Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Busy Girl

Just thought I'd update very quickly. Kathy and Derek's computer got a virus on Sunday so Derek has been working on it (he's an expert). So I've been checking email at school but keeping it short and sweet.

Speaking of email...I'm feeling neglected!!! C'mon, people, send messages! I write back!!

And mail. I got a postcard from my Grandma, and one from my bro and sis-in-law. That's Idaho and Utah. I'd love some California and Virginia to add to it. ; ) Hint, hint.

Anyway, school's going well enough. Busy, as ever. That's good, though, makes the days go by quickly. I'm going to London again this weekend. Yay! Also going out with some of the gals from work on Friday night, which will be fun.

Hate to keep this short and not very newsy, but I'm getting sleepy...almost 9:00 here. So I'll sign off for now and in the next day or two I'll update about Saturday's Burnham Carnival. It was great fun! Glad I participated.

Cheers for now,


Saturday, September 25, 2004

Ahhh, Saturday

I should be thrilled that I'm sitting at home with nothing to do. I'm sooo bored!!

I really wanted to go to London today but I have the beginnings of a cold and a cold sore (ewww) and so I decided to save my energy and go next weekend. Besides, the Burnham Carnival is happening and I've been invited to ride on a float with my 6th form kids.

Too bad it's raining (and extremely cold!) out there. Hopefully it will stop in the next coupla hours. Otherwise I'll watch from the sidelines!!

It does kinda feel good to be lazy, though. I've checked my email, had a leisurely lunch, read a magazine (cried like a baby over an ad for the RSPCA that showed a dead kitten that had been thrown against a wall at 4 weeks...horrible! When I think of my girl...). And I got to sleep in this morning, which is always nice.

I've been researching travel prices for my half-term break in October. I want to go France. Not Paris, Normandy. I want to see the D-Day beaches and the American Cemetery and towns like Caen and Carentan, where Easy Company of the 101st Screaming Eagles fought after landing behind enemy lines on D-Day. Interesting stuff.

Other than my ramblings, not much to report. I'm feeling lazy and sleepy today.

All for now!



Thursday, September 23, 2004


Well, another roll of film developed and uploaded. Yay!

To start, some more pics of lovely Burnham-on-Crouch.

King's Cross Station, London. Anyone going to Hogwarts?

The Old Vic theatre. Artistic director: One Kevin Spacey. I bought a ticket to see him on stage in March. Yay!!

Saw this sign in London, and I just thought it was funny, as I often like to tell people (and myself, to get some of this...):

That's it for now (that are of interest). More on the next roll...the cats and dogs, more of my room, and pics of my classroom at school!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Bratty Children, Wishful Thinking Cuisine, and Fighting Terriers

Sound interesting?

That was my day!

What to talk about first...okay, I'll go in order of them happening.

Bratty Children: My 2nd period class on Wednesday, as I mentioned in my previous post, is a hair-raising group. I'm talking a volatile mix of children that seriously needs to be reconsidered. Other teachers have this exact group and they are feared and loathed by all who come in contact. I'm not kidding. Today was the third time I've seen this group, and I finally got to go over my class expectations!


I dearly wish I could answer that with "Because I suddenly turned into Super Woman!" but that would be lying. I simply asked for help.

Each period there is a different Senior Management Team member on call, to assist teachers. They're not really known for always being available (*sigh*) but I specifically asked Laura (who would be on call during 2nd period) to walk by my room and help if it appeared I needed it. I showed her my class list. Her eyebrows shot up (it truly is a horrid mix of children) and she promised to pay a visit.

Before she could even visit, I sent for her. These children (they're year 9, 13-years-old) are so disruptive. I could not get one second of control in that room. So Laura showed up, shut my classroom door, and reamed them. I mean, she lit into them for their misbehaviour. Then, as she left, she said, "I'm going to stop by towards the end and if you're not giving Miss Cooper the respect she deserves, you're going to answer to me!"

I wish I could say they settled down and became beautiful children, but they did not. They were worse.

When Laura came by again, it was to find me about ready to scream (though I think I did an admirable job of hiding that from the children). This time, the reaming worked. When she left, I had the complete and utter attention of children who did not want their name put on my white board.

Third week of classes and I finally went over my expectations. We'll see how next week goes.

Thank God my other classes (Friday 5th period being the notable exception) are easy to manage!!!

