Tag Archives: Miss Teacher

You Rule

Good morning and welcome to the Birthday Post. Every year I write on my birthday. I started this blog when I was 39 and went through all the agonies, fear and ultimate satisfaction of turning 40 on these pages. Today I am 42 and that looks a lot older when you see it up there on the screen than it really feels.

Despite Handsome Husband being so far away I am still being made to feel special on this birthday by the lovely Trooper and Princess who laid a trail of mini happy birthday cards leading from my bed room to a balloon adorned dining room this morning. There I was presented with a gorgeous present that I had picked out myself and presented to them for wrapping; it is a butter soft brown leather clutch bag with African beading design, and handmade cards. I was also shown the Chocolate Cheese cake that we are going to eat later. It was made by them while I was out last night and they are thrilled to bits with their inventiveness and prowess about the kitchen.

So I am a lucky girl, and birthdays are meant to be celebrated no matter the number. I am the Fairy Godmother of Birthdays, according to my friends, they cannot go by unnoticed.

In other news we celebrated Athletics this week at school and it was a most excellent display of school spirit and athletic ability. Lots of running, leaping, throwing and jumping. I managed to get out of the Teacher’s Race, not having enjoyed the mirth that followed my slow sprint around the track last year. I found some PE dept volunteers who were more than happy to give us a fair chance of winning. This photo sums up the day. I like both the message and the medium.

Yes: You Rule and it is so much better said with a Sharpie on a bare leg.

5 Comments

Filed under I have two girls, Miss Teacher

Whose world I am living in anyway?

Handsome Husband has left. He left his three sad girls in a Kampala house on a rainy day and flew off into the skies over to a country that is up in arms, cross, angry and full of hatred, fear and the expectation of change. I have no opinion on the troubles in Bahrain, I am not equipped to judge. I do know one thing though, a visit to Uganda would throw some perspective into the mix. They might realize that their lives aren’t that bad, that protesting and halting an economy might damage the good they don’t know they have. Just a thought.

So since I am here and he is there I am going to focus on what I am here to do. Teach. After all I am only staying here, husbandless for the next three months, honing my survivior skills, selling a car, lovely handmade and personally designed furniture ( I thought I was staying longer so I invested….) so that my self and my two girls may finish up the school year.

So time for a Miss Teacher post.

Look what delightful reading matter I am teaching, all at the same time. It is a wonder I don’t get very confused or at least have some very odd dreams.

Madame Bovary

Midsummer’s Night Dream

Much Ado About Nothing

Romeo and Juliet

Medea

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Quite the mixed bag, I say. And when I am not swimming in the seas of Alabama, Rouen, Athens or Verona I have my head stuck in the sand and the sand is all full of Mad Men. I am actually living many worlds, my days are spent with the above, I particularly like having conversations in my head with Emma, ( come on pull yourself together! ) or Hero ( don’t take him back! He called you a “stale!”) or Medea ( you go girl! He ripped you off! He ripped out your heart!) or Romeo ( Don’t do it! Don’t kill Tybalt it won’t end well!) or young Maya ( sit up straight and be quiet. It will all be fine in the end.)

My nights are spent with Don Draper.

I live in many a world.

1 Comment

Filed under Miss Teacher

To be a boy

Valentine’s Day in Camp Hormone and we are letting the kids dress in pink and red. More importantly we are trying to encourage no ‘dissing’ for at least one day.

“One day.” I asked. “ Just give me one day of no dissing, in the name of love can we try one day?”

“ I am not sure that will be possible, Miss.”

“ Why?!” I am dumbfounded. Am I asking the impossible?

Apparently To Diss is simply part of the fabric of being a teenage boy. It is strangely their means of communication. Putting each other down is what they do. I asked if they realize how much it can hurt and they replied that they all know it is in jest. But I know that not to be true. There are the brave ones who brush it off yet go home, hurt and live in silent anger at the cruel words they hear all day. Others defend themselves by dissing back. And worst of all what do they say? What is the most popular insult? It is to laugh at they way someone looks, their acne, their size, their weight, their hair.

