Friday, July 29, 2005

Whole Lotta Nuttin'

That's what I've been doing today, and it feels damned good!

Well, I did mail off a poster tube. It's funny, mailing stuff to myself. And I did buy a new USB Memory Stick, but the dratted thing isn't working properly. Gah! I'll have to tackle that problem later.

I've put a few papers in the bin, packed a few of my personal effects to take home to pack in my suitcase, and called a friend about a ride to a wedding reception tomorrow.

Other than that, I have sat on my bum, emailing and searching Google for yummy pictures of my Flavor of the Week, one Viggo Mortensen. If I start feeling down once I'm back in the States, no problem--I'll just rent the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Right. I feel like going home now (I love this whole "Choose Your Own Hours" approach to work!), so off I go. Won't be updating 'till Tuesday, probably, as I'm doing a very, very, very cool tour on Monday. : )



Thursday, July 28, 2005

Oh, and Happy Anniversary!

I just realized that I started this blog one year ago yesterday. How time flies when you're having fun, eh?

De-Coopering the Music Room

I'm not feeling all that wobbly, but I have to say, it is a bit sad to take my papers and pictures down in my classroom. I've de-Millie'd my message board next to the desk, I've taken the hundreds of Disney stickers I used as rewards out of my desk. I've taken down the Snoopy by Everhart calendar and my "I am a Teacher" inspirational quote.

In other words, I'm taking a large part of the mark I left on this place down and shipping it back to the United States, or putting some of it (does anyone really need a print-out of my teaching timetable??) in the bin.

It's nice to know that a larger part of my mark will be left behind--for example, the organization, the tidiness. The walls of the back of the room, which I went to a lot of work on to make look good.

What really, really concerns me, though, is where I'm going to pack all of this crap!! Some of it will be shipped home, like my gigantic map of the world made entirely of music. I bought it in Seattle--it's fantastic. It is actually a playable piece of music, but when you look at it, you can see the shapes of the continents. Very clever.

Anyway, it's quite a job, and I have other things to do!

For example, I'm supposed to have lunch with some of the Sixth Form team today, and tonight I'm going to see the ballet at Sadler's Wells (in London) with another colleague.

And I still have to finish those year 12 letters, so I'll sign this off and get to work!!



Tuesday, July 26, 2005


And so my year as a teacher at St. Peter's comes to a close. The kids are off, sent home on their buses.

I have only a few things to wrap up, and new adventures to embark upon.

It's been a hell of a year. For sure.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Three Thousand, Four Hundred, Seventy-Two Calories

I must have walked off at least that much this weekend!

The answer to a bad mood is exercise. Most definitely. I was reminded of that at the Sixth Form Ball, when I danced the night away and completely forgot that I'd had a horribly stressful day leading up to it.

So when I woke up Saturday feeling, well, a bit emotionally unstable, I decided to combat it by taking a walk. So I walked, walked, walked and enjoyed a lovely Burnham day. There was a regatta at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club this weekend, so I sat on the quay and watched people sail. I wandered through town and chatted for a moment with a friend who lives on the High Street (who, I think, was doing border collie doo-doo dooty in his front yard, but I was too polite to ask).

That evening I went to Burnham's teensy little cinema, the Rio, to see Batman Begins. I strongly recommend it. I have loved Christian Bale since that cheesy Disney movie, Newsies, which came out when I was 13 or 14. Let me tell ya, 13 years has not diminished my joy in his lovely, pouty, lips. And his body has gotten...well, the word "yowza" comes to mind. Let's just say he doesn't look so bad without the rubber suit.

Yesterday I woke up to rain, rain and more rain. Not wanting my spirits to match the weather, I got up and did some more walking. Yes, in the rain. I put on my waterproof jacket, grabbed the World's Wimpiest Umbrella and set out for the Cabin Dairy Tea Rooms.

The Cabin Dairy is a local institution, and how many times have I managed to eat there? Twice. Once with Mom and Dad, and yesterday. I had a bacon and cream cheese bagel with a side of mushrooms and a pot of tea. I figure I got my quota of cholesterol for the week. Lovely!

After my late breakfast, I wandered along the quay again, taking pictures of the Crouch in rainy conditions. There were still sailing races going on, so I watched for a bit under the protection of my umbrella.

At a loss for things to do, I spent an hour reading "Notes from a Small Island" and drinknig Coke at the Railway pub, then saw an afternoon showing of The Pacifier.

All in all, it was a lovely day, even though I was pretty much soaked from the knees down the whole afternoon. Had an emotional chat with Mom and Dad on the phone in the afternoon. They understand that I am really excited to see them, but that leaving is difficult. Mom recalled leaving Omaha (where I was born) and standing on a neighbor's doorstep returing the cleaning implements, bawling her eyes out.

Change is, let's face it, just as scary as it is exciting.

In other news, can I just say that the Lord of the Rings films are amazing? I finally got around to seeing them. Kathy and I started "The Fellowship of the Ring) Thursday night and finished it Friday. I watched "The Two Towers" on Saturday afternoon before heading down the road to see Batman. Last night, Kathy, Derek and I watched the extended edition DVD of "The Return of the King."

The special effects are fantastic. And to answer the most important question....

Aragorn, most definitely. Legolas is cute, but Aragorn is...excuse me, I need some cool air on my face.

Today is Monday, my last full day working at St. Peter's. I'll be coming in a few days after school lets out because I have to finish up some letters I'm writing on behalf of my year 12s, take a few things off the walls (a calendar and some papers that belong to me) and get things tidied up. I am not going to leave this room as I found it. It was a pigsty then. I will leave behind a proper music room.

A year 8 gave me a card this morning. She drew Snoopy and Woodstock on the front and wrote the following inside:

"Dear Miss Cooper,

Music is a big part of my life, and always at school we get rubbish supply teachers or no teacher whatsoever!

