Little reminders

So I do remember being a student, I remember the sickening stress of not knowing what the hell I was doing and constantly feeling unsure I’d done everything ‘right’ – mainly because I feel like I still get that feeling in my job with each new directive that comes out.

But today I realised that no, I don’t remember what it was like and no, I don’t get that feeling in my job.

Because I attempted a zumba class this morning, and today I DID get that feeling. It didn’t matter that I KNOW it’s not important, or that it’s not a test or even something I ever have to do again. As I was fruitlessly attempting to follow the lovely lady taking the class I could feel the tears gathering at the back of my throat, watching myself dumpily waddling through a very poor approximation of the moves and in more cases standing there with a confused look on my miserable face I realised that THIS is what my uni students are going through when they come to me for help with their writing, even some of my college students must feel this sickening wrench of hopeless defeat as they realise they JUST DON’T GET IT. ..and like I did today, many will just pack up their stuff and walk out before the time is up.

It was a reminder to me that I need more patience because no matter how much I think I remember, I cannot ever truly understand what they are going through as they struggle to achieve the goals we set them.

Bedsit living

So, we moved out finally: the council found us a temporary bedsit. How long is temporary? How long is a piece of string. There is no real storage so our clothes are being kept in the suitcases, no freezer and the tiniest fridge in the world. But, we are self contained. The location is perfect for everything we need and to be honest, if the weather is bad, having to lounge around on a camp bed all day and play with elf is no bad thing. The small space is encouraging us to go out more so that’s not really been put to the test yet, plus we have many visits planned over the next few weeks so proper beds will feature. Thankfully this happened just as the academic year ends and stefs holiday kicked in so we’re free to do what we like. Only having 1 key is a pain but we’re working around it, it’s just a shame the kitchen facilities lend themselves more to takeout than home cooking. 

But, it’s temporary. And having all of our stuff in storage will make it easier to declutter when we finally do get a ‘permanent’ place (as permanent as renting allows of course) I figure if we get used to not having things around it’ll be easier to discard them. 

It’s a bloody dear do though: all this eating out, day trips and the launderette! My god! It’s daylight robbery in there: a single load to wash and dry costs almost £8 and as we’re out and about so much we’re doing 3-4 loads a week. I just hope we find somewhere sooner rather than later: I’d rather be settled when we go back to work and school than trying to move while juggling all that!

Work rage.

I swear people really are getting dumber! Year on year I see basic academic expectations (the ability to write a coherent sentence, read a brief and follow instructions) fail to be met, even after a whole year of ‘study’. Doing away with strict entry requirements is just asking for trouble: how much more can the degree classification be devalued all in the name of bums on seats and pass rates..? The students we currently have don’t care – why should they? Paying rent and buying food is more important in their day to day life than studying – and life is tough; so the odd party is better for the soul and mental well being than reading a journal or three for an assignment which, in the grand scheme of things, is only 20% of a 15 credit module, fine, I get that. But customer culture, especially this cut-price ‘get everything for nothing’ society we appear to have nurtured, does not belong in Higher Education, not if obtaining a degree is supposed to mean something.

Turning learning into business devalues learning: valuing the trappings of knowledge over the actual attainment of knowledge is all that occurs. Current intakes seem to want the award paper without the work and will do the bare minimum required to get that bit of paper. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink - unless you're a teacher. Then you'd better force feed that nag and hope it wins tomorrows race or you're fired.Sadly, because the more bits of paper we give out the more students we get in, the bare minimum is all we really ask for in the end due to pressure from above to keep that tracking spreadsheet happy: we cry the party line of ‘extend and enhance the student experience’ and we do our best to awaken interest and engagement but the sad reality is, every year fewer students respond and the bright, engaged, interested students are like rare glimmers of gold in the dross: but we – the overworked, over measured teaching staff are always to blame for low attendance or poor pass rates.

I honestly think that some of the students we’ve had this year are ‘secret shoppers’. You know, the people who sign up for things or visit places and be disagreeable/ hard to please in order to test the service. These students must be testing to see how far they have to push to fail: It’s the only explanation! I’ve had more no-shows and lack of submissions than the last 3 years combined: no work? yes, outright fails – I could rant up a storm about marking disputes over ‘satisfactory’ evidence but where there is nothing to mark at least I don’t have to rip out my hair and pull out the .5s and the .75s just to agree a grade at moderation.

We have the constantly late-submitters who argue the toss about a lateness cap being applied due to the missed deadline: which management generally uphold because, I mean, why should our paying students have to have ‘detrimental’ consequences for their actions? What’s a week here or there  (or even a whole semester for some) if by losing the lateness cap they manage to pass overall?
…but then there’s the ‘last-minuters’ (who management want us to get through by whatever means necessary as ‘the pass rate is the most important thing’) they, upon receiving a prescriptive list of the submission requirements for a basic pass (along with specific submission directions) proceed to send in a part submission via email, then another bit via StudyNet and even odd bits by hand on USB (never just one whole submission via the required directed submission route) and each time I have to point out the bits they’ve failed to address from the aforementioned list, resulting in multiple marking and feedback sessions for one assignment AFTER the official deadline – when it’s supposed to be one deadline, one submission!

These idiots (yes, idiots! I stand by the description – I’d even go so far as to call them fucking morons because really, why pay for a course and teaching expertise if you refuse to engage with it? What a waste of my time and your cash!) these idiots who have been chased and chased and reminded and cajoled and handheld through the entire process,  just shrug and begrudgingly offer up what can, at best, be generously called ‘evidence of work’ but in such piecemeal fashion that I have to keep returning it to them for improvements that need to be done just to meet the most basic pass criteria; and it all has to be checked IN MY OWN TIME because as an hourly paid  zero point contract employee I only get paid for timetabled contact time and agreed meeting hours: email and ‘informal meetings’ are not covered by my wage – yet we have to get these ungrateful, entitled, work-shy feckers to pass, otherwise the almighty spreadsheet may show crappy figures resulting in a discontinuation of the programme and therefore a loss of job for me: but what do these morons REALLY learn through this process other than helplessness and a lack of personal responsibility pays off?

