horrible hormonal time fraught with sheer agony that your tampon will drop out if you run, or spill out of your bag, or, god forbid, you are wearing a TOWEL and that bitch in your class sees it and tells everyone you are on and really heavy when you get changed. And then there's the awful thing of having to tell the unsympathetic teacher that you are on so you can miss a shower. And she checks it on a chart and questions your regularity, because, you know, the PE teacher is bound to be right, and your hormonal teenager  body couldn't possibly just be all over the place. So you not only have a period, but you have to justify it. In front of everyone.

The PE teacher themselves. Now, I know some people have lovely PE teachers. But i've never had one. I did have a charming individual who dressed herself up in 4 layers of Puffa jacket and waterproofs before sending us off on a cross country run in the snow, in tiny skirts, though. While she followed us on the road, on a moped. And I hoped she would die. And then the other one who refused to believe that I had hay-fever induced asthma until I collapsed halfway round the running pitch. No, i'm sure there are some who instill confidence into ALL girls, not just the ones who are genetically favoured enough to be able to catch a ball and run.

The reliance on natural talent. Now, I know that some students are more academic than others. I taught them. I would always aim for the student to get the grade that was their highest. I'd help them. I'd chivvy them along and insist on revision sessions where appropriate. But I accepted that sometimes, a grade F candidate wasn't going to be all that good at writing a history essay. Now, in PE, some people are going to be good at running and catching and so on. But quite a lot are not. Why not just encourage them to do the best they can and try? Or, you could force them into a posistion where they will fail, be hit on the head with the netball they failed to catch, and them berate them loudly for it, and cause their classmates to hate them for making them lose the match. If I did that in my history class, i'd be going  "Oi! OI! You there! This proposistion that the Nazis came to power because of Germans is NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Where's your economic argument? Your social argument? You've let your side of the class down. Look at them! They wanted to WIN the argument and now they've LOST! Sit down. Why you just don't understand hyperinfaltion is beyond me. Let's pass the argument over to team B, who understand Weimar Germany".

The teenage body.
the last time your body felt like a teenagers, if you are a mum, was the week after you had your baby. When you looked at yourself in the mirror and went "OH MY GOD! I just hate myself. I'll never be normal again. What is that bit? that ....BIT. It's....flash! Fat! FATFATFAT! Jesusican'tgooutagainever" Or, if you are me, when you turn 40. Now imagine being forced to get changed in front of 60 other girls, some of whom are perfect. And then run around and get sweaty in front of them. When you're a bit fat. Even if you're not really, you just think you are. Imagine not having any boobs, then suddenly getting them, in about a fortnight, and being forced to play netball. And the boys passing by and one of them shouting "Fucking Hell Dunkley, where did they come from!" Yes, it was enough to put me off jumping ever again.

The lack of choice. Oh, I know that hockey, netball, tennis and flinging themselves round over a gym float boats for some. But not for me. I wasn't blessed with co-ordination or grace. I couldn't give a monkeys about balls, and used to run off to the farthest corner to "field" at rounders, where I would read instead. I was, apparently, "useless" at sport. Except, not. I was hugely good at riding, and did a lot of very successful three day eventing. And I was pretty good at cycling. I was a great endurance swimmer. But my PE teacher knew none of this. Similarly, loads od girls go to dance classes out of school, where they fling themselves about mightily, and sulk in PE lessons. Why not introduce dance, yoga, pilates, riding, cycling, skateboarding, scootering, BMX? Oh, you've only got one measly school pitch and no money. Hockey it is, then.

PE makes you work in a team. Not if you're crap at games, it doesn't. It made me universally reviled. However, I did take our debating team to National finals. And i did pretty well in geek / Dungeons and Dragons club too. And school plays and youth theatre. All of which  needed prettty good team work, only without the risk of physical damage and being in the cold.

It is beyond me why we cannot pass over the responsibility for fitness to the students. Teach health and biology. By all means have space in the timetable for games. But give students the option to go offsite and do something they're interested in. If games had been scheduled for the end of the day, and i'd had an "off-site" pass, i could have gone home 2 hours earlier and ridden a horse. Or gone cycling. Dance classes could be held earlier. Village halls could be utilised, variety introduced. Or, why not let students who don't like PE and would rather die than do it, do, as my sixth form did, social community work instead. I spent 2 years delivering meals on wheels instead of playing hockey, and I loved it. Digging over a community garden would be physical work and of benefit to all to boot. Our definition of what PE is in very narrow, and whilst I appreciate that those who are physically excellent should have the opportunity to excel, I really can't think that forcing as many un-physical kids to undergo torture in public as we do daily, is a good thing.

I do still exercise. I bike, I walk, I swim. But I will never, ever pick up a hockey stick.