This year has been the first year that we have actually had a proper music teacher, as devoted as you are.

At the beginning of the year only one or two people in this year cared about music, but you have changed that and so many more people love music now. Thank you for that. I'm really sad you're leaving, and I dread to think who will take our class next year!

Good luck in Washington! (I think that's where you're going!)

I hope I see you again!

Love from,

Charlee L (8QMu1)!!!"

Very sweet. The thing about teachers is that most of us go into the profession because we want to make an impact. You don't always realize just how much impact you've had. Sometimes it's years and years before you know, and sometimes you never do. So we take these little bits and savor them, knowing that there is purpose and meaning in what we do. At least this teacher does. It is good to know I have made some difference in someone's life.

And with that, it's almost breaktime. I have no more lessons today, and only one tomorrow. I must go have some tea and a chat with Donna, then get back to my computer for some job-hunting.



Thursday, July 21, 2005

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Ahh, Travel)

I suppose news has reached you all of the second round of bombs in London yesterday. I'm a little vague on the details but it did not escape my notice that the targets were three Tube trains and a London bus.


It changes my plans a little bit. Kathy had the idea of me getting a taxi from Burnham to Heathrow on the 5th, and I've decided to do it. I am not bowing to the terrorists of the world. I am not afraid to go into London. What scares me is the thought of being stranded at Paddington Station with 600 pounds of luggage (and a clarinet to boot!), standing in front of a sign that says, "Sorry, the Heathrow Express is not running until further notice." I get vaguely nightmarish images in my head of every taxi in Central London either fleeing the city or being hired already, leaving me with two gigantic suitcases, stuck at a train station, missing my flight.

Not a pretty thought, therefore, taxi it is! I contacted a company yesterday and was told that I could get from Burnham to Heathrow for £130. When you consider what I would spend if I had to pay for a train, a taxi, spent two nights in a hotel, food and entertainment expenses, another taxi, and the Heathrow Express, I really come out on top financially.

Sad that we have to be cautious about travel these days, but I have to admit, I'm a bit relieved that the convenience of it all. I have a tremendous amount of crap to carry home!!

Right--I have some pics to share. I asked Dad to email me some pictures of my room. I was having a hard time "seeing" it in my head. I could have sworn that the closet was to the right of the door, but it's to the left. I forgot that there's a little alcove thingie. So Dad sent some great pics, and I thought I'd share them:

First, here's the house:

Here's the entrance to my room from the other side of the second floor, which consists of 1 bedroom (mine), an open room (Mom's craft room) and one bathroom:

This is from the doorway:

Some random pics:

The door in this one is to a huge storage room, where all the boxes that were in the garage at the Jobson Ct. house are now stored, along with a bunch of Mom and Dad's stuff. Beats an attic any day!!

The view from the window:

And an email full of pictures from Dad would not be complete without pictures of the World's Cutest Chef (looking a bit evil in this one):

Or the World's Cutest Couch Potato:

Now, I have a Friday to start!



Just when I thought they couldn't wait to see me go (2nd update)

A group of year 7s have just given me a "Sorry You're Leaving" card, signed by a big group of them. I don't know why I didn't expect this kind of thing. When I left my student teaching, I got a lot of good luck cards and the like. When I left Elverta, I didn't tell the kids, so I didn't get anything. I didn't expect any of the kids to care enough here, but I was wrong...

It's Like Winning £1000...

I just found out yesterday from one of my colleagues that I will get a paycheque (in America I get paychecks, here, I get paycheques) at the end of August. I had assumed that July 26 would be my last payday for this job, so I was, obviously, quite excited by this news.

Only thing is, I have to keep my Barclay's account open in order for the county to quickly process the check and get it to me. Otherwise they'd freak out at having to pay someone in America and it would take a long time for the money to actually get in the right hands. That's not too bad, though--I can keep my account open by keeping £1 in it and I have an account if I decide to come back to England. Best of all possible worlds!

Not much other news from this end. I'm just sadly counting down to leaving time. Two weeks from tomorrow.

Let me clarify something. I'm not un-excited about coming home, I'm just really sad to be leaving. I will no doubt enjoy being near my family and my Millie again. Washington is beautiful, and Mom and Dad's house is gorgeous. I showed a couple of pictures of it to a friend yesterday and he told me I'm not allowed to "whinge" about living there!

Right, well. A year 8 just brought me a home-made "Good Luck" card.

"To Mrs Cooper

I hope you have a good time without us

I'l [one L] miss you

Love from Rebecca M

Thanks for being a great teacher"

Very sweet. Not all of the kids here are so bad. I'm just happy to see that I've made my mark.



Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

From the immortal genius of Dr. Seuss.

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

Due to not wanting to violate copyright (my mind has been kind of muddle of late!), I've shortened this.

But it is a great poem, one that sums up how I have to think these days. : )

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Small Victories (2nd Update today)

...and they're not only in my dreams.

Sorry for that, I'm listening to my LaunchCast radio station I've made, and Debbie Gibson's "Only in My Dreams" came on. I haven't heard this song since about 4th grade, when my friend Katie was a huge fan. She even owned a hat just like the one Debbie wore in her videos. I remember falling out with Katie in 6th grade and selling my Debbie Gibson tape (which she had given me) at a garage sale. I can't say I've had a lot of regrets about that.

Anyway, the song came on and I had a listen for nostalgia's sake. Her voice sounds so childish!