I don’t mind extra help for the ones who attend, really try but struggle to ‘get it’ I’m happy to see them on my day off (well, willing) but these entitled bullshitting motherfuckers who obviously feel that their life is more important than mine: because obviously I have nothing better to do than work around them, I LIVE to respond immediately to their extension requests and stupid excuses. UUUUUUurrrrrgh! If I got paid for the hours these idiots waste I’d own my own home.

This is why no employer wants somebody who has just about scraped a pass in their degree: they know the quality of employee they will get – bottom feeders suck. If it wasn’t for the 1-2 students a year who really engage I think i’d have quit by now because some days teaching really is a thankless stressful unrewarding drudge.

 

Adulting is hard.

So, update: house sold for £240,000. Next door were also given notice within a week of ours being sold and their sign went up yesterday so we’re both in the same boat now: just shows you, it’s hell to rent!

I’m not concerned though, why? I had an unpleasant call from the sales agent the other week. He asked me how the house hunting was going, I didn’t lie that is wasn’t looking promising – what’s the point? I want out of here asap and keeping them in the loop means they’re more inclined to help us find somewhere else. At least that was my thought.

He proceeded to spin horror story upon horror story about what happens to tenants who don’t move out before the section 21 notice period expires – followed by faux concern over the possibility of the buyers and our landlord suing us for any accrued costs caused by us still being here; you get the picture.

Afterwards I spent about 5 minutes furiously bawling my eyes out and totally stressing before getting angry – how DARE he call me up and make me feel like that, using such crappy scare tactics to try and coerce us into uprooting and becoming ‘intentionally homeless’ as the council put it. So I did what I always do when something stresses me out  – I conducted research and made a list: something the internet and a university education makes a lot easier I might add!

You know what? The oily creep did me a favour; I wish I’d known YEARS ago what that research told me because I could have saved myself several stressful stints of couch surfing over the past 2 decades.

We do not have to leave the property by the date noted in the section 21 notice; all that bit of paper is designed to do is to inform the tenant that after the date specified, the landlord will be applying to the courts for an order of possession (which could take months depending on the court schedule) at THAT point we will get a letter stating a legal departure date; but if we haven’t found anywhere we still do not have to leave until the landlord has once again applied to the courts for a bailiff to evict us – yes, we will likely have to pay those court costs for him but I’d rather that than go live in a tent or rely on friends/ family for the next few months while we save up for a deposit.

The truth of the matter is, we’ve been priced out of the area in which we live: despite being a double income family, we’re still a low-income family (at least we are in a place where rents are £950- £1700pcm for a 2-bed property) I refuse to move elf from her school seeing as she’s settled and happy and doing well: SATs are coming up – I may disagree with testing kids of her age but I still want her to do well in them for her sake; self-esteem is a tricky beast and she needs a foundation of confidence because she takes failure hard already.

Which is why we’re having to go down the social housing route. There are benefits to it so I keep being told: we would stand more of a chance of finally owning our own home once we’ve been housed for a certain length of time than we would staying with the private sector – this speaks to my long-held dream of never having to move again. But before that can happen we may have to deal with a couple of years of less than ideal accommodation – though even there it’s not all bad; public sector housing is maintained to a far higher standard than most of the places I’ve lived in the private sector, repairs are usually finished within a month of the request being made plus you have more control over the living space. More importantly though that living space is about half the cost of the private sector which would allow us to start saving again for something better.

I was tempted for a quick move yesterday when I saw our old flat had come back on the market then common sense kicked in: elf would no longer fit in the tiny room her toddler bed dominated back then, the winters were terrible and we’d essentially live in the front room because it was too cold to stay in any other room. But yeah, for a second it was tempting: just walk half the furniture back down the road and store the rest in a garage until we could move somewhere more suitable… Except we’d never be able to move because the rent is now too high. Add in the cost of renting a second garage and …Nope. Not feasible.

There is a part of me that thinks we’re being a bit precious: plenty of 1-bed places are around in our price range; many people have to live like that the world over; but then I think why is not wanting that being precious? I’m not leaving this house through choice, I work bloody hard and so does my husband (yep, that still gets me… Husband!) Plus elf needs space, I need space since I do a lot of work at home and 1 bedroom for 2 adults and 1 child does not a happy marriage make. I don’t drive and my illness means excessive travelling is out because i’d wind up losing all 3 of my jobs due to the inevitable relapse, so we need to stay here near my work and I REFUSE to change elfs school so… Yeah, council it is. And they state that you have to be ‘officially homeless’ which means going through the aforementioned court process, otherwise we’re not classed as a housing need since if we leave before we get a court order we will have left ‘of our own accord’.

Stupid huh? Still, it gives us time to hope that something in our price range does come up – if it doesn’t we just have to wait til a council place opens up so nope, no longer concerned because we’ve done everything we can up to this point. We have a plan in place for packing and moving as and when something comes up so now we just wait – and save every penny we can.

Just sucks that it’s all happening the year I turn 40 (the exact weekend in fact) and they say that’s when life begins lol ahhh.. the adventure! Anybody want to buy me a house in Hatfield for my birthday..? Just a suggestion 😉

Limbo – and not the fun one.