Fighting Terriers: As you know by now, Kathy, my landlady, has four dogs. They're great. Very well-trained and sweet. Rosie and Tommy are rat terriers. Very cute, but lately, they've been fighting, a disturbing new trend in this house. Rosie is older and very cranky, and when Tommy plays, she gets annoyed, snaps, and they end up locking their jaws on whatever they can reach--ears, legs, etc.

When Kathy and I got home today (we left school the same time so she gave me a ride), we were dismayed to find dog hair chunks on the living room carpet, and two quivering rat terriers. Tommy has a wound on his leg, and his limping. Rosie has a wound to her ear. Kathy cleaned them up, alternately sympathetic to their pain and annoyed at their new-found tendency to fight with one another. She'll probably keep them separated when no one is home from now on. Rosie likes to sleep upstairs on her own anyway, so it looks like there will be a baby gate out each day (previously reserved for grandchildren visits).

Anyway, we've been fussing over them a bit, as they're both in some discomfort. It was absolutely horrifying what they did to each other!

Wishful Thinking Cuisine: After all of this excitement, it's only natural I needed some good ole comfort food. Namely, as close to Mexican as I can get. That's why it's called Wishful Thinking Cuisine. Because Mexican food is hard to come by this side of the pond.

My grocery order from Tesco (see yesterday's blog update--hey, two days in a row, I'm getting better!!) came this evening, and I excitedly dug in to my enchilada sauce, sour cream, and tortillas. I made chicken enchilada casserole, layering (lasanga-style) the sauce, cheddar cheese, onion, bell pepper, spinach (for the nutrients!), chicken, tortillas, sour cream, and olives. After baking it, I added ricotta cheese (ran out of cheddar) and grean onion to the top and stuck it in the oven for 5 more minutes.

Delicious! And it will last for days. No cooking for Meg!

But it's not truly Mexican food. I'm kind of missing that. But it's close enough for now.

In Conclusion: Today has been a good day (bratty children and fighting terriers aside) and I'm feeling better than I was yesterday. I was a bit homesick all day and called Mom and Dad last night. When we hung up, I got a bit teary. So I put in my "break open in case of emergencies--general" CD from Heather and the other choir gals, brought out my infamous scrapbook (I knew that thing would do the job!) and hugged Harry Bear. Harry Bear is an absolutely adorable, extremely huggable, £5 teddy bear I found at Woolworth's a couple weeks (a fortnight!) ago. Couldn't resist him. Sometimes you just need to hug something. His name is Harry because he's hairy. And Harry Bear has a nice ring. And Sarah and Heather can stop laughing--the name has nothing to do with Harry Potter!

Well, I'm exhausted...it's almost bedtime!

Tomorrow is all year 7 classes (11-year-olds). Yay!



Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Happiness is...

Buying groceries online after a loooooooooong day. : )

Truly a long day.

My school is in Special Measures. In other words, "shape up or the senior staff must ship out." Yeah. It's not a good thing.

It's not the fault of our current head teacher, David. He's only been here since January, and he inherited this school's mess. Previous heads have not done as well as David (thankfully) seems to be doing.

Anyway, it's been two days of inspections. Three government employees came to our school to make sure we're doing everything we should.

The good news? They think we'll work our way out of specail measures by the Summer term.

The bad news? Everyone's been so freakin' stressed! Not I, really. I refused to get my blood pressure up over something I have no control over. But the stress and hyperactivity of others has worn off on me, and it's quite wearing.

So it's been a hectic and crazy start to my week. And tomorrow promises to be more fun, as I face down my first two classes: two groups of year nines that make my hair stand on end. Oy vey. Well, at least I can send some of them out.

For the record, I'm not the only person at this school who has problems with these kids. I've talked to other teachers who have basically given up.

Anyway, I'm tired today, and getting a bit of a cold, so here I sit, shopping for groceries online. Kathy, my landlady, has Tesco deliver stuff each week. She invited me to put my own stuff on and pay her for my share. Delivery is only 5 quid! Not bad. Saves me a trip to the co-op, and Tesco online has a good selection of stuff so I can make chicken enchilada casserole tomorrow night. Yay! I'm missing Mexican food.

Not much else going on. On Saturday, I might sit on a float that the 6th form is putting in the Burhnam Carnival. : D

I might also go back to London. The Imperial War Museum is FANTASTIC and I want to spend a good half day wandering there. As it's only £12 round trip on the train, and the museum is free...well, not a bad deal, eh? Besides, I've been really into WWII history lately and the IWM has terrific D-Day and Holocaust exhibits.