It distresses me no end. If only it could stop, for one day. The ones that refused my challenge were not even the greatest dissers in the class. They were the ones who needed to have words at their disposal,  as their weapons to fight back. No one likes it but still they persist.

It is so hard to be a teenage boy. The bravado they need to wear atop of their uniforms all day must grow weak at times. They can never be vulnerable, must always be on guard, ready to be judged, watched and insulted. Some really don’t care. Their self confidence bubbles over, yet these are the rare few.

Many times people think of the stresses of being a girl, the pressures and fears, the struggles; being a boy is just as hard. And often they don’t have friends to talk to in the same way as girls do, they often can’t share what it really feels like to be a boy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Miss Teacher

A week in the life of 3limes

My week in review:

Let’s start at the end. Saturday morning is always the same. There is something comforting about a routine that doesn’t change whether it be Montreal, Trinidad or Uganda. I wake up, drink coffee and read the on line edition of the FT.  This is my key hole into the week’s events as they unfolded in the arts or through the eyes of my favourite columnists. No matter where I am I can still read about Susie Boyt’s week, Tyler Brule’s travels, Simon Schama’s opinions and the reviews of all the films and books that will never come here. It keeps me up to date, keeps in me in the loop, keeps me inspired and sometimes keeps me frustrated. Keeping up with the Great Shiny West through the internets.

Friday was ‘dress up as a book character’ day at school, topping off our annual book week. I wanted to please/surprise my IB class so I dressed in top to toe white, removed all my jewelry and floated into class like a spirit. Who was I? Clara from the House of Spirits, our current book. They all got it, thank God, so I must be doing something right. Friday also saw Trooper win best short story in the annual competition despite the fact that her story was about a serial killer. Should I be worried or just curb her current fascination with all things Horror?

Thursday I went to another school in Kampala to see a fine production of The Merchant of Venice. Sadly only a few students accompanied us on the small field trip but I am proud of those who did since any chance to see Shakespeare performed is a chance worth taking. And it must be so hard to pull themselves away from a night of Facebook and tv. I was impressed by some of the young actors performing and it was pleasant to sit on the grass and hear Shakespeare’s words ring out in a Kampala night.

Wednesday I devoted an entire class of Argumentative writing to the revolution in Egypt. The question I posed was thus: Is Revolution a necessary means of change?” It was one of the best classes taught in some time. The students lapped it all up, finally thinking about revolution, what it is, what it means and after some debate and stimulating conversation they came to the conclusion that no great change could arise without bloodshed. That class was what teaching is all about.

Tuesday was a happy day as this little blog was nominated for a Bloggie! Best Blog in Africa! Happy smiles all round. Vote here if you haven’t!  I also hosted a small dinner party on Tuesday and cooked delicious fish cakes and a Mexican Chocolate cake. Pat on the back for Tuesday please.

Monday.  Mondays are hard. It is a full spread of teaching, no breaks at all, but this Monday introduced a bit of sunshine and fun into the proceedings. As the teacher at the helm of Student Council I proposed a spot of fun, a humourous auction to choose a lunch date who would provide a picnic. We raised a lot of money, there were a great many smiling faces and there were many students who had lunch with people they didn’t know that well. School spirit abounded and that is what I am all about. Bring on the Spirit! And lunch with yours truly went for a pretty sum so that all turned out for the best. My egg salad pita sandwiches were much appreciated. Although the Toblerone was stale. Oh, well.

I have no idea what I did last Sunday. My brain doesn’t work that far back. So we shall stop there. Overall a good week, don’t you think?

5 Comments

Filed under Miss Teacher

The classroom is a safer place, perhaps.

So now I have written my four posts about the Kenayapalooza Road trip that was, and having been back for two weeks now and back at school for one it is starting to feel like it all happened some time ago. As a family we have decided that it will be some time before we embark on any long drives and have equally agreed on the necessity to get back to the beach ASAP ( by plane this time.)

