Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Filling in the blanks... (part 1 of 5)

You'll have to bear with me as I try and recollect all my thoughts, experiences and memories from my Scandi trip. Man, there is so much I want to type. So many places I visited and people I met that I want to tell you about I am struggling to find a place to start. So I will start at the beginning and to understand the beginning you need to understand my state of mind. And to understand that, you need to know the bigger picture ... This photo is of Kay (my teaching assistant) and me at Book Week. The teacher's theme was Dalmatians. I had an advantage of living with the world's most Dalmatian obsessed person, so it was easy for me. There is a jacket that goes with my outfit too.

I ended my English 2006/07 school year on a bittersweet note. The sweet part - I had a fabulous time teaching the Year 1 class and learnt heaps about the curriculum and planning process which was the main professional reason for me moving to England. The staff at the school were lovely and I am really pleased to say that I will keep in contact with quite a few of them, especially Shannon, Karen, Mary and Kay. My kids were beautiful souls who, whilst they will never match my awesome St Martin's kiddies, brought me many laughs and smiles (and a strange trip to Birdworld). The bitter part - When I went for my initial interview with the headteacher he said that I should treat the term's supply work as a trial for a full time temp job in the 2007/08 academic year as they would have two vacancies. He said that if I could meet the goals he set then there would be no reason why I wouldn't be asked back next year. So I started work, redid all the things that he said were a problem with my planning and programming and tried to make sure that I was on top of all of the special classroom requirements he set for me. A good example of what it was like is that I was reprimanded for having too many bibles on the prayer table at one point. At this time I begun to suspect that something wasn't right. However, with the support of Shannon and Kay we kept going. I got in my weekly program review saying thanks for trying really hard and he appreciated me going the extra mile so to speak. Then at about 3 weeks before school ended, just after I had written all of the reports, I noticed some young women sitting in the foyer of the school looking spiffy in their best duds. Didn't think much of it until I was called into the H/T's office and told that there was no longer a position available for me for 2007/08 even though I had fulfilled all of the requirements he had set for me because he wanted to "restructure" his teaching team to include an early years teacher. My reply was that I understood but that I would like the opportunity to apply because I have and Early Years major. This was met with the response "No you don't". He maintained that he didn't know even though we had discussed it in my initial interview. But I bet you've guessed who those well dressed women were by now huh? Long story short, he had already filled the position before telling me. From that point on he made teaching there an even more difficult task. My favourite point was on the last day when, in front of the whole school at mass, he stood up on the altar in church and made me be the representative of the teaching staff in the ceremony right before announcing to everyone that I had fulfilled all his set requirements and it was a shame I couldn't stay. It was an excrutiatingly embarassing moment.

I'm not always the most positive person, my new friend Sarah will attest to that (another story for another time). I believe in fairness over kindness. So I spent many days frustrated, angry, hurt and generally p***ed off. I couldn't believe that he had lied to me. I much prefer someone to be up front and honest. Tell me to my face is my motto. Looking back I was angry at myself for letting myself be fooled. The English school system and it's subsequent parts (teaching agencies, head teachers, local authorities, national curriculum council etc) has never been kind to anyone I know so why I thought this time would be different I don't know.

Anyways, when school ended I was emotional jelly. I needed a change. Which brings me to part two...

I applied for a change of pace. I applied for two jobs with the London Fire Brigade. I was over teaching and over being treated like dirt. With massive help from the magnificent Andrew Veitch and my brother, I wrote my applications for the jobs. I was really surprised to get an interview for not one, but both. To be accepted to the London Fire Brigade you need to go through a 4 step interview process. The first one is the application. That is a task and a half and involves providing a lot of evidence on what skills you have. The second is a written formal exam. The third is a presentation that you have to give to a panel on a subject of their choice (complete with PowerPoint slides) and the fourth is the actual interview itself. I like interviews. I am good at the face to face stuff but even this was daunting to me. One of my written exams was 2 hours long. In one interview I was asked 37 questions. It was a tough process. Had to laugh when I realised half way through one of the interviews that the buttons on my pants were undone! I reckon it was God telling me this wasn't for me.

During the exam of my last interview I realised that I didn't want these jobs. I wanted the jobs, but not here. I wanted it at home in Australia where I knew the government legislation and other governing bodies. Looking back I probably could have just stood up, thanked them and withdrawn my application. Ah well. When I found out I didn't get the jobs (one I was under qualified for and the other had a problem with my VISA for 2009) a huge wave of relief washed over me. I was actually happy. Would you believe it? Ha! How's that! I might not have got the jobs but I got something else - my passion and drive back.

Which brings me to Scandinavia. I picked the trip because it left the day of my interview so I could be in London for my interview and still fly out that night to Copenhagen. Strange how things make you choose a certain path. Being on that trip has changed my life. Now is that dramatic or what? :)

Since this entry is a million miles too long already I'll stop here. Tomorrow I will write about Copenhagen, complete with pictures.

The pictures in this blog (after the one of Kay and me) are of what my classroom looked like. The first three are from my first day there. Please keep in mind that this was at the beginning of the last term. For those of you who aren't in teaching, haven't seen my classroom or haven't seen other classrooms then these photos show an unusually bare classroom. The last three are of the classroom at the exhibition evening in the last week of school. Slight difference huh? I hope that this gives you a picture of what I started with and what the school ended with.

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