When you’re weary

I’m feeling inexplicably down in the dumps lately. I shouldn’t be, I mean what have I got to complain about? I’m fortunate enough to have parents who can (and will) support me, at the age of 31, while I re-train so I can get a ‘proper’ job. I’ve got a lovely flat, that I own and can afford to live in. I’ve got lots of friends – admittedly I’ve not seen many of my ‘3D’ friends for a while and I spend a lot of time socialising with my virtual Twitter friends, but I see them in real life too. I’ve only got 8 teaching days left in school until the Christmas holidays when I’m going to London for a week to stay with my brother and his wife and see loads of great comedy, and it’s Christmas soon and I get to see my Mum & Dad and I like Christmas….

And yet, still I’m miserable.

It’s probably something to do with being ill last week – I had quite a mild cold but just felt unbelievably tired (and I still do). So much so that I had three days off school, and then sat at home feeling guilty about it and not doing anything. I only left my flat twice between coming home from school on Tuesday afternoon and going back this morning, and both of those were to go to the supermarket. I felt like I was turning into my Grandma, who always used to say she ‘never saw a soul’ between my Mum’s visits. I’m grateful for all my Twitter friends because without them I really wouldn’t have spoken to anyone – well, apart from the man from E-on who came knocking on the door to try and make me change electricity suppliers.

The other thing is that I’ve got loads of university work hanging over my head. I’ve got a 3500 word assignment due in the first week of January that I’ve not even started. I need to do some ‘reading’ for it which means trying to squeeze in a trip to the uni library in Glasgow and I’m just not really sure where to start. I had my assessed lesson at school last week (where my university tutor came to observe me teaching and grade me) which I passed fine. All my placement up to that point had really been gearing up to that one lesson, and once it was done I let my body give in to the illness I’d been fighting, and also just seemed to lose motivation. And because I’ve generally been feeling a bit rubbish I’ve been having another small crisis of confidence in my decision to do this teaching thing in the first place.

Maybe this is ‘stress’ – that seemingly middle-class affliction that I’ve always mocked people for having.

Anyway, I just wish I felt a bit more normal again and could get my mojo back – whatever that may be. I must be feeling down because I even let Michael Legge’s teasing get to me in the Precious Little podcast tonight. I had recorded a couple of stupid jingle things on my ukulele – and I know they were rubbish because I’m not very good at it and I can’t sing – but I actually started crying when Michael made fun of them on the podcast. Mostly, just in that ‘I’m embarrassed and annoyed at you, and because I’m feeling a bit down anyway I’m going to cry’ kind of way, but there’s no need for that really. I should have expected it, and I shouldn’t have sent them in if I didn’t want them to play them (and it was pretty much a given that they would take the piss) but it still really upset me.

So, this has been a really uplifting post hasn’t it? Sorry about that. It’s really not like me. Writing this has helped a bit though. And now I just need to get through the next 10 days then I’ve got a week of fun ahead when I’m going to forget about school for a week (even though I should clearly be working on my assignment) and with a bit of luck I might run into Michael Legge and I can punch him really hard.

Normal service will resume shortly (I hope).

Will they ever learn?

I am now half way through my first 6 week teaching practice. It’s going pretty well all things considered. I’ve still got a lot to learn of course but I’ve not made a bad start. I really need to work on remembering my French too – although I did it to degree level, a lot of my knowledge came from living and working there for 6 years on and off. Unfortunately, learning your French from potty-mouthed, middle-aged French ladies who clean mobile homes for a living isn’t the best starting point when trying to teach reflexive verbs to bored thirteen year olds in the last period of a Friday afternoon! Luckily, I had been left on my own and the class teacher wasn’t there to see me slowly lose the attention of each pupil one by one. In the grand scheme of things though that is by no means the worst that can happen. 