I have been so fortunate to have crossed Kenya and seen what a diverse and beautiful country it is. I really adored Kenya, the people, the landscape the stunning vistas. It has a very different feel to Uganda; one I am still trying to put my finger on. Partly it holds the colonial influence of the British in a way that Uganda never has. There are the towns that still have some old world charm, all the little shops by the road side have taken the time and care to paint signs and colourfully announce their existence. There is less rubbish strewn by the side of the road, the roads are smooth and mainly pot hole free, things work efficiently, I spotted more than one post office. It is a place I’d like to go back to, a weekend in Nairobi would be especially sweet.

What never fails to amaze me is the variety of crazy things seen on the road. The trucks that bend under their ridiculous load; threatening to topple over us as we overtake. The buses that are painted in honour of a foot ball star or Jesus Christ, the sheepskin rugs and juicy carrots sold to happy passersby, the random street signs, the donkeys pulling a load seemingly impossible to manage. It is never dull, always colourful, often funny, sometimes terrifying.

 

How many chairs can you fit on a bicycle?

Do you think you could fit one more on top?

Please note that some of the sand bags had fallen off the back. A case of overly optimistic loading.

Hello Jesus!

Princess and the Pea?

Doing the Matoke Push and Pull.

 

The view is different now. I am once again looking at the bowed heads of students scratching out a story, or the raised hands of children eager to have a turn. The classroom might be a safer place but as I help these kids get ready for exams, be ready and set for what comes next I jump over each hurdle, one at a time. It is a crazy road out there; I’m hiding inside Camp Hormone for a while.

1 Comment

Filed under Miss Teacher, Travel

Living in a mini United Nations with maple syrup and Masai Warriors.

Poor 3limes has seen the brunt of my negative energy recently. I cannot display roses and smiles when living here is not always so; however this week things seem a little rosier.

So this little fish tried yoga and this little fish did indeed bite. The class did not feel anything like exercise despite the fact that my body was stretched and pulled more than it has ever been. Unlike those painful minutes on the treadmill wondering how much longer I would need to endure the pain and boredom, I never once wanted the class to end. There were moments when it hurt and I sweated and felt my heart beat, something that doesn’t often happen in my day to day life between shoebox and school, but it was enjoyable and felt so so good.

Plus the class is run by a most extraordinary woman with a wise, open and gentle presence and her home was up high on a hill with a view and a lush garden. There were candles and flowers and everything was quiet and peaceful and calm. I can’t wait to go back.

This morning Primary celebrated International day with a parade of nations around the big field. I have no idea why secondary was not included in this amazing event, but if I have anything to do with it, they will be there next year.

Despite missing the parade most of my students came dressed in a spectacular array of traditional costumes or bearing the colours of their flag. Within the four walls of my classroom I have been transported to India, Egypt, Kenya, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Football shirts from Ireland, England and Scotland have been displayed and one or two Masai warriors came by to say hello. International day reminds us all of the great advantage of teaching and attending an International School. My daughters and my students have friends from all over the world. Each day they live life within a mini United Nations and they are taught acceptance and tolerance at every turn. Most importantly we are all educated, constantly about what each country has to offer and how no custom, practice, costume or food is better than any other. It is an education in the very best way.

Trooper, Princess and I came to school covered in red and white from tip to toe, proud of our Canadian flag. I nearly put on a  pair of blue earrings, just to feel a little British, but then I decided I felt Canadian all the way and proud. ( Habs fan anyone?)

Handsome husband is flipping pancakes in the Canadian tent and has even donated some very precious maple syrup for the event. Everyone is smiling.

This is why we live this crazy life so far from home. It takes days like this to remind me.

1 Comment

Filed under Miss Teacher

Prom Night, Kampala style.