That's all for now. I've just finished shopping. Tomorrow a Tesco truck will deliver the groceries to our door. Lovely!



Sunday, September 19, 2004

I really should try to update more than once a week...

But I'm so tired in the evenings and so busy by day!!

All is well on this side of the Pond. School is, of course very busy. Had a few school-related adventures this week:

1. Training for teachers new to England. St. Peter's hired a taxi to take three of us to Chelmsford (30 minutes away) for a training specifically geared for teachers new to England. Awesome, right? Eh, not really. It all started its downward spiral when I found out I'd be there until 7:00 in my evening. I sort of jealously guard my down time. Then, as we piled into the taxi, I found I'd be accompanied by Liam (of the Emeral Isle) and Hannah (of Nigeria). Liam, who means well but is a bit of an oaf, promptly asked Hannah which tribe she was a member of. Oy vey. Meanwhile, the American teacher was getting a massive headache because the taxi smelled of heavy perfume and stale cigarette smoke. Not a good combination.

I wish I could say the training was good, but it was mostly classroom management stuff. I spent a year of my life in California learning classroom management. Apparently, the Irish teachers who come to England are usually shocked by the behaviour of English children. In Ireland, they are very well-managed at the schools. I find that English children are no better or worse than their American counterparts, so management is not an issue for me. But the Irish teachers do struggle. Meanwhile, I go to trainings and sit there, bored to tears and thinking longingly of being at home, in my comfies, checking email.

The evening wasn't a total lost cause, however. I got to flirt with a very cute Australian and a very cute Irishman (NOT Liam of St. Peter's High School).

2. The actual teaching part of things. That's going well. I like the kids. There is a group of year 9 boys (8th grade--13 years old) who make everyone's life a living hell, but fortunately, they are in different music classes. Well, a few of them are in 2nd period on Wednesday. They are lost causes, really. They will not listen, and some teachers (myself included) almost want them to come up and hit us so we can just send them out of school. It's not fair to other children when these clowns ruin the classroom atmosphere.

The children of St. Peters are very unfortunately disillusioned about music class, thanks to my predecessor. What a waste of space! I hate to say anything bad about other teachers, but this man was useless. For example, I have taken on a GCSE class of year 11s (16 years old). Great kids. Extremely willing to learn. They started this GCSE course last year. They have to take it after school, two days a week, because of scheduling conflicts. They WANT to be there. They WANT to learn. And they are a year behind where they should be. The good news, however, is that Mr. Fraser ordered plenty of white board markers. He just forgot to teach music.

Things will be different this year.

Overall, the job (complaints aside) is good. I did a great activity this week, using instruments, and the kids seemed to have a lot of fun with it. They're used to music being all worksheets, all the time. Who learns music by doing worksheets??? I hope to show these kids that music can and will be an exciting, fun, worthwhile class this year. It's like fighting a battle uphill, but I have my full body armour on!!

3. Observations. Our deputy head (think vice principal) came in to my room to formally observe me on Friday morning. He was there about a half hour. He missed the disorder that started the hour, that I quickly got under control. He witnessed a great (if I do say so myself!) lesson that engaged the kids and left little room for misbehaviour. Kids having fun learning music? Almost unheard of at that school last year.

Anyway, Gary was impressed. He told me later that I have excellent classroom management skills, and he is not worried about me in that area. Very nice! But the best is yet to come. At lunch, as I braved the school canteen to buy something to eat, I saw one of the assistant heads, Alison. She smiled and said, "Hello, Megan...I hear you had a great lesson this morning!" Then, after school, I ran into Mr. Head himself, David. He said, "Megan, I hear you had a great lesson this morning!"

Seeing the pattern? : )

I'm glad I'm impressing the Senior Management Team. I think they are happy they hired the American gal to teach music. I'm certainly happy they hired me!

So that was my week at school. It is always busy and hectic, but I think most of the kids like me well enough so far. As I tell them, I'm not a mean teacher. I am strict, and I have high expectations. But I am not mean.

Let's see, how 'bout my life outside of school?

I went to London yesterday. Oh, London! Every time I am there, I am reminded of why I love it so.

This trip was to meet two gals from a message board I post at for fans of Kevin Spacey. I met Josie and Sue in Leicester Square and we spent a great day. We went to Greenwhich so I could get the cheesy picture of myself with a foot on each side of the Prime Meridian. We explored the South Bank and paid a visit to the theatre that Kevin is artistic director of (the Old Vic). I bought a ticket to see him live on stage next March. That is going to be awesome.