Now, I know there were naughty kids when I was at school; one boy in my year got expelled and came back into school armed with a cricket bat to seek his revenge on the head teacher, but I think being in the top set for every subject probably shielded me from the worst of the behaviour in school.  There are, of course, still some lovely, hardworking, well behaved children in school, but the bad behaviour just seems to be getting worse. Just today, a twelve year old boy in one of my classes told the teacher she was a ‘fucking twat’ and when told he would be getting lines as a punishment shouted at the top of his voice ‘do I give two shits?’. When given the lines he screwed them up saying there was ‘no fucking chance’ he’d be doing them, then proceeded to go outside and set fire to the piece of paper in full view of the French classroom windows. This pupil is so badly behaved that he goes to the dedicated ‘Behaviour Support Unit’ for some classes where he cannot behave in the mainstream classroom. He also has a ‘flexible timetable’ which means he doesn’t have to come to school in until period 2 because he is basically too tired/grumpy/lazy to get into school for the first period of the day. In an other class, an 11 year old boy refused point blank to take his coat off. When asked to go outside he refused some more and eventually the head of department had to come and (almost forcibly) remove him from the classroom at which point he just disappeared for the rest of the period. 

The school I am currently doing my teaching practice in has, as I mentioned, a dedicated ‘Behaviour Support Unit’ because education these days is all about inclusion. Which means instead of excluding pupils for persistent or serious bad behaviour there is provision for them in a mainstream school, either by taking them out of classes and into the support centre where they receive one on one attention, or by having behaviour support assistants in the classroom. In a lot of ways I agree with this and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to deal with some of these kids with out the presence of the behaviour support assistants. However, I also have a bit of a lingering doubt that by giving these kids flexible timetables where they either start later, or finish earlier (or sometimes both) than the other pupils we are almost rewarding their bad behaviour.

It’s certainly a tricky area, and one that I know even experienced teachers struggle with. It’s certainly an area in which I still have an awful lot to learn. It seems one of the big keys to this is providing lessons and activities that are interesting and engaging for the pupils, and pitched at the right level. If something is too hard, or too easy then the kids will just switch off and start messing around. On the plus side, I did have some success today with the bottom set of second years that I teach. I invented a sort of noughts and crosses game with pictures of different activities to match up to the written French on a grid. The kids seem to really enjoy it and I even heard lots of French being spoken. So, sometimes it does work. And it’s those moments that make you perservere and carry on, and try and think of more activities that will have the same effect.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the teaching so far. I have a lot of work to do, what with lesson planning, creating resources and I’ve barely looked at all the stuff I have to do for university and the 3,500 word assignment due in just after Christmas (gulp!). So it’s looking like I did make the right decision after all, despite my early pre-show nerves.

We Need Answers

You may remember (well you might if I had ever blogged about it!) that last month I went  to a recording of We Need Answers; the quiz show based on text answering service AQA, hosted by Mark Watson with Tim Key and Alex Horne.

Well, the show is going to be on BBC4 soon and the trailer is showing now. And I’m on it. For a split second, which I have captured for posterity here.

I’m looking forward to seeing the actual episode now. We were at the one with Martin Offiah and Radio 4’s Jenny Murray.

I tweet, you tweet, he tweets

My thoughts have been provoked lately, specifically by a blog by Nicola Woolhouse about social networking in general and Twitter in particular. Nic blogged about what the consequences of our online interactions maybe and how those actions and interactions can affect others without our even realising it. Twitter is used by millions of people for many different reasons, but by its very nature Twitter is very much about the ‘look at me’ attitude of today. However, Twitter is increasingly also being used as a means of keeping up with current affairs. This can be a great tool and by following the right people it’s a fantastic way of getting the latest on news stories and often an alternative view to that which is being covered in the mainstream media. But this can also be where the problems start.