At first I didn’t want to go to prom here. I had such fond memories of being involved with the prom in Trinidad last year and such special thoughts about the people at that prom; I thought this could only be a disappointment. I don’t know or teach any of these students, they are all much older than the kids I spend my day with and I could think of plenty of other things I would rather be doing on a Saturday night. Some teachers were having dresses made and buying tickets and getting all geared up for a fabulous night but my heart was elsewhere. Then I was asked to photograph the evening and not being one with much ability in the  saying no dept., I found myself at the Serena hotel this past Saturday night. I had to get dressed up and I wasn’t in the mood so I chose a rather casual dress with some soft bronze satin, gold shoes and a rust coloured scarf in my hair. With dangly earrings and a splash of lip gloss I found it passed for sufficiently making an effort.

I arrived grumpy, I will admit it. When I realized the lighting was all wrong, I got more grumpy. Then once I faced up to the fact that my SLR was once and truly broken and I would have to use my Leica point and shoot, I was not happy at all. I looked around for wine.

Then something happened and the prettiness and effort put into the event started to charm me. It was so different from the prom last year that my nostalgia didn’t get the better of me.  Still, I couldn’t help but  compare the Trini kids having fun with the mainly African kids having a good time. For much of the evening, between snapping pics and having the odd dance I was more than happy to sit and watch these kids interact with each other.

In Trinidad the girls were beautiful, there is no getting around the fact that the Trini’s are some of the most beautiful people in the world. And there was access to fashion there, even though some of the girls got their frocks from Florida. Here I was impressed that any one found a dress! Yes, the taste was much different but the effort was the same.

This was the first prom ever in our school and none of the students knew what to expect. Yet the girls donned frocks with a shine and sparkles and had their hair done up with flowers. Heels were worn, although for the majority it was obvious it was the first time, corsages were placed around wrists and the men ( and these boys looked like men this night) wore the sharpest suits that they could find. Many of these boys, in fact visited tailors to select material and cut. This was a big deal for these kids who had rarely, if ever, got this dressed up before. Everyone looked rather shiny and polished, as if a giant shoe brush had been rubbed over their scruffy school time looks.

Certainly, because they were dressed to the nines and all had dates, they were obsessed with having their photos taken. Like an affirmation, when standing before the black boards with blu-tacked silver stars, they were saying “these are MY friends”. Like wolves circling the chief in their pack, the boys took turn having the pics snapped with the sharpest dude in the room. Girls lined up to have photos taken with best friends and then more and more squeezed into the photo, everyone wanting to be part of that special group.

In true pack behaviour many of the dances involved all the shiny teens dancing in a circle while one after another of the coolest guys in the room displayed their dance moves in the centre. And yes, these guys could dance. Their rise to a premier position in the teen social pecking order was assured by those moves. High school would be easy for those guys.  Maybe not so for the tall, sort of shy looking guy watching from the outer ring of the circle. Or the few girls that sat at table and watched, occasionally throwing out the odd comment.

No one wanted to be the first on the dance floor,. In Trinidad no one wanted to be the last. It was a couple of girls, the ones with the shortest skirts that got up first. After a minute or two they dragged a guy up and then his friend followed. Still, until the coolest kid got up to dance, the crowd looked thin. Once he had okayed it as cool to dance, the whole room was moving.

A few girls looked longingly at the beauties, knowing how much easier their lives are. They loved to watch each other and with a mixture of lust and envy these teens found the best way to look was with a camera. Every time someone did something remotely funny or cool cameras were whipped out. I am sure that the day after at 3pm there will be over a thirty albums on Facebook called Prom 2010.

When I was a teenager film was expensive and not everyone had a camera. Our every move on the dance floor was not recorded for perusal in Facebook the next day. I think these constant flashes have created a vain teen culture, more vain than even ours was. People are self consciously recording every moment all the time and they know that these pics will be poured over and then rarely looked at again. But tomorrow when the shy girl sees how pretty she looked and how many people were standing beside her in the picture, she’ll smile. When the guys, who through some bizarre code were not allowed to smile in photos, see their ice sharp expressions, their smooth suits and the celebrity pose they struck they will feel good, knowing that just for one night, and maybe even one moment, they had it, the IT that every teen so desperately wants.

In the end I am glad I went to this prom. I think the kids had a great time and there is no happy feeling quite as great as watching a room full of people have a really good time. The spirit in our school and the bonding between these kids has increased because of this one night.

Of course what ever scandalous activity happens at the after party will probably over take the memories of the actual prom. But isn’t that the whole point of prom? No one got all dressed up just to dance in front of the teachers. What was going on, for the most part was a mating ritual and the rest of the story happens where no teachers exist.

2 Comments

Filed under Miss Teacher

Miss Teacher

I’m on a bit of a mission at work. It has long been a point of fact that I have zero tolerance for any type of bullying. This includes any of that mean talk that kids indulge in, including notes passed in class with petty slanders about the girl in the corner. I believe passionately that no child should have to suffer in silence and if more teachers made it their personal mission to stand up and say no then the frightened victims would finally have someone on their side. Too often educators turn a blind eye to the cruelty of children and teens, stating that it is “just a phase”, “I wouldn’t know what to do”, “it will pass”, “it is all part of natural selection” or God only knows what else.

 

When I was 11 and 12 and one of the only English girls at my predominantly American girl’s school in Japan, I was bullied. Rude things about me were written in soap on the bathroom wall, my pencil case was thrust down the toilet to a chorus of laughing girls and the entire time no one did anything about it. Even my own mother said at one point “ Well did you do anything to provoke them?”

 

I feel no shame in the fact that I was bullied. Occasionally I search for reasons why it was me that was relentlessly picked on and I come up with the idea that perhaps I was different from the others. I spoke with a different accent, I wasn’t allowed to wear make up or go to see movies like Endless Love or Blue Lagoon. I spoke off the cuff, tried too hard to have friends…. I have no idea what combination of facts led to me being the IT girl for those girl’s nasty behaviour. I do know that while I was pinned down at a sleep over and rubbed all over with lip sticks that stained my pajamas, that there was nothing I could do to stop it.

 

The other day in PSHE ( personal, social and health education) I combined both Year 7 ( grade 6 ) classes to discuss this very subject. I told them that I would not tolerate any unkindness of any sort and that what they might deem funny could, in fact, be very painful to the person involved. I also told them about the importance of the bystander and witness and how powerful a role that person plays in stopping the meanness. I explained that I knew how hard it was to be a snitch and tell on someone and for that reason they could, at any time, drop a note on my desk explaining anything they had seen.

 

Bullying is not rife in my school by any means. It is a small school where every one knows each other and I don’t believe that any one of my students is particularly cruel. However, things do happen as I was soon to find out. I handed out sheets of paper to all 40 students and asked them to anonymously write down anything they had seen or done. Reading these notes later made me quite sad. One boy was pushed into the gym shower where three other boys turned the tap on soaking his clothes. One person confessed to breaking into a few lockers. Someone else explained how they had passed mean notes in class. Simply the act of writing these facts down helped to make these 11 year olds realize the little cruelties they were inflicting on their classmates.

 

Since that PSHE class I now have a reputation for being a fighter for all students who feel excluded. My door is always open to any one who feels slighted and they all know that I will always be on their side. Just the other day I received  note from a sweet young girl who is certain that none of the girls in her class like her. She wrote a litany of examples of times that she was excluded or sniggered at. I will invite all the girls involved into my class room for a chat next week. Once they realize that some one is watching, someone who refuses to stand by and allow meanness to exist, maybe they will think twice.

 

I am not a fool and I know too well that girls between the ages of 11 and 15 can be extremely unkind. I also know that I cannot change this fact, but I can let the victims know that some one has their back. I will not stand by and do nothing, at the very least for those kids who have the bad luck to be the chosen targets.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Miss Teacher

Big 2009 Decisions

Back to school, back to real life. The problem with holidays is that towards the end I fear them ending. I can’t imagine ever going back to my real life and the hard routine of waking at 6 and dragging our selves through breakfast and into school. Day 2 and I am fully back in the swing. That alarm clock is evil, however.