We also went to the Imperial War Museum. Very good museum. Lots of interesting things. A great D-Day exhibit. I did not see the Holocaust part. Now I want to go back and spend a good half day (at least) looking around. We only had about an hour.

All in all, it was great to meet Josie and Sue. They are really nice gals, and I hope to meet up with them again one of these days.


Kathy (my landlady) just handed me a package that must have come in the mail yesterday, as today is Sunday. It was hidden behind a flower pot on the front step. Inside is a bunch of mail forwarded by my parents. And some film for my camera. And the nicest pic of Ma and Pa Cooper from their recent Alaskan cruise. Very cute! It's nice to get mail from home (hint hint!!).

If you don't have my address...email me and I'll give it to you. I will send mail, too. I haven't been great about it thus far, but as I settle in to life in Burnham and my job at St. Peter's, I will find more and more time.

I guess I'll close. It's a very long post.

I should really try to update more often!!

Cheers (and cyber-hugs),


Monday, September 13, 2004


Well, I'm sure I don't really need to go into how much I adore my Millie. That little furball has been my "best friend and #1 Cuddle Bug" since 1999. As my mom promised me on the day I got her, she never tells my secrets. She is truly the antidote to stress.

And I left her.

I'm not too worried about her. She is with my parents, and they love her and spoil her as much as I do. I just miss that companionship. I cried like a baby the day I left California, hugging her to me. I still tear up when I think about it. And then I laugh, thinking at how annoyed she was that I was crying on her.

Anyway, each night, as I go to bed, I miss my girl a little bit. Kathy, my landlady, has 5 cats and 4 dogs, and each one is sweet. I am winning them all over (except poor, shy Goodie, one of the cats). But they're not my cats.

Imagine my surprise on Saturday evening when Lucifer came into my bedroom, where I lay on the bed with my nose in a book. Lucifer is a big-boned black-and-white boy that meows like a girl. When he sleeps on the back of the sofa in the living room, he hugs the edge. He's very friendly but had made no overtures of close friendship with me until Saturday. I scratched his ears for a bit, and a low rumble started in his throat. Finally, I convinced him to join me on the bed, where he promptly started kneading a blanket at the foot of the bed and making it "just so." After a few minutes of flirting with me and arranging a comfy spot, he curled up and had a nap.

He snores.

I'm not kidding, he snores! It is the cutest damn thing.

So Luce and I spent a few hours on my bed, in quiet companionship, I with my book, he with his catnap. We would roll our eyes at each other when the dogs would randomly bark, before quietly going back to our pursuits.

Lucifer, being a cat, has no idea (nor would he care) how much comfort he brought me. He only knew I was a trustworthy soul who would let him curl up in peace, reaching down to gently scratch his ears every once in a while.

And...yesterday, as I chatted to my parents on the phone, Mom put the receiver up to my Millie's head. Millie heard me chattering, looked at Mom, and started to purr.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

I'm here! I'm here!!

Oh my! Busy week! And it's not over yet.

But a good week, overall. I've met all but one day's worth of English kidlets, been quite complimented, quite annoyed, and I'm still able to wake up each morning with enthusiasm (don't you just hate us morning people?).

Let's see, I guess I should start with Monday. Monday was very easy, though I did work hard. I will normally have one class, in the first hour, but on the first day, we spent two hours with our mentor groups. I'm sharing one, a group of year 13s (the oldest kids at the school--prepping for uni).

Then I spent the rest of my day tackling my filthy room. A group of year 13s came in and helped, bless their little hearts. I could have hugged each and every one. They helped me do about half a day's work in an hour.

So, armed with a great attitude and a clean classroom, I started Tuesday with high hopes and expectations. I was not let down. I started with a year 10 class (14-year-olds) and they were wonderful. Quiet, respectful, wanting to learn music. I will see them three times each week. Love these kids.

My other two classes that day were good, as well. A little chatty but not too horrid.

Wednesday. Oy!

I started with a very chatty, very disrespectful group of year 9s (13-year-olds...what more can I say?). 10 minutes in, still no control, and they choose that moment to do the surprise fire drill. I thought, "Grrreeeat...there goes that class..."

After the drill, I had to send Little Mr. Instigator out to another class. He left my room, walked right by the room I was sending him to, and I wanted to scream. I have no way of calling anyone. But a kind teacher's assistant offered to chase him down. Don't know if she did, but he came back after a few minutes and I sent him out again. This time he did what I told him to do. Then and only then did I gain control of this class.