So, Agent came round; house has been valued at £230,000 but nothing from the landlord yet on possible eviction. The agent was very positive about his ability to sell to a ‘buy-to-let’ guy but to be honest that’s what the last agent said at the place we got sold out of before we moved in here.

I’m not as stressed as I was though, I’ve had my freak out and now am just resigned to whatever is thrown at us. I still have to get up and go to work, be a mum and deal with the other general shit that goes with life; I also get to feel useful and that’s something to be thankful for so it’s not all bad.

Currently it’s a case of keeping an eye on the outgoings even more zealously than usual and hoping to have enough saved before we are forced to leave here – if a new landlord takes over the place then great but she/he’s still likely to want to do things to the place: it desperately needs new floors/ windows, the white goods are pretty much shot and the decor is tired, which means we may get to stay on but it’ll be less than hassle free and the rent will definitely be increasing even if a slumlord who has no interest in fixing everything takes over.

I’m mentally packing and sorting what can go into storage from now until we know the score so that I can just up and sort it out the second we get the word. I already know the order of removing everything to our garage to ensure the best way of packing a removal van (all those years of Tetris served me well) I’ve even started my moving spreadsheet – I’m sure Stef will be delighted to hear this…Not.

I’m looking at this as an opportunity to put my thoughts about living in storage into action: de-clutter, sell what we can and chuck what we make into a help to buy isa. One day I will live the dream and be secure in the knowledge I will never have to move home again; Just not this time.

On the road again…

Yup, the perils of renting have again caught up with me.

Our landlord apparently wants to sell up: agent is booked in to come and do a valuation tomorrow. This, as you can imagine, is stressful. Normally I take it in my stride and curse and vent and just get on with it but for some reason, this time… I’m just not coping: mentally I’m like a stunned fish – gasping for breath and seeing nothing good in my future.

This is the worst part – the waiting. We have not been officially notified by the letting agency but now we know he intends to sell, it’s just a matter of time before that section 21 appears through the letterbox. I have had to move over 30 times in my adult life – 22 of those were forced due to repossessions or property sales. I’m sick of being forced to move just as I start relaxing and setting down roots, I’m 40 this year I want some bloody roots dammit!

Maybe it’s so much harder this time because for once everything in my life was falling into place: our relationship is in a good place, we just joined the gym so health is (was) looking up and work is finally at a point where I’m not just paddling to keep my head above water – there have actually been weeks where I’m all caught up or even *gasp* ahead.

The timing could also have been better – funds are at an all time low after the wedding and there is practically nothing in our price range on the rental market where we need to live. Having to take into account the catchment issues for Elfs school, my lack of transport for work and the need to find funds for multiple agency fees on top of rent and moving costs… My brain has kind of imploded trying to work out all the variables: Elfs school, my job, Stefs job, packing, funds…

Goodbye gym membership, goodbye being on top of work and goodbye peace of mind and the ability to sleep soundly until we have another temporary new roof over our heads.

Seriously – do a search for unfurnished rental properties under £1000pcm in Hatfield, Herts that have 2 double bedrooms, off road parking and garden (though even the garden is now a luxury we can likely not afford so goodbye all our furniture, equipment and Elfs trampoline; at least selling garden stuff may make us half a months rent…)

I know hubby will likely be disapproving of me posting this online for the world to see but I am SICK of it. Whenever we move we have to find a guarantor; even if we can show we earn enough to cover everything, the actual credit check goes on the guarantor and as ours are both retired… Well, the places that limits us to are very low priced and therefore non-existent and the upfront deposit plus ‘shortfall’ will be crippling. This is the reality of having a zero point contract; just because you can show 4 years worth of bank statements with decent(ish) wages, you cannot guarantee those wages will continue or remain constant and without that guarantee you cannot get a bloody shed in this world!

2016 sucks. Official.

 

Omphaloskepsis

I’m by nature a navel gazer. I like to ponder things and how they relate to me: I’m what you would term narcissistic and I am very aware of the fact (though not where looks are concerned: I’d rather avoid a mirror and slob than primp every 5 minutes) seriously, just look how many times I use the word ‘I’ in this paragraph for example – it’s ALL about me. But that’s part of self-reflection right? It’s how we check that we are on the right path; that we are improving ourselves – both in mind, body and action.

I like to think of myself as open minded. I have a rather strong sense of right and wrong (as do most people) but to my mind anything goes  – so long as it doesn’t negatively impact anyone else: you want to sleep with your sibling/ cousin/ total stranger in a toilet/ field/ classroom/ glass shed? Hey, if they’re up for it too go enjoy yourselves – I DON’T CARE; it’s only wrong if by doing so you hurt somebody else (and man will I get shouted at for that viewpoint: people truly believe that where sex is concerned there is no end to the judgement they can provide) Speaking of… You’re fantasizing about ramming the head of the preachy prat in the next room through a sink and shoving a razor blade between his bum-cheeks? Cool, i’ll help embellish the fantasy – so long as fantasy is where it stays. Yep, I like to think of myself as open minded. But I’m not, hence the judging on my part: you intentionally hurt someone else through word or deed and you’re the biggest talking phallus on the planet in my book.

I’m not naturally a good person – I work at it. Not always successfully it’s true; I’m too sarcastic and though I hate to see people judging others I still do it too, before I catch myself in the thought – which is when I berate my critical self and question my viewpoint on the subject and make excuses on behalf of the judged.

People are entitled to make mistakes; I try, REALLY try, not to judge the people who do – but when they cause pain – intentionally or not – through their mistake, it is hard not to make a judgement. This is when we have to catch ourselves and make allowances; we’ve not walked in their shoes, we don’t know what led them to be where they are now; swallowing guilt or brazenly flaunting their lack of shame.