Take today for instance – this morning a news story spread like wildfire on Twitter. It was about a man called Paul Clarke who said he found a gun in his garden, he then inexplicably kept it over night before calling the police to say he was coming into the police station (although not telling them why), before turning up at the station with a sawn-off shotgun and ammunition in a bin bag – where he was promptly arrested for possession of a firearm without a licence. Mr Clarke has been convicted and is awaiting sentencing, where he may face being handed the minimum sentence for this offence, of a five year jail sentence.  The story was reported in Surrey Today here and picked up by several bloggers, including Constantly Furious . When a link to this blog was retweeted by Graham Linehan (@Glinner) the outrage really started to spread and a twitter mob quickly formed. On the face of it this looked like a massive miscarriage of justice – a man doing his ‘civic duty’ and handing in a shotgun to the police is now facing a jail term. However, many people, including the lawyer-cum-blogger Jack of Kent (who is often the voice of reason on Twitter) quickly put forward some counter-arguments to try and calm rather than fan the flames of the baying crowds. Yes, it seems ludicrous that if the facts of the story are as they have been reported then surely there is no way Paul Clarke should be facing a jail sentence. However, there are many questions that haven’t been answered – why did he not call the police immediately and get them to collect the gun? Why did he wait until the following day before taking the gun to the police station? When he did call the police why did he not tell them he was bringing the gun in? And if his story is true, why did the CPS choose to prosecute?

The problem with Twitter is that a ‘mob’ can quickly form. All it takes is one celebrity with a lot of followers (Graham Linehan has over 34,000) to tweet or retweet something for it to be blindly retweeted over and over again with out anyone bothering to check out the story for themselves.  Even when, within a couple of hours of his original post, Linehan started tweeting links to Jack of Kent and others, people were still retweeting the original post with no qualification. I don’t mean to pick on Linehan in particular here, there were several other celebrities guilty of the same ‘tweet now, think later’ attitude. This tendency towards a ‘mob mentality’ was covered in an excellent blog from Paul Bailey after the Jan Moir Daily Mail and Trafigura episodes in October. It’s very easy to take everything at face value, particularly when it comes from a source whose opinions you value and respect. The lesson here surely is, think before you tweet and do your research!

I am also finding I am thinking a bit more about what I tweet since I have started on my teacher training course. As I commented on Nic’s blog, I am more aware that my personal and professional lives are now inexorably linked. I am concerned that I need to be more wary of what I say online – but should this really be necessary? Should I be worried about a pupil or a parent perhaps stumbling upon my Twitter account (or this blog for that matter)? What would the professional consequences be for me if they did, and found something inappropriate? Not that I ever post anything especially controversial, but there’s a fair amount of swearing, and even the recent comments on the Precious Little podcast, although said in jest and taken in the spirit they were intended by me, may cause offence or seem inappropriate if they were heard by a parent or a potential employer.

Nic made the point that many people aren’t the same as they are in real life as they are when posting online, whether on Twitter or Facebook or some other social networking site or forum. We nearly all hold something of ourselves back, or even go in the other direction and are more outgoing and open online. I think I am pretty much myself online, a view which has been confirmed by some of those people who I met online before meeting in real life. I do self-censor what I write on Facebook, mostly because my Mum is on Facebook so I would never post anything I wouldn’t be happy for her to read. Twitter is a different matter and I think I do say pretty much whatever I like. I rarely tweet (or blog for that matter)  if I’m feeling down (although that happens very rarely anyway) although I did make an exception a couple of weeks ago when I blogged about how scared I was before my first solo teaching. And I got an enormous amount of support from people on Twitter, some of whom I knew and some I didn’t. I do try and offer support to others where I can but there are a few people on Twitter who spend so much time moaning I tend to mostly ignore them – it’s a bit like the boy who cried wolf.

Despite all this and my increasing concern that my new career is going to leave me with no choice but to limit my online activity I am a huge fan of Twitter. In the last year, without Twitter, I would never have made so many friends who I then met up with in real life. I wouldn’t have had the courage to approach so many comedians during the Edinburgh Fringe had I not ‘spoken’ to them online before had. I wouldn’t be half as aware of the news and current events as I am now. And I wouldn’t have so much fun listening to the Precious Little podcast – which has now become a weekly event where I listen with my friends around the world and we tweet along together.