My second class was another year 9, and they had a nice group of 3-4 Little Mr. Instigators. Never did really gain control in there. I'll have to pull out some of my dad's old military tactics next week.

Third period (yet another year 9 group) was better. A bit chatty but no instigators--yet. Fourth period was a year 8 group, and I only gained control there when I started taking away minutes from their lunch. "Oh...too noisy in here, that's one minute in at lunch. Still too noisy, let's make that two minutes. Oh! We don't tell others to 'shut up,' that's 3 minutes..." and so on. They got to 12 minutes! I knocked it down to 8 because they were well-behaved the last 4 minutes of class. After lunch, I saw my wonderful year 10 group again. Ended the day on a positive note.

Today was 5 straight periods of year 7s (11, new to high school). They were pretty good. A couple of little noisemakers but they're still kinda scared of high school. I'm using that to my advantage.

I've taken on a GCSE music program for some year 11s. These are kids who want to study music but can't because the schedule doesn't permit it with other requirements. So I'll be meeting with them 2 days a week after school (extra pay!) to help them along. So people are singing my praises for taking that on.


One of the deputy head teachers came into my room during a lesson. I did some Musical Math with the kids, and then, before he left, he needed to make an announcement to them. He started to call out, "quiet please!!" but I stopped him and showed off by clapping a little rhythm. The kids automatically clapped it back and got quiet. Ha! First day they've known me!

So, after school, we had a meeting for new staff, and he was there. He publicly complimented me on these two things and told me he could tell other music teachers, out in the field much longer than I, and know they've never heard of these things before.

So yes, I am quite proud. I needed some compliments after yesterday!

We'll see how tomorrow goes. More year 9's and 8's (that I haven't yet met) and another meeting with the lovely year 10s.

Then, I can relax all weekend. It's all about reading--and not a serious bit of reading!!

Miss you all. Love and hugs to everyone...take care.



Friday, September 03, 2004

Whew! What a week.

I've survived my first few days of being a teacher in a British school. Of course, there were no kids involved. They come into the picture on Monday. I'm actually looking forward to that.

It is quite different here. As I understand it, St. Peter's is a bit behind where it should be as far as having set rules and regulations. That makes it a bit difficult for new teachers coming in (and, truthfully, the people who have been there a while). But I am, by nature, a positive person. Things will work out! The only thing I can control is the running of my classroom, and I have ideas in place, ready to implement. Now, if I could only have the actual room ready.

It's a mess! The previous music teacher apparently had a lax attitude about being on time, being organized, and classroom management. I've had several people tell me he was worth his weight in...nothing. He's been described to me as a "prat" (English term for a-hole, I'm assuming) and as a fu**wit. (!) Seriously, people used those very words!!

In other words, I don't have huge shoes to fill. That's nice...but he left that room in a horrible state. It's not ready for Monday. Good thing I won't actually be teaching in there on Monday. Another good thing--I received some partitions to use to hide the worst of the mess. Oy vey.

So it's a bit chaotic...but everyone seems pretty supportive and friendly. I've been the subject of some interest, mainly in terms of the following question: "Why'd you want to come to England?!?" This question always follows, "Oh, right, I'm from California."

: )

Seem to be impressing the boss already. My natural positiveness came across yesterday, prompting a fellow teacher to whisper "Oh, well done, he's impressed!" to me. Today, the head teacher (fellow by the name of David) noticed that the American was the first to catch on to the presenter's raised hand. In the states, the raised hand commonly used to get kids (or a large group of teachers) quiet. I guess not so much in England (or maybe just St. Peter's) because at first I felt a bit foolish with my hand up in the air...until I saw David pointing and grinning at me and giving me the thumbs up.

So I have a weekend to get ready to roar. Monday I'll meet with my mentor group (I'm a mentor to a group of kids--actually I share a group with another teacher) for two hours. Other than that, I'm not actually teaching any classes, as I have a lot of preps on Monday. Next week, when things are back to normal, I'll have one class that day.

Craziness! But...I'm in England. : )

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

So much to share!!

So, today was my first day. I'm overwhelmed. But I'll be okay. Lots to learn but everyone is very supportive and nice. A couple of times I heard "Oh you're the American teacher!" Had to laugh at that. They can't understand why I'd want to leave California. I just smile and tell them, "I love England."

Enough about work. I'm so excited to share my pictures. Drumroll, please...

The lovely River Crouch (at low tide):

My bedroom:

Kathy's Gorgeous Garden (and some of her 11 pets):