You are human. You KNOW right from wrong; you have the capacity of reason and can make the choice to NOT take certain actions. If you knowingly decide to do something that gives you even the faintest twinge of guilt when you think of how another person will view that action then you stop and do not do it. Simple as that.

BUT, I also understand that people are naturally weak and that they have the capacity to learn and that we all learn best through making mistakes. I do know that there are very few things that will make me personally withhold any kind of forgiveness and understanding, but, If as stated above, someone knowingly betrays another or knowingly causes harm by taking advantage of another they can consider themselves off my friend list: even if the person they hurt ‘deserves it’. …Unless they can show they’ve learned from it enough to never want to be that person again; that the contrition is real and lasting.

There is a saying that people never change but that expression is bollocks: the only reason a person will never change is if they never learn.
So what do I mean by ‘learn’? “the cognitive process of acquiring skill or knowledge”? not quite, though that is a part of it. “a change in neural function as a consequence of experience”?basically, yes. ..Because if you are literally changing the physical state of your brain (and that is precisely what you do when you learn – neuro-scientist types back me up on this) then it stands to reason that to learn results in “a change in behaviour as a result of experience”. See – people can and DO change.

Now sadly, some people seem to learn bad behaviour and wrong thinking as a result of experience – which is why I try to give the benefit of the doubt and look for underlying reasons or causes behind specific behaviours: teaching has taught ME a lot about myself and how I react and a lot about how other people react to things like stress, the environment around them and their own fear and helplessness or loss of control.
Because ultimately that is what everything that is judged boils down to: control. This is why people are weak: the need to feel in control is inbuilt and it may only be about small things – not everyone wants to lead for example – but when the control over that small thing is threatened people do not react in nice ways, they give in to weakness. Only the strongest can lose this feeling of control and not seek to strike out or act out in response. I strive to be one of the strong ones. Always.

But… My poor husband (yup, still like saying that: it’s still new enough to make me chuckle a bit) he, along with my best friend, will probably attest to the fact that striving to be strong is about the best I can handle; especially on the days when PMS, ME/CFS or Menieres disease have a hold of me. When I’m tired or hungry I am a bear – except that’s not really fair to bears: I’m pure acid tongued bitch on speed at those times; I aim to wound all around me in my pain and frustration and my aim is generally true.

This is why I hide away from certain people and prefer limited contact to crowds; because I navel gaze. I know my own weakness and limitations – I know that to be around people at those times will result in words said that cannot be unsaid: I KNOW right from wrong and I know that unless I want to hurt someone (and I don’t, not really) I need to keep my trap shut and avoid the temptation to let out the evil thoughts and nasty judgmental observations that will make someone breakdown in tears and question their very identity (I’ve done it before – it’s my own special talent and one I strive to never use).

I navel gaze to try and hold on to just enough control so that instead of talking I walk away. Instead of hitting send I hit delete. Instead of becoming a walking talking phallus I retain that spark of humanity that knows it is wrong to cause pain and suffering to another person – no matter my own hurt at the time. Do you?

I HAZ ALL THE SPOOOOOOOONS!

I’ve written about the joys of ME/CFS many times before, even discussing how it’s not all bad and the way things do slowly improve For any newbies to this page, a quick infill for you:

For many years I’ve had this delightful illness commonly called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The NHS describe it thusly:

“Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) causes persistent faigue (exhaustion) that affects everyday life and doesn’t go away with sleep or rest. 

CFS is also known as ME, which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis. There’s some debate over the correct term to use for the condition, but these pages will refer to the condition as CFS.

CFS is a serious condition that can cause long-term illness and disability, but many people – particularly children and young people – improve over time.”

For those of you who have never heard of the spoon theory and want to feel well informed about the post title, just pop over here for a minute and acquaint yourself with how it all started alternatively just have a look at the image here:

Spoon theory diagram

Taken from http://www.mollysfund.org/2014/11/fibromyalgia/

OK, so, now we’re all on the same page how about I explain my current happiness to you?

I’ve been trying to up my stamina for quite some time for 2 reasons:

  1. To be able to work more hours and eventually get a full time position somewhere – preferably NOT on a zero point contract because yes, they suck major arse.
  2. To be able to get back into exercise and maybe take up martial arts again

Obviously with the wedding and all, I wanted to work on my arms and general body fitness so that I’d look good in a dress – the results were not as great as I’d hoped but considering that when I started out I couldn’t even manage a single push-up but by the wedding I could do eight – with the way I crash if I over exert myself – I felt that was a win.

Sadly, September came around which meant work, which in turn meant no more exercise as I just didn’t have the spoons for both and so now I’m back to being unable to do a single push up again – which plain pisses me off.

Now the difference this year to the last three years is that most of my work is in Hatfield – I only have to do the evil journey on public transport between Watford and Hatfield one day a week; you would not believe the difference this makes to me physically (and mentally)

As an example; two years ago after another news item about graded exercise was being thrown around I decided to give home exercise a go and did a YouTube workout. This was when I was travelling 3 days a week to Watford; the days I did not  work were mostly spent on the bed in pJ’s feeling knackered; but I still wanted to try, to make sure that I could still do something. So I cued it up and followed along, after 10 minutes I felt great but decided to not push it – 2 days later I was back in bed and missing a day of work as the delayed fatigue onset hit.

This is why I was dubious last week when my friend Kathy told me she’d got me a free pass to try a Boxercise class with her at the Uni sports village. …but I figured; I seem to have more energy of late; I’m managing early morning starts even if I’m not loving them and as well as very little travelling I’m not having to bring as much work home because the Uni job (unlike the college one) doesn’t involve anything outside of my contracted hours. Yes, I’m working 2 jobs (well, technically 3 seeing as the college one is split between both WHC and NHC at present) but I’m also managing to have a life outside of work – I’m getting to play with my daughter, I’m doing my share of the cooking and cleaning and i’m even *gasp* managing to be social and seeing friends.

So yes, I thought maybe it’s time to try this exercise thing again: I miss having strength! I once stopped a guy 3 times my size from getting on a stage despite interference from people who mistook ME for the interloper as opposed to the security: I know I’ll never be back there again on the physical front but I’d like to at least carry my child up the stairs without dying after 2 steps…

Well, I managed the first 30 minutes of this hour long class before I developed a twitchy spasm in my right hand and wanted to vomit. The sweat was pouring off me and I wanted to die – you can say I gave it a good go. For the next three days I ached (I still ache in fact!) and the following day I was quite worried as the hand was still a tad shaky and I couldn’t grip anything BUT! Yes, there is a but: I have not crashed!

I have had three early morning starts, I have worked full days and I have done all the housework and cooking on top of that AND I volunteered at the school fete – and I have STILL not crashed.

You have NO IDEA how amazing that feels. To just have the natural ache of an unfit body feeling the results of exercise without the body completely shutting down and the brain fogging up and refusing to work. I have hope again! The end is in sight!

I plan to remain at this balance of work and travel while I build up my physical stamina; one day I will be able to again throw a guy twice my size to the ground (even if I can’t keep him there) and more importantly I will be able to carry my child up to bed when she’s ill and manage my own damn shopping bags.

Boxercise may not be the thing for me, but the lovely Kathy has managed to score another 3 passes for me to try out different classes: I WILL have it all – if it kills me!

 

How’s married life?

Wedding Cakes

The cakes made by my new mother and sister-in-law

So, 2 months ago (to the day in fact) I married the father of my child. It was long overdue (said the best man in his speech) considering said child is now 7 years old and we’d already been together 3 years before she popped in. We made pretty much everything; stationary, bouquets, buttonholes, favours, cakes (well, his mum and sister did those) and decorated the venue ourselves which helped bring the cost down (though if I were to do it again I would buy the invites and table decorations because… TIME! STRESS! I’d probably still do my own bouquet because I loved it but the buttonholes and favours.. no way – buy ’em!)

 

I loved my dress, my step-mum was right, it was the perfect dress for me and I’m seriously gutted that I can never wear it again unless by some miracle a wedding dress party occurs while I can still fit in it – especially since I went down 2.5 dress sizes between ordering and wearing it; stress will do that to you!

Dress with day jacket

Dress with day jacket and the bouquet I made

The dress worn with the  evening jacket.

The evening look – collar made by my good friend Caroline

 

 

 

First false eyelash application

using false eyelashes for the first time EVER

 

 

 

 

 

I also loved what Johnella did regards hair and facial beautification – she talked me into trying false eyelashes: here you can see my reaction after the first one was applied: never have I felt so PRETTY! Seriously; I prefer pretty over beautiful. The groom looked good (he shaved!) The food was lovely, the venue looked fab (especially after the girls spent all evening the night before dressing the place and groomzilla added to it all in a panic the following day – I never want to cover another chair as long as I live!)

I am disappointed that we don’t have a single decent photo of us together with our daughter – not the photographers fault, she wasn’t playing ball – kids eh?! and there were too many of me and not enough of everyone else but the pictures we do have are lovely as you can see.

People keep asking me “How’s married life?” I usually respond with – the same as ‘living in sin’ life – but with added paperwork and more name confusion!

Not a lie but also not strictly true. I feel more settled in myself and more secure regarding our future. That little bit of paper is such a small thing; our relationship has in no way changed nor have our finances or living arrangements, yet for me just having that outward declaration of commitment officially signed and sealed has silenced a little stress niggle, that whimper of insecurity which clouded things and left me always feeling a little unsettled. Stupid, yet oh so true but something inside me has relaxed.

Bride and groom signing the registry

Signing the registry

I wonder if that would have been the case if we lived in a society where ‘marriage’ was not the expected result of committing to a relationship? It does make the point (for me at least) that everyone should be free to have this insecurity and doubt removed though – whether it be by a civil ceremony, church wedding or handfasting – whatever your beliefs you should be allowed the ‘last step’ that confirms what you already know in a way that everyone can understand that ‘this is it’. The people who still stand in the way of this happening for other humans are cruel and unthinking in their blinkered view of humanity and goodness.

Wedding breakfast set up

Wedding breakfast set up – I never want to cover another chair as long as I live!

Gift table decor

The gift table: the guest ‘book’ was ordered on ebay; the tree fit the theme perfectly.

New home; mostly unpacked.

So… It’s only taken me a year but I’ve finally imported my blog to the new host. I do have a great deal of decorating to do – and of course there’s the old ‘check out what’s new around the place’ seeing as I’ve not blogged in a while and WordPress appears to have a lot of funky new things to play with since I last looked under the floorboards.

Apologies for broken links and missing files and the like as things may have shifted somewhat in the move and let’s face it, as I had to go through 14 different storage items to find my backup file I may have uploaded the wrong one: it’s been over a year! But hey ho! I’m mostly home now and as I finally have a handle on my teaching role and things have settled down somewhat I may even get back into doing this on a more regular basis than pre-move..

Stupid assumptions

I’m currently doing my PGCHE certification and while I’ve passed the module necessary to obtain my AFHEA accreditation (ahhh thankyeow!) every day I’m on the course I am exposed to diverse learning and teaching theories, concepts and practice and while this is incredibly stimulating and great for professional development it’s more the conversations with my students that tend to stop me in my tracks and make me re-evaluate my understanding.

Yesterday a student complained that none of the feedback I had given her was positive; I was momentarilly stunned as I thought my feedback was ‘good’ and covered all the main points.
The assessment in question was a role play task and I had to write down feedback for both participants during the course of the role play. As this means writing targeted comments quickly I clearly addressed areas for improvement with positive suggestions on ways to do so but it seems the lack of approving comments with no application beyond a pat on the head detracted from the feedback so much that she did not want to engage with what I had said to her. I apologised for indirectly making her feel bad – obviously that is not the intention, I thanked her for the feedback and agreed that obviously this is an area in which I personally need to improve.

But the interesting thing here is that she then commented in a very surprised manner about the way I accepted the criticism; to me, feedback that can help me improve or show me how I could approach something differently is ALWAYS gratefully accepted (unless of course it’s given by family but we all have our blind spots eh?!) it was not so much the comment on how I handle it that stopped me in my tracks but her surprise on the matter; as though she had expected something very different from me.

I immediately saw then where I’ve been going wrong with some of my students this year.

I truly believe that my main goal in life is to become a better person; not just better with regards to skills and the application of knowledge but better in the sense of maturity and understanding of the people around me and the way I deal with them – I read a great deal and listen to the experiences of other people with several thoughts in the back of my mind; how can I use this? How can I improve? The blindingly obvious thing to come from all this reading and listening is that everyone is different and yet with my students I was still expecting them to have the same internal thought as me.
This is such a blinkered and false assumption – not to mention bordering on the idealistic that I kind of feel really stupid all over again for not realising I had it sooner; in my defence it isn’t that I consciously expect everyone to have the ‘how can I be better?’ mentality but when I give feedback I do it in the way that I would like; a way that would help me to do better next time; so it appears that I have fallen foul once again of the 1781 observations of Immanuel Kant that “we see things not as they are but as we are” as introduced to me 2 decades ago in a communications class at Daventry tertiary college – but hey; we can’t be BETTER all the time. I guess I just have to keep trying.

Microteaching for #7EDU1024 – Teaching And Supporting Learning

This is the first module for my Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and although I have another day to go for the classroom learning element I can honestly say it is well worth doing if you want to be a good teacher in a higher education environment – which I most certainly do!

Today we all had our microteaching sessions and I will admit that I was ridiculously nervous about receiving my feedback as this is basically the second time I’ve ever had another lecturer present during my delivery (that I don’t also think of as a friend – friends tend to be less critical than others in your peer group) and there were 8 of them at once!

I sat through the morning with my stomach knotting increasingly tighter as each of the other members in my group delivered interesting and in 2 specific cases seemingly flawless 5 minute ‘lectures'(one of whom I really need to pinch the slides and microteach video off if he’ll let me have ’em) nearly everyone else in the group seemed to be brand new to teaching and in some cases never before having taught in a classroom environment. This knowledge just made me feel, if I’m honest, a little more sick; I’ve been doing this for a year now – what if they (very nicely) told me I suck? Eventually everyone else had faced their own personal ordeal and I finally had to get up and face mine.

Now, normally when I teach a class I’m not this nervous but there is just something about demonstrating knowledge or a skill in front of other practitioners that throws me into kinks and I guess I’m not alone in this feeling – but surprisingly, looking back at the video you can’t seem to tell. I look (even to me) fairly professional and ‘together’ so I guess the flipcam can’t pick up shaking hands if you keep ’em moving.

The most negative thing said during the feedback session was that I need to smile more (and it was a unanimous response so maybe my nerves were showing a little after all…) I guess I should be grateful about that but I know the geek in me was shuddering at the loose explanation given of internet technology; normally I do take more than 5 minutes over this and touch upon DNS and the fact that www is NOT the internet but a service like VOIP, file transfer and email which runs ON the internet using TCP/IP and that Tesco actually use TIE which is their EDI equivalent along with an explanation of how that works… But 5 minutes is not a lot of time and I did go over by about 25 seconds so I guess what I’m saying is that no matter how positive people are towards me I’m never truly happy with anything I do *sigh* guess THAT is what I really need to work on…

On the plus side almost every person in the room said they liked my house/ garden analogy to explain how an intranet is extended into an extranet so this is definitely one explanation to keep using. I also hadn’t realised how often I sum up as a way of reinforcing the points I make – it’s just something I now do naturally; seems motherhood is good training for becoming a lecturer because it was pointed out just this weekend how often I do this with elf.

The main things that I’ve taken away from this experience (outside of the knowledge that mutated proteins get sticky then bond together and cause disease or that gold is created at the heart of a supernova) are that I can boil down many of the core concepts I have to teach into 5-10 minute sessions like this and use them to break up my 3 hour classroom sessions. On a lighter note I’ve also learned that I badly want one of the document display OHP ‘thingummys’; being able to draw what I mean on a piece of paper where everyone can see it clearly on the smartboard instead of having to clamber on and off a chair to make full use of a white board in class would be awesome! I hate being short…

While trying to settle on a topic for this microteach I also thought of numerous ways of applying this technique to virtual sessions with videos and prezi presentations (as a kind of information treasure hunt) for 2 different modules and I know that it will make for a very interesting and informative class task to do with my students in another module; the constraints of the task itself made me look at my subjects in a slightly different way so I am completely sold on this as a method of teaching and peer review.

A parents duty

I’ve been concerned for a while about the achievement level of my 5 year old daughter, I’ve watched her friends as they read and write and count in the double figures and despaired over her complete lack of interest or attention span with these academic tasks and in the last few months have attempted to help her attain the skills I thought she should already have, but over the last 2 weeks I’ve started to feel differently about this.

I’ve finally stepped back and understood that I am not her academic teacher – I’m her mother.