This post hasn’t been very coherent and I’m not really sure what my point is but I hope that perhaps it can make a few more people think for a minute about what their online presence says about them, just like the blogs of the others I have mentioned here did for me.

All change

Welcome to my shiny new blog. I can’t promise the content will be any better but doesn’t it look pretty?
It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks for me. As previously mentioned I’m on placement in school at the moment. With two weeks done I’m already a third of the way through and it’s going really well. I’m really enjoying the teaching, despite having some pretty ‘challenging’ behaviour to deal with. There’s a lot of work to do what with lesson planning and creating resources, and I’ve not even started on the work I have to do for university but I’ll get there.
Last weekend I was in Glasgow where I met up with Michael Legge who was in town gigging at Jongleurs. After hitting him as punishment for the lies and vicious rumours he has been spreading about me on the Precious Little podcast, we went to see Terry Gilliam’s latest film ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ (or ‘The Awful Balloon of Captain Twat’as Michael insisted on calling it). I really enjoyed it despite the lack of plot and complete mentalness of the whole thing.
Michael was doing two shows at Jongleurs and since I wasn’t planning on staying out I went along to the early show. Paul Sinha was also on the bill, which could have proved very awkward considering the last contact I’d had with him had been apologising for calling him a dick on this very blog. As it turned out, it was all fine and Paul was very lovely. I had a couple of pints during the show and, with little persuasion from my inner idiot required I decided to get a room at the Holiday Inn across the road where Michael and Paul were staying. I don’t understand why anyone would ever pay full price for a hotel room. The rack rate (which you would pay if you just walked up to the desk and asked for a room) was £120. I phoned Holiday Inn reservations to see if there were any rooms at the Holiday Inn Express next door but as it was full I was offered room only in the Holiday Inn for £99. When I asked if that was the best rate they could give me I was miraculously offered bed and breakfast for £60! Crazy. And then when I checked in I was given the opportunity to upgrade to the penthouse for a mere £30. I kind of wish I had now.
Anyway, after a bit of X Factor I went back to Jongleurs for the late show. Michael was excellent as compere as always and I was very pleased he treated me to the Newcastle story – which he has sworn on several occasions that he isn’t going to do again. I’m glad he did though because it never fails to make me laugh. I really enjoyed Paul’s set too but the headliner the ‘outrageous’ Mandy Knight wasn’t really my cup of tea. She kept calling the audience members poppet and her whole stage persona just grated on me. The opening act Des Sharples had some good bits but I think the audience weren’t really going for him (possibly something to do with his strong Manchester accent). I like him though – mostly because he shared his chicken and chips with me and I’d only eaten a bowl of Cheerios and some popcorn all day. After the gig we stayed and had some more drinks at the bar. When some blokes from the audience came over to say hi and buy the comics a drink, I got one too just for being with them. I could get used to that I reckon. Remarkably I wasn’t too hungover the next day – although I missed Michael and Paul who had left early for their flight back to London. I even managed to get up in time for breakfast, which was served until a very civilised 11am.
This last week has been even busier; on Tuesday I went to see Eddie Izzard at the SECC with my friend Claire. I’ve wanted to see Eddie live for a long time. I hate the SECC though, it just has no atmosphere at all. I was a bit disappointed with the whole night unfortunately. It didn’t help that in the first half a drunk couple were sat next to us who kept on talking all the way through the show, explaining the gags to each other. We managed to move seats away from them at the interval which did improve things but apart from the first 10 minutes, which were excellent, I just felt the whole show was a bit lazy. There were lots of ideas that Eddie has used before and he seemed to spend a lot of time just being ‘Eddie Izzard’ without really doing any material. It probably didn’t help that I was really tired, and I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it but I was just a little bit disappointed. Shame really. The gig was running late and by the time we’d got out of the car park and driven back from Glasgow it was after midnight. And I still had one lesson to sort out for the next day. I was hoping it wouldn’t take long but ended up being up until quarter to three! I never knew I could function on 4 hours sleep.
Due to some pretty bad planning I was out again on Thursday night seeing We Will Rock You (the Queen musical) in Edinburgh we Claire and some people from my old work. I used to be a really big musical theatre fan (and I still am to a degree) but it’s been somewhat taken over by comedy in the last 12 months so I really wasn’t that excited about seeing the show. I’ve seen it before and I was in an amateur production in 2007 which was brilliant fun, but I think this has spoiled the show a bit for me now as seeing someone else do it will never be as much fun as being in it myself. There were some really good performances and I did enjoy the show but I just wasn’t blown away like I would have been once upon a time.
To round off my week of excitement I was in Edinburgh again last night, this time to see my friend Tiernan Douieb at The Stand comedy club. I also met up with one of my Tim Minchin/Twitter friends, Kate, who had been on holiday in Scotland all week. The gig was great. Tiernan’s set was great as I have come to expect and I really liked the compere, Joe Heenan, who I have seen before. Irish comedian Andrew Stanley was really good too, as was the closing set by Simon Munnery. The only low point was the set from Ailsa Johnston who is a new, and unfortunately not at all funny, comedian. Still, 3 good acts out of 4 ain’t bad. We got to hang out with Tiernan for a bit after which was cool, before heading back to the Travelodge we were staying in to be pleasantly surprised by the bar still being open. So a great end to an action packed week.

I was planning on doing lots of work today but all I’ve done is download some interactive whiteboard software that I need for school, and finish moving this blog from its old home on Vox. Ah well, I’ve got the rest of the evening and tomorrow to get everything done. I’ve even got some homework to mark for the first years. It’s like I’m actually a proper teacher!

Worry for nothing

So, errm, yeah. It wasn’t that bad. I actually enjoyed teaching on my own. I even dealt with bottom set, unruly second years today and did pretty well at it if I say so myself! I do need to improve my evening time management though. I can’t cope on six hours sleep a night for very long.
That’s all. Panic over. Stand down troops. As you were.

(P.S Massive thanks to everyone on Twitter who, despite half of them having never met me, were wonderfully supportive after my last blog)

The Fear

I’ve just realised I’m fucking terrified. This has been brought on by the fact that I have to do my first solo teaching tomorrow. They’re only 12 year olds but they can bit pretty scary. I think mostly I’m scared in case I’m no good at it. It’s a long time since I properly used my French and I’m scared of making mistakes. I’m not used to not being good at stuff; when I was at school I was pretty much good at everything. I got less good at stuff as I progressed in my education but no-one read my university essays except me and my tutor so it didn’t really matter that much. If I fuck this up there will be an actual teacher and 30 kids there to witness my failure.
On top of this I’ve got so much work to do for my course and I don’t really know where to start. Well, that’s not quite true; I’m going to start with a list just as soon as I’ve finished writing this. And I bought some new stationery today, surely that will help?
Mostly, I’m just fucking terrified that I’ve made a huge mistake in embarking on this teaching lark in the first place. I’ve never made a serious career decision before. I’ve pretty much just drifted along into whatever seemed the easiest at the time. And now I’ve given up a (admittedly boring, and not very well paid) job, my Dad has invested a chunk of his savings in my life (well, he’s been doing that my whole life), and I’m scared that I’ve committed to do something for the rest of my life that I’m not even sure I want to do for the next six weeks.
I’m fairly sure this is just pre-show nerves as it were and once I actually start doing it I’ll be OK. This isn’t really like me. I usually give the impression of being sure of myself and in control but just now I don’t feel like that at all. One of the reasons I left my old job in the holiday industry three years ago was because I often felt an underlying sense of impending doom. And now that feeling is back and I don’t like it one tiny bit.
I’ve been so busy lately, and been having so much fun enjoying comedy adventures that I think I’d just pushed all this stuff down in the hope it would go away. And now there’s no comedy to distract me it’s coming bubbling back to the surface like those hot mud pool things that sort of burp and splutter their sulphurous gases out into the open.

Sorry. This is all a bit depressing. I hope for some improvement soon.