Now, the small victories:

I had duty this morning at break time. All year, when I've been on break duty in the canteen, I have struggled to keep the kids from leaving the canteen and walking across the front of the school. I've had all kinds of headaches and abuse from kids over this. Today, one of the last times I have to stand duty in there, I noticed something quite good. Three year 9 boys, some of the more "difficult" of the lot, approached me. I simply said, "Sorry guys, can't go this way. Gotta go around." Now, mind you, in November, one of these very kids called me a "f***ing yob." I was bracing myself for trouble this morning. At the very least, an argument.

He simply shrugged, turned around, and went the way I had told him to go.

A little while later, more kids started heading for the door. They didn't even ask. They took one look at me standing there and turned around to go the other way.


I have left my mark.

One Truth

Well, folks, one week from today, my teaching post at St. Peter's High School will be finished.

When I had five weeks left, I did "Five Lessons." At four weeks, I did something else. I missed out on three and two (laziness? Too busy?) but today, to honor the fact that I have lesson left with each group, I give you One Truth:

England hasn't seen the last of me.

I love this place too much to stay away. If nothing else, I have learned that this year.

What is it about this place that I love so much? I can't really put my finger on it. There's so many things, I can't even think of all of them. I'll try to do some justice here, but I know I'll read this later and think, "Well, I missed this, and that, and this..."

Anyway, here goes. This is why I love this place.

1. London Where else in the world has a city like London? A city that calls its subways "the Tube," a city with some of the best, yet most inexpensive, theatre in the world. A city where it is possible to get lost and unlost several times in one day, yet never feel too unsafe. The London Eye. Big Ben. St. Paul's Cathedral. Westminster Abbey. The Tower. Tower Bridge. Buckingham Palace. Trafalger Square. British Museum. Covent Garden. Where else in the world will you find the distinctive London cabs and red double-decker buses? Nowhere. There is no place on earth like London.

2. Trains You can get just about anywhere in this country. Even tiny little Burnham-on-Crouch has a rail line and station. One hour west-bound lands you in London, adventure, and promise. Because of rail travel, I've been to York, Bath, Windsor and even to Continental Europe this year.

3. The Countryside Every time I take the train from London back to Burnham, I marvel at how beautiful it is. It actually makes me ache inside to know I will not see the Crouch sparkling in the sun, the sailboats bobbing along. I won't look for lambs running around in the large, marshy fields. I won't the see people in Wellies walking the fieleds with their dogs running ahead of them. Not for a while anyway.

4. The Language I've become accustomed to spelling "behavior" as "behaviour." "Theater" is most definitely better-looking when you spell it "theatre." It doesn't make me giggle anymore when someone says, "Cheers" in place of "thank you." I have picked up more English-isms than I'll ever know. They've merged seamlessly into my vocabulary, so I find myself saying things and laughing at myself. Prat. Blimey. Bloody. Lovely. Alright? Trousers. Bin. Mad (instead of crazy). Well done. I don't see movies, I see films. At the cinema. The theatre is reserved for live plays.

5. So much less STUFF It boggles me how much convenience we have in the States. We have meals in the pasta aisle with congealed-looking pasta in a plastic pouch. Microwave it--ready in just minutes! We've taken the fun out of waiting for the damned pot to boil. We're just too busy to wait the extra five minutes, or too lazy. In England, there's far less of that. One is forced to cook. There's less choice. Pricing pasta sauces at the co-op in Burnham takes me 2 minutes. In your average Safeway in California, it would take 10. Having less choice, less convenience, has made me eat healthier options, and appreciate the food I cook because I couldn't just zap it.

6. Tea Yes, we have tea in the States, and no doubt, now that I've become addicted, I'll be drinking it by the jug. But it's a different experience in America. I went to Border's books at Christmas time with Sarah and Julia. I ordered a tea in the cafe, and the person behind the counter asked, "Chai, darjeeling, raspberry, coconut, lemon with mint, green, tea with a shot of espresso..." I cut the poor kid off mid-stride and said, "Do you have plain ole black tea?" Blank look. "You mean, like Earl Grey?" I sighed and said, "Yeah, that'll do." Actually, I hate Earl Grey, but it's closer to regular black tea than anything else they had. Let's also add the fact that I can only drink my tea like an English person does: piping-hot (iced tea? The horror!) with milk and sugar.

7. Past Lives I often joke that if there is such thing as reincarnation, my last five or six lives were in England. Somehow, in this one, I ended up American, and it's all so very new to me. Those of you who know me must agree with this. England just fits me.

8. English Sense of Humour (notice the "u"!) What are some comedy movies I love? Bridget Jones (both). Love Actually. Bend it Like Beckham. Billy Elliot. Four Weddings and a Funeral. They make me laugh, and often in the places where the rest of the audience (whether I'm at the American cinema or in my own living room) are left looking at me thinking, "What's so funny?" One of the reasons I am so fond of a friend I have at this school is because every time we talk, we're laughing about something, and I consider his style to be extremely British. I'm not saying American's aren't funny. I laugh a lot there, too. I'm just saying that my own sense of humour tends to lean towards the British.

9. Saturdays in Burnham Saturday was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny, warm, not too hot. I had some pictures being processed in the one-hour lab, so I decided to walk deeper into town and run some errands at stores I don't normally frequent. The sidewalks were full of people out enjoying the day. Neighborhoods are actually active with people walking, stopping to chat, kids on bikes. Boats galore on the river. It's a different world to me. Everyone seems to know everyone. Even I see people I know from work, or people I recognize from the co-op, etc. There's a certain cammeraderie in living in a small town, and it is comforting. There's comfort in knowing that Sarah lives on this little side street, and Stuart right there in that house on the High Street. If I needed anything, I could knock on their doors.

10. History and Tradition Every morning on my way to work, I walk by a cottage that has a thatched roof. I cross a bridge over a small creek that was probably put there by the Saxons. I work at a school that has a picture Queen Elizabeth hanging in a main corridor. I go to the theatre in London and eat ice cream at the interval. I routinely see buildings that are much, much older than the United States. I have read from the pulpit of a medieval church. I love the history an the tradition of this country. They hold on to it, even while they move forward in the 21st century. It boggles me.