Academically my teaching role in her world is a supportive one, it is not my place to insist she should know her ABC’s by now; it is my place to ensure she can dress herself, attend to her toiletry needs and be aware of the correct way to act in any given social situation, to help and support in an emotional fashion and see to her needs in the home.

She is pretty observant when it comes to the social side of things already and her verbal communication skills are (in my opinion) above average so the fact that she doesn’t always recognise her own name in writing should not bother me as much as it has done, she starts school on Monday and they will pick up in this area – I need to step back and let my little girl sort her own academic level or I’ll be spending the rest of her schooling life spoon feeding her answers and nagging about homework which will do her no favours later on when she has to plan her own schedule and take ownership of her own progress.

I need to chill. But it’s bloody hard to step back and quit worrying I can tell you that for nothing! My little girl is growing up but I need to enjoy the growing without worrying so much about the ‘up’.

I’ll get there, hopefully without driving her too far up the wall in the process…

What I do: the role of a teacher

Here the aim is to describe the role of a teacher within the subject area of computing and business at a higher education (HE) level; though a more accurate descriptor of this role may be ‘learning facilitator’ as in HE the student is expected to take ownership of their own journey and expand upon information provided in class.

The onus is on the teacher to be aware of how her particular module fits within the structure of the overall programme so that she may assist her department in providing instruction which fits seamlessly into the expected learning outcomes of each individual student. To this end the teacher needs to be aware of both the level of teaching and assessment required in order to support her students in realising their academic goals and to be aware of individual student needs that must be incorporated into her delivery and assessment methods. In computing it is the opinion of the author that a blended learning method is most appropriate. This is a method comprising both online and classroom delivery which may also extend into the way in which student learning is assessed; this could take place as computerised in class tasks or tests (both formative and summative) or the adoption of ‘virtual meetings’ for the sake of 1-2-1 tutorials in order to alleviate the financial burden/ time cost of lengthy travel into college.

Some of the barriers to learning which exist may be a direct result of outside influences (family problems, financial issues, disabilities) and as previously mentioned a blended learning approach may help counter these, however the flip side to this is that it pre-supposes every student has both the necessary hardware and connection in a safe environment; while internet use is growing rapidly it is sadly still not the case that every household has the required tools necessary to interact in this fashion. For these students, a blended approach may be more of a disadvantage as they will be unable to use the time outside of class as effectively as other students can, for these instances it is for the teacher to adapt her materials in such a way that they are accessible by all, allowing each student an equal chance to succeed.

Welcome to my world…

Dashing down the stairs at Paddington underground station to see a train waiting at the platform with doors invitingly open, she dithered for a second trying to see some sign that it was the one she needed before jumping through the doors into a surprisingly sparsely populated carriage. Suddenly assailed by doubt over the possible direction of travel she turned and exited only to hear the words “…to Kings Cross..” from the tannoy.

Gracefully for once, she continued the turn and re-entering the carriage placed her bags down with a sheepish grin directed at the guy who had crossed glances with her just before the doors closed. Normally she wouldn’t notice people on the tube beyond a dismissive ‘cute’ or ‘nice hair’ or ‘I wonder where she got those earrings’, but this guy had definitely caught her eye, not just in the ‘eyes met across a room’ sense but in the ‘WOW he’s NIIII-IIII-IIIICE’ sense, so much so that she made a conscious effort to look in every direction but his; berating herself for smiling at him.

“Don’t talk to people on the tube” a lecture she’d heard many times from the father of her child. He disapproved of the ease with which she would initiate conversation with total strangers not seeming to realise that connecting with people was as natural as breathing – it was sustaining that contact over time that was difficult.

Despite knowing which direction this train was now headed she made a detailed study of the already familiar route the circle line would take, practically sounding out the remaining stops before Kings Cross in order to avoid the natural inclination her head seemed to have acquired in wanting to turn right. The target of this distraction continued to lounge across the seat and it seemed to her overly sensitive imagination that he was trying to reconnect that first glance by sheer force of will or personality but she held firm and continued to look elsewhere and put that imagination to better use, mentally scolding herself for such misplaced vanity.

Bracing against the swaying of the carriage she straightened up and pictured herself the captain of some marvellous ship – a space ship of course, it could be nothing else surrounded by metal and clanking and fluorescent lighting as she was. She imagined the current surroundings peeling away to reveal a scene of wonder and excitement before curiosity over what other passengers may imagine during their journey home brought her back to her real surroundings just as the door slid open onto Edgware road allowing other passengers to board.

From the corner of her eye she could see the guy looking in her direction but he could have been studying her or the reflection in the window behind her, without turning to see she couldn’t know for sure which it was. She pictured his face again as it had appeared when she entered the train, the look of almost shocked recognition and something else. As she struggled to categorise the emotion she wondered why it was so hard to decipher “hmm… Maybe he’d just been holding in a fart” she mentally chuckled to herself, whatever it was it was a little unnerving and poking fun was the easiest way to deal with the strange sensation that look had brought.

When the train started slowing down for the Kings Cross station the object of her thoughts suddenly got up and in a swift movement stood directly behind her, the swaying of the carriage for a single instant pressing him against her back. She wondered at his closeness as the carriage, despite the time of day, was not the usual rush hour sardine tin she had been expecting …and was it her imagination or did he seem to be sniffing her? Uncomfortably aware of her fragrant state due to the rushed journey from Bristol, she picked up her oversize shoulder bag and prepared her rolling overnight case for a swift exit and turned decisively to face him in order to forestall any pickpocketing attempt, he recoiled slightly backwards and seems to lose his balance and then she realised that his eyes which at first glance had seemed a startling blue were in fact red rimmed and the hair she had initially pegged as a dirty blonde was in fact a very white feathery mass of tufted curls, the shadows cast by the tube causing her earlier mistake as to the colour. “Ah…” She thought “…maybe he’s ill, or drunk” as he staggered a little to retain his balance in the swaying compartment. Almost as though he’d read her thought he shrugged backwards to stand as close to the doors as was physically possible allowing her some more space then, as they opened, he hesitated for a second before stepping out.

She had been scanning the walls as the train pulled in for signs to show the direction she needed to walk and striding confidently past him headed straight for the railway station, slightly relieved when he seemed to swing in the opposite direction before being lost in the crowds behind her.

That would probably have been the last he crossed her mind if she then didn’t suddenly glimpse him again from the corner of her eye, this time he was slightly ahead of her, how he had managed that without actually walking past her in the narrow tunnel seemed strange but dodging through the crowd, her small compact form aiding in speeding through the foot traffic she soon left him behind again.

Walking into Kings cross rail station she found the sardine tin effect previously expected yet not encountered on the tube, the crowd gathered before the departure board was swelling by the second as each train showed the dreaded delayed or cancelled notice. “Typical” She thought, glancing around for a coffee shop or somewhere to sit, as the voice over the tannoy announced there had been damaged overhead power lines and a blocked track along a main route ending any chance of a train for the foreseeable.

Her eye was caught by a shock of white blonde hair to her right and she glanced up to find yet another man meeting her gaze, very similar in both dress and looks to the guy from the carriage, her initial thought was “there he is again” until she realised this one was a little younger, his features not quite as chiselled; though seeing the same coat, bag, hair style and expression she forgave herself instantly for the mistake. Then he glanced away and the moment was gone but she couldn’t help feeling that once again there had been an instance of sniffing despite the distance separating them. Feeling distinctly put out with her overactive imagination she rang home to explain the travel situation before walking over to information in order to enquire about changing her ticket.

Relieved to find that she would not have to wait for hours or travel too far along the tube she instead made her way across to St Pancras in order to catch a train to St Albans where her lift would be waiting. While standing at the end of platform B she saw in disbelief another white blond head coming towards her through the crowd, her mental comparison of similar coat and bag suddenly had her heart pounding in an irrational wave of emotion – excitement or fear she really couldn’t tell but an impression of being prey washed over her as she raised her eyes back to his face only to receive a shock as what had initially appeared to be white blonde hair became a dull brown. “I need my mind AND my eyes checked” she thought as he walked past her without a glance. “Of course I’d see people in the concourse who got off the tube at the station and c’mon, fashionable coats all look alike and everyone has those messenger style bags now” the pep talk helped a little and she ignored the niggly little voice in the back of her head whispering that yes, many coats and bags looked alike but that guy had definitely been blonde when he walked towards you.

Keeping an eye on the scheduled time and angling towards the most likely spot on the platform she continued her mental pep talk “Because, yeah, shape shifters and illusionists and all those things in those books you like to read are really real and suddenly YOU have caught the attention of the beautiful creatures and the world of darkness will be yours. Yeah, right…” Mentally continuing in this vein as the train pulled in and she and her fellow passengers boarded, she sighed wistfully at the reflection of herself displayed by the window “Oh yeah, almost 40, mumsy traveller with the oversize shapeless jacket and the functional glasses, of COURSE you’d be the one to call ‘em out of the woodwork.”

Deciding that her moment of vain fancy had passed she allowed herself to indulge in a ‘what if’ daydream; how would she feel if she was suddenly yanked into an existence where she would never be able to see her daughter again, where she couldn’t explain to the father of her child why she’d vanished and left them alone. Shuddering at the thought she mentally bathed herself in the love and contentment she had waiting for her at home and pictured again little moments from her memory archive of her daughters first “mumma” and the joy they together as a couple shared in watching her grow into the forceful little wench she was becoming. For a few seconds this beat away the fanciful moments of her London journey but then she started to feel dissatisfaction creep in, “what if I had the power to learn in a night what takes me years to do now? These memories would still make me feel the same way if I left now” Picking the ‘best’ fictional entries from her books she concocted a view of a world in which she sacrificed the life she knew in order to gain all the knowledge she had ever dreamed of, where she could walk the night without fear, where she had no more pain or weakness to contend with. A world where she was strong and in control but loved passionately by an equally strong man (a ridiculously beautiful strong man of course – though one who didn’t glitter in the sunlight) who would listen and appreciate and act upon her opinions or advice.

She could use her newfound knowledge to create things to help ease the world’s ills, to stop the pollution, the water shortage, the violence “Hang on” She thought, “If I were a creature of the night, suddenly able to do anything I wanted, why would I care about mankind’s problems?”

The slowing of the train jolted her from her reverie and once again confronted by her less than stunning appearance sighed wistfully. “forget your looks and age and all that crap, where was I?“ she mentally catalogued different ideas picked from authors such as Laurell K Hamilton, Lynsay Sands and Charlaine Harris and even Stephanie Meyer and said to herself “You know what, if emotions and feelings are enhanced with this change then I’d care even more about things, I LIKE helping people now so I’d probably like it even more then” Then as the train pulled into St Albans and she prepared to depart another thought struck her

“Hang on, what if it was my daughter they could smell and they’re following me to get to her because she’s some kind of ‘chosen one’ who is destined to do miraculous things” a wave of fierce protectiveness rose up in her and subsided just as quickly. “Actually, if they could help her to meet her potential then so long as I get to be involved would it really matter if it’s for the good of the world?” she mused to herself, turning the idea around. Punching the call button for the lift she finally shook her shoulders and as the doors closed behind her she consigned such thoughts to the ether and returned to the world in which the car containing the family she loved would soon be arriving to transport her home.