It has seriously been a long time since I have blogged anything. Sorry. To be honest, there hasn’t been much to really say?!? I’ve been swamped with schoolwork every night with my lesson planning and then on the weekends, I have been doing a lot of chilling because my brain is quite fried from the week. But, next week is the half-term holiday and I have the week off!
My good friend, Courtney, is arriving on Saturday at noon and I cannot wait to see her! I am really excited for someone from my “real” life to come here. It is kind of weird thinking about it. Honestly, I have realized that it is the people in your life who really help you construct reality in your head and when none of them are around, life feels a bit dream-like. Plus, I’ve basically lived in Fort Collins my entire adult life, so even going back to where I went to high school feels like someone else’s life that I just happen to remember. I wonder if I will feel like this about Colorado after living here for awhile? I feel like I will feel like my life here is my “real” life when someone from home comes into it! Also, Courtney makes me laugh harder than just about anyone else I’ve ever met so I can’t wait to spend a week acting ridiculous and not planning any lessons! We are going to hang around Chesham and London for a few days and then on Wednesday, we will fly to Amsterdam and then on to Brussels!
In Amsterdam, we are staying at a canal house that was built in 1607 (which, thanks to my dad, I will NEVER forget that was the year that the Jamestown colony was founded in Virginia. He also made us memorize that thromboxane receptors “down regulate” but I have no freaking clue what that actually means!). Then, in Brussels, we’ll be staying with a friend of mine from high school, Tim, whom I haven’t seen since high school! Should be REALLY fun! I’ve never been to either of those two cities and haven’t had any European adventures for a while so I am quite excited!
School has been busy busy, but because I am spending such a long time planning everything, I feel that the quality of my lessons has improved (though my social life has taken a nose dive). I have to choose one of the two because during the week, it just doesn’t seem that I can have both. I’ve started to walk to school since my fat ass can’t seem to get to the gym and at least that gives me a giant hill to hoof up every day. It does suck when it is pissing rain, but I do have a solid REI raincoat and will be purchasing a giant golf umbrella. The only time that I can guarantee that the weather will be awful is on Fridays when I have outdoor duty three different times. Literally, EVERY Friday, it is shit weather. It could be beautiful all week and then as soon as Friday hits- crap.
I feel like I am getting to know the kids better so that is really helpful and I am, on most days, figuring out how to still be “me” in the curriculum that is full of giant amounts of memorizing! The one part that I am still having a hard time with is that there are no “grades” per se on most stuff. For example, my Year 10 and 11 kids could do jack-shit for weeks but if they do okay on the GCSE exam (externally given by an exam board at the national level) then it doesn’t matter they were a total jerk-off in class and that they never did ANY of the assigned work. There is no intermittent accountability and that is really hard to manage since there are quite a few of them who literally will not do ANYTHING because they know they don’t have to if they can still pass the exam. Don’t get me wrong, I am psyched to not have to collect and grade stuff all the time, but there has to be some accountability built-in somewhere? We are supposed to give detentions for kids who do not do their homework. This works for most kids. But, for some kids, they know that it doesn’t really matter even if they don’t show up to detentions over and over again.
I have had my first one-to-one parent meeting here and have also made quite a few parent phone calls. All of the parents to whom I’ve spoken have been quite supportive and I did see some change in the kids’ behavior. Oddly enough, I’ve had to call the most Year 11 parents. These equate to sophomores in high school and I just didn’t think that I would be calling those parents the most. Today something happened in my Year 11 class that would never have happened in a middle school though…I am sure any high school teachers reading this will have some experience with situations such as this. Apparently, yesterday after school, a bunch of them went to the park and there was some sort of sex drama that occurred. Well, both the boy and the girl came to school and obviously told everyone. They are both in my first period class, as are all of their friends. So, between the girl crying and running out (twice) and the boy’s friends making lots of rude hand gestures and then everyone else asking what was going on, there was not much learning happening until one the of the senior administrators/deans came and pulled them all from class. And, he pulled them not because I called, but because the news had already traveled so quickly around the school that there was already drama/conflict resolution going on!
I have decided to start having my groceries delivered here! It is so amazing that I can shop from my computer and then one night a week, a truck pulls up and drops them off for less than $5 delivery fee!! And, because I order them from a store called Tesco, which is kind of like Target, I can order just about any other random thing to be delivered with them. I didn’t have a soup-pot and wanted to start making soups, so one was delivered! It is just nice to not have to walk home from the store with my 24-pack of diet coke cans and a huge package of toilet paper plus a week’s worth of groceries. And, because they have recipes right online, you can click on a recipe and it adds the ingredients to your cart! I have been able to actually plan a few menus a week really easily and then have all the ingredients right there! I’ve made French Onion Soup, Chicken, Rice, and Veggie Soup, and tried to make Chicken Gumbo but couldn’t really get the right kind of ingredients, so it didn’t turn out like actual gumbo. See how non-exciting my life is? I am blogging about dinner!
Hopefully, after half term, I will have something more glamorous to report! I have had some really fun weekends just hanging around Chesham though. Last Friday, I went to a stand-up comedy show at the Chesham United Football Club and it was great! They have them every month and I have been to two now. Apparently, at some point after they’ve been at CUFC, they sometimes end up on TV here in Britain. So, I may flip on my TV one night and see someone that I’ve just seen live for only 9 pounds! It is definitely weird living and teaching in the same town. Even jetting around Loveland, I never really ran into that many students. But, Chesham is about 1/3 the size of Loveland (about 20,000 people) and there are only two secondary schools in town. So, pretty much everywhere I go, I run into to students. It is somewhat helpful for that crucial relationship-building piece, but I do feel like I need to censor some of my behavior some of the time- or at least take a different route home!
And, two weekends ago, I tried driving a car here! It is a very weird feeling to be sitting on the other side of the car. The stick for the shifter is on the left side of me but the gears are all arranged in the same place. The pedals are in exactly the same positions as on left-hand drive cars, which is good, because I am not sure I could retrain my feet to think the clutch and gas pedals are in different places! I only went about 15 mph tops and was not on the road with other cars- just drove around a green in a neighborhood but it was exciting nonetheless! The turn signal (indicator, here) are on the other side of the steering wheel. I mostly just felt like the rest of the car was still actually to my right even though the door was there. I am still planning to take a driving lesson before I truly try driving here on my own. I don’t think anyone I know here wants to just turn me loose on the roads in their cars so I’ll have to take a driving lesson.
One last and VERY exciting thing to share…I have booked a ski trip to Val d’Isere, France from December 18th to the 26th! I am going with my friend Nicola. She is a Design &Technology teacher here at my school and spent two winters living and working in Val d’Isere! We are staying at a catered chalet right on the mountain that includes food and WINE and got a GREAT deal on the whole thing, including airfare. Really, in coming to live in England, the only thing I truly wanted to do tourism-wise was to ski in the Alps- talk about a dream life! That gives me something massive to look forward to after half term when Courtney leaves and I’ll be all sad (or, they would say “well-sad” here!).