And yet, I am leaving this place. I am excited to be near my family again. I am excited to explore Washington and make a life there. I'm thrilled that I'll have my Millie back (thank you, Mom and Dad, for caring for her and being terrific grandparents). It will be nice to watch NASCAR on Sundays, to make Target runs (England has nothing that can compare to Target). I am looking forward to these things. But I know, deep down, that England and I are not finished. I knew it when I left London 6 years ago, and I found the courage to come back once. What's going to stop me from doing it again?



Monday, July 18, 2005

Don't Stop Me Now

Lyrics throughout this blog update are from "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen.

Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive and the world it's turning inside out Yeah!
I'm floating around in ecstasy
So don't stop me now don't stop me
'Cause I'm having a good time having a good time

Right. Friday was a crappy day. Hellish. Nasty. Unbelievable. And, after my third update, it actually got worse. Most of you have now heard about the year 9 named Mark and what he said to me. Something I just did not need.

I'm a shooting star leaping through the skies
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva
I'm gonna go go go
There's no stopping me

But I'm pleased to say that it got better--that very night, it got better.

I went to the Sixth Form Ball and had a great time. The kids looked gorgeous, the staff got up and danced with them--it was a great evening. I'm very glad I went. I danced and danced, which was a tremendous pick-me-up.

I'm burning through the skies Yeah!
Two hundred degrees
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm trav'ling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man of you

The rest of the weekend was pretty low-key. Harry Potter came by post (not owl post, unfortunately) and I spent much of Saturday and Sunday with my nose in that. I loved it! I won't give anything away to those of you who haven't read the book yet, or who plan to eventually read the series. But it was suspenseful, exciting, and I like the man Harry is becoming.

Don't stop me now I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time just give me a call
Don't stop me now ('Cause I'm having a good time)
Don't stop me now (Yes I'm having a good time)
I don't want to stop at all

Saturday morning I went out in Burnham to get my pictures developed and run some errands. It was a gorgeous sunny day and there were people walking everywhere and lots of boats sailing the Crouch. The thought that kept going through my head was, "I really, really love this place." I'll miss it very much.

I'm a rocket ship on my way to Mars
On a collision course
I am a satellite I'm out of control
I am a sex machine ready to reload
Like an atom bomb about to
Oh oh oh oh oh explode

But I have a new adventure to go on, and I am looking forward to it. It's really wierd, wanting to leave so much and yet also wanting to stay. I'm very, very torn. If only I could love my job at St. Peter's as much as I love Burnham and the people in it.

Don't stop me now I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time
Just give me a call
Don't stop me now ('Cause I'm having a good time)
Don't stop me now (Yes I'm having a good time)
I don't wanna stop at all

Anyway, I'm better today. Not so stressed, not so tired. I have another busy week and a lot of things to finalize--packing, shipping, weeding stuff out. Pictures to take, lunches and dinners and a staff party. A wedding. Before I know it, I'll be boarding a 747 and wondering where the hell this last year went.



Friday, July 15, 2005

Wild and Absolutely True

At the end of lesson four, I was standing in my classroom doorway, telling the kids to put their chairs away, etc. Minding my own God-damned business when some year 10 that I don't even know walks by and squirts the back of my head with a water bottle.

For those of you haven't personally seen me go from zero to bitch in 3 seconds, I'll tell you that it's not pretty.

Why he was even out of lesson at that point, well, that's a mystery. And that's this school for you.

I'm going to have that kid's ass on a platter if it's the last thing I do at this school.

Cool, Calm and Collected (mostly)

Okay, it's been an hour and I'm feeling better. It's second lesson and I'm much, much calmer. My eyes sting and I'm still a bit red, but nowhere near as tomato-like as I was an hour ago. And I can think without crying.

I can't believe I did that. I hate it when I lose control like that.

But I'm okay, and can function again. At least I have Sixth Form Ball to look forward to tonight. It will be fun to relax with my cohorts and watch the kids, looking adorable, have a good time.

And Harry Potter tomorrow!

Because there's no guarantee that the Royal Mail will get it delivered to Essex before Monday, I might go see a couple of movies in the morning. I'd like to see the new Willy Wonka (because Johnny Depp is fantastic) and Madagascar. It's got mad penguins and a lion--sounds great!

Right. I have a job to do. School doesn't stop because the music teacher is an emotional wreck.



Crying in the Staff Room

I can't believe myself. I must have some horrible, walloping kind of PMS because I haven't felt this crappy in a long while. In fact, last time I did I had a sinus infection and jet lag.

Remember that stupid paper my useless faculty leader didn't help me with? Well, there's yet more drama surrounding it. I have to go back and do it again. Seeing as how I didn't know what the hell I was doing with it to begin with, this is not surprising.

One of the deputy head teachers came in to see me about it this morning and before I knew it, I was in tears and telling him, "I have never had support doing these things. That's why I'm leaving."

I couldn't believe I'd said it, but damnit, it felt so good!

I also told him I hate not being able to do my job--I was raised to get the job done and I can't do it here. Then I said, "You know, I didn't even know until yesterday what the last teaching day is!" David told me that I shouldn't blame myself. He told me, "You are a good teacher...we wanted to keep you, so you have to know that you're a good teacher. The fact that you haven't had the help and support you need is not your fault. It's the school's."

Damn right, it is.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to stop crying. I'm 20 minutes into my first lesson and I'm sitting in the staff room typing and taking deep breaths. People are being nice to me, which almost makes it worse. Maybe I'll crawl into the ladies' and calm down.

