Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mint and Lemon

So I *accidentally* slept and blogged all afternoon instead of working... and when I finally woke up, what better way to "start work" then mint and lemos on the grass?

Mint from my baby gardens of course!

Dear Government

...in particular the officials of the Western Cape Education Department,

Don't get me wrong, I know you guys are doing a decent job under incredibly difficult conditions. I know I'm fortunate to be a teacher in a wonderful, successful school. 

And I certainly appreciate the need for transparency and teacher evaluation. In fact, I'm all for it.

That being said, I don't think I'm going to be able to provide you with all the paperwork to prove that I'm doing a good job. Those daily lesson plans, the teacher files, the evaluation files, the assessment files, the learner book comments... Allow me to explain:

I usually get to school between 7:15 and 7:30 in the morning. That gives me enough time to check my emails and respond to the really urgent ones (usually from parents) before running down to the printing room to do some last minute print runs. Since I am in charge of one grade for Mathematics, sometimes these are print runs of 200+ copies, which I then need to count and distribute to the teachers in question. Sometimes I get a chance to have a quick cuppa before the morning meeting.

The morning staff meeting runs from 7:45 - 7:55, and gives me a chance to check the outline of my day in my diary. I always know who I am teaching, and have a clear idea of what I want to achieve in each lesson. I don't always have time to write it down in a form anyone else could understand. Sometimes I don't even get a chance to write it down at all.

From 7:55 to 8:05 I deal with my home/tutor class, taking register and dealing with any disciplinary, pastoral or uniform issues that require immediate attention. I have a child near tears during register about once a month, and have ten or so minutes to calm them down, while simultaneously preventing the rest of the class from tearing my classroom walls down. I deal with absentee notes, reply slips and excuse letters during this time. I need to send my kids to class not later than 8:02, so that they have time to be punctual for first lesson - and so that I can get my head into the teaching zone. 

I invariably teach in first lesson. From 8:05 on, I have a new batch of students entering my classroom roughly every 45 minutes, all at different grade levels, and all with different needs. There are five minute breaks between lessons. I try to reserve these for greeting students and starting lessons on positive notes, but often issues arising with kids from the previous lesson use this time up pretty rapidly. Depending on how my morning went, I might have an urgent email to send, or a pile of worksheets to dispatch to another teacher. I may need to send an SOS to the school counsellor or grade head about a child. I also need to switch my projector off to give it a rest, and make sure the computer is working well enough to produce my next set of slides or notes. Sometimes I realise at the last minute that a particular worksheet has slipped through the cracks, and I have to McGuiver a solution for the next lesson.

I teach five grades. Out of the 33 lessons available per week, I usually have three or four free for preparation and admin, less than one per grade - including the grade that I lead. Usually these lessons are swallowed up filling out forms about detentions or missed tests, responding to emails from colleagues and parents, preparing and distributing workplans and worksheets, and setting tests and assessments. It is unusual to have a chance to mark during free lessons. Sometimes I have time for a cup of coffee or tea.

In the remaining 28 or 29 lessons every week, I teach. I never give free lessons - there is no time in the syllabus. I seldom have a chance to revise. Most lessons will be taken up with teaching new content, working through examples and then assisted practice. I try to give homework every single day. It is seldom completed by everyone in the class, but I make sure I go through it for those diligent kids who get it done. In the senior classes, this is usually about 20% of the class. In the junior classes it is more like 70% -  a percentage which I have worked hard at increasing, and am very proud of.

I try to make sure that at least half of each lesson is spent working, and answering questions from the kids. I try to make sure that I am supportive and encouraging, especially of weaker students. I usually spend at least 5 to 10 minutes of each lesson coping with discipline issues.

At break I usually have meetings with members of my tutor class, special catch up sessions for kids who were absent, academic support meetings with the "at risk" kids that I mentor or members of the two sports teams which I manage. I try to spend at least 15 minutes of break in the staffroom, eating my lunch - otherwise I struggle to keep my energy high enough to teach effectively. I have break duty once every two weeks.

School ends at 3pm. From 3 until 3:30 I sit in my classroom, supervising classroom cleaning by the kids in my tutor class, and coping with any situations that the kids bring to me as a result of whatever happened during the school day. At least once a week there will be a major or minor conflict to be resolved between two members of my class. Bullying, fighting, pregnancy, drug abuse, parental issues, boyfriend issues, academic issues - I never know what will land on my desk in this half hour. I try to be discerning about which issues need to be passed on to someone else - I am forever grateful for the excellent support system at my school.

At 3:30 I go to my extra mural commitments - either hockey or chess, depending on the day of the week. I have an extra mural every day. If it is a hockey day, I am able to take some marking with me. If there are no crises with the two teams or the coaches (medical, emotional, disciplinary) then I am able to get some work done on the side of the field. I will tutor kids during this time where possible - especially those who have been absent or lazy and have asked me to help them catch up. About once every two months some fairly minor injury needs to attention, but I am fortunate not to have been involved with any serious injuries so far.

At 5pm, sport is over for the day. I go back inside to finish up on admin before heading home. I usually get home at about 6pm, though I try to do earlier where possible. I am grateful to live close to my workplace - otherwise I would seldom get home before 7pm. I usually have 2-3 evening work commitments per term (PTLs etc...). 

Parent meetings also have to happen during the 3:30-6pm slot, so I have to arrange to be away from my sports practices about 5-8 times per term. Meetings with parents are a great way to communicate, and I try to accomodate them as often as possible. They seldom last less than an hour.

When I get home at 6pm, I am very tired. My husband and I are both teachers, so we are both very tired. If the day has been a particularly traumatic one in terms of the issues that land on one of our desks, we need to debrief for upwards of an hour. We have dinner (usually a defrosted meal that we made over the weekend - if we were lucky), and try to work. I am seldom able to focus on marking or preparation unless it is an emergency. 

As a result, most marking and preparation happens over the weekend, in between sports fixtures. This is also the only time we can see family and friends. Our friends who aren't in education find our social absence difficult to understand. Those who are in education commiserate. Our families get scant attention, despite our very best intentions. 

So please understand that while I'm doing my best to be a decent teacher, your extra paperwork is unlikely to happen. I can barely keep up with the "essentials" of marking and preparation. Please tell me that is more important to you than having your boxes ticked? 

Your sincerely
Belaboured Employee

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Remember my baby gardens? Well, they're GROWING! Today I ate my first fresh chard grown by ... myself!

Freshly picked deliciousness...

Only the swiss chard was homegrown, but doesn't that meal look AMAZING? Jasmine rice, poached eggs, organic swiss chard (hehehe) and woolies baby carrots...mmmm...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Old World/New World

Old World/New World

So you may have noticed I have this thing about dream boards at the moment...Discovered a free online tool called Polyvore, which is awesome, fun and easy. It's a bit like going on a shopping spree but without the cashflow dilemmas. Check it out!

*warning* I've also found Polyvore to be mildly addictive...