Routine, discipline, getting out of the house, talking with other humans; these are all imperative to my sanity. The first few days of vacation are a blissful stream of hours spent doing nothing. Guilt free nothing. Three weeks later, guilt sets in and I am gnashing at the bit to get out.

On the 28th of January I am going to London to the International Teacher’s Job fair. (CIOS) I will be leaving my children with the capable handsome man I live with and my students in the hands of a sub. (They will not be happy).

The CIOS School fair takes place in a London hotel over 4 days. Interviews will be held and most applicants will be offered a job by the end of the fair.  I have picked London so I can visit family and enjoy some London culture and shopping at the same time! I have fantasies about a waiter, white table cloths and being served cold wine with a very good meal.

Out of the 102 schools attending the fair 35 are looking for English teachers and of those I would instantly rule out about 20 so here’s hoping I get an interesting offer from the other 15! The short list as it stands today is this:


Ghana (sounds amazing!)

UK (I have no IB experience so unlikely)

Paris (See above)

Amsterdam (see above)

San Francisco (would love it!)

Beijing (At first I ruled this out but then looking at the school it seems very interesting)

Jordan (not sure, maybe)

Egypt (the job is not really my profile but I would love Egypt.)

Laos (Very remote, but looks good.)

Oman (could be cool.)


Dubai (only if I really have to)

 

These are rejected:


Saudi Arabia (are you mad?)

Switzerland (snooty expensive boarding school)

Germany (not keen on living in Bavaria)

Malawi (A fundamentalist missionary school)

Ecuador (would love it but what would husband do there?)

Ukraine (too cold and Russian)

Kazakhstan (see above)


 

In case you are confused there are multiple jobs in many of the countries so the numbers do add up.

All will be revealed on February 2nd.  (I hope).

“The Future’s so bright I have to wear shades?”

Or”

I am running so fast I need to lose the heels?”

4 Comments

Filed under Family Stuff, Miss Teacher, personal

Put some fiction in that basket

The world is going to hell in a basket and I am hiding in my class room teaching Macbeth. While outside across an ocean or two the stock market is crashing, house prices are plunging and Iceland is trying to stave off bankruptcy I am immersing my students in the perils of a 12th century Scottish King. Strangely I am finding parallels.

In order to reach apodictic change the world needs to come crumbling down before it can start its steady climb back up again. It is part of the cycle of greed and respite. People need to stop buying cars and houses that they can’t afford and borrowing the hell out of banks, making other people rich. Once you jump deep into the well of consumption enough is never enough.

Macbeth who starts out tempted by the idea that being King would be grand ends up on a killing spree that no idea of hell can prevent. His greed infects him to the point that he sinks deeper into sin just to retain what he has gained, lest he think of obtaining more.  While the whole Kingdom seems to be turning against him he must safe guard his crown that was never rightfully his. And if his problems were not enough, his wife keeps telling him that he is not a “real man” and that only weak women worry about scruples and consequences.

Few 16 year old teenagers can think beyond their next algebra test or boyfriend crisis to find a link between Macbeth’s troubles and the present state of the world.  But some can. When it happens it is pure magic.

A great book or a great film can transport one out of the hell basket or drop one into a different one. Parallels can be drawn or life can be escaped but in any case hiding under my duvet with a fabulous book or sitting in a dark theatre before a celluloid screen is my absolute favorite thing to do.

I have seen two films in the last two days. Both these films made me feel like I had been dipped into a deep book. The camera took its time, pausing for long moments on a face, allowing the story to wash over us rather that pull us in and yank us back. Both these films were also desperately sad with stories of lost individuals searching for new lives to cover gently the memories that haunted them. Whether absorbed in these characters’s lives or talking about Macbeth and his choices I am reminded how important it is to turn to a fictional life to remind us that all dilemmas are really universal.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lying in bed with books, Miss Teacher