My useless friggin' faculty leader was also supposed to cover part of my first lesson so I could calm down and guess what? She hasn't shown up. A kid in my room just lobbed a stapler out the door at a passing Sixth Former. Tobias (he's actually one of my kids), came in to tell me this.

Someone else has kindly stepped in to supervise and next week, I'm going to rip new assholes into every child in that class.

Not literally, of course.

I leave England three weeks from today and let me tell you, right this moment, it can't come soon enough.

But, I'll make it through the day, I'll make it through to the end of the term, and I'll happily wave good-bye to this hellish school. I'll miss Burnham but there is nothing--nothing--that could make me stay in this job.

Right. Sian is finally there and I am going to wash my face (my eye makeup is long gone) and continue to breathe.

The world doesn't stop just because I have PMS and a lousy job. Both will be gone soon enough.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bye-bye Brain!

For the second time today, I've looked out the classroom window thinking that some little shit is out there being stupid. There's been this incredibly annoying noise, similar to one I've heard students make when they're being stupid.

Both times I've felt really, really silly when I realize its one of the school goats.

Gotta laugh at myself, eh?

So This is How it's Gonna Be...

I cried myself to sleep last night. I was dog-tired, and thought I'd drift right off, but instead, I started thinking about leaving and I just lost it. I had to read printed-out emails from friends to calm myself down.

Needless to say, there are parts of me that don't want to leave England.

And then I come to work and have a day like today and I can't wait to jump on that airplane and get the hell out of here. Days on which I feel like the most ineffective, crap teacher ever.

It is muggy out, I've been moist from sweat all damned day, my feet are killing me (in shoes that have never murdered my feet before) and I just want to cry. My hair is limp, I'm exhausted, and I just want to go to bed but have to come back for an awards evening.

We had two minutes of silence today for the London bomb victims. One little shit had to be a turd during it. I actuallly looked at a roomful of kids this afternoon and thought, "I hate these kids." Maybe it's just PMS talking, but what a horrible thought for a teacher to have! That's what working at St. Peter's has done to me, and for that, I'm so glad I'm leaving.

I suppose the only thing to do is to go home, shower and some of my leftover curry. Perhaps an icy-cold Cosmopolitan is in order.

But first I have to stop crying so I can leave my classroom without everyone seeing me with red eyes. And I have to drag my burning feet up to the library to see if I can get a ride with Kathy.

In the mean time, to illustrate just how nutty this school is: We don't actually know when the end of term is. Kathy emailed someone in the front office. Here's the reply:

Cant be of much help I'm afraid. I asked yesterday (Jan) about the end of term and which day we broke up and there is apparently some confusion. She said she would ask the head!!!! but no word as yet. We are all waiting to hear in here as well.

You know what I really could use right now? Enchiladas. A nice frozen margarita. And Millie.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Queen Sees All

I am soooo good...

I was sitting at my desk during a year 8 class a little while ago. The kids were working on some packets of stuff about Caribbean music. I was typing something up for a year 10 lesson I have tomorrow, when, in the reflection on my computer monitor, I see a football (soccer ball) flying through the air.


I simply got up, took the ball, and went back to my desk. The two boys just knew they were in trouble, and got right back to work.

The other good news is I finished that annoying assignment my faculty leader was supposed to help me with. I figured it out without her help. I've decided that she is worthless and I'm not going to ask her for help anymore. She's putting on some silly "Expressive Arts Supper Theatre" next week. The funny thing is, she's just getting around to selling tickets for it, she hasn't told the Expressive Arts faculty what our duties there are, and it's not a supper, it's "light refreshments."

Anyway, if/when she tells me, "Oh, I need you to..." I'm going to tell her I can't make it because I have an appointment. Then I'm going to smile insincerely and say, "I'm sorry..."

But enough about school...I'm getting extremely excited about...

This weekend!

I have grand plans to spend Sunday on my rear end with this book, devouring it. This is going to be good. We'll see how Harry's doing at the beginning of year 12. He's in Sixth Form now, the same age as my mentor group.

Kathy and I have theories about whether or not Sirius is really dead. We shall see. I hope he's not...Harry needs him! Though at the end of Order of the Pheonix, my heart just bursts when I read the bits about how the Weaseleys and everyone else count him as family. So sweet.

I could go on and on, but I won't. ; )

And that's it for today.



Monday, July 11, 2005


Men have it easy in some ways. Well, I'm thinking in one particular area.

They don't have boobs. They have no need for a bra. They will never experience a full day with an exposed wire poking into soft tissue.

If they do, I don't want to know about it.

And that, my friends, is about the extent of my day. All manner of irritating bits of underwire poking me and making me stark raving mad.

First, it's humid again. We had this lovely week of cool temps last week. It was accompanied by rain, but I was willing to have rain because it meant I was wearing sweaters and 3/4 sleeves without being a mess of sweat.

We're back to normal July weather for these parts. It's not hot, but it is humid and I am constantly sticky. Add the lingerie issues and I'm not set up to be in the greatest mood.

Now, add one steam-rolling, over-ambitious, downright scary faculty leader, who rubs me slightly the wrong way on a good day, and, well, let's just say I'm eating chocolate and trying not to scream the "F" word at the top of my lungs.

In most work environments, when you ask your supervisor for assistance, they give it. Mine loses it in her staff-room tray, then gives it back to me with a smile and a very insincere "I'm sorry!!!"

I'm no closer to knowing what to do with it than I was, and it's late because this woman has her head up her substantial rear end.


Anyway, I suppose if that's all that's making my day hellish, I'm still blessed. I had a lovely lunch with my friend Louisa. We skipped out of school during fourth lesson (which we both have free) and went to the Railway Pub for lunch. It was nice to just sit and relax and talk for an hour without being surrounded by kids, other staff and the "I need this, and hey, d'ya know where I left my ass this morning??" of St. Peter's High School.

Now, where's that chocolate?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Model to All

As I've watched the news and read the stories about yesterday's horrible and cowardly terrorist attacks in London, I've been struck by one thing more than anything else:

London was prepared for this.

The saddest part of living in today's world is, of course, that we must be prepared for attack. This is not to say we must live in paranoia, but we must be vigilant and cautious.

London was ready for the inevitable--for it was inevitable that a major world capitol would be targeted eventually.

Some amazing coincidences occured yesterday, such as the bus explosion in Tavistock Square occuring right next to a convention of doctors. Or the meeting of Air Ambulence doctors who were then flown to King's Cross by helicopter in order to get to the victims quickly.

Coincidence aside, however, London was alert, quick and ready. Many of the critically injured patients were stabelized at the scene of the attacks before being moved to hospital. Ambulances were reserved for the worst injuries, while the famous red double decker buses transported the "walking wounded" to hospitals for treatment.

According to BBC News Online:

In September 2003, firefighters donned bright green decontamination suits and police played the role of members of the public as they rehearsed the response to a chemical attack in an underground tunnel close to Bank Tube station.

A report on the drill said improvements had been made but that more work was needed, particularly in preparing specific alternative plans for rescuing people underground. It also found problems in communications, including masks which interfered with radios.

Ministers said the exercise had been very valuable.

In February 2003, tanks and hundreds of police and troops were deployed to Heathrow airport after intelligence reports suggested militants might be plotting a missile attack on a passenger plane.

An inter-agency team, London Resilience, was set up following 9/11 to review preparedness for an attack and co-ordinate sectors including the emergency services, utilities, health, transport, and business.

It found London's emergency response arrangements were "well prepared for the types of major incident that had been considered previously. However work was needed to address the scale and nature of new threats."

Following Thursday's apparently co-ordinated explosions across the capital, the Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair said it was a situation "for which we have planned and prepared".

"A very significant and sophisticated emergency operation is now swinging into effect," he told the BBC.


It just amazes me...

The othter thing that never fails to make me proud is how people are willing to rush in and help. We saw it on September 11th, we saw it in Madrid. We're seeing it again.

This was a horrific act, and one that will not be forgotten soon. Not with images like the following, from BBC News Online:

Blood stains a wall in the area around the wreckage at the junction of Tavistock Square and Woburn Place.

A medic runs towards the scene of the bomb blast to treat survivors.

A couple are re-united near the bus bomb blast.

Around midnight a construction worker bowed his head in prayer outside King's Cross station.

The good news is that the mainline rail services are up and running again. Here's a picture from Liverpool Street Station, where I go in and out of London:

The other great news is that Kathy's family are all accounted for and safe, as are the family and friends of other friends.

I just want to thank all the people who have sent their prayers and good wishes. I, of course, have been safe in little Burnham, but also deeply affected by what has happened.



God Bless London

This city is more important to me that many people understand. When I arrived at Heathrow in January 1999, I was terribly broken up about what had happened to me the previous semester.

Being in London healed me. I learned to get around a different country, a major city, without Mom and Dad holding my hand. I got over a stupid boy. I found direction and confidence.

So I have been fond of London since then, as anyone who's read any of this blog knows. I have been to Rome, Paris, New York City, Washington D.C. and others. None affect me as much as London.

So many places in London are significant to me. Kings Cross Station helped me to make my dream come true--it's where I left to go to Scotland.

Today, it is damaged.

Alexander Chadwick sent us this picture of passengers leaving an underground train in a tunnel near Kings Cross.

I go through Liverpool Street Station all the time. Mom and Dad have been through it, Summer has been through it. It is the major terminus when you come to London from Essex.

Today, its tube station is the scene of terrorism.

Russel Street is very near where I lived when studying in London. Today, a bus exploded there.

When compared to the casualties of September 11 2001 in New York or March 11 2004 in Madrid, it looks like London will not match in terms of numbers. But in terms of fear, sadness and grief, it is right up there.


I've just heard from a student that a year 7's father is in hospital. I don't know how accurate this is, but I'm definitely praying for everyone involved in this today.

I've also just had another memo from the front office. It says, "URGENT" at the top and the message says:

"Please read to your pupils.

All studenst need to ensure that they have all their personal belongings with them when they get off the buses tonight. Be vigilant with regard to packages especially on public transport and also in school. NO BAGS MUST BE LEFT BEHIND ON THE BUSES TONIGHT."

I had to read this to a group of year 7 students. They are only 11-12 years old. They keep asking me questions that I have no answers for. And that, my friends, is the hardest thing I ever have to face as a teacher--having no idea what to say to my kids to ease their fears.

What a day...I am drained from all of this.

To close, a few pictures of my beloved London:

London south of the Thames

London to the north--the water leads up to Buckingham Palace

To the east--the large blue pickle-shaped building is very near Liverpool Street Station.
The Tree of Life at the British Museum...made by African artists from dismantled weapons. Would that all weapons could be dismantled and turned into something beautiful instead of something so ugly.

Love to you all,


If I keep reading the reports...

I will cry. I will just cry and I can't do that.

Details are emerging that it looks like the work of Al Qaeda...we'll see. Meanwhile, deaths are being reported and my favorite city is suffering. It hurts me more than I can say.

And I can't discuss it with anyone. I'm locked in my classroom with year 7s and the following memo from the Head:

"Follwing the incidents in London today please do not discuss or inform students regarding any details. However, should a student wish to phone a parent they are allowed to and should be given a pass and allowed to go to pupil reception on their own. We believe the mobile network has been taken down in the London area to provide emergency services with access to the network."

What about the teachers? What if we're upset? What if we're shaking and feeling like crying?

Just keep teaching, I guess. Just try to be superhuman about it.

God Bless London. And God be with London.


Oh my God.

I had just finished writing the post below when I read an email from Kathy about explosions in the London Tube.

I'm at a loss. Details are pretty scarce. It only happened a half hour ago. Kathy has a daughter in London and her other daughter's husband.

This is horrible!

The Hit Squad (at least it's for a good cause...)

Another busy day in the Life of Meg.

First off, everyone is very excited about the Olympics coming to London (if you didn't read yesterday's update, scroll down--the pictures are fabulous). There is a definite feeling of, "In your face, France!" The English and the French don't have the most friendly of histories, you see. And after President Chirac's recent comment about British food, and their European contribution of...mad cow disease, well, it's safe to say that many an Englishperson is quietly gloating that Paris did not get the Olympics.

Secondly, it is so much more relaxed around her because the inspectors are gone!! A big sigh of relief and a much more relaxed atmosphere. The bad news is the school is not yet out of special measures. A lot of people were optimistic and hoping we would be, but it did not happen. Though the first comment from the inspectors was, "Nearly there!" Looks like they'll be out by Christmas, and that's a good thing.

Now, my time with Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) is done. And I am glad. Every time they have come, they have observed a music lesson. It's not that bad because I think I do some good lessons and I have a firm grip on my behaviour policy. I'm consistent with it 95% of the time, I'd say, and I can't control what some of the kids do. For example, a kid yelling an obscenity or telling me I'm out of order is only something I can respond to, not prevent.

The lesson they saw this time was Wednesday first lesson, and that is a top-set class with 18 great kids, 3 pretty good kids and 3 difficult kids. The three difficult kids often try to wrest the remote control from my fingers and that is a problem.

(In one of my credential classes my professor told us never to let the kids get the remote control and change the channel. The teacher should always have control. I've never forgotten that, and I love the analogy.)

I was nervous when the lady came in but my kids were great. Even Marc, who has a tendency, when my back is turned, to turn the CD player on, crank up the volume to full-blast, and run. He's a quick little shit. I've taken to making sure on Wednesday morning that I have no CDs in the player. At least for that lesson.

Enough about the kids, though...

Still no call from this bloke from last weekend, but I'm not too bothered, really. A few of the gals here at school think I should call him but I'm a firm believer in letting the guy do the work in this case. I'm backed on this by a male co-teacher and a book (written by a man) called, "He's Just Not That Into You."

Believe me, if this guy wants to talk to me, he'll phone.

And if he doesn't, well, that's fine, because even when I met him I thought, "I only have a month left in England!" Even in a drunken haze.

I'm too fabulous to sit by the phone and wait for him to call, too. This month is packed with fun stuff. Tomorrow night I'm going out with the gals in Burnham (just to the pubs, a relaxed, non-clubbing type thing), and I have many other things to look forward to in the next month.

In the mean time, however, I've got the Hit Squad coming around today, and slaves in my classroom.

This week at St. Peter's is Pete's Week, an annual fund-raising week sponsored by the Sixth Form. All proceeds go to charity. So far this week there's been a slave auction (hence the reason I have Sixth Form "slaves" coming in my room with excited year 7s who outbid everyone to get them) and penalty shoot-outs, a concert by a year 11 band called Obsidian, and many others. After school today, my fellow year 12 mentor Stuart is getting soaked in the dunking tank and I've agreed to sing in tomorrow's Talent Show.

As for the Hit Squad, kids could pay 50p to have the Hit Squad come to their class today, take a friend outside, and spray them with a couple of Super Soakers. It happened in my room during first lesson, so I had 20 children crowding the windows, not doing their lessons, chattering excitedly, and one very wet little girl at the end of it all.

It's just a little bit distracting.

One young lad I have twice today is sure to get hit a lot. Michael should be a year 6 but was moved ahead. Therefore he's a year younger than the other year 7s and way too bright for his own good. And he's a bit too full of himself with it. I think he sort of thinks he runs the school. He's a nice lad, but a bit overwhelming. For example, he's a student librarian, and he's driven poor Kathy mad telling kids he'll get them librarian jobs when there's already a waiting list. He's the type of student who walks through the corridors saying, "Good Morning, Miss Cooper! Guten tag, Frau Thake! Bon jour, Mme. Perry!"

The rest of the kids have a vendetta against him ever since he told the entire student body that Student Council had decided to change the vending machines to ones that sell only fruit. It's only half-true--there are new machines and they have healthier options, but we still have the crap options, too. And the Student Council did decide this, but it was a confidential meeting and Michael blabbed it all over the school.

He's a funny kid, is Michael.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

And it's London 2012!

London has been campaining heavily for the 2012 Olympics, and it came down to my favorite city versus Paris.

The images London put out were certainly lovely--I've seen the posters all over and I just love them, so I decided to put them up in my blog.

This next one is the "Erotic Gherkin," a new building in the city that I, personally, dislike.

These images are extremely creative--I absolutely love them and plan to print them out for my scrapbook.

I suppose I should feel sad that New York didn't get them, but I'm not. The States have had the Olympics so many times, and this will be fantastic for East London, as a lot of the Olympic construction will benefit that some-what down-trodden area. Which is, of course, beneficial to Essex, as we are east of London.

Who knows, maybe I'll be back by then...

Monday, July 04, 2005

Anglo-American Relations Still Strong

When it rains, it pours...literally and figuratively.

Seems like last week I was really struggling to find things to write about and now I have bunches of things to say. Brace yourself, this update is a long one.

But before I get to the headlines, I must say a belated

Happy Fourth of July!!!

I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday. I, of course, did not get the day off, but believe me, I was with you all in spirit, eating barbecue and watching fireworks. I sat in Kathy's living room last night drinking contraband tea. ; )

Being in England on such a huge holiday was bittersweet. On the one hand, I am living my dream and enjoying doing so, but on the other, I was missing home and family on a very important holiday.

And I was feeling, maybe, just a wee bit proud of my American-ness. We have a lot of pluck, we Americans.

Think about it...Two hundred twenty-nine years ago yesterday, a group of men signed the Declaration of Independence, effectively thumbing their noses at the most powerful monarch and country in the world. They then sent an out-numbered, ill-equipped and inexperienced army out against the most fearsome military force in the world and proceded to engage in a long, ruthless war.

Women fought, as well. They fed, clothed, nursed and supported their husbands, brothers, fathers, neighbors. They went without the comforts and lived with the bare minimum all in pursuit of liberty.

And they won! Imagine the determination, pluck and courage it took to beat the British army. And then to create a constitution and a democracy.

Sure, its not perfect, our democracy, but whatever your political views and leanings, I think we can all be proud of our country on days like Independence Day.

Right, now, in other Anglo-American relations, the headlines:

American Gal Pulls English Bloke

"To pull," is an English term similar to "picking up" at a bar in the States. Pulling is to meet someone, dance, flirt, exchange numbers, etc.

Saturday night, I pulled. I totally pulled.

His name is Brad...other details like age as yet unknown. I do know he is in construction, and therefore has some nice muscles going.

Anyway, I was out celebrating my friend's Hen Night, dressed in my Bridget Jones get-up, and he started dancing with me. We shouted a few things back and forth, danced, he bought me a drink, we exchanged numbers. He seemed really interested in calling me, so we'll see if the does. According to my friends, the British Male waiting period is two to three days. That gives him 'till tomorrow to call me.

American Teacher Survives Flexible Learning Day

Yesterday was our final Flexible Learning Day. You might remember my incoherent ramblings after the last one, when I had to make up Oompah Loompah songs all day. It was hell, I'm telling you, pure hell!!

When I found out a few weeks ago that I would be doing Chaucer Day with year 8 this time around, I told my faculty head in no uncertain terms, "I'm not making up Chaucer songs. I won't do it!"

Instead, I did Illuminated Letters, which turned out to be quite fun. Of course, some kids didn't take it seriously, but most did and we got some great designs out of them. I made my own, even! It's a large M with a piano keyboard, a sun (because I'm a sun-ruled Leo) and a hand hovering over the piano. I think it is quite nice--should be, it took three class periods to complete!

The kids seem to enjoy sitting and drawing, as it is much less intimidating than making up Oompah Loompah songs. I only had to give out two detentions--Freddy and Courtney didn't seem to understand that when I say, "Stop throwing pencils!!" I mean: Stop. Throwing. Pencils.

Other than that, it was a good day.

Rain Momentarily Dampens Fourth of July Spirits

It was pouring rain yesterday as I walked to school (hence the first sentence of this blog entry). It is strange weather for July, even for England. I walked to school in my waterproof jacket, clutching my wimpy little umbrella over me, still managing to get a bit soaked.

As I walked along Southminster Road towards the school, I was very aware that, as ever, I am only about 2 feet away from any vehicle passing me. Narrow sidewalk, narrow roads. On a clear day, when a bus drives by, I literally have to brace myself.

So try to imagine a bus driving by me on this narrow road, and hitting a large puddle.


And try to imagine the consternation of the people in the houses nearby hearing a very surprised, high-pitched, "Fuuuuuuuuuuuu----!!!"

Distraught American Reports Death of Digital Camera

You know, when the flash on my beloved 35mm Pentax died last fall, I figured, "Hell, it's six years old and it's been to Europe three times and everywhere else I've been."

But I've had my Vivitar digital for six months. And it's dead. I can't figure it out.

Derek, who is a computer expert, thinks perhaps it had a bad motherboard (chip?) in it from the beginning, because it's always been a bit quirky.

All I know is, I'm going to have to dish out money for a cheap 35mm or a bunch of one-time use cameras for the next month. *sigh* I think the cheap 35mm is my best bet, because I have a lot of events I'm going to (Sixth Form Ball, end-of-year Staff Party, Kathy's annual garden party, Donna's wedding reception) and a lot of people I want to remember when I'm in the States.

The death of a camera is no easy thing for me. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in my company knows how I love taking pictures of everyone and everything.

New Seattle Adventure Commences in One Month

Yep, one month. On 5 August, I will board a Seattle-bound 747 and thus finish my Wild and Absolutely True Adventures in England--for now.

I've thought about the future of this blog, and wondered if I should keep it going when I'm back in the States. After all, I set it up to record my Wild and Absolutely True Adventures in England. I thought, perhaps, because I enjoy this blogging thing so much, I would start a new one to document what I've come to think of as the New Seattle Adventure. But I am rather fond of my little pink blog and I think I'll keep it. After all, life is just one continuing adventure, whether you're flying off to live in a new country or just going out to buy milk and a newspaper.
So, my friends, The Wild and Absolutely True Adventures of Meg will soldier on. I write this blog for many reasons, and one of the big ones is really, for myself.

All-American Mum Celebrates Birthday

Happy Birthday to Mom! I hope it was a great day, and I'm sorry I couldn't be with you to celebrate it. I'll be home for Christmas, though!

Dad likes to say that it wasn't until they were married that Mom learned that all the fireworks were not for her. I like to say that she came into the world with a bang.

New School Day Starts in England While the American West Coast Sleeps

In other words, I must use the ladies, chain myself to the photocopy machine, organize a few things and then get my day started. The inspectors are here today and tomorrow, so we all have to be on our best behaviour.

Again, hope you all had a lovely Fourth and that going back to work isn't too